Ratna would say two prayers in the temple; one was for the happiness in her house and the second was for a special job she wanted. Read this story to know what this job was which she longed for.
By Rhituparna Chakraborty | Illustration by Manpreet Chadha
Stretching her arms and yawning, Raakhi told Ratna, “Can you take the day off from work today, Maa? I am dancing at the school function. You will love to see me.” Ratna picked up her huge bag and said, “I would have loved to sweetheart, but you know work is important.”
Raakhi said wrought up, “I don’t like it, as if one job was not enough. You have two jobs. You balance both the jobs well, but you never have time for my school duties.” Ratna went to Raakhi, kissed her forehead and said, “Okay! Today I will be there right on time.” Raakhi smiled and said, “Thank you so much Maa.”
Ratna was a single mother. Raakhi was her world. Ratna would juggle between two jobs to make ends meet. Raakhi’s education was of utmost importance to her. Every morning, after cleaning the house, making meals for herself and Raakhi, she would go to the temple near her home and say a prayer for happiness at her home. Along with that, she would also say one more prayer. The second prayer was very important for her. Ratna had that strong intuition which always made her believe that God will listen to that prayer soon, and hence she was thankful and grateful for that.
Ratna rushed to her workplace. Her work hours were long. However, she did have the permission to go to her second job if that came up. After all she was paid for that job as well. But then the second job was occasional, and work would come up very rarely, and she was okay with that. Her employer in the first job was draconian. Her word was law: 12 hours of work meant 13 to 14 hours of work. Unless and until it was immensely important, the employer would not allow any of her employees to leave the premises before he/she completed his/her work hours.
Today Ratna finished all her work in 5 hours and told her employer, “Charu Didi, Raakhi’s school has this annual function. I did not go to the Annual School Function last year as well. Can I go a little early today?”
Charulata looked around and asked, “Did you clean the cow shed?” Ratna replied, “Yes Didi, I fed the cows and bathed them too.”Dragging long wisps of flavored tobacco, from the hookah Charulata said, “Okay! Before leaving, serve lunch to your Maalik and leave.” Ratna hesitated for a moment and said, “Didi…., can you ask Suresh to serve lunch to Maalik today?” Charulata looked at Ratna sternly and said, “I did not ask you, I told you to serve lunch.”
Ratna fixed one end of her saree properly on her head and pulled it to cover her face as well, and went ahead to serve lunch to Bhanupratap, the owner of this huge mansion and Zamindar of this village. Ratna knocked at the door of his room. On hearing the knock, Bhanupratap looked at the door from his armchair. Seeing his favorite house-help, Bhanupratap got up from the arm chair.
Bhanupratap was in his early 60s. He was bald with a pot-bellied structure. His lecherous eyes scanned the entire body of Ratna. Ratna moved behind with the plate of food. Bhanupratap went closer and grasped Ratna’s wrist. Ratna said shivering, “M.…maalik, let me go. I have to go….” Bhanupratap smirked, brushed his index finger over Ratna’s jaw-line and said, “What’s the hurry….feed me and go.” Ratna said, “P…please….I have to go to my daughter’s school.”
Bhanupratap let go of Ratna’s wrist and said, “Go! But come back soon.”Saying that, he let go of Ratna’s wrist but as she was about to leave, Bhanupratap pinched her butt. Ratna swiftly ran away. Bhanupratap laughed out loudly seeing Ratna run.
Ratna reached Raakhi’s school and attended the function. Raakhi was immensely happy. After the function, Ratna and Raakhi walked home. Ratna told Raakhi, “I need to say my prayers at the temple. You go ahead and eat something. I am coming.”
Raakhi walked home while Ratna went to the temple, knelt down and said her second prayer,“Dear God, I have always prayed that please give me a chance to do my second job at the place of my choice. I pray, give me a chance to do my second job only at that specific place where I want. Nowhere else. Please listen to my prayer. Please…”
Ratna had firm faith in her God. She hoped wished and prayed that her prayer was answered.Next morning, she received the news she had hoped for. Yes, she was summoned for her second job. Her joy knew no bounds. She rushed to get her uniform. She donned her uniform and went to the place where she was summoned. She had prayed for that.
She reached the place. Her team members were already there. She fixed her uniform which was a black saree. Her team members were also wearing the same. They were all there to mourn death, Bhanupratap’s death. Bhanupratap had suffered a massive heart attack last night and had died.
Ratna’s second job was that of a ‘Rudaali’. She was a professional mourner who was hired to cry and mourn at people’s deaths. She never wanted anyone to die, except for Bhanupratap. Best part was, she was paid to mourn for his death and now she was free to work in that mansion without the fear of being molested.
When Ratna came home after mourning, Raakhi asked Ratna, “Maa, you have told me that my father had died when I was only a year old. How did he die?” Ratna smiled and said, “Heart Attack.” Ratna never told Raakhi that Bhanupratap had raped Ratna and he was Raakhi’s biological father.
Manpreet is working as an art teacher in a public school in New Delhi. She has participated in many exhibitions and competitions. Apart from being an artist, she also likes to write verses in Hindi. You can see her paintings and artworks on her Instagram page @mannarts.official
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Rhituparna is a content developer and soft skills trainer. An ardent fan of diaspora writers like JhumpaLahiri, she has written around 199 stories so far, some of which have been published in The Sentinel. She writes a blog https://rheetuparnachakkravorty.medium.com/