The old woman, draped in a crumpled white cotton saree, sat absolutely still. The pallu carelessly pulled around her and dug into her waist showed no sign of ever having encountered pressing irons. Her glasses rested on the edge of her nose. A woman older than she was sprawled on the sofa, fanning herself. A young man sat watching cricket on television. His sister was turning the pages of a magazine without seeing anything.

Dusk had fallen. There was nothing to do but wait for dinner. The old woman in white hugged her arms, eyebrows raised in concentration, her eyes surreptitiously drifting here and there, all around her. She would look up when spoken to and sometimes grunt a reply, clearly not approving of the disturbance. She would wave her hands at times, like a traffic policeman flagging vehicles.

About half an hour passed thus. The youngster shifted in his seat as the match progressed, deep intakes of breath giving away the fate of the team he supported. The flip-flap of the newspaper fanning the older woman, the lazy rustle of the magazine in the young woman’s hands and the groans of the ancient fan provided the background to the television commentary.

A subtle change came over the woman in white. She remained immobile but her eyes narrowed and began darting with rapt attention. Her fingers rubbed against each other, to warm up for the final act. Slowly, she drew her feet closer to her.


The older woman stopped fanning and stared. The youngster muted the TV and turned around. The young woman gaped.

Her eyes betraying a suggestion of glee, the White Woman opened her closed palms and slowly pulled out something small and black between her thumb and index finger. With a triumphant face, she held it out to the others for a second before flicking it away.
“Darn mosquito!” she said.