Tomorrow is the first day of her eighth grade class. On the night of 9 August 1987, she stands outside the master bedroom; hands raised to slide open the door. She hears her mother say, “Send her to the mental asylum.”

“How can you say . . .”

“Sheetal. You are twisting things. You are making it more difficult.”

“No. It is not me. It is her,” she says.

“I didn’t say it is you,” he says.

“But ten minutes ago, you just said.”

“Sheetal, I gave an example.”

“That I need to see a doctor. That I am mental.”

“No. I am repeating your doctor’s suggestion. Just saying.”

“Send her to the mental asylum. She is the crazy one.” She says, “You do this. Always. You invariably favor her.”

“You are the one who let her go to school. You gave her wings.”

“I need my time. She is always here. Staring. Waiting. She is my sautan, your second wife. She is jealous.”

“Sheetal, I only gave her little money for some painting things.”

“It was more than little. You gave her money for a painting class.” She continues, “You will spend all our fortune on her.”

“I was keeping her out of the house during summer vacations.” He says, “You demanded.”

“Suddenly you care what I want.” She says, “I want her out.”

“We can’t throw her out. Lalaji will disown me. We will have to leave this house.”

“I don’t care for your father. Your family never liked me.”

“Sheetal. Don’t start that again.”

“I am starting . . . You always take their side. Your parents and your daughter are more important than me.”

“Now you are talking crazy.”

“Crazy. I am crazy. Here is that word again. You want to take the imbecile doctor’s advice and send me, ME, to a psychiatrist. You never understand. You were not here; I was here, all alone. I stitched all my jewelry in my bra. I was twenty, nine months pregnant, traveling alone from Bombay to Delhi. You miser, forget first class, you couldn’t get me an AC compartment. I traveled in three-tier, alone, pregnant, with the jewelry, with my looks. Thank you lord Krishan for my parents; they took care of me.”

“I know. I know. You have recounted this umpteen times.”

“you need to hear it again and again. Lalaji–your father, didn’t even talk to her until she was three years old. Your family worships sons; men are diamonds and women are garbage, waiting to be thrown out.”

“Oh! You are my queen. I worship you. How many diamond rings you have now? five? or six? One more for Diwali.”

“But you still don’t take me anywhere. You made me cook and wash your underwear and vests during our Rajasthan trip. You are a cheap man.”

“My beloved, tell me where you want to go. I will take you in first class AC compartment,” he says.

“What and leave her here, all alone, in my house.”

“We will lock everything. What can she do? She can’t take anything.”

“No. This is my home. She is mental. Either I stay in this house or she—your daughter. You, my husband, decide right now.”


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