'So I go home tired as hell, all right. And there she is, watching a filthy TV serial about three women ganging up and teaching a lesson to the man who cheated them. That is all okay. Watch whatever you want, but say something nice to your tired husband when he comes home. But no. She just sits there, eyes glued to TV. Doesn't even look at me or anything. Fine, I said, and went in to change. I changed and freshened up and came back to the hall. She hasn't moved an inch. It's ten o'clock in the night and elephants are having sex in my stomach. I ask her to serve me. She says half an hour. I couldn't have waited for half an hour, so I went into the kitchen to do it myself. And guess what. There is only a little Uppit left. I had to eat that shit and hit the bed. One hour later the queen comes to bed. I put an arm around her and she says, 'I'm tired.' Now what do you say about that? No food and no dhishum-dhishum either!'
'Oh, you are still young. You won't understand. Take my advice. Never get married.'
'I'll think about it.'
It was a dewy morning and the empty parking lot was stuffy with the smell of fuel and dust. The two men in gray clothes were sweeping the floor. Their friends would join them in a while. The older man coughed and said, 'My life's miserable.' The younger one continued to sweep in silence. He knew if he said anything he would have to listen to more 'miserable' things. And he had no intention of listening to the old man's – what's that he said – unsuccessful dhishum-dhishum story early in the morning.
The older man stopped his work, looked up at his protege, one hand dangling from the top of the big broomstick, and said, 'You know what? The things that happen at home are far more worse than what happens here.'
The younger man who hadn't even lifted his head until now stopped sweeping and asked. 'Is it true, Rajanna? You believe it?'
'Of course I do,' Rajanna said, and smiled in a way that people do when they pass on some secret knowledge, all the while reveling in the feeling that they knew about it first.
'What exactly happens here?' the younger man asked, looking around the parking lot.
'What have you heard?'
'That's it. Everything happens.'
The curious young man was about to probe further when they heard the sounds of people chattering and laughing. In the next minute, their colleagues joined them.
'The boy wants to know,' Rajanna addressed the others.
'About what?' one of them asked. A moment later, as if realizing what it was all about, he said, 'Oh that. You are new here, aren't you? Don't bother. It's just silly.'
'Silly?' Rajanna said, getting a bit serious, his brows all crinkled.
'Don't mess with his head,' he said, and then, turning to the boy, 'Just do your job and go home, okay. If you want to be curious, be curious about something else. Maybe why all those girls get their arms and necks inked. Find out why and tell me.'
The others laughed, and so did the boy. Then the topic changed to women and their women at home and politics and cricket. None of them brought up the topic of the parking lot again. They would, however, talk about it the following day. And they would continue to discuss it for a long time.
A floor above, the mall was waking up from its slumber. A few women in gray saris were already mopping the floors and the escalators. A man in light-blue uniform opened the main doors and welcomed the sunlight. When the golden sunshine tickled his eyes and the cool morning breeze caressed his face, he smiled and wished himself a good morning.
At about nine thirty the mall opened to the public. The first set of customers poured in; most of them college students who had missed their classes for morning-show movies. Twenty minutes later a middle-aged man in white shirt and blue pants entered the mall. The taste of filter coffee still lingered on his tongue. He smacked his lips and went in the direction of the changing room. He changed into his liftman's attire – dark-blue shirt and pants – and walked towards the lift. It was still cold and the air conditioner inside the mall made it worse. He rubbed his hands together as he walked on. 'Such a beautiful morning,' he said to himself. And on that beautiful morning he had no idea that that night would take away his sanity.