It was intriguing - like most dreams.
Between wakefulness and sleep, there is a floating grey land, peopled by odd creatures:
Familiar, yet strange. Some linger on; others fade away.
This one was different!
I woke up, recalled Sudha, in a room full of cops.
So? Sukumaran asked, in an indifferent tone, his usual.
I saw you there.
You expected somebody else?
She did not miss the intended derision. Always mocking. Trying to snub and hurt through verbal weapons; long lashing tongue, this man. Last many years now, this has been a recurring feature of the domestic life.
He had ceased caring for long. This husband of hers. She looked at him lounging in the chair in the veranda. Lord of the house and her body!
Always busy reading the daily in the room/outside, over coffee, while she occasionally did the small talk of long-married couples held together by pure habit.
A simple but effective strategy to dismiss her from his universe.
She ignored the remark.
In fact, she had stopped replying to these regular loaded barbs.
Often, such petty situations led to violent arguments. Sukumaran would scream, shake, froth---like the possessed. Neighbours would enjoy these loud fights. So, she had grown silent and enjoyed being ignored. At least, peace prevailed.
Sukumaran buried his large head - grey mop, bifocals, and wide nose with two white hairs sticking out over tobacco-stained lips - into the newspaper; his daily escape route into purple passion, crime, murky politics; Bollywood gossips and P-3 trivia...lifeline of bored readers like him. Semi-nude pictures offended Sudha but delighted Sukumaran. She had often caught that ogling look so common on the face of the aging Indian men. The avuncular wolves!
Mentally disrobing these shameless crazy bitches!
How much Indiaon culture has changed! Women her age still prefer some Purdha; the younger ones can do anything for money.
Whole social fabric is changing.
Sukumaran was, as usual, oblivious to the surroundings. Lost in the printed maze of the discounted sales, obituaries, scandals, recession, suicides, infanticides, female foeticides, dowry deaths, acid attacks, divorces, elderly murders, shoot-outs, road-rage, drunken-driving, killings, parental abuses, incest...frightening India, urban, educated packaged neatly in multi-colour tabloids and dailies.
But the dream lingered on, like fresh ice-cream flavour.
She could not help recalling it again...silently, for the third time in the morning.
In the room, full of cops, stood Sukumaran, legs apart, hands on hips, paunch hanging, eyes blood shot. He was dressed as an inspector. Out-of-shape, heavy, breath stale, revolting, shouting at a female cop, quivering in her uniform. The smirking smiles on the puffed-up cop faces intimidated Sudha cowering in a dark corner, along with other faceless detainees. Then, suddenly, a bloated cop pointed her out and shoued,, S-A-A-R, she is smiling at you!
A bizarre transformation occured: Sukumaran, an inspector, hit her hard across her thin, anemic face. Staggering she pleaded: I am your wife of twenty-three years. Do not you recognize?
He slapped her, harder this time, saying, NO. You are NOT. You are a liar!
More slaps rained down.
She tried to protest: You are not a cop. So, I was a bit surprised to see you here as a cop. That is why I smiled. My man, an officer that you were not.
But the inspector was not paying any heed, only hitting her viciously.
Somehow, able to free herself, Sudha ran for her life from that dark, dingy, airless large room, full of cops.
CATCH the IMPOSTER!
The cops led by angry Sukumaran chased her, turning into a pack of wolves, baying for her blood...She, running fast in the wilderness, wondering how a man, father of her two kids could forget her so easily in a crowd and hunt her down like a hound with a hungry pack in a dim country...
Waking up, sweating, scared stiff, she found him snoring minus the terrifying khaki uniform. Assured, she sat up and went out of the stifling bedroom, airless and dark. But the dream and the amnesia and her haunting question puzzled her.
Is it possible?
How Sukumaran, her own Sukumaran, can turn into a fearsome brutal cop and hit her and then chase her in many alleys dark?
She looked at him again.
He is reading; the paper as his daily shield blocking view of her sitting nearby, on the floor, cutting a mound of fresh veggies for the lunch that he likes hot and spicy. Full meal. Any item missing - salt less, spices more - he raises hell. She has to be careful. Personally attends to all his needs. Meals are top priority. Then he takes siesta, while she prepares for elaborate dinner. Or prepares pickles of his taste.
His coffee. That needs to be replenished regularly. So many little things un-noticed by him; enough to keep her busy for life!
Her old Ma had once bitterly said.
Slaves to men! Modern slaves in kitchen. No escaping our cruel fate.
She shuddered. Looked at the lolling figure in white. Looking at semi-nude figures, eyes hungry, lips parted.
She averted her gaze.
For a second, eerily, the man became again the predatory police man whom everybody dreads.
She got that look from cop-husband; bloody, cruel, violent enough to kill!
Is it possible?
What is the meaning of the dream and this sudden repeat of it in real-time?
Grandma once assured, "All our dreams carry hidden meanings. We must know how to decipher them."
Her husband---a heartless cop ready to murder? Unable to recognize his own wife?
How is it possible?
What does the dream mean?
More beatings in future?
Already, timid as she was, Sudha got scared. She focused on the veggies, while her man sat on his throne and laughed to himself.
That makes him a bit human, not a stiff statue!
She smiled coyly.
Kitchen duty calls. She gets up on her spindly legs------and goes to cavernous kitchen, alone.
Ample time to understand dream.
First the mid-day meal.
Sudha is still searching the elusive answers, despite a solid domesticity around a little kitchen and joint- family, in a small-town India.
One day, she is sure, she will get them...