Chapter 1

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"The red-eyed bull ..." I wonder if everyone in AMT Delhi University still refer her the same. Days can't be reversed, but the red letter from yesterday has brought a new hope to my life, filling my winter fog with warm desires. Withering flowers seem to have bounced back to their spring mode; a new light at the end of my life's tunnel is all I can see now.

Will they still pin her death on me? I can't say. Hmm it wouldn't be a surprise. The day stands to be of significance to each who was involved in it. Never knew a silly momentary act would change our lives forever, though none realized it except me and her as she was the only person who knew me in and out. It is a long wait. I know things must have changed. Many of those benign smiles, that turned to sneers that day, must have by now even forgotten my existence. Maybe Mahony would have still maintained what she said that day.

Why does destiny always plays the testing game? Can't anything come to life when it's desired the most? When a life full of passion becomes a priority, why is it that we are forced to tear away those simple joys that we always loved?

"Rimjhim?" my mother's voice startles me. Two long days of loneliness does that to you. She was away on a short trip with her baking mates. Though mother dear hates to leave me on my own, this time there was no backing out. The entire team cancelled the trip on her "no". Finally I had to intervene, pack things up, and push her out of the door to enjoy the fresh aroma of a free minded vacation with her bizarre group of friends from the advanced baking class. She needed it. Though I have to admit it's her presence that makes this place 'home' and 'livable', otherwise these huge rooms turns suffocating like one is trapped in a huddled crate. She is 55, but dare you comment on her age and you are a dead meat. Moreover, her radiant green eyes or the vibrant smile on her slightly plump face helps her look like an angel.

The ageless beauty of this woman makes me at times switch roles to a protective guardian. Think about 50 year-old men waiting outside the entrance just to greet her or pester her for a date, even after she says "No". So what choice do I have other than chasing them with my broom stick or my fake real-looking gun? Yes I have done that and once even threw my half eaten bun as I didn't have anything nearby. Tsk what a waste of that tasty bun. I have no option other than that to keep her safe from all those filthy old leeches.

When the whole world turns against you, your family is supposed to stand by you. But you know what? I never gave a heed to the saying until my cousins, my own sisters, and my only brother turned their backs on me to believe those whom they hardly knew. So today, I have turned to be that loner lady who is mostly believed to live with lots and lots of cats.

Lord knows how this belief got spread. There are quite a few women acquaintances who may not be that happy but they don't have a single cat. And that includes me too. As an excuse you may say my mother's living with me negates my inclusion from that loner list; but even without her, cats wouldn't have found shelter in here as dogs are more dear to me than the feline creatures. If only my mom allows, the house can enjoy the chaotic melody of barks - so the core word remains as "allow". I may be 29 with a successful career as a Marketing Director in an IT solution firm, but when at home this daughter wants to keep her mom in charge. Eight years back when everyone just cursed my survival, she being the liberal woman, used quite colorful profanities for them, which I never realized she knew till then, and left the house along with me.

My mother left 25 years of memories of her married life behind but she never complains, in fact she is the biggest support for me. The irony of being a female child in a conservative Indian family - the daughter is said to be a harbinger of luck and prosperity yet to some extent the same daughter is considered a burden or unimportant being compared with a son. So, I and my sisters were never included in Dad's will. The old house in Delhi is left to my brother while the other to my mom. All thanks to dad, we are now miles away in Chicago. The sharpie-scratched pavement, the pup footprints engraved in the cemented floor of the verandah, the rangoli hand prints of all the siblings together on the main hall's wall, dad's swing, the old record player playing some soothing 60's songs, and every small object in the old house have some story to tell of my childhood but I am not allowed to even step on the lawn now.

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