Kokila was waiting for more than an hour before the jail door opened. She went to the counter where Sendhil was seated on the other side. The guards were seen at a distance. It was not a bright area. The high walls in faded cream colour and the stale smell with sunlight peeping through grilled doors gave an uncomfortable feeling.
“How are you? You look a little drawn. Are you taking your food properly” asked Kokila.He didn’t answer and was just looking at her.”I asked you some questions. Did you not hear them?” she said a little hurt.
“I do not like this place. I hate the people around. I wish to be back with you in your arms at our home.I will grow mad if I stay here” he said
“I understand. I too wish the same but it is not going to be. You have been convicted for life and the lawyer says even the higher court has not given relief. I do not know whom to approach. Your ‘leader’, really a scoundrel to me, with whom you were associated with much against my wish and for whom you got into trouble is moving around freely in the car while you are languishing here. He had the cheek to come home one day and offer me some money with the suggestion that I can be in great comfort if I live with him. I even suspect he did all this with such a plan in his dirty mind. I threw him out but am always worried. He has his side kicks roaming around the house” Kokila lamented.
Stung by the oblique accusation, he kept silent for a while before he said “Don’t you trust me? I did not kill anybody. I swear upon God. That wily man sent me there even when that victim was stabbed already and his life was ebbing out. There was none there. The dying man asked me for water. I could not turn a deaf ear to the last wish and I went to kitchen to fetch water. Someone must have tipped the police and they arrested me when I could give no reason why I was there with the dead man.The leader denied talking to me at all. I was made a scapegoat.”
“You have repeated this many times. I trust you but what shall I do without you for entire life time?” she cried.
“Will you listen to what I say? Please marry someone who is good and move away from this place before any harm comes to you.” he said
“I hate you for talking like this. Marriage is not like a shirt changed so easily. I would wait for you till my death” she said
But if you stay in the same place, one day he will abduct you. It is not safe to be without a man’s protection” Sendhil said
“Don’t you worry. You know Kumar, my cousin, who is a police constable. He has shifted few months back with his mother adjacent to our house. He has assured that he would ensure my safety. I am working in a private clinic as a help and am out during the day. It is time to leave. I will see you next week. Take care” she replied.
It was more than a year since Sendhil was taken in custody and life for young Kokila was miserable. She had no one having been brought up by some kindly relative. Just 28 and in robust health, she missed her husband much. Kumar came usually on weekends and sometimes in the evenings to cheer her up. Just about the same age, he loved Kokila but had not mentioned to her as she was already in love with Sendhil before her marriage. The frequent visits and her close proximity kindled old emotions. They watched films together in the TV often and she would persuade him to have food with her. He wished for some gesture from her for broaching the subject.
One Sunday when Kumar was with her, she tripped and fell down. Kumar gave his hand but she could not get up. He lifted her bodily with his sinewy arms and carried her to the cot. He sat by her side and massaged the leg where she had hurt herself. She did not stop him. She felt a strange sense of happiness in his firm and caressing touch and the smell of his masculine body set the butterflies in her stomach to flutter. He snuggled closer and asked as if in whisper “Do you feel better, Koki?”
She said “Yes, it is soothing. I feel secure with you around.”
“Don’t you worry? I am always there for you" he said and moved the hair from her forehead. She shivered as he bent closer, clasped both her shoulders strongly by his arms and kissed her gently on her forehead. She didn’t push him away when he brushed his lips with hers. She had goose bumps all over.
“No, no.Please do not tempt me. We may end up doing wrong thing. I am still his wife” she said weakly
“Have you realized he will be there for his life time and cannot come out before you become old? Please marry me. I will take care of you as apple of my eye. Do you know I have loved you for many years? Please say yes.” he gently tried to persuade her.
She wished to scream an yes but remembered her statement to Sendhil a few days back that marriage is not a shirt to be changed so easily.
What did Kokila do? Did she change the shirt in the circumstances she was placed? What would you like her to do?