SAME PINCH • by Sushma R.Doshi

I watched her every morning while I cooked. That woman in the red saree. She was the proud owner of two sarees … both red … one with yellow polka dots and the other with a green border. I knew because I had been watching her for the past two weeks from the window of my kitchen on the first floor of the apartment I live in.

No … I am not a voyeur. The plot of land next to our apartment had been empty for a long time. Suddenly, construction work began. Not an apartment, a neighbor informed me. A personal house. It was going to be palatial, rumors said. I watched as trucks rolled in with bricks, sand and cement and dumped it on the side of the road. Then came the laborers. Migrant laborers I was told. They resided on the construction site and worked for daily wages till the job was completed. Then they migrated. Another site. Another building to build.

“Be careful,” I was warned. “These laborers often resort to petty thievery … so just be careful and keep the doors to the balcony closed.”

Surprisingly, there were women in the workforce.

It was amongst these women laborers that I spotted her from my kitchen window. The woman in the red saree. She was standing at the corner of the street where the trucks had dumped a ton of bricks. She had her back towards me. She bent down slowly to pick up a few bricks, placed them on top of her head and walked towards the part of the construction site where a laborer was laying the bricks and gluing them with cement to form a wall. A child ran beside her. Her daughter. Around five years old, wearing a frock worn off at the edges, she skipped along barefoot oblivious to the environment around her. The woman after throwing the bricks down turned. She was pregnant.

I watched fascinated as the woman in the red saree built a temporary home for herself on the construction site. A bedsheet to sleep on. A stove with a gas cylinder to cook food. It was a group stove. Everyone would pitch in. I noticed they would give the woman in the red saree a light job like cutting vegetables. I could feel the camaraderie as they ate and laughed together. Where did they go to relieve themselves? My maid answered this amused by my ignorance.

“Oh … there is a temporary bathroom built on the site … very unsanitary.”

I knew the woman in the red saree well by the end of the week. The way she would slap her husband in affection … I knew who her husband was by the way they would touch each other … the fatigue with which she would lean back against the wall … the manner in which she would embrace her daughter.

“When was the due date for the delivery of the child? Did the woman in the red saree go to a doctor regularly?” My maid snorted at my questions.

“Stop getting so obsessed,” Priti, my friend, admonished me over the phone. “I’m going to the mall,” she said. “Come with me. 5 pm sharp.”

It was a sultry evening. It had been a while since I’d gone out. Raj, my husband, was busy touring on business and the children with their exams. I changed into a pair of jeans and a kurta and matched it with a tote bag and a pair of wedges. I took the elevator down to the car park and walked briskly to the main gate to wait for Priti. I felt watched. I turned to see a pair of eyes looking straight at me. The woman in the red saree. Squatting on the floor. Patting her bulging stomach with her back against a wall. Staring at me curiously. Other laborers milled around, sitting on half made structures or stretching their hands, signaling the end of the working day. I averted my eyes and looked in the other direction. Fidgeting with the straps of my bag, unease gripped me. I held it close as the past warnings about the laborers flashed through my mind.

I jumped with a start as my phone rang. I zipped my bag open to take it out.


“Hello … Reaching,” responded Priti.

I felt reassured as I heard Priti’s car honking past the laborers to screech to a halt near me. I hurried towards it as the driver stepped out to open the car door for me.

Madamji,” I heard a child’s voice call.

I stopped. What was it? Did the woman in the red saree want something? Was she pushing her children to beg?

I turned. The little girl in the worn out frock. Barefoot. Her hair in a ponytail with her grubby hands extended towards me. She was clutching something.

“You dropped this,” she said with a beguiling grin.

My credit card. I must have dropped it while extracting my phone from my bag. I took it smiling, relief writ large on my face and slipped it back inside.

“Thank you,” I said softly.

“Tank U,” the girl repeated. “Ma and you … same pinch,” she said. “What?” I asked confused.

“Ma and you are wearing the same colors … so … same pinch,” she explained giggling.

Of course. Memories of a popular game we played as kids flooded me. Same Pinch. Whenever we would go out in the evening to play in the park, we would yell to those wearing clothes of the same color “same pinch” and lightly pinch each other. I was wearing a red kurta. Her mother in a red saree. “Hurry up,” I heard Priti call.

“Yes. Your Ma and me… the same… wearing red,” I agreed and laughed, “Bye,” I said and waved to her. She enthusiastically returned the word and gesture. I turned and walked away. I never watched the woman in the red saree again.

Sushma R.Doshi completed her graduation in History from Loreto College, Kolkata. She went on to acquire a Master’s degree, MPhil and PhD in International Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She dabbles in writing fiction and poetry and her work has been published by Contemporary Literary Review India, Green Shoe Sanctuary, Fear of Monkeys, Borderless Journal, Literally Stories, Muse India and Impspired amongst others. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Syncopation Literary Journal for her story “Magic”.

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Every Day Fiction