You don't have a mental disorder; you are not on Prozac or Alprazolam, and you definitely don't hallucinate except when you notice your body suddenly start to extend, much to your trepidation. Your arms, your hair, your legs, and your face, as you see in VFX movies, turn and twist, curl, and coil agonizingly into a faint chestnut brown creature, not just a creature, a fully formed Scorpion. You look at yourself in the mirror aghast as tears make an all too familiar entry into your eyes accompanied by a deep pinching pain, the same kind when your parents refused to buy you a pack of crayons, a pair of new school shoes, the gungroo for your dance class, the five-star chocolate. Mind you, they were not desires you could blow away like the fluffy head of the dandelion. They were necessities; in the absence of which the teachers unleashed a volley of words so acidic, it forced you to steal- you see, you can either beg, borrow, or steal. The first two alternatives being non-existent, you wait for the kindergartners to vacate their classroom; you wait long after dismissal time and sneak into their cupboards to steal the rainbow toffees and taffies.

You walk gingerly toward the dance class; you can hear the students practice Kathak, and you see a gleaming pair of uniform shoes lined outside the classroom. You quickly unbuckle your worn-out shoes with a broken buckle and stitched toe roll, slip into the new ones, and walk away without a care. 

You lock yourself in the restroom stall and miss the craft period lest the SUPW teachers inquire for the fifth time where your supplies are. You steal like it's the norm of your life. Your mother, who should ideally be alert and appalled to unidentified treasures brought by you, plays naive for some reason. She doesn't stop you; you continue to plunder pencil boxes, school bags, shoes, sweaters, belts, everything. In college, the tragedy continues. You don't even leave the poor vendor with the bangles and lipstick stall during Shanivaar bazaar. The lipsticks cost a mere ten rupees, but where is the money? So, you distract him, and the crowded street becomes your accomplice as you slide the cheap lipstick under your baggy t-shirt.

Stealing is so much into your nature you have forgotten how not to do it. At the workplace, much after you have left the transgressions of childhood, you steal 20 rupees and 50 rupees bills from your co-worker's handbags secured under their work desks when they are not around. The thought of a plate of vegetable chowmien from Agarwal's in Mukherjee Nagar brings so much joy you don't really care for the source. 

You even steal from your boyfriend's wallet when he is in the washroom, and you even steal your friend's wife's chiffon top and a gold ring when they step out to get food leaving you to watch TV.  You steal anywhere and everywhere, and you steal without sorrow, without shame until, years later, your children come home with a pencil you are certain you did not buy, and you walk back to school to leave it where they found it. Every day, every day, every day, you are vigilant, vigilant to a pencil, an eraser, a penny, a candy that does not belong to them. We do not take what doesnt belong to us; you chant the mantra into his ears like a head priest whispering Gayatri Mantra into the boys' ears. What you are more careful with is buying them what they need, nothing less, if not more. 

Later, when the night has transported your boys to slumberland, you walk very silently to your study table and pull out a red diary from the far end of the drawer. You flip through the empty pages, calculating how much you donated to charity and how much you owe to the world. Telekinesis, yeah! That's what they call it, the scientists, the innovators. Little do they know that their innovation is helping someone cleanse her past.; cleanse the dusty, cobwebbed corners of her being. Trapped in them is an archive of stories, a living archive of stories- stories about deprivation, stories about shame, stories about theft, and redemption. The empty pages are your secret; you don't want your children to breathe the secondhand smoke or your husband to see the blemishes you carry. 

You have an elliptical understanding of your parent's behavior that created this version of you. What absurdity in the inhumanity of the totalitarian regime of your father.

Given an opportunity, you would like to climb on the terrace of your 19th-floor apartment and cry to the world; it feels like an ethical imperative to convey the message-

-buy her a new shoe

-buy her school craft material

-buy her crayons

-buy her a toffee 

-buy her the necessities

In the tapestry of life, some threads cannot be untangled. While you feel like a hunted fugitive, it may be a while before time can fully recompense you for your struggles. Awashed in history, the weight of it, you ensure you keep a few hundred rupees monthly to donate to charities( read- to return to its rightful owners.)Will these efforts yield the desired outcome? Only time can reveal the answer, for the scorpions linger across vast expanses of life. 

So, beg, borrow, or steal. The scorpions say: NONE.


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