Friday, 16 December 2016
I was created in a dusty workshop on the very edge of Bombay, a hundred-and-fifty years ago. I had beautiful fire opals set into the copper overlay on my finger loops, an iron body and deadly steel claws. Most weapons like me are made to intimidate, large, brutish masses of iron that weigh a tonne. I was slender, delicate, graceful. I was a weapon still, not an accessory.
The woman who commissioned me picked me up from the shop two days after I was completed. She was the wife of one of the gang leaders in the heart of Bombay. She paid for me in carefully counted coins, tucked me into her saree and left. We walked for a while, until the woman spotted a free rickshaw. I would have though she had her own private one, as the gangs on the coastlines controlled almost all of the exports, making them incredibly wealthy. I didn’t worry too much about the details, as I was too excited about my future.
The rickshaw ride was slow; we’d hit rush hour at its peak. Eventually we reached one of the richer parts of Bombay, far from where the gang operated. We stopped outside a large house. I was tucked out of sight before we entered the house. A servant greeted us, who addressed the woman as ‘Mrs. Sunita’ and said her tea was waiting on the balcony.
A few hours later, Sunita’s husband rode up to the house. When Sunita spotted him, she leant over the balcony and waved. Rahul, I think his name was.
‘You have it?’ He asked quietly, ‘The leader of the Temple Road gang is coming, alone.’
‘Here.’ Sunita placed me on the sill of the balcony. Rahul seemed pleased. I couldn’t tell whether he was a good man or not.
That evening, the tallest and roughest looking man I have ever seen grace the streets of India came to the house. Everything about him was unsettling, actually. Rahul and Sunita greeted him, seemingly familiar with this feeling. I was in Sunita’s hair, thick, black curls twisted around me. They ate, tension in the air between the polite conversation. Eventually, Rahul got up from the table.
‘Excuse me for a minute. I am fetching the money. Sunita, please show our guest the numbers of the operation.’ Rahul shut the door carefully behind him.
Sunita crossed the room and opened a corner cupboard to retrieve some papers to show the tall man. She placed these on the table before going back to the cupboard and taking me out of her hair. She pursed her lips, stood behind our victim, and slid her finger into the finger loops. She put one hand on the back of the chair and with all her strength, drove my blades into the back of the tall man’s neck. I hit the nerve as the man yelled out. Sunita removed me and the blood trickled lazily out of the four wounds. He fell off the chair. It took us a few seconds to notice one of my claws was missing.
I could see the end of it sticking out from the man’s neck, I never forgot the empty feeling of trading a part of myself for taking a human’s life. Sunita sat opposite the dead man and waited for Rahul. He came into the dining room gleefully and chuckled when he kicked the dead man’s face in. I decided that Rahul was worse than he looked. He picked me up, dropped me into a pocket. Next thing I remember, I was back at the workshop and my opals were gone. I was shoved into a box and there I waited. A red-faced Englishman came to the abandoned workshop and spotted me. Took me to a cold museum, via a cold English boat, to sit alone in another box for another 10 years, before my opals were replaced by coloured glass and I was placed next to a quiet giant of a tiger’s claw. A much finer weapon than me. I really am just an accessory.
by Dora Gould