Palani, an incurable alcoholic beat his wife Bhagyam daily in the evenings for money for his booze. A lazy loafer, he brought no money for the house. With three young children to feed, Bhagyam worked hard in many houses. Life was a humdrum daily grind with only back-breaking work. It was the last week of the month with not even a grain of rice let alone other essential ingredients to cook a broth. The leftovers she brought from houses where she worked hardly helped to keep even the kids from hunger at the end of the month. In desperation, she often toyed with the idea of suicide along with kids but would abandon such thoughts, when she saw their trusting eyes and start visualizing a better tomorrow.
This particular day, she made in the dim light a thin gruel from broken rice she had borrowed and diluted liberally with a small quantity of buttermilk that one household had given. Hardly adequate for all and it only kindled more hunger. Each one had a glass with a small quantity kept aside for the worthless Palani. The chimney lamp, the only source of light in the hut, was flickering starved of kerosene.
As Palani entered, he saw the children along with their friends in the neighbourhood jumping with joy amidst peals of laughter. Bewildered, he saw a smiling Bhagyam with her eyes glued on a new but small TV placed on the rickety shelf in the corner, a freebie from the generous government, ahead of a municipal poll. He too joined in the gaiety for a few moments oblivious of the irony of a TV in the hut bereft of electricity but chuckled later at the prospect of some money on its sale for his booze.