Disclaimer - A story of fiction
The hut had a roof made of straw. The walls were carefully lined with mud and dung. There was a hedge fence surrounding the hut with hardly any garden. The door was half broken. As one entered the hut, one could smell burnt wood. There was a lantern hanging by a log of wood that protruded from the ceiling. There was hardly any oil left for the flame inside the glass was near extinction.
A lady walked in with a pail of water. She was in green and loose strands of grey hair covered her wrinkled face. The eyes had gone deep and empty too. She limped towards the small pieces of wood arranged together - the place where she cooked. She placed the pail of water on the floor. Covered it with a plate. She had no water jug to keep the water.
She walked towards the corner where lay some onions and potatoes in a brass vessel. She picked three potatoes and placed them on the blocks of wood. And lit the fire.
Twenty minutes later, she used a pair of old tongs that had turned black already, to pick them and placed them on the floor. She then sat on the floor near the door with her eyes set on the street that led to the school. The only school in Muzaffarpur.
The sun was high in the sky but Zoheb hadn't come home yet. Her eyes looked worried now. She went inside the house and came out again almost three times in five minutes.
Finally Zoheb entered the hut. His shirt torn from the sleeve, his lower lip bleeding. His hair ruffled and a muddy pajama. One could see mud along the path of the dried tears down his cheek.
"Fatima bi... they beat me up!"
"Who?" she asked as she hurriedly hugged him. He was still trembling.
"Sarfaraaz and his friends. They said my father was a baaghi. A traitor. They said my father was working for the Devil. And when the villagers found out one day, they stoned him to death."
Fatima bi's eyes grew with horror. This was obviously not the first time she had heard that. But she had kept it away from Zoheb till now.
"Fatima bi... is that true? Was my father a traitor?"
"No my son.. he wasn't!"
"Then why did they say something like that!"
"Zoheb miyan, you are a kid now. You will come to know when you grow up.", she said as she placed the potatoes on the plate, peeled them open. And fed him with her hands.
They were too poor to have anything more for food. All that Fatima owned was this hut, an old cupboard which belonged to her brother, and a son her brother had left for her to take care of.