Pati, Patni aur Wok.

When asked what her ambition was, Lisa’s answer always caused an uproar in the classes. “What sort of an ambition is ‘Housewife’?” her teachers used to ask. True, the only reason why she finished her education, stayed away from scandals and learned all those house crafts was to make good impressions on brokers. Rejections never hurt her. She was willing to wait till her family found the perfect suitor — and he appeared in the form of Issac Eapen, an investigative journalist.

Waking up early in the morning, she cooks breakfast and packs lunch for him. To occupy her mind till her husband arrives, she cleans the nooks and crannies of the house multiple times and repeats the chores. She used to call him during office hours but stopped after getting scolded over the phone (and later, in the house.) Once Issac comes back from work, she tries her best to please her husband in every way possible. She checked another box in her life with the birth of their son. Shuttling between the duties as mother and wife, she believed that she found bliss in her life — until that fateful day.

Lockdown wasn’t good for the family. The couple had sent their son to a relative’s house, citing that the kid should spend time with cousins of similar age instead of being confined to the four walls and screens. However, the truth was something else: she didn’t want her son growing up seeing the rough patches of the marriage and increasing “injuries” in mama’s body. Issac has been emotionally distant for some time and started relying more on the bottle than the lady. To take her mind off these matters, she volunteered for COVID relief work in a nearby hospital.

On their anniversary, Issac returned from work tired while she was cooking the special dinner. Suspicious of him drinking an unusually large amount of liquor, she asked what was troubling him. Despite him saying “Nothing”, she pressed him as she knew he was hiding something.

“I’ve been wanting to say this… this to you for some time. Like… um…”. After taking a swig of the bottle, he continued: “This marriage isn’t working. ‘Us’, it no longer exists. See, I agreed to this marriage because my love went away with someone else. She’s divorced now and open to a new chapter in life and I want to be a part of it. Umm, you may know her: Divya.”

She left the cooking midway. Of course, Mrs. Eapen knows her: constant envy in parties and whose name he utters in dreams. They work in the same office building. “I’m moving in with her today” was the last thing she heard him say. She turned her back, not wanting to show a teary face to her husband; and her life flashed in her eyes: her dream of living an ideal life, later realising that not all marriages are a rosy affair, going through the constant abuse — be it verbal or physical. Divorcees are looked down upon by society. How will her sisters get married, if the suitors hear this news? How will she take care of their son? Soon, voices of relatives and her better half’s cuss words filled her head.

And just as the pressure cooker gave out a whistle, she lost it. When he leaned towards her to shed the crocodile tears, she grabbed the wok on the stove and struck him in the head.

When she came back to her senses, she found the lifeless body of Issac slouching on the dining table. Throwing away the bloody wok, she checked his pulse. Nothing. The person who the priest joined with her was lying there, without a beat. In an impulse, she cleans the body and washes the floor with liquid. She then went for a shower to clean off all the blood.

Glimpsing a reflection in the mirror, she asks herself how could a poor soul like hers be capable of killing someone? “A hand slip during a nervous breakdown” — she could explain, but what would society say, especially that Divya?

Now how does one dispose a body without arousing suspicion? If the news gets out, her family’s reputation would be ruined. She has to take her son into consideration too.

After spending hours in the shower, she comes out with a devious grin and a vicious plan.

She had just settled down after returning from the hospital when the bell rang. She opens the door to find three police officers. Lisa had registered a complaint saying her husband is missing for a while and they had come for a background check. They had removed their mask, while she was still wearing her “mask.” After making them comfortable with small talks and a bottle, she sat down for the questioning.

Lisa answered questions like “When was the last time he came home?”, “Was he showing any signs of distress?”, “Are there troubles in marriage and/or financially?”, etc., while struggling to control her sobs.

After a while, they loosened up. The SI and the constables were all friends of Issac and frequent visitors in the house. “See, these are just formalities. I just had to fill this FIR up. There is no reason for worrying,” SI tried to explain in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Why don’t I serve you guys some lunch? You must be exhausted from all the duties,” suggested Lisa and the officers were too hungry for food than for answers to the disappearance to reject the offer. They were soon greeted to a lavish lunch: Biryani, Stir-fries, Pad Thai, Chicken curries (and few vegetables as an afterthought), leading one of the constables to exclaim “You’ve got a lot of non-veg dishes lined up!”

“I was so fortunate to get a lot of meat lately,” she replied with a sly grin.

When they all caught up with small talk and gossip, she thought out loud: “I was just wondering where would he be?”

“Hahaha. Don’t worry he might be in one of his famous scoops. Hope he doesn’t turn up with more scandals,” quipped a constable. The other constable was too late in realising that “No. If he forgets your anniversary, then he may be having an affair” might be a hurtful remark to pass in front of the lady.

Trying to steer away from the conversation on cases during food, SI suggested that the meat was so good that she needed to teach their wives how to cook well. She muttered “you might not want that to happen to you” under her breath.

“Sorry? Didn’t hear you.”

“Oh. Nothing. I was just saying that the key is to cook it in blood.”

While clearing up the table after the officers finished eating, she noticed that one of the officers stopped walking and was looking at her and the dishes. She backed off fearing that they finally discovered her ruse.

“Hey guys, isn’t it dishonourable not to help washing the dishes, especially after these lip-smacking food?” said the inspector and his sidekicks couldn’t agree more. She heaved a sigh of relief.

“Something inside me tells me that he is right under our noses,” said the constable while closing the tap and putting away the plates.

Agreeing with him, SI said “True, even I have that gut feeling” while grabbing one more piece of meat straight from the dish.

She was listening to all this with a giggle. She looks out through the window to see the hospital backyard, wondering whether they had started to burn the dead COVID-19 victims — along with the remains of Issac’s body.

(Based on Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter.)