[Short Story] Fasting for the husband
The first thing Sub-Inspector Pandey noticed when he entered the house of Gupta was that the wife was watching the repeat of the famous daily soap. It was middle of the night and the quiet neighbourhood in Noida was disturbed by screams of a man, a few minutes back. Sub-Inspector Pandey was in a PCR van nearby and responded to the call.
The wife was watching the television show without turning around, Sub-inspector Pandey hesitated at first and then observed,
"Oh! So she finally wakes up," he said observing the daily soap, "That is really good. I really didn't like where the story was going and with the female lead in a coma for seven years, the story was getting dragged."
"I agree," said Mrs Gupta, looking at the guest and nodding, "They were simply adding more and more characters to the story to pass out time, maybe for this day. Do you also follow this show regularly?"
"Only sometimes, when I am in a morning shift and go home in the evening. It is difficult to follow regularly on the evening shift as today but the story does not proceed a lot, so I do not miss a lot," he laughed.
"That is true," agreed Mrs Gupta, "The story has not moved forwarded for the whole month."
Sub Inspector Pandey looked at the constable who shrugged and they both eyed the female, "There were reports about some screaming in the house, is everything ok?" he asked.
"Oh, that must be my husband, he is in the bedroom," replied Mrs Gupta.
Sub-Inspector Pandey signalled the constable to check the bedroom and continued watching the show.
"They really have no sense in how they are expanding the story," he said, "Do they?"
"I guess not," she replied, "All these stories somewhere or the other look same."
"Sir," the constable screamed, "You need to see this."
The Sub-Inspector signalled the second constable to stay at the door and rushed into the bedroom. Indeed, lying in the pool of blood was Mr Gupta and from what it looked like, his guts were pulled out from his stomach using a kitchen knife.
He walked into the living room and talked to the wife, "Do you mind telling me what happened?"
"Sure," she said, "Just wait a bit, there will be a break anytime now."
The Sub-Inspector glanced at the house and noticed the food was still on the dining table. The menu was delicious, pooris, potato rice, and kheer. Lying beside the food on the table lay a bloodstained wheat strainer. He signalled the constable to bag it as evidence.
"Yes, " Mrs Gupta muted the television and turned around, "What happened was, I murdered my husband and he screamed, so you guys came."
"Oh," Sub-Inspector Pandey said, "Can I ask you a few questions?"
"Sure," Mrs Gupta replied, "But be quick, I don't want to miss the last few minutes after the commercial break of the show."
"Right then, can you tell me why you murdered your own husband?" he asked.
"Today was karwa chaut, the festival where a woman holds a fast for the long life of her husband. Like all the woman on our block, I also was observing fast," she said.
"Alright," the sub-inspector noted down in his casebook.
"I was waiting for my husband till 8:45, the moon was seen brightly in the sky but my husband was late from office," she said.
"Was he always late from office?" asked the sub-inspector.
"Sometimes yes," she replied, "But most of the times he would be home and then work from home for few hours in the night."
"Is that why you killed your husband?" asked the sub-inspector.
"No, not really," she replied, "Around 9:00 I got a call from him that he will be late than usual and he will be dining with a colleague outside."
"That was really insensitive of him, is that why you killed your husband?" asked the Sub-Inspector.
"No, not really," she replied, "I asked him by what time he will be in and he said it would be more than 11:00."
"What time did he actually arrive?" asked the Sub-Inspector.
"He came around 10:30, because of which I had to miss my daily soap. He came slightly tipsy and was talking to his colleague about how nice time he spent with her."
"Do you think he was having an affair?" asked the Sub-Inspector.
"No not really no," she said thinking for some time, "You see he was incapable of understanding women. I don't think any girl would voluntarily fall in love with him."
"Please continue," the sub-inspector continued to make notes.
"It was around 11:00 we sat at the dinner table, he had already come having dinner but I was hungry since morning," she said, "So we were having dinner. I liked him for that, he was at least sensitive to my feelings. We were having dinner when his phone rang. It was a client from America. He got busy on the call as I continued my dinner."
"Is that why you killed him because he was always working?"
"No not really, no," she said and continued, "We finished dinner... I finished dinner and went to the bedroom. It turns his call was finished a long time ago and he just did not bother to come out in the dining room to join me."
"I changed in my nightgown and decided to call it a day, thinking about how I missed today's episode and making a mental note to watch the rerun tomorrow. It was that time when he touched me."
"He touched you as in..." the sub-inspector cleared his throat.
"Well like a husband touches his wife. He wanted it, but then I was tired and I really had no mental capacity to do it." she said simply, "but he decided he wanted it anyway."
"Is that why you killed him because he forced himself on you?" asked the sub-inspector.
"No, not really, no," she said, "See it was his benefit as a husband, he was entitled to it, you know. I was his wife and I was supposed to be ready whenever he wanted it. It was just my bad luck that he wanted it today when I was tired of having not eaten the whole day."
"So please continue," he said.
"After that, we went back to sleep and he started snoring without even talking a single word. He had a small penis and it was not that great or good. It was his weight on me that was bothering me, that's all."
"Oh," the Sub-Inspector said.
"Yeah, it's the same thing since our honeymoon. Not a real superstar performer he is, not really. He thinks he is something great but I knew his secret," she smirked, "Anyways, as I lay in the bed a thought occurred to me..."
"What?" Sub-Inspector Pandey raised his ears.
"I had prayed for his long life today. I observed the fast whole day, drinking only water and nothing else. I did everything as my mother taught me to do, I wanted to know if my prayer was successful or no," she said, "There is no litmus test you see to check if your husband's life increases on the prayer. But then it is just one day wasted isn't it?"
"True," the Sub-Inspector said, "Then what happened?"
"I walked into the kitchen cut an apple for myself. I was still a little hungry or maybe tired or maybe exhausted. I looked at the knife and decided to test if my prayer succeeded. I walked into the bedroom and sliced his stomach again and again. How do you know if someone is dead? They make it sound so easy in movies, it was really hard. I didn't want to touch his heart because like it or no, it was mine. I removed his gut and opened his stomach. It was then I realized there was a late-night rerun of my daily soap, so I sat here watching," she said.
"I am sorry, I will have to arrest you for the murder of your husband," said Sub-Inspector Pandey.
"Yes ok," she said, "Can I finish this serial and come?"
"Sure," the sub-inspector said turning to the television. After a brief moment of silence, she replied, "Do they have a television in prison?"
"You get those in barracks, I have heard," the inspector said, "Or they allow you to bring your own if the jailer permits."
"Oh that's nice," she said, "But I don't think I'll miss a lot in the coming years, will I?"