The smell of gunpowder was nauseating. As her pace got her closer to the gates of the ammunition manufacturing unit, the stench seemed to magnify manifold. Her husband never seemed to have an issue with the smell. The very thought of her husband caused her already not-so-promising outlook towards the day meander southward.
Peace and tranquility were two feelings she had given up on the day they were married. She and her five-year-old son was most often on the receiving end of his fury on many nights. The problems were so intense that she used to put her five-year-old to sleep by seven in the evening so that he is spared from the volcanic fury of his father. He was an alcoholic but he never came around to admitting that. Her pleas and cries would often be drowned in his incoherent and outrageous remarks of his alter-ego in his semi-permanent inebriated state. He used to come home seldom before ten. After his shift at the company, he and his friends would head to one of their usual joints and drink themselves to senselessness, following which he’d head home. Logic didn’t often go well with an intoxicated state of mind and he invariably used to pick a fight with her for even the most trivial of reasons. And then, he’d fall to bed, and sleep off immediately. She’d often stay back in the living room for a while, cursing her bad luck, her husband’s alcohol addiction and contemplating her and her son’s bleak future. Her tear glands were almost paralyzed, it did seem she had used up an entire lifetime of tears’ supply in the eight years after their marriage.
Things would attain a completely different hue in the morning. He would wake up sober and they would talk sensibly, like a husband and wife are supposed to. He’d occasionally help her in making breakfast and he’d be all eager to please her. “Leave the job here. Your job involves gun manufacturing, it is a sinful task. Let us find a job elsewhere, let us not work at a place where they profit when men kill each other.” Her suggestion would be brushed aside, she knew. “Yes yes, it is something we should think of. The company is doing well now, they will handout our bonuses in the next month. Manager saab was telling that this time they’ve made record profits and we employees should expect hefty bonuses. I’ll work till they pay out the bonuses for this quarter and then once that is done, I’ll start searching for another job,” he’d say, a lot of warmth and affection exuding from his eyes. And then the conversation would taper off.
She sighed. All these conversations, all these seemed to have happened eons ago. He had died six weeks ago, of lung cancer. By the time he was diagnosed, the cancer was at an advanced stage. The doctor opined that it is most likely caused by all the chemicals that were involved in pellet manufacturing since his job involved continuous and careless contacts with all those carcinogenic substances. In those few weeks since the tragedy, she had thought of multiple ways to start earning and knocked on various doors. But none of her efforts panned out. So here she was, making her way towards the gate of the factory as his replacement at his job. During the walk, she contemplated the sins that she was about to heap upon herself. The sons and fathers of men who would die from a gun that she would help manufacture. The wives and daughters of men who might stay alive if she were not going to work at this place. True, all this was real but equally real was her son’s school fees she had to pay. The grocer and vegetable vendor who had given her provisions for the past month but would stop free lines of credit sometime soon. She had no other option. A tear escaped her eyes as she crossed the gate.
“A month or two,” she thought to herself. “I’ll probably work here enough to pay off existing bills and then I shall look for another job.” She mentally cleansed her feelings of guilt that were washing ashore in her mind and made her way to the interiors of the factory complex.