Shaku mops her steel box with wet cloth as they stand outside the hut. Hearing their footsteps, she turns to the door and says, "You devils!"
A crow caws from the treetop, and more crows assemble. "These crows are better than you, devils," she says, exposing her only tooth. She fumbles in the bag where she keeps betel leaves and nuts, catechu, lime and tobacco flakes. She pounds them in a brass pestle and holds the mix in her mouth. Every now and then she goes out to spit the juice out.
"God!" they say, the four grandsons, stepping into the hut. "Why don't you part with that black box?"
Shaku frowns and her wrinkles double. "What did you say, devils? This isn't a black box or a magic box."She polishes the box again to show what she means. "I've kept it so spotless, and you call it a black box?"
"Bloody black box," they say in unison.
Inside the hut, in front of the charcoal chulha, she hums "na mangoo sona chandi na mangu hira moti" as she pats sorghum pancakes. They listen.
"What do you do with that box?" They squat, huddled on the mat. The sorghum pancakes spread their aroma all around the hut.
"My great grandmother gave it to my grandmother. Grandmother gave it to mother. I'll give it to Ahalya." She turns to them for a moment.
"Ahalya? Where's she? Do you think she'll return to claim your black box?" one of them says.
"She will. The temple astrologer said so."
"She won't," another says.
"I'll wait anyway." Her eyes widen pushing the surrounding wrinkles back. And they go out to take a break.
After locking her hut with a Godrej padlock, Shaku waits by the highway for the traffic to slacken, her back a bow, her stick dug into the dust. She keeps trying even as trucks, buses, cars and motorbikes whiz past her. All four of them stand there and one of them says, "Who needs a zebra crossing? Or a pedestrian underpass?"
"Who else? Shaku!" they all say in chorus.
Shaku hollers, "You devils! Go away!"
Their crooked shadows dance on the speeding vehicles as they look on. She crosses the road and they go back home, a few paces away from Shaku's hut.