In the sleepy town of Bela, every idiosyncrasy would earn fame or infamy, as prescribed by its walking moral compasses a.k.a. the neighbourhood. And although the people weren't constant, their judgements stuck around, traversing from one neighbourhood square to another. Like an invisible serpent. Presently slithering towards the white mansion perched at the corner of the street, by the suburban woods.
This white bungalow shone bright, much like the glaring afternoon sun on a fine Sunday. But Sita, a fashionable woman in her mid-30s, seemed to outshine it, with her yellow animal print pants and maroon lipstick. She got off an old off-white Maruti 800 that had just pulled up, before the mansion. One that belonged to an equally aged-looking man.
While the neighbourhood kids stopped their game of hopscotch to give Sita a warm stare, the old man looked rather grumpy behind the wheel. He honked, stroked his salt and pepper beard, and waited impatiently, eyes glued to the iron gates of his bungalow.
After a few moments, Shurpi hurriedly stepped out of the mansion to open the gates. She wore a mud red pallu over her head as any other 50-year-old home-maker would. Her peaceful composure was hard to miss. As was the love in her old-watery eyes for the old man.
The car came to a grunting halt inside the parking lot. The old man stepped out of the car, as Shurpi greeted him, and quickly touched his feet in loving reverence. Sita's oomph didn't budge. She stormed out the parking space, like a deer caught in the headlights. Stunned. Embarrassed. Even slightly spiteful.
While the invisible serpent slithered on to the rest of the neighbourhood, as though hissing venomous stories about the mansion's dwellers, the bungalow remained quiet as a desert. And so did Shurpi's side of the story.
Why was she still living the old man? Who was Sita? Was Shurpi so blindly in love that she could let another woman live under the same roof as her?
Years have passed by, but Shurpi's silence still endures. She seems peaceful, almost unaffected, on her early evening walks; her pallu and pride intact. But the serpent hisses a final verdict - so that for the neighbourhood, she lives naak-katake (meaning 'bringing shame') in a flat opposite to the white mansion, by the woods.
And while the trio seems happy, the invisible serpent still coils around the women. However, even today, only the two women know his real name - ‘Ram’.