I don’t know you. I cannot imagine that you were in my home in my absence like an unannounced guest. If I were there I would have made you sit, talk and even offered a cup of tea. My children would have spoken to you in all their innocence. But you chose to come when I was not there. You took away the things that I could earn on buy again. I am not worried. Perhaps, I am a bit thankful to you that you left my kids unhurt though you hurt my maid servant, a vulnerable young girl. You gagged her and tied her down. Your fury was so much that you took out the tube light and bashed her up.
Do you know what I was thinking about you when all the neighbours had gone back to their secret happiness of seeing others in trouble or to their private fears of being pilfered by you at some point and the Police too had done their bit of forensic experiments? I was thinking about you as a huge absence that was present in my home when I was physically not present there. Isn’t it interesting to see that it was my absence in a way created your presence? Or was it the other way round, your presence pre-supposed my absence? But in the night, when the room is filled with filtered light from a white bulb in the bathroom that has made my children two frightened silhouettes and my wife silently sobbing her fears away, I look out for you; the shadow that you have permanently left in my home.
The rule of the game is our mutual anonymity. Or it must be an affected strangeness. We might have seen each other while you were doing your trial runs, marking out my departures and arrivals. You must be a like a bird watcher who keenly follow a bird to know all about it. Yes, I was a bird for you. You made a data of my behaviour, routine, arrival and departure. You have made my family, a bird family. And finally you came, when the bigger birds were away and the chicks were at home with a care taker bird. What did you want exactly?
In the semi darkness of a night robbed off of sleep, I try to reason with your shadow still lingering as an absence in my bedroom. What exactly did you want from here? Money or Gold, or both? What would have you done had you not found the keeps to the locker? What would have you done if the children had put up resistance by howling their lives out? What would have you done to the young maid if she had fought like a wild tigress who did anything to protect her cubs? You slashed her blouse sleeves and you slapped the kids. You pushed them into the bathroom and gagged the girl. You were satisfied because you got what you wanted.
But if you had touched my kids, I would not have left you alone. You slapped my daughter. You showed knife to you my son. Small they are but they will remember you forever; they will remember your kohl lined eyes and rough hands. While my daughter will remember for you that reasonless slap, my son would remember for his inability to act against you. You see, he is a kid but he wanted to knock you down. But for a seven and half year old child, a pair of kohl lined eyes and the rest of the face covered by a scarf are enough to get scared and above all you put the knife at his chest. They will not forget you. Perhaps, you are a person in the police records. But in my children’s records you are an eternal presence for you have registered it with your masked face and brutish behaviour.
Will you meet me ever in the street? May be. People told me to suspect everyone who had worked for me at home; maid, driver, plumber, electrician. If you start suspecting like that you will suspect even yourself. You may come to me again as a newspaper boy or as a clothe seller, or an enumerator, or as a kabadi wallah. You may see me everyday again but we will live in the same society happy in our mutual alienation. No, I need to correct; it is my problem alone. You recognize me but I don’t recognize you.
But if you ever happen to shake hands with me, I will recognize you because you have slapped my daughter, put knife at my son’s chest and bashed up the maid. I can feel the hurt inside me and I can feel your hands. With my eyes folded I can recognize you with your touch because the pain that has come into me could help me discern you. I will not slap you back and I will not hand over you to the police. I will not ask you to return the money and gold that you have taken away from home.
But I will definitely ask you to look into my eyes and the eyes of my kids and the maid, and I will ask you to talk about your life. “Tell me,” I would say. You should then speak out everything you know about your life. May be it would be a better story than mine.