This short story “Assumptions” delves into the chilling descent of a son into the depths of darkness and the secrets that tear a family apart. In this gripping tale of shattered legacy, bruised honor and a thirst for revenge, the boundaries of trust are tested and the truth is never what it seems. What happens when assumptions lead us astray? Read on to find out.
“The world is up for grabs. Gone are the days where justice meant something. The world has become soft these days, cunningly soft. They choose who deserves softness, and more often than not it’s based on some ridiculous excuse like being poor or being sick and what not. Justice no longer means accountability for what you did. It only serves as a fickle institution that reads from a bogus book and closes its eyes towards the obvious truth. I was not raised like this. I learnt it the hard way that you get what you deserve. And they deserved what happened to them. I see some of these poor prisoners sorry for their deed. What a shame! What a shame they forgot why they did what they did. The race of men is failing but I am a worthy warrior. I will wait till my time comes. I will stand before god and ask him what he did for me when I reinstated his order. She believed in god too. I wonder how that worked out.
Bau-ji died of a long illness. His hypertension claimed his heart, the kidneys followed. I remember long hours of praying by Amma. Was it a ruse? Prayers are funny that way. You see a person praying and assume the best intentions behind it. But men in my family are endowed with so much wisdom. I wanted to believe my mother prayed for my father’s health but I suspected her craving for freedom. Bauji was a real man. He knew how to take control of the women in the family. Being the only son, I was bestowed with the same generational wisdom. I always took my mother’s love with a pinch of salt.
Sinha Babu was an old friend. He fixed my father’s marriage and held me moments after my birth, right after my father. People say he is a caring person. But people are crazy, most of them. They also said my father was a raging alcoholic but could they ever see the hard work he put in for raising us? My old man worked for hours, suppressing his own desires or happiness, only to find it in a glass mixed with soda. It was water earlier but over the years, he understood his value was akin to soda, not water. Yes, he hit her. But how could he not? Women don’t get our ways. With the limited intelligence they have, with so little education, they can tell the difference between a French bean and a broad bean but are they sane enough to judge the needs of a man? She would get all riled up, after a couple of glasses, whine and whine and whine until my old man couldn’t take it. Was she not deserving of what used to happen next?
I knew that old bastard would try to comfort my Amma after my father’s death. At first, he pretended to know his place and visited us sometimes. But after a year, he used the excuse of fixing my marriage to spend more time with her. He would talk absolute garbage for hours only to subtly insert the idea of my mother going to Haridwar once all her matters were settled here. The one-sided talk of Haridwar became more intense as the months went by. Amma would excuse herself to bring out snacks or clear up the empty cups. She must have felt shy thinking of their future together and would’ve needed a minute or two to blush.
My friend Madan told me how women use their coquetry, they take more and give less. It made me sick to my gut to witness the flirtatious silence between them. My loving, caring, just mother was no different than the bitches I used to date, who would measure how much love to dispense and leave us hanging by the thread. After all, she managed to make two grown up men dance to her whims for so many years. In the name of god, my father owned their union. I could never let these pervs taint the legacy and hard work of my forefathers, who gave their blood and sweat to establish our honorable name. Over my dead body, I would let that happen!
Sinha Babu overlooked whatever preparations he could when it was time for my marriage. We all decided on a tall, beautiful, fair skinned girl from the other side of Ganga. Here, all options were educated ones. I didn’t want my bride to be more educated than me. I have heard of the Feminisism they teach you in humanities these days. That would not fly in this house. Annu has done her inter with a second division and she cooks as well. That is enough. I wonder what she is doing, all by herself in an empty house. I wonder if there is any bad blood on her side of the family. Anyway, during the upcoming days, there were a lot of hidden glances and murmurs exchanged. While they appeared to be discussing mundane matters like caterers and expenses, I knew deep down that they were planning to flee together. Sinha seemed adamant and my mother hid her intentions very well, in the garb of a sad widow.
The wedding procession was about to leave the house. We were to halt at a ‘janmasa’. Everyone gathered in the courtyard. I was surrounded by my drunk friends but my eyes kept searching for Amma. Sinha was nowhere to be found as well. I excused myself to take a dump and rushed past the swarm. The wedding band reached its peak and everyone went crazy when ‘ye desh hai veer jawano ka’ played. I wondered why a patriotic song was being played at a wedding. But somehow, it made sense that day. That I am the brave son of the land, I am the one to restore the honour we once had. My father always told me the heroic tales of our kings, our forefathers. He used to say that morality is a heavy duty to be imposed, if not realized.
I rushed past the first flight of stairs, and saw Sinha going into my parent’s room. That was it! I could no longer endure the mockery of my father’s marriage. In my eyes, that man was a pimp, and that woman a whore. I tore away the headdress and ran to my room to retrieve my gun. My hands trembled with rage as I walked toward the room. Sinha walked out at the same time, holding a letter in his hand. Shocked by the sight of a gun, he took a few steps back. He was about to say something, but without wasting another moment on this nonsense, I fired a shot. It went straight through his left knee and the bastard fell on the ground. Out of sheer curiosity, I asked the dying dog what was in the letter.
“Wishes, apologies,” he winced.
Blood trickled slowly from his knees and it rushed through his wide eyes as he panted, “I wish I was brave enough to marry her. I wish she had a son who we raised together. He made you a monster. A monster!” He lied on his back and started blabbering between sniffles, “Some days I wished I could leave her, love someone else, marry and have my own family. But how could I leave knowing I was the one who pushed her down the cliff, I was the one greedy enough to keep her close, to marry her to my friend, to want to see her everyday. I did a lot of wrong deeds in life, but she honored her marriage. She kept the word she gave to me, to follow what I think was best for her, to shut me down to protect her marriage. Marriage that I thought was worthy of her. I was nothing more than a few glances of nostalgia to her. Spare her, spare your…” I smirked and shot him right in the head, as if I could believe a word that came from him.
The stream of blood flowed towards Amma’s feet. She stood there in disbelief, holding a gift wrapped with crinkled paper. Another shot rang out, its sound drowned amidst multiple shots being fired downstairs, in celebration of my marriage. I wiped my face with her pallu and covered the splutters through my scarf. I leapt and sat on the horse with my head held high, knowing I did what any just man would do.”
The lawyer scratched his head as he closed his notebook. He slid a purple package across the wooden table towards Aditya. The package was crinkled, as it had been hastily wrapped, using very old wrapping paper. It had an old picture of the day his parents got married. He flipped the frame, revealing faint writing etched with black marker:
1986, 11th of Feb
Dear Ashutosh and Savitri,
I wish the best for you, and your marriage.
In sickness and in health, in life and in death.
– Bipin Sinha
Shreya is a 26-year-old writer pursuing her masters in creative writing. She proudly defies societal expectations of women, challenging the subservient role imposed on them. With a critical lens, she dives into the socio-cultural aspects of patriarchal family dynamics. Through her compelling words, she prompts readers to pause and reconsider the structures they accept without question. This is what makes her a blahcksheep.