Had someone broken into her house? Again I got my answer,”You have ruined my life, you bitch!” That was her husband, Mr Vijay Singh! Now I was fully awake. Archana and her husband…fighting?! They were the newly married couple who had recently come to stay next door. Just a couple of days back I had seen them having their evening walk. And…now this? It all seemed incredible! And, Mr Singh sounded drunk. So, was he fighting with her in his drunken stupor? Poor girl!
The sound of the whacks, banging doors and screaming and shouting was too disturbing. Could I do something to help her? But, what could I possibly do? I looked at my husband who was peacefully sleeping, blissfully unaware of the battle being fought next door. He had forbidden me from meddling in other people’s business, so, waking him up to the harsh realities about our next door neighbours was unthinkable.
The hitting and screaming went on for some more time. Sleep had deserted me long back, so all I could do was simply sit on my bed with one ear to the wall and the other ear…well, the other ear also to the wall, trying to find out what would happen next. Finally I heard the main door open and close with a bang. “Get lost, you bitch! And don’t ever show me your dirty face again!” bellowed Mr. Singh. Archana had left the house at that godforsaken hour. Where would she go? What would she do? A thousand questions crowded my mind. Life could be so miserable to some people.
Archana and her husband had recently shifted to Mumbai from Delhi. They seemed like an odd couple. Quite the opposites, actually. Mr. Vijay Singh, short with boyish looks, seemed friendly. He had a ready smile and an easy nature. Archana, on the other hand, wasn’t the one blessed with good looks. She also appeared stern and somewhat menacing- always ready to pick a fight at the slightest pretext. They usually made small talk, but otherwise kept to themselves. They did have a fabulous collection of old hindi film songs which they played at a high volume. I really didn’t mind it as I was thoroughly entertained. I often saw them in the evening, out on a stroll or feeding stray dogs in our colony. That sure seemed sweet! And then, this! This horrific episode had shaken me to the core. Such things happened in the movies!
The next day, I saw Archana returning from work. Her dull, grey dress reflected her state of mind. And the bruises on her face spoke about her nocturnal ordeal. She gave me a feeble smile, looked down at her feet and walked away. I so wanted to reach out to her, to suggest her to file a police complaint against her abusive husband, but good sense prevailed. I was not going to poke my nose in their business and disregard my husband’s advice.
A few days passed by in silence and then they were back to their old selves. I was relieved that it was all over and they had patched up. But, alas! The peace was short-lived. History repeated itself a couple of nights later- the shrieking and yelling, the bashing and cursing and some more. I prayed to God to give Archana the strength to stand up against this torture. This time it went on for a longer time…a few days, actually. And then, one day, it was all over. Mr. Vijay Singh had left the house. Archana was now alone and at peace. I was happy for her. Her suffering was over for good, I hoped.
I started seeing her going to work and back with a peaceful demeanour and a tiny smile of relief. Her bruises too were fading with the passage of time.
A couple of months had passed by since that unforgettable period. Archana was going through a lot of changes, or so I felt. She seemed a lot more cheerful and social. Her wardrobe too had undergone a major change. Gone were the dull, lack lustre outfits of her past. She now wore vibrant colours and matched them with her equally vibrant smile. She also seemed a lot more forthcoming. The separation seemed to have changed her life for the better. Peace and happiness were now her companions. I soon found out the reason behind this transformation.
It was one evening while returning home from the market that I saw her, all dressed up, looking pretty. She had worn a bright blue saree that matched with the bright smile on her powdered face. I complimented her from the bottom of my heart. She thanked me shyly and rang her door bell. A tall, lanky, bespectacled man opened the door. “Shilpa, meet my husband, Peter. Peter, she is Shilpa, our neighbour”, Archana made the introductions. I was stunned. Husband?! Well, that was quick! Divorce from the beast and remarriage with this angel! Archana sure lived life in the fast lane! I was truly happy for her. Now she would lead a normal life. The pleasant Mr. Peter had sure brought about a sea change in Archana and her life! Good!
But, this happiness,too, was short-lived. A couple of months later, history repeated itself….all over again..I was awakened by the same loud bangs, shrieks and screams. The same old bashing and thrashing, kicking and hitting. And finally, the loudest cry that shook the entire building…
“WATCHMAN……WATCHMAN!! HELP ME!! SOMEBODY HELP ME!! THIS WOMAN IS GOING TO KILL ME!!!” cried Peter.
My my! Had there been a role reversal or what?! I shook my head in disbelief and heaved a sigh. Hmm…history would now repeat itself all over again… and so would chemistry…and life would go on. There was no point in spoiling my slumber party. I reached for the cotton balls to plug my ears and go back to sleep.