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This story has been submitted as part of the RAINY DAY STORY CHALLENGE set on the Author Hangout Discussion Forum. All criteria and build up can be viewed through this link: RAINY DAY STORY CHALLENGE THREAD
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Author’s note: This story is set about a century back in rural India. There are some Hindi words spread throughout the text as an attempt to infuse it with some flavour. The translation of these words is at the end of the story.
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The horse-drawn carriage moves at a steady pace through the dusty openness; bouncing upon the ruts, jostling Ravali against the hard wooden supports. She tries to move away from them because she feels the beginning of a blister where the wooden sticks have rubbed her raw, but she draws back when she comes into contact with the sweaty cotton kurta of the Thakur. Blisters are better.
The terrain is dry. Scarce, yellow grass sways drunkenly in the meagre breeze as far as the eye can see. Ravali moves her gaze to focus on the muscled, bare back of the dark-skinned man sitting next to the driver. Straight. Proud. Male.
Adhiruth. Low caste. Untouchable.
Her eyes run down the slight indentation of his spine and the firm work-toned flesh disappearing into a worn white dhoti. She sighs, dabs at her brow with the end of her sari, and with dainty, elegant pats; tucks a stray wisp of hair under her pallu.
“We will be there soon, Ravee.”
She turns her head around to look at the Thakur and smiles. Nods.
“Heat troubling you?” he asks, concerned.
She shakes her head no, still giving the half-smile.
He pats her shoulder affectionately and turns back to look out of his side of the buggy.
Ravali concentrates on the naked back and forbidden thoughts all the way back to the haveli.
The carriage stops in front of the impressive mansion and Adhiruth jumps down from the front, running around to open the door for the Thakur. Cupping his hands, he bends down from the waist, bows his head low – not showing his face.
The Thakur steps into the cupped hands, the right heel carefully placed on the palms and lightly jumps down on to the hard-baked earth. The muscles in his upper arms flex as the servant struggles not to sway.
Ravali waits, seated, until the servant looks up. She looks back at him imperiously. He stares at her, black eyes into deep brown ones. Impudent. Brazen. A tiny frown begins on her forehead but she wills it away.
Moving up, out of the seat, she steps forward and into his cupped hands. The toe of her shoe lands on the rounded palms and she places a hand on his naked shoulder to steady herself. The untouchable jerks his head up to look at her but freezes before he can get it all the way up. He glances around furtively to see if anyone has seen the Thakurayn’s display. No one has. She chose the time well.
Ravali steps down on the ground and moves away without a backward glance as the servant stares at her retreating back.
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The call comes from the matriarch, Ravali’s mother-in-law, the big thakurayn. A frail, yet penetrating voice that demands instant attention.
Adhiruth hastens towards the back kitchen door as he is not allowed to enter the house through the main door. He sees the big thakurayn standing in the door, impatient. Her voluminous, cotton sari envelopes the small, feeble body. Snow white hair frames a once beautiful face. Sharp, intelligent eyes peer at him as he hurries from under the pomegranate trees.
“Come quickly, boy. It is urgent.”
Adhiruth quickens his pace into an almost run.
She throws a wrapped parcel at him when he is about two feet away.
“Take this to Ramayya, down by the river. Tell him I need it by tonight, to wear at the puja.” She turns her back on him before completing the sentence, not waiting for his mute nod. What she says will be obeyed by the untouchable. That’s his life.
Adhiruth holds the parcel and flexes the muscles of his arm. Tense, his fingers grip the edges of the cloth slightly, crushing it inside a tight fist. The coarse, starched muslin feels rough to his touch, impressions of scratchy itchiness on his calloused palms. A deep breath and he loosens his fists deliberately and turns towards the river.
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“Adhiruth, fetch the coconuts from the kitchen and put them in the first carriage. I will set off in that one and the thakurayns will follow in the next.” Thakur gathers his silk dhoti in one hand and steps into the servant’s cupped hands, pulling himself up into the carriage. Settling him in, Adhiruth closes the door gently, fixing the latch and then goes for the coconuts.
