ROAD LESS TRAVELLED (short story)
By Neel Anil Panicker
Lakhsmi stared at the long stretch that loomed ahead.
The black tarred road, glowing bright in the afternoon glaze of mid-May Delhi transported her back to her idyllic childhood.
She, in her mother’s lap; her mother__ever smiling, ever chattering as long fingers ran all over her scalp, the fingers occasionally dipping into a wooden bowl full to the brim with hot castor oil.
All hour’s labour later, her mother’s turned her around and inspected her ten year old.
See, how lovely you look! Very soon you will have thick, jet black hair that would run down all the way to your waist, and be the envy of all your school friends.
The sun’s rays fell on her eyes, and she turned away, squinting her eyes.
The road ahead still looked empty; not a soul was in sight. She hadn’t sighted a bird or animal, or even an insect so far.
So far was ten hours since she had left the hustle and bustle of the city.
The big town that she had deluded herself to be her home.
A home that had ultimately shown its true face: it was a house with a few rooms enclosed within walls.
A brick and mortar structure she had been married to.
A souless place; so also its inhabitants.
One of them, the man she had thought was her husband, her protector, the lover she had wanted and looked for all her life.
A mere man who got his kicks kicking her in the stomach, punching her, hitting her black and blue whenever the devil in him took over.
And that was a little too often.
Meaning, whenever he stumbled home, drunk to the gills.
And that, of late, was every other day.
She had had enough.
And then, walked out.
Sans any words, sans any clothes, sans any money.
Sans any place, or destination.
The road was her freedom. Her journey; her destination.
The words of her mother echoed in her ears: ‘Remember Lakshmi, make the road your friend. You ill never get lost. Have faith in the journey, and the end will always turn out to be a happy one.’
Thirty year old Lakshmi smiled at the memory. She looked up; the road now magically looked inviting.
Her head held high, she strode ahead, purposefully.
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