They Throw Rocks

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I grab my crystal wine glasses and slowly pour in the vegetable juice. I spin it around lightly and sip it. I imagine that it's a strong concoction of a bloody Mary mix. My recent conversation with Rifhat, my sister plays on my mind. The pleasure of sin twirls lightly in the background of my thoughts and I think about our conversation.

My sister is always right. Although at times I wish she wouldn't spell it out for me, but hey, can you blame her? I am Roohi, her younger sister. She doesn't want me to get charred down by an unyielding and unforgiving system. I take another sip. Ah, the pleasure of V8. The pleasure of sin. The image of a bright red monster with fangs, a horn, and a hideous smile pervades my mind and reflects in my glass. I shudder as I think back to all those things Rifhat told me. My mind wanders back 25 years. I was only six and I was in India.

India - A word I used to think was synonymous with people. Streams of people filled the streets and formed a moving lattice. All kinds. Big, small, young, old, male, female, just hoards of them. The people were contained on the edges of the streets by rolling cars, scooters, autos, bicycles, rickshaws, bikes, mopeds and all other kinds of mobile transport. The people spilled onto the streets and the traffic spilled onto the pavement. The dirt constantly shuffled about underneath. Occasionally, a fully grown dark grey water buffalo would moo through, sometimes leaving excrement behind only to be stepped in by an unsuspecting person. Dogs weaved in and out of the crowds.

Walk by the flower vender and the light perfume would rise momentarily only to be mixed and intensified by the next scent of a nearby onion vender, and just as fast as the scents change you might find yourself confused by the flavor of jackfruits that soak through your senses and so on. The air was just abundant, thick and dirty.

My family lived in the suburbs. Not much traffic, not many people and not many animals, either. Just the empty street corners and pavements caked in dirt that occasionally rose by a passing bicycle or just the shuffle of walking feet. We were considered rich, and my parents could afford servants. I might as well start my story on a Wednesday evening soon after I had returned from school.

Ravi, our ten year old servant boy was ordered to go pick the milk up at the depot. Quite exciting, I thought. I never got to share in the mundane labor and it just became a part of curiosity. What do servants do, I wondered. How do they get the milk? Where do they go? No one ever told me this. Being treated as a princess, I was just supposed to accept it as it was, but mom got tired of my questions. She agreed to let me go with Ravi and so I put on my fresh striped T-shirt, a new pair of jeans and my nearly new sneakers.

I walked beside Ravi and he wore a dirty rag as a shirt. It seemed to be torn at every seam. And same with his trouser shorts. Torn. They of course didn't fit him and gravitated towards the ground hanging on by the last shred of invisible hope and dignity.

The walk to the depot wasn't long; it only took five minutes. We had to wait in line, until it opened. Everyone stared at me, and I didn't understand why. I was the only one with shoes and clean clothes? The depot finally opened and we were up next for milk.

"So, you take this card and present it to that guy." Ravi explained.

"And then what happens?" I asked. Ravi laughed at my ignorance.

"Well little miss, they ask you how much you want."

"And I say?" Ravi looked at me and I could have sworn he seemed irritated at my questioning.

"You say one liter." He said abruptly as we got to the head of the line. I presented the card.

"One liter," I said. The attendant punched the card and handed me the bag filled with milk and I alternately handed them over to Ravi. We were ready to walk back and as Ravi put the card back in his weathered pocket, a grey sickly looking dog ran ominously towards us barking. Ravi turned in fright, but before he could run, the dog jumped on him bit his hand as sharp canines pierced through the bag of milk. Ravi bawled and his hands were a bloody mess with milk mixing in. The acrid smell of dirt and blood invaded the air and the dog, as though very unsatisfied, leaped at him again and took a significant bite out of his right leg. I screamed in fear and disgust. Ravi was being eaten up by a dog. My image of the dog transformed in my mind and soon the dog was beginning to be covered by Ravi's blood and looked like a ghostly monster with fangs that dripped with a creamy bloody mixture.

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