As he rounds the house to the kitchen entrance, he sees her. The thakurayn in traditional dress. He stops under the pomegranate trees, sheltered by the dark shadows which the light from the house fails to penetrate. His hand on the smooth bark of the tree, the dark-skinned canlı bahis şirketleri man stares at the fair apparition before him. Adhiruth’s eyes take in her appearance, then settle on her midriff. Bare, sandal-coloured, creamy, silken; conforming to the boundaries of the traditional puja dress, but only barely. Breathing becomes difficult, a constriction in his chest, as he tries to gulp in air.
Ravali has taken special care with her appearance today. Exquisitely embroidered silk lehnga, with a thin, almost transparent cloth wrapped around her upper body, over the blouse. All of it white, and glowing in the lanterns from the kitchen as she stands in the doorway, peering out into the darkness, waiting for him.
Adhiruth steps out from behind the darkness, walks forward to the entrance. His head bowed low, his gaze fixed on her feet. Fair, perfect, small feet. Adorned with thin golden anklets, topped with white toenails, enticing.
“Thakurji has sent you to get the coconuts?” she asks in her soft, melodious voice.
It sends shivers down Adhiruth’s body. He nods respectfully as he waits for her to move out of his way, standing in front of her, head bowed, eyes on her feet.
Suddenly she puts a hand out and grasps his big, dark hand in her smaller, lighter one. The action is so fast and unexpected that the servant cannot react for a full second before he reflexively tries to withdraw his hand. Intuition shouts out that a thakurayn cannot touch an untouchable. Years of history cannot be changed.
He gasps out a shocked “Thakurayn!”
Her mouth moves into the most imperceptible of smiles.
The struggle slowly lessens and then stops altogether as the grip refuses to loosen. The low caste eyes travel from the thakurayn’s feet, up her white, chaste lehnga, lingering insolently, almost possessively on the exposed midriff, rushing hurriedly, guiltily over the breasts encased in the tight white blouse draped in a transparent covering, up to her neck, the collarbones standing out magnificently on both sides of the slender column. There they stop, afraid to go higher and meet her eyes.
“Adhiruth.” The name escapes her soft lips and melts into the air, barely audible. “Look up at me.”
His eyes are downcast. Fearful to move above, afraid to meet her eyes. If the Thakur comes to know that he, a low caste untouchable stood staring into the eyes of the thakurayn, holding her hand, he would…
Adhiruth swallows and keeps his eyes fixed on the thakurayn’s throat.
Ravali’s other hand moves forward and tilts his chin upwards. She sees his jaw tense, notices that his chest tightens, senses his blood pound through his veins, thundering along into his frantically beating heart. She can almost hear it. She smiles at her power over a human, a mortal – her ability to reduce him to a bundle of confused nerves and tense muscles, carefully controlled and willed into submission.
His eyes finally rise to meet hers and she assesses the gaze. Scared, tentative, hesitant. She searches, looking for something, finds it. Pride. Audacious, unbridled lust. Satisfied, she lets his hand go and turns away. “The coconuts are in that corner,” she throws back over her shoulder, already walking away.
Yes. He is the one. She will have him. Tonight will be the night.
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A drop of sweat rolls down the thakurayn’s forehead, glistening in the thousands of flickering diyas gleaming in the humid night air. Adhiruth’s hungry eyes follow it as it carves a shimmering path down the side of her face, coming to balance tantalisingly on her chin. His hand imperceptibly moves forward of its own volition as the drop leaves her smoothness and falls into the heavy air, in slow motion, on to her lap.
Adhiruth raises his eyes to her face and is surprised to find her eyes on him, the suggestion of a slight smile about her lips. He turns and walks away from the temple and the cloying sweetness of the incense. He disappears into the night air, the darkness closing in on him after he has gone a fair distance.
Adhiruth doesn’t know how long he has been there, standing and staring into the darkness. Thinking about life, his place, his dreams, his yearning… the thakurayn. A low caste untouchable and the wife of the most powerful of the castes, the thakurayn? It is unthinkable. Even as his mind refutes the thought, his body surges, tenses, aches, pulses for her. He feels pulled in two directions, one, his mind, which honours his ancestors, reminds him of his place in society, demands him to serve his masters and dedicate his life to them; the other, his gut, throbbing with rampant, barely controlled lust for the wife of his master. He turns the word over in his mind, savouring it. Lust.
Ravali turns towards the pillar on which Adhiruth had been leaning. Quite a lot of time had passed since he had disappeared, turning his back on her. She looks towards the Thakur and meets his eyes, motioning canlı kaçak iddaa for a drink as the pundit drones on with the incantations.
