In this short story, Tejaswinee Roychowdhury narrates the tale of Manoj, a domestic worker whose life turns topsy-turvy because of a weak moment.
Manoj had dreamt of this day for so long but now that it was here, he wanted to hug the toilet and empty his stomach into it. He closed his eyes. The voice of his mentor found its way into his mind. “Breathe. Breathe. Feel it, every breath you take. Inhale the light. Exhale the dark. Calm your mind. Just breathe…”
As the words weaved their magic, Manoj thought about it all; everything that brought him here, outside those doors.
Manoj had found his mentor in the last place one could expect to find mentors — the prison. Gulab Singh was a man of refined tastes and exquisite interests when he was not tuning up the inmates. If one managed to get on his good side, Gulab Singh would be more than just a prison guard to them; he would be a friend, a brother, a father, or as in the case of Manoj, a mentor.
On a humid Saturday afternoon, Gulab Singh had crash-landed his baton on Manoj’s bottom because the latter had mouthed off the food server. But that night before dinner, Gulab Singh had called for him and greeted him with a wide smile. “You should not disrespect the person who serves you food,” he had said.