The nauseating stench of liquor hit her hard as she neared the rocky terrain to the toddy shop. If her husband had been with her, he would have picked up the smell from half a mile away and would have swooned right then and there.The memory of her husband brought with it harrowing details of her past. Neither she nor her five-year-old son would remember having slept peacefully in the presence of her husband. An inevitable stub of fear would erupt at the back of their minds every day without fail when the pall of night fell upon them. The chaos that ensued at the arrival of her husband home would echo far and wide, slashing through the sublime silence of the night. Her laments and pleas would be drowned in the incoherent, lewd remarks of his hammered alter-ego.
Nevertheless, when he turned sober the next morning, they would spend few minutes in their dingy backyard, arguing about his drinking habits, while she scrubbed clean the utensils. “Leave the job. Go to the company. You will drink less. Also, you will kill less,” she would say, indirectly hinting at the many lives that had shrivelled before their eyes – all regular customers at his toddy shop. “One more month and I will start looking for some other job,” he would agree, sitting down next to her, smiling, laughing and sharing small talks, all the while eyeing her, warmth exuding from his insides.
It had been a month now since he died of liver failure. Adversity had struck her at the prime of her life. She had been vacillating between right and wrong for the past two weeks. And the array of dilemmas had finally brought her to the toddy shop today. This place had killed her husband, but poverty had left her no choice but to replace him at the job. During the ten minute walk from her house to the shop, her mind drifted to the many lives that would die a bit the moment she served them. She thought of the many wives who would drag their night in fear, crouching in a corner of their house. She thought of the many children who would end up despising their father as their flesh ached from the beatings. At the brink of guilt, a drop of tear rolled down her sweaty face. She wiped it away and mulled deep. Not far into the thought field, the agonising pleas of her son flashed across her eyes, hindering further thoughts about the lives she would harm, but reminding her of the one life for she was responsible the most.
‘One month and I will start looking for some other job,’ she put an end to the surge of guilt and walked towards the toddy shop, grateful for yet another day of survival.