The small boy’s voice reaches Adhiruth’s ears faintly, calling his name. He turns and walks back towards the light, the sharp stones of the path only mildly registering on the soles of his bare feet. Bare feet get used to sharp stones.
“What is it?” he asks the boy.
“Thakur calls you.”
He nods and walks back towards the periphery of the temple’s sacred area. Reaching the line he is not allowed to cross, he waits until he meets the Thakur’s eyes. The Thakur motions for a drink. Adhiruth nods and moves away.
Going down to the carriage, he hefts the sharp scythe and whacks it down on the hemp rope tying the coconuts together. Separating two of them, he proceeds to strike the supple green coconuts again and again until he has shaven a bit of the head off. He then carves a hole with the tip of his implement and removes the water into a silver tumbler. This he carries to the outer edge of the temple compound where a maid takes it to the Thakur. He hands it over to his young wife.
Ravali drinks deeply, gulping the thick, sweetened water. She leaves a small amount in the glass, setting it aside. When the Thakur is once again absorbed in the ministrations of the puja, she slips her hand into the glass, wets her fingers and lets the drops trail down her throat, sighing deeply.
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Ravali checks on her sleeping husband, snoring away. Moving to the open window, she looks out at the moonlit night. The climber beneath her window is dotted with millions of small chameli blossoms nestled amidst the dark green leaves and branches. She breathes in the sweetness carried to her on the night air, cooled now with the hint of rain in the flowing breeze. It is a good night. Ripe and ready.
She slips away from the haveli, wrapping a shawl around her, moving stealthily out of the heavy doors of the kitchen, reluctant to use the main entrance. Creeping along the shadows, she curses her idea to wear the puja dress. The white glows in the moonlight. She wraps the black shawl around her, spreading almost down to her feet; it drags around the ground behind her.
Her footsteps tinkling slightly with the golden anklets, she hurries across the courtyard, under the pomegranate trees, and makes her way forward, slipping through the closely planted trees, emerging on the other side – right next to the river. A shiver ripples through her and goosebumps line her soft flesh as a breeze drifts in from the surface. She wraps the shawl tighter and continues through the slimy mud, her exquisite, hand-made jutties ruined forever.
The hut looms up ahead, out of the moonlit darkness. Ravali is so engrossed in watching where she puts each step, lest she slips and falls, that she doesn’t see it until she’s almost upon it. Gaining entrance to the courtyard through the open bamboo gate, she stands there for a moment, gathering her breath. The mad dash from the house has made her chest heave with the effort.
Creeping slowly forward, Ravali nears the open door and peeks in. It is dark inside the hut. She can’t see a thing. Leaning in further, she hesitantly puts one step in. Her anklet makes a small noise, very loud in the quiet of the night. She freezes and listens for a full minute before moving again. This time it’s just the rustle of her clothes.
“Who is it?” The curt, sharp demand comes from the right corner. Immediate.
Ravali moves her hands, letting the heavy bangles in each hand click together. “Adhiruth?” she asks, in a low voice.
No response. The silence is heavy and complete.
“Adhiruth!” she says again, louder this time. Authoritatively.
“Thakurayn.” The flat acknowledgement is thrown out, the voice low with fear. Acceptance. Anticipation?
“Come out,” she commands and moves away, out of the open door, out of the courtyard, towards the riverbank, under an old tree stripped off most of its greenery by the harsh summer. She stands there, facing the hut, waiting for him.
He shuffles out. The moonlight illuminates his dark, bare torso till he moves under the tree, then it falls in patches through the thinning leaves, moving over his broad smoothness as he walks towards her, making him appear darkly dangerous.
A thrill runs through Ravali’s body as she watches him. She feels herself swell and open up, her nipples tingle into awareness.
The man walks to a fair distance before her and stops. “Thakurayn.”
Ravali contemplates her sacrificial lamb. Head bowed, hands clasped loosely in front of him, he accepts his fate. He will do what she tells him, how she tells him. Oh! Exactly how she tells him to. The thought begins a faint delicious warmth between her legs.
