The horse that ran backwards
- For the third consecutive night, she had dreamt of a horse that ran backwards. What it meant, she couldn’t tell
Oct 29, 2017-1:00. She woke up to realise her feet were cold. She’d forgotten to close the windows again. It felt like winter had arrived without any prior notice and she just wasn’t ready for it.
3:00. For the third consecutive night, she had dreamt of a horse that ran backwards. What it meant, she couldn’t tell. But, if her past was to be taken into account, her dreams spoke to her a lot, and they usually spoke of bad news.
6:00. It was a thing now. No morning alarm woke her up like her old neighbour’s shrill voice did. The old lady would always start her day by shouting morning greetings to other old people in the neighborhood. “Chiya khanu bho? Come, let’s have a cup of tea together!”
Anu just wanted a couple more hours of sound sleep,but she wondered if she was getting any.
7:00. The doorbell rang, thrice. It took her some time to realise she had been home alone for a couple of days now. Of course, she could have slept in and pretended that no-one was home. But her mother had passive aggressively commanded before she left, “All I ask of you is to take care of the morning chores. Most of life happens in the morning.”
Anu screamed out of her window, “Ekai chhin, I’ll be right down.”
Did Aama forget to call the milk-lady and cancel the milk for a week? Wait, it’s the creepy cable guy. Please, don’t tell me it’s the neighbour-lady, I do not want to see her.
She slipped into a sweatshirt and ran downstairs. When she opened the door, a deep black pair of eyes pierced right through hers.
“Oho Nanu, it has been so long since I last saw you. You’re all grown up now! Do you remember me?”
Of course I remember you. I have never met anyone who looks like you.
The lady on the other side of the door was tall, sleek, and sturdy. She looked exactly like she did 13 years ago, only older. Her features were mostly masculine. She had a long, horse-like face, with large nostrils, and ample facial hair. Yet, her eyebrows were always groomed into a pair of perfect arcs and her lips always painted in a dark shade of pink.
“Why wouldn’t I remember you, Ruku Didi. It has been forever since I last saw you. How have you been?”
1996. 22-year-old Ruku used to work as a cleaner at a co-operative, when she heard that a professor across the street was looking for a caretaker. She had no experience with children, but she wanted to do better in life. Instead of cleaning after seven men who functioned like pigs, she thought, she’d rather clean after a toddler that behaved like a monster.
When she showed up at the professor’s house, the father gave one look at Ruku and said no. “Anu is going to cry every time she sees this horse-lady! We need someone who looks more nurturing!”
But a mother’s instinct never goes wrong. The professor’s wife interviewed her over
Chiya and decided that Ruku would look after the daughter while the parents worked long hours.
Ruku was a loyal and loving care-taker. She looked after Anu with utmost sincerity and protected the little girl with her life. The pay was better, the job was stable, and the little girl was very fond of her caretaker. Ruku was happy with where she was in life. The parents were happy with her work. Everything was well and good, right until three years into her job—Ruku suddenly disappeared to never come back.
“Is Madame home? I came to see her,” said Ruku.
“Well no one’s home. It’s just me, but come inside, I’ll make you some tea.”
Ruku couldn’t get her eyes off Anu. The little girl that once held her fingers to walk around had now grown into a young lady who would make her tea.
“Where did all the time go?”
“You tell me,” Anu chuckled.
The two dipped their biscuits into their chiya and contemplated in silence.
The horse. The bad news. It all came back to Anu.
“Ruku Didi, are you in trouble? Is it why you’re here?”
“What? Why would you ask that? All is well Nanu. In fact, I came to say hello because I just returned from Malaysia last week.”
Anu looked right into Ruku’s eyes to make sure she wasn’t lying. Ruku realised that her little secret was not hers alone. Even though Anu was just a child when it happened, she remembered it all.
1999. Ruku had been upset for some time now. Her eyes seemed puffed-up, and she seemed distracted all the time. She had started forgetting where she left Anu’s toys or worse, she forgot where she had left Anu. Something was definitely not right, and Anu could tell even when she was only seven.
It was a Saturday afternoon when the ill-fated incident took place. With everybody indoor for the 1pm cinema on TV, the galli Ruku and Anu were walking through was awfully quiet. It was just the two of them. Suddenly, Ruku saw an angry man striding right towards them. Caught in shock, Ruku was unable to defend herself when the man grabbed her by the arms and spit on her face before uttering words that Anu did not understand. Angry about the attack on her friend, little Anu picked up some mud from the ground in an attempt to throw it on the man’s face. Anu was Ruku’s Achilles heel, the man noticed. He picked the little girl and started swirling her high up in the air by her frail arms.
Ruku was a sincere caretaker and she’d protect Anu with her life. She composed herself, looked for something—anything—and picked up an iron rod to end it for once and for all. She swung it fast and hard right at his leg before she hit his head. With the man flat on the ground, bleeding,
Ruku looked around, picked up the little girl, and ran as fast as she could towards a safe place.
Both of them took some time to cry before they headed home. That evening, Ruku left Anu at the doorstep of the house and never came back. That was that.
“You still remember?”
“If you should know, I don’t blame you. Who was he?”
“Did he make it?”
“He died. I have to leave now. Will you tell Madam that I swung by?”
“Of course, Ruku Didi.”
10:00.Anu thought about her dream and the horse that kept running backwards. Could it possibly mean that the chapter they had closed 13 years ago was about to open again?
Published: 29-10-2017 10:20