The giant clock on the wall facing the prison cell struck 5:30 am as she awoke with a start from her sleep. The cold stone floor on which the moth-eaten blanket was laid was the most uncomfortable bed she could ever imagine. One and half hours to go and she would be escorted to the gallows. She shuddered to think of fast approaching death. She was instructed to take a shower and wear the new shirt and a pair of trousers provided to her by the prison authorities. As she stepped into the shower, the gush of water overpowered her thoughts and she let the jet stream drench her for one last time. She closed her eyes and facing upwards, let the deluge smother her for a few moments as she gasped for air. As an afterthought, it might have been an act of cleansing herself of the sins she had committed in an unregretful manner.
Post the shower-ritual, on stepping back into her prison cell, she said her prayers as giant tears trickled down her cheeks. She let herself fall flat, face down on the hard stone floor and sobbed into the thin blanket that barely provided the much-needed warmth.
Breakfast consisting of stale chapattis and some foul-smelling vegetable mix was served on the stained yellow dish that had given her silent company for the past 5 years. She looked miserably at the food and cried some more. Flashbacks of the birthdays she had celebrated with her husband tumbled down her memory lane. What would she not do for one last chance to rewind the threads and rectify her blunder?
She ate her last meal hungrily and prayed some more. Lost in her thoughts, she failed to notice the clock as it struck 7 am. A hard rap on the iron bars of the prison door startled her as she came back to reality.
The source of the noise, a woman in a khaki-coloured saree motioned her to come out of the cell as it was time. She stepped out as the door opened for her. Immediately, the woman bound her hands with a pair of handcuffs and held her by her arm. They walked through the long winding corridor passing by the prison cells from which other female convicts holding on to iron bars stared at her with curiosity.
While walking towards the finality of her fate, she recalled all those countless moments she had given away in the form of deceit and trickery. There was indeed no looking back. Soon the gallows appeared from nowhere and the woman leading her, tightened her grip around her arm, hurting her a little. With each step further, fear and anxiety gripped her. Nauseous and sick with an overwhelming sense of guilt, she walked unsteadily as they finally reached their destination.
A foul stench emanated from the dungeon-like room where there were five others waiting for her arrival. The woman led her to the gallows and handed her over to the hangman who put an opaque black cotton veil over her head, covering her face completely till her neck. A whispered prayer and a word of apology issued from the lips of the hangman as he suspended the noose around her neck and tightened it. The trap rumbled open and down she fell into nothingness…