"Ma, when will you get me a new doll? Pinky here is all broken. Her arm has come off, and just look at her hair! She is going bald!", exclaimed Tanu, as she got dressed for school. Ma, as always, was hurrying to get her little girl ready in time, fixing her tiffin box and water bottle for her. She reached for the comb, when Tanu asked her again, "Ma, when will you get me a new doll?" "Tanu, we will see when we can get you what you want, okay? Now, will you please sit straight and let me tie your hair?" replied Ma, sternly.
Since the past few months, Tanu found Ma in a very bad mood. She would keep shouting at her for no reason, keep sulking, and throwing things around. She hardly played with her anymore. What had happened to her Ma, little Tanu kept wondering all the time. These days, everything seemed so different. Baba also acted weird. And, he behaved differently, too. He also had begun to raise his voice, and his hand, at Ma. That was what disturbed Tanu the most. Baba had never been like this.
He always took Tanu piggy back around town to show her all the lovely places she liked visiting. He also played house with his little girl during holidays, drinking tea out of the little toy cups that Tanu filled to the brim with his favourite beverage and eating mouthfuls of rice out of the tiny plates. All that seemed to belong to the distant past to the child, who tried every trick she could to make her Ma smile, like she always used to.
The day now passed by as usual, with Tanu at school and Ma finishing the chores. But, as the evening drew closer and it began to darken, Tanu could feel her mother's heart beating wildly. As if a storm was brewing and there was nothing that Ma could do to fight it. Tanu managed to finish her studies as best she could, without Ma's help. Actually, Ma did sit with her, but she seemed lost in her thoughts, unconsciously pulling at the rug's threads, peering at the door every now and then.
Meals would also be finished hurriedly, without the usual chit chat about the day's happenings. Ma, then, hastened Tanu to lie down to sleep; no bed time stories, no lullabies, nothing at all! Tanu, tired after the long day, thankfully fell asleep quickly, but Ma -- she kept tossing and turning, and in the process would wake Tanu with a start. She would then try her best to calm her down. And, just when things began to quieten, the door flew open and in staggered Baba. Mumbling something, smelling very bad, and mostly speaking in a very bad language.
And, then would begin the scene that a trembling Tanu stealthily watched from under her bed sheet, holding a broken Pinky close to her thumping heart, praying to god to stop all these terrifying things that Baba would do and for life to go back to their happy past.
Ma would throw the bottle in anger, Baba would pull her plait and slap her hard across the cheek, pushing her down to the ground and shouting at her at the top of his voice. Then, pulling her with such a force that shook Ma, he would demand for food to be served. And, Ma...her poor Ma, would obey every command that came from Baba, but with her head bent and doing her best to wipe away the tears that now flowed ceaselessly.
This is how the days ended. Baba in a drunken stupor, Ma, getting beaten up for no fault of hers and little Tanu, watching it all unfold from under her bed sheet, shaking like a leaf, unable to stop what was happening in her tiny world. These days, Tanu would begin and end her day with a prayer sent heavenwards for peace and happiness to return to her home. A prayer for Baba to stop bringing that dreaded bottle home and harassing her mother. A prayer for all three of them to go back to living their life with love and laughter. A broken doll would do. But, a broken home..never!