Raj came out of the kitchen sweating profusely. It was about noon. Food was ready for him and his mother-in-law. His wife had already left for work. As Raj sank in the chair, wiping his face with an apron, he thought of how his life had changed in the last few months. In a way, he was more fulfilled than ever. However, he also asked himself if this was the life he wanted.
Presently, his mother-in-law got up. She had completed her daily religious rituals. "Maa ji" (meaning mother), as Raj used to call her, was short, fair and a little towards the heavier side. She was wearing a grey sari. Her hair was long, freshly oiled and combed straight, reaching her shoulders. A large bindi adorned her forehead and below it, her bulging eyes spit fire. Raj could never look up at those eyes. He quailed with fear whenever his pale, docile eyes reached those glowing embers. Besides, he was not supposed to look up.
Raj threw himself at her feet. As was the ritual, he first kissed the ground in front of her. Then he touched her feet with his forehead. His hands were clasped together, just the way he prayed in the temples. His Goddess was standing right in front of him. "Bless me, Maa ji. Give me the ability to serve you and your daughter better every day". This was the prayer that he used to say everyday. Maa ji merely brushed his hair with the sole of her foot, with studied nonchalance. However, as Raj knew fully well, any error in showing adequate respect to Maa ji, or not supplicating properly would have the most dangerous consequences.
Maa ji sat herself in the red patterned couch, switching on the TV. Raj knew what to do. He hurriedly went to Maa ji, took the slippers from her feet and placed them carefully and properly on the ground. Then he took Maa ji's feet in his lap, and started massaging them, all the while keeping his eyes lowered. Maa ji did not say a word, nor did she motion him to do anything. Such was the command she had achieved over Raj. He was a like a pet to her now.
If there was anything wrong, Maa ji would immediately let him know in her own way. Suddenly Maa ji gave a painful kick to his balls. "Idiot dog, why are you lingering so long on one leg?" Raj writhed in pain. Still, he did not forget his programmed response.
"Sorry, Maa ji, Forgive this worthless male," he said out loud, as he rubbed his nose in the ground three times. This was the way a slave was supposed to ask for forgiveness.
After about half an hour of massage, Maa ji decided that she was hungry. She snapped her fingers, and her pet again knew his task. He carefully placed the slippers back again to her divine feet, and ran back to the kitchen. Maa ji walked up and sat herself on the dining table. Raj was soon ready with several elaborate dishes. He was to remain standing as she had her food, head bowed in reverence, and serving her every need. A motion of her hand was enough.
At the end of her lunch, his work would be judged. This was important, for it would decide what, if any he was to eat for his lunch. Of course, it was Maa ji's leftovers, but did he earn that privilege today?
Raj again supplicated at her feet, his forehead touching them. "Maa ji, this insignificant male seeks permission to eat your left overs." It was not, however, his day. "Dog, you cant massage my feet properly, how dare you ask for food? You will go starving today, but you may lick the dirt from my slippers." Raj thanked her profusely for the honor.
Maa ji went back to the couch, concentrating on her daily soap. She sat cross-legged this time, and Raj knew what to do. Like a dog, he came crawling, licking the dirt from the soles of her worn slippers. He slurped like a dog, too, licking each part of the sole with the dedication of a devotee. This was the first thing that was going into his stomach since the morning. Hunger increased his devotion, and Maa ji was enjoying the sensation of his tongue through her slipper.
At one point, she took her eyes off a buxom blonde with an unfaithful lover, and gave Raj a stare. Raj always trembled at those icy stares. They ripped through his chest, like a sharp knife. He knew the code. He must become more aggressive in his licking. He must provide more enjoyment to his mother-in-law. If his devotion is not to her satisfaction now, he will again have to lick her slippers for his dinner. His hunger would be her enjoyment. This was the reason she deprived him of food sometimes. After all, he was a pet for her amusement. Raj started licking aggressively. He had to please this woman, for she controlled his life. All his property was now in her name. He had never thought this petite woman could have so much cruelty in her small frame.
She crossed her leg. It was fresh food for Raj. He started licking the dirt from her other slipper. Maa ji was engrossed in her TV soap, and paid no attention to Raj. But he knew that the slightest error on his part would lead to severe punishment. He went on licking like a mad dog. His tongue, though long used to the activity, was paining. Maa ji suddenly put her slippered foot on his shoulders, and started fondling his hair. He again knew what to do. This was sign that she was happy with him. He had to behave like her pet doggie now. He brushes his nose against her feet now, occasionally smelling its odor like an obedient dog. Maa ji put her foot on his head, pressing lightly.
She then nudged him with her foot, asking him to turn over. She placed her foot on his Adam's apple, lightly stroking his neck. Then suddenly she increased the pressure on his neck. Her eyes changed from playful, to cruel. He knew what was coming. This was her way of testing her pet. She stepped up the pressure, like the speed on an accelerator paddle. He was trying to breathe quickly. She felt the rush of speed, the giddy rush of power. He was helpless now. She can cut off his breathing. She can kill him if he wants to. But he has not raised a hand in self defense. Such was her control over him. The extent of his submission was his surrender. She had broken him completely.
She kept increasing the pressure until he could breathe no more, and held it for a few minutes. It seemed like eternity to him. He still did not raise his hands in self defense. He lay like the faithful dog, trying to absorb the pain and suffering inside his body. Suddenly, she let go of him. He was panting like a marathon runner. She gave her a swift kick in the jaws. It meant his service was no longer needed now. She wished to be left alone. He was a spent force, not of any use to her now, this panting male. However, Raj knew, he should remain alert, and present himself as soon as she snapped her fingers.