Illustration by Ashwin Pandya

Mrs. Kaul was one of those neighbours that made you hate the whole lot. She had quick eyes and a heavy face. She wore a lot of gold, and talked in a loud way about things.  Or maybe it was just that loud statements, when lacking substance, have a tendency to somehow end up even louder than intended. She had once been a hot shot in the media world and was the prime dolled up face that promptly gave the six o’clock news  some twenty thirty years ago. As was the way of things, her male co-anchor got promoted and she got a neat receipt of the expiry date of her shelf life. The following week she was replaced by a young just-out-of-college-something with a beauty mark on her jaw and some really bad pronunciations. The entire incident, I believe, was starched, ironed, folded and then neatly stacked up in the towering pile of wrongdoings that the world had done to Mrs. Kaul. The stack, in exchange, bred the tiny revenges she took from the world with her quick tongue, crafting tailor fitted slits of words, that knifed her audience where she knew they were their weakest. She hated all things young and hated all women who she thought were pretty. She loved saying that NEWS stood for knowing everything about the north, east, west and the south. Home of course, was always conveniently left out.

She had a husband. Had him. Like a handbag. He was there and she was there and  both of them knew they were far too old to be looking for the people they thought they would fall in love with. But more than age, it was the realization that they had each become some contorted version of their actual selves that blockaded their paths to domestic bliss.

He was a quiet sort of man. He had once worked in the government administrations but now channelled all his wrinkled energy in tending to his cottage garden. Brinjal plants ivied the floors and potato stems stood like stout little soldiers. Occasional chillies popped up like diseases and sunflowers burst with a neon roar. He spent hours in the garden, sowing, examining, trimming , evening out the trimming, cherry picking tomato seeds, and avoiding entering his own house. The reluctance to go sat like fat dew drops on each petal of each plant.  His suicide hardly came as a surprise. The maid found him hanging from the ceiling one morning.

Mrs Kaul became even more bitter over the next few months. She would come over to our house and her words hung in the air like wet vomit. Silence became the loudest response she got and yet sympathy was slapped over her like facial cream; she didn’t really resist. She went around her life like luggage on the moving belt that nobody had claimed. She left the house a few years ago. A family of five came after them. With a neat set of parents and three children that looked fresh out of a milk advertisement. The garden was occupying far too much space for the blow up balloon pool, so they mowed it. And besides, who grows brinjals?

MEHAR HALEEM is a seventeen year old student who writes for the editorial board of her school . She is a curator for Efiction India and her works have been published or are going to be published in the forthcoming issues of Alexandria Quarterly, The Noisy Island, Sprout, The Bombay Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, Inklette and elsewhere . She currently lives in New Delhi , India.

ASHWIN PANDYA is a sketch-artist and illustrator, whose work has graced many book-covers. Acknowledged for his digital art as well as musical compositions, Ashwin Pandya can sketch given any situation, description or character. You can visit his website here.