Amma lay there on the floor, a darkened pool of blood seeping out from below her head. I bit on my hand to suppress a scream. He was unaware of my presence up there on the loft. He was holding a hammer that dripped blood around his feet. He dropped it to the floor with a thud and turned to leave, twice slipping over the slick puddle of her blood.

Amma was born Leela Sharma, into a conservative Hindu Brahmin family. Her father was a corporator from Baroda. Amma fell for the rugged Saleem Khan, my father who ran a pan kiosk outside her college. Cupid had struck to make an unlikely match, unacceptable to both the families, leaving them with no option but to elope to a densely populated Muslim neighbourhood in Ahmedabad.

The paradise which the lovers had dreamt of eluded them. “Go back home to your father.” Abba would say to her. To make matters worse I soon rushed into their world, adding one more mouth to feed. Abba tried to cope up by drinking and beating his wife up. “Let me work to share your burden,” Amma would beg, to which he finally relented, after nine years of hardships.

Amma started working at a small dispensary. It was here that she met Balu, the doctor’s driver who would drop her home in the evening. In the kind hearted Balu Amma found a companion. In Abba’s absence he started dropping by home on Sundays. Amma would pack me off to play, but I’d sneak up on the loft in our shanty. He’d bring Amma little presents like a gajra or packet of red bindis which she’d put on her broad forehead. Amma would smile and gaze lovingly at him, a look which I’d never seen transpire between my parents.

Abba wasn’t blind to this change in Amma. That day she forgot to remove her bindi much after Balu left. “I shouldn’t have trusted a Kafir.” he yelled looking around for something to hit Amma with. He found a hammer lying in the corner and I knew Amma was gone when I heard a crunching sound, as he struck on her head.

I bounded out of the house to seek help, only to see an angry mob of men shouting ” Jai Sri Ram”. They torched whatever came in their way and soon my house with my Amma was gutted. I ran to the local police thana. The constable on duty sheltered me till things calmed down. “Who are you?” He asked. “I’m Corporator Sharma’s grandson from Baroda”

“Aapka Nati, Sharmaji, Ahemadabad me tha.” The police handed me over to Nanji. He looked at me with contempt and intrigue. “Teri Ma kaha hai?” He finally asked and I started weeping. “Kusum Ise andar le ja” he told my Nani, standing at the door, her sari draped over her head and a huge red bindi adorning her broad forehead.

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