Adhiruth looks up at her and hesitates. His ancestors have been serving the Thakur for generations. It is his life to do so. He knows he is canlı kaçak bahis supposed to do everything the Thakur tells him, and by association – the thakurayn. Even more, if the fondness of the Thakur for his young wife is taken into account. Adhiruth tries to make his mind work. Would it be betraying the Thakur to obey the thakurayn, or would not obeying the thakurayn give rise to even more problems for him later on?
“Adhiruth?” It’s a warning.
The slave trembles, then makes his decision and moves forward – to a hand’s reach from her.
Ravali languidly stretches a hand and grasps his upper arm. “Look up at me.”
Adhiruth knows he is not supposed to.
The grip around his arm tightens.
He looks up reluctantly; lowering his lashes when his eyes come into contact with the frank gaze of the thakurayn, then slowly raises them again, finally staring at her. They look at each other like that until Ravali slowly removes the black shawl wrapped around her. She shrugs off the heavy material and it falls in a heap at her feet.
“Spread it on the ground,” she instructs.
The untouchable bends down and spreads the cloth on the ground, moving away to stand to one side after the task is completed. Ravali walks over to him along the edges of the spread shawl.
“Take off my jutties.”
The servant immediately falls down on one knee and lifts up the thakurayn’s foot, placing it on his thigh. He proceeds to take off the jutti and then wipes the wet mud off the thakurayn’s foot with the cloth of his dhoti. Ravali smiles and changes the leg, raising her left one, getting the same treatment. When the jutties are off, she strolls barefoot to the middle of the spread.
Adhiruth doesn’t hesitate this time. He has made his decision.
She turns to face him and peels off the translucent cloth covering her bosom. Lightly dropping it to the ground beside her, she moves her fingers to the hooks going down the front of her blouse. His gaze is fixed on her movements, hypnotised; just as she wants it. She begins to open each button very deliberately and registers the way his chest is rising and falling more rapidly with each breath. A satisfied smile rises to her lips.
“Take your dhoti off.” It’s a whisper, but the thread of authority in it is unmistakable.
Adhiruth obeys. Unwrapping the limp cloth from his waist, he fumbles with it for a second before the thakurayn takes it from him and drops it by discarded clothes. She stands bare-chested before him, and as Adhiruth’s eyes rise up, he gasps. He hadn’t noticed her taking the blouse off. They stand still, staring.
Her eyes travel over his sunburnt body, flying over his naked chest, sliding over the smooth stomach, passing over the wisp of cloth at his groin and lingering over the hard, muscled thighs.
Suddenly, a brilliant streak of lightening illuminates the night; and the slave. Standing tall, he looks arrogant, with his head held high and his hands loosely at his sides, like a dark master of the night. The wind ruffles his longish hair, gently brushing the ends against his neck as he stands there, looking directly into her eyes, awaiting his fate.
A little frown creases her brow. This is not how it’s supposed to be.
“Take off my lehnga.”
The fear creeps back into his body as his muscles tense. She sees his stomach clench in, and smiles with satisfaction. This is how she wants him. Obeying her, serving her, pleasing her. Her slave.
Thunder rolls as Adhiruth steps forward. His hands fumble clumsily at the knot as he struggles to untie it without touching her more than he has to. The edginess makes him take longer than is necessary, but finally he has it untied and it slips off her waist, pooling down at her feet.
Naked, she barely takes a step towards him when the skies open up, the rain pouring down all around them. The meagre covering of the tree stripped off its leaves is not enough to shield them. The onslaught of the season’s first rain and the harsh winds tear out the remaining leaves which had weathered the dry summer, and the deluge claims their naked bodies, flowing over their smoothness as they stand there, stunned for a moment.
Adhiruth breathes a sigh of relief. Saved by the rain just in time. This time. And who knows, by the cold light of the day, the thakurayn might regret her decision and never repeat it.
He moves, but the thakurayn’s hand halts him as he bends to pick up their clothes. He looks up at her and realises that she means to continue. Reluctantly, he moves back, frustration and defeat evident in every line of his body. Reprieve was too good to be true.
Ravali moves closer to him and wraps her arms around him, flattening her palms against his shoulder blades. The slave stiffens to the point where his body seems to be carved out of stone, but the thakurayn does not relax her grip. She continues to hold him lightly as the rain slithers down over their bodies. Just as she feels him relaxing, she moves her hand down to the bit of cloth around his waist and begins to untie it. The tension is instantly back in his body, and he holds himself even more rigidly than before. If that was at all possible.
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