Gowri opened her eyes. It was dark outside. "It must be eight," She thought. She tried getting up. The pain was unbearable. A monster was inside her clawing at the walls of her stomach, gnawing the skin. She felt a maddening emptiness. She began hitting her stomach, tears welling up in her eyes. She wanted to stifle this agony, strangle the monster, escape from its fury.

Hunger. She had experienced hunger before. But it had never been like this. She sat up with her head between her legs; trying to contract her stomach; trying to ignore the jabs and the pricks of the creature inside her.

        How long was it since her last full meal? It must have been three weeks prior to Shankar's illness. Since then she had starved herself to feed him. And he had died. Died at the government hospital where she had taken him a week before. Was it just two days since his death? It seemed months, years, almost eternity. She had left his corpse and fled. She had come home and wept, tears of pain not for her dead husband but for herself. What would happen to her now? What was she going to do with herself? She didn't know anybody in this wretched town. They were knew to the place. They had come from their village six months back. Her Shankar had got a job as a coolie and now he was dead. They had been married only a year ago. How happy she had been that day. How handsome Shankar had looked in the blue kurta!

        Hunger. She had not eaten for two days - forty eight hours. There was not a single paisa, nor a grain of rice in the house. ......Rice.... paisa....hunger. A vicious circle. She had to do something. She had to eat.

        A thought occurred to her. She could go to Chandulal. That pig would give her something to eat. Of course he would feed on her charms. She remembered the last time she had gone to his shop to get some rice on credit. He had caught hold of her arm.

        "Rani, why are you wasting your youth on that bundle of bones! You need a real man. Come to me, I will make you happy," he had said, rubbing his thighs and winking at her.

        She had slapped him and wrenching her arm free had spat on him. She had then walked out after flinging the bag of rice on his face.

        And that night she and her Shankar had slept hungry.

        She had never again gone to Chandulal's shop.

        She got up. She knew his house. He lived alone in a small house behind his shop. Outside it was quiet. The lanes were deserted this cold winter night.

        She knocked on the door. Chandulal opened it. He was surprised to see her at this time of the night.

        She looked at him. His eyes. She wanted to turn back. Run away.

        "I....I.... give me something to eat," she stammered.

        Surprise had given way to pleasure....desire. "Yes....yes, come in," Chandulal said and taking her arm he led her into the kitchen.

        "You have come at the right time. I was just about to eat. Today was my uncle's shraadha. They have sent all this."

        Gowri stared at the plates. They were filled with puris, laddoos, rice and almost every imaginable dish. Her eyes lit up. She could hardly breathe.

        Chandulal was staring at her. She looked weak - like a shriveled up flower. But to him she was still desirable. He could see the swell of her ripe breasts, the voluptuous curve of her hips. How often he had watched the alluring sway of her hips as she walked. How often he had desired her. But she was a real haughty bitch. She must be really desperate; or she wouldn't have come. Look! How she was staring at the food - like a hungry wolf. She had even forgotten he was here. A sly grin spread across his face. Now was his chance to teach her a lesson. He could still fill the sting of her slap. The bloody whore had made him a laughing stock. He had become the object of ridicule in the entire neighbourhood. Now, at last, she was within his grasp.

        Gown sat Down and was about to reach for the plates when he pulled her towards him.

        "Now Gown Rani, what's the hurry. First you have to satisfy my hunger and then you can satisfy yours. I have been waiting for this moment for months."

        "No, no, please Chandulal," she cried trying to wrench herself from his grasp. "I beg you, let me eat first. I haven't eaten anything for two days. Let me eat and then you can do anything that you want with me."

        She implored, she pleaded, she wept. But Chandulal wouldn't release her. She saw a round stone lying behind him. It was probably used for grinding. With a sudden violent move she freed herself, lunged forward and grabbed the stone. Before Chandulal could even sense what was happening she brought the stone, using all her strength, down on his head. She could hear the crunch of crushing bones.

        He fell down with Gowri on top. She was hitting him, smashing his face to a gruesome pulp. His body gave a violent jerk, his hand came up and then he went limp.

        "Take this, you whore's son, you filthy pig," she was screaming at him, tears streaming down her face.

        His face was a mask of blood. Bits and pieces of his flesh were scattered everywhere. Blood had spattered all over Gowri. She was pounding him, laughing and mumbling. She threw the stone, got up and surveyed the bloody mess for an instant. Then wiping her blood spattered hands on her sari she sat down and reached for the plates.

        'Ah! What a feast. Soft, succulent puris, sweet smelling rice.....the aroma was maddening. She began eating. Gulping down mouthfuls. She had never eaten such a tasty meal. She thought of her marriage. That day too there was a feast. But then she was too excited to eat. She felt she would go mad today. Everything was so delicious, so tasty'.

        What was that, in the vessel there in the corner? She dipped her hand and licked. Kheer! She smacked her lips. Licking her hands.

        There was silence all around. The only sound in the room was of Gowri eating. Her moans of pleasure, her sighs of rapture echoed in the stillness of the night.

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