After Sahib died, Ranbir moved back from the city and took over running the estate with his wife. Mehramji started calling his old cricket partner Chhote Sahib, the young master; they had stopped playing together years before.
A raindrop splattered on Mehramji’s weathered cheek, bringing him back to the present. His fifty-three years of untiring loyalty had resulted in little savings and weak knees. His parents arranged his marriage to a young girl when he was twenty, and together he and his wife had three children – two sons and a daughter. His daughter, Babli, was married to a tailor in the same town and the boys were working on another estate about fifty kilometers away. Babli’s marriage had been difficult to arrange and an expensive affair. Mehramji was in debt and the moneylender came knocking on his door every month, like clockwork.
After the wedding, Chhote Sahib and his wife, the new Memsahib, reprimanded him for not knowing his limits. They told him he had been silly to have served so much food and for calling so many guests. “Amongst your people, nobody remembers if jalebis and gulab jamuns were served at the wedding Mehram,” Memsahib said to him. “The only one remembering will be you.”They scolded him like he was one of their own. They refused to lend him any money to pay off the loan.
“It will set a wrong precedent,” Sahib said, shaking his head from side to side.
Mehramji picked up the ring and put it in his pocket. He heaved himself up and pulled the sack over his shoulder. The rain was coming down fast now, washing away the dust that had collected for weeks. As he walked down the stairs he felt the ring press against his thigh. Its weight felt comforting against his tired leg.
Mehramji walked out to the back yard, the rain pelting his shoulders and back rhythmically. After emptying the sack of dead leaves into the compost pit near the servant’s quarters, he walked to his two-room establishment and lay down on the charpoy. His hand rested on the ring, he felt its shape through the cloth of his trousers and his mind felt a strange peace.Mehramji fell asleep. He slept for hours dreaming about the ring. He dreamt of pawning it and using the money to pay off his loan and interest. He imagined buying spectacles for his wife and putting away the rest. He slept soundlessly, his right hand clutching the circle of comfort in his pocket.
The next installment of The Ring will be up in a few days. If you want to read more right away then email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the whole story.
Read the first installment of the story here: The Ring * Part One
© Ayesha Sindhu 2013