The alarm rang loud and mercilessly. She woke up startled. Like a battle call, she thought as she dragged herself to the kitchen to heat yesterday’s leftovers. The rest of the house slept soundly. The kids and in-laws were asleep, and Rohan was travelling. The empty silence gave her a mild headache. She moved slowly, careful not to wake her toddler who would burst into tears if he saw her walk towards the door. She went in for a shower as the clock ticked loudly through the quiet. Before she knew it, it was 9am. She frowned at the clock accusingly and rushed for the door, ignoring the microwave that continued to beep for her attention.
She made her way out, closing the door behind her gently. It almost felt like another world. The empty silence contrasted starkly by the sounds of speeding vehicles, farting rickshaws, the rhythmic chant of the vegetable vendor. She made her way to the bus stand, subconsciously increasing her pace as she walked past a group of construction workers. One of them whistled at her. She kept walking, fighting the urge to turn around and yell. No time today. They laughed loudly behind her. Boldly, confidently, almost like a challenge. She walked away, her blood boiling.
She got into the bus mindlessly soaking in what every day had sounded like for years now. The ticket collector, the local radio channel, the cars honking, the impatient drivers. She leaned against the window and closed her eyes. “Next stop MG Road” the driver yelled. Her eyes snapped open.
“Good morning Madam”, the watchman greeted her at the door. She managed to muster a weak smile as she made her way to the office elevator.
“7th floor” the lift announced in its high pitched voice, opening the door to the sound of laptops starting, of people punching at their keyboards tirelessly, of the coffee machine, papers being stapled, the sound of whispers and giggles that she never had the time to be a part of.
When she made it home after work, she was greeted by the sounds of cheering, gunshots, and explosions, as her 7 year old and his friends stayed glued to his computer, indifferent to her arrival. She peeped into the guest room, her in-laws lost in the latest season of Indian Idol. She made her way to the crib and looked down at her toddler, nodding absentmindedly at the maid who rushed to leave. She put her nose on his little stomach and shook her head, tickling him. He laughed, drowning her fatigue in his toothless smile. “Amma”, he said, reaching for her face as she bent down to tickle him again. She froze. She couldn’t tell if she had imagined it. She looked at him, speechless, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Amma” he said again, his soft voice silencing the sound of alarms, lechers, traffic, gossip and Play-stations in a heartbeat.
She carried him to her room and lay him down beside her. He crawled all over her, biting her nose, making spit bubbles, and soft noises to himself. She held him close, letting her tired eyelids surrender to gravity. While a toddler sang his mother to sleep.