Chapter – III

April 1990

It was a summer night. The girl lay on the floor of the outer room, separated from the bedroom of their hut by a thin mud-wall. She was looking at the rippling reflection of the moon in the pond beside their house. A row of trees around the pond formed a dreamy silhouette against the starry night sky. Their leaves rustled, as a warm wind blew to breathe life into the stillness of the night. As the wind touched the girl, her hair fringes tickled her brow and her cheeks. She was still daydreaming of her days in a college in the city of Mumbai. She had filled up quite a few forms of renowned colleges in Mumbai and Pune, applying for her graduation specializing in English Language. With her brilliant marks in High School, she was quite ahead in the competition. She’d take up tuition to fund her studies. After receiving her graduation degree with first-class marks, she’d complete her post-graduation and she’d become a part-time lecturer in some college. Once she’d saved enough, she would buy the camera of her dreams and step out to see the world. She’d capture photos like in the National Geographic magazines. And she’d publish her own books. She’d start a new Indian magazine just similar to the National Geographic Magazine. At the end of her life, there wouldn’t be any place in the world where she wouldn’t set her feet on. She’d pick up a rucksack on her back and drive those pitons into the vertical walls of the snowy Alps, she’d wear leather boots and wade through the forests of Amazon, and she’d wear a sun hat and drive a Land Rover jeep from the Sphinx to the Great Pyramid of Giza. In big offices, she’d deliver free wallpapers of Macchu Picchu in a bird’s-eye-view from a helicopter, and the waterfall forming a rainbow in Yosemite National Park, lions gathered around a waterhole in the twilight of the Savannah—a great idea for advertising her new magazine, isn’t it? She’d name her magazine, ‘Maya—Illusions of Frozen Time!’ She was smiling all by herself, when she was jolted out of the reveries of unquenchable fernweh, by the voice of her father from the other side of the mud-wall.
 

“Kshitij Master called on me today.”
 

“Now what?” The girl’s mother asked. “You’ve already paid off your debts last week.”
 

“It’s not about loan. It’s about marriage! His eldest son is ready to marry your daughter.”
 

“You mean, Shittuppam? Didn’t he marry a woman from the other village two years ago? I heard that he married in secrecy, much against his parent’s wishes.”
 

“Oh, yeah?” The father rebuked. “I see that you keep yourself quite updated. In that case, you must be knowing that they had a divorce last month.”
 

“Divorce? What are you saying?”
 

”Everyone in the village knows. Are you being a drama-queen?”
 

“She was such a sweet and innocent girl! You know, she’d come to our house a couple of months back to borrow our sandalwood bar. She said she was fasting and performing some sort of ritual to pray for the long life of her husband. She was such a dedicated girl. How in the world can she imagine divorcing Shittuppam?”
 

“Dedicated and educated. Hear that? Ā-doo-cay-ted.”
 

“Yeah, I know that. She holds a graduation degree. But what’s that got to do with divorce?”
 

“I always knew my wife is the stupidest woman in the village. Congratulations! Today you’ve proved yourself a retard!”
 

There was no response from the mother’s side. The father continued, “Since time immemorial, wise men have always said that education and women can never go together. Educated women make bitches, not wives. Here’s your proof.”
 

“Let’s come to the point. I won’t let my daughter marry the dirty Shittuppam. Even if you don’t agree, I know he’s a vile upstart. Don’t you know he was beaten up by the villagers of some neighbouring village for teasing a girl? Don’t you know he was caught sleeping with headman’s daughter? I can’t make my princess marry a scoundrel! It’s my firm belief that he had tortured his wife into divorce.”
 

“You won’t, eh? I’ll beat the crap out of you, and the villagers will have to carry you on their shoulders!” He laughed an inebriated laughter. “I’ll join them and play the requiem.”
 

“You can’t silence me every time by threatening to take my life!”
 

The heated conversation was getting louder and louder.
 

“I’ll silence you—both of you with my pickaxe. At last I’d be burden-free to retire.”
 

The mother gave in by falling silent. The father filled the silence, “Shittuppam will take no dowry as his father had promised. You know that I’ve lost all my lands. Nowadays, everyone takes tens of thousands of rupees for dowries. How’ll I pay the dowry if you choose to marry your daughter to someone else?”
 

“You lost most of your lands to your drinking habit. It’s not my daughter’s fault. Is it? So why should she pay for it with her life? The national scholarship she received is more than enough to pay you back for what you’ve spent on her education for the initial three years.”
 

The father ignored the propositions. “Shittuppam even has his own vehicle!” Probably he smiled a proud smile from the other side of the mud-wall. “He drives an auto-rickshaw in the town. How’ll you know about these things when all you do day and night is sleeping?”
 

The girl’s breaths quickened. There were drops of sweat all over her face. She couldn’t stand it anymore. She stormed into her parents’ bedroom.
 

“I’m not marrying anyone, okay?” She yelled. “I’ll go to college. I’ll study more and more. I’ll not marry until I introduce my own magazine to the world. Then I’ll marry someone, who has a backbone, not shit-eaters like Shittuppam!”
 

The mother repeatedly shifted her fear-laced eyes between her husband and her daughter. The father jumped up from the bed and slapped his daughter at once. Then he punched her hard on her arms and on her back. The girl started coughing from the severe blow on her back. The mother tried to pull him back, but the ex-farmer powered by cheap, local alcohol was too strong for her. The father stopped when her daughter fell to the ground. He was snorting like a bull in a bullfight. After lying on the floor for ten more minutes, with her mother silently weeping and caressing every part of her body, the girl finally got up and went back to the outer room where she was lying dreaming. She left the house in the middle of the night without waking up anyone.
 

In the morning, when Kshitij Master opened the main door of his house, he found the girl sitting at one corner of his front yard. She leaned her back against the wall and buried her face between her knees. She woke up when Kshitij Master put his hand on her head. She looked up. Master had retired from his job at the village’s Primary School four years ago. Now he stayed in his home full time. His black and white hairs nine years ago had turned into complete white. He had lost a lot of weight due to diabetes. To keep the disease in control, he used to go for a morning-walk everyday along the elevated dirt-paths beside the paddy and mustard fields of the village.
 

“What’s happened to you, my girl?” He leaned down above her. “I know you’ve come to meet my son, but I’m afraid, he hasn’t returned home last night. Can you please come in the evening?” His voice was soft, but the girl intuition told her that his voice and words were not natural for a teacher who’d yelled at his students umpteen times in the past 33 years.
 

“Master, once you had told me to study for as long as I wanted. But, you know, my father wants me to get married with your son soon.” Please make my father understand. I’m counting on you. It’s all up to you now.”
 

“What do you mean by as long as you want?” Kshitij Master became dour. “I’ve given you the chance to complete High School, what more do you want? Now don’t say you wanna be more educated than me!” he simpered.
 

“Master… I want to go to college and study English language.”
 

He stepped back from the girl and looked towards the well in the front yard. “If you choose to study anymore,” he said, “tell your father to arrange for some other man for your marriage…” He paused a bit. “Of course, if he can afford!” He smirked dryly.
 

The girl was surprised. At first she thought she’d comprehended Master’s word wrong. But it wasn’t before long, when Master cleared it up.
 

“Enough of educated wives. One has made my son’s life a hell. Now I don’t want another to dominate him. We agreed to let you study till High School, and now, after you’ve received free meal, you want a free bed too! This is the problem with today’s women. They don’t know when to stop, and dream of being equal to men.” He turned around from the girl. “Tell your father to look for some other loser who won’t take any dowry. I guess, he’s already lost his farmlands to gambling and drinking.” Kshitij Master started walking fast towards the dirt-path encircling the village, leaving the girl behind in front yard of his house where he’d once made the girl dare dream big.
 

Before that day, the girl knew that promises were only made to be kept. Words were only given to be trusted upon. That day she learnt that promises, just like material things, devolve into nihility with the passage of time. People too…
 

***

 
 

Sayalee had just turned seventeen yesterday. Every morning, she would draw pails of water from the well in their backyard and cook for the entire family of three brothers and their father. Then in the mid-day, she would head to the paddy fields along the dirt-path with a stack of hay on her head and a small box of food for her father in the fields. She fed the cows during their break from ploughing. She’d work with her father to grow fruits and vegetables. When her father fell sick, she’d paddle his rickshaw and take the harvest of the land to the town for selling. It was amazing how much of endurance a girl of seventeen could possess. She was born fair, but the scorching sun had tanned her skin into a shade of copper.
 

Sayalee was the only girl in the village, who was of the girl’s age. She’d skip ropes with the girl in her free time, though it was Sayalee who won the challenges most of the time. She would say to the girl after returning from the fields at dusk,
 

“Reality is very hard. Life is harder. It should be worked upon, not dreamt. Dreams should have a place in your mind only in the night, not after you wake up. Not only me, but also the whole village thinks you’re an imbecile to want to print magazines in your name. You want to see the world? What a laugh! Come out of your cocoon of fantasy before it’s too late. It’s never possible for girls to be an adventurer or a photographer; let alone village girls like us. Once you’re into your twenties, everybody will taunt you if you aren’t married. They’ll call you defective and impotent. Even the Pundit was discussing that you need a sojourn at a mental hospital, and you’ll become mentally fit once again.”
 

It was all so easy for Sayalee to say everything. But no one ever understood this girl, who had small wings, but dreamed and dared to soar high, high up in the limitless skies, beyond the blueness, and into the world of stars.

 

 

***

 
 

For some people, inspiration sets them free. For this girl, indomitable determination and sheer willpower set her free. She was now a