Wishing away did not stop from that time of the day that Sumita dreaded the most from ringing in. Whilst her younger sister, Anita played with her toys quite oblivious to the growing tension in the room – Sumita wished that the clock never struck 5.30 pm. It was at this time that her father returned home from work every day.
That day was no exception. “Oh God, save me,” was all that Sumita wished for as the bell rang. Her father was home. Her sister and she came out of their room, standing in attention. A look of approval was what they wanted.
“Go to your room now,” the mother said. The children didn’t need to be told again. They disappeared into the thin air, as if they never existed. It was time to relax. The next time they would see their father would be at the dining table. But that was three hours away. Time to go back to being a child. The smiling dolls beckoned.
“Sumita, come here,” came that booming voice. She froze. For once her sister was also shocked into immobility. “Today was your first day in the new school. What did they teachers teach you? Bring your books. The rapid command had Sumita almost fall in her hurry to get to the school bag. Elsewhere in the house all was quiet.
“Mother, father has called Sumita, please hurry,” said Anita. Even she realised the gravity of the situation. In her six years of small existence father had never called for them before. “Don’t worry,” said Anita in a whisper. But Sumita was beyond hearing. All she could register was the huge man with an even louder voice.
“So they are teaching you tables?” he asked Sumita. Her mother came to the rescue, “How about a cup of tea first? You must be tired from your office,” she said to her husband. Looking at Sumita she said, “Go, don’t trouble your father can’t you see he is tired.” Finally – escape but, it never came.
“No she stays. I can have my tea and talk to her at the same time,” said father. “Recite the table of eight,” he said. With her heart in her mouth and a tremble in her voice Sumita stammered… “Eight ones are eight, eight twos are 16…”
“What was that again? How much did you say was eight nines are?” asked the father. It was enough to render Sumita speechless. For the next 15 minutes the tone of the voice increased and reached a fevered pitch. But all that Sumita could go was to tremble in fright. It was as if she was born mute.
“Cat got your tongue? You obviously don’t know your tables. From tomorrow I will teach you,” said father.
Sumita looked as if somebody had struck her hard across the face. She almost fell back with the impact of the words. Only her lips moved as she looked at her mother.
It was her muted cry for help…