Everything seemed so normal the next day. I saw Raju sober, walking down the street, a basket of empty bottles and old papers balanced precariously on his head as he shuffled slowly on his way to the market. Raju’s wife was outside, sweeping the compound. Head and face covered by a scarf, eyes lowered in shame, avoiding the stares of the neighbours. Burying her pride and dignity in the tidy well swept front yard.
Life went on as usual.
She had woken up early, washed her small children and sent them off to the local government school. Neatly dressed, their innocent impassive faces masked the horror of yet another violent weekend.
Everyone in the street must have heard the commotion the day before. Everyone knew what had taken place. Yet no one did anything about it.
People talked. Yet no one said anything.
Everyone thought they knew what was going in everyone else’s life. Told stories about each other, exaggerating events and incidents. Neighbours smiled and greeted each other on the street, then talked about each other behind their backs. Lives seemed to be based around pretence and keeping up social status. Or that’s how it seemed to me then.
This was especially true of our better off middle class neighbours.
Raju and the people of the shantytown were different. They lived their lives in the open. They ate outside, drank outside and fought outside. The drama and spectacle of their lives unfolding in front of us. A free show for the world to see. A facade; the French word for false front, propped up the lives of the rest of us. We all had something to hide. We all had our secrets. Who knows what went on behind the closed doors of the polite middle classes?
I felt an overwhelming sadness close in on me. I felt alone. A sense of hopelessness and fear took hold of me as I wondered what had happened to my mother and why no one talked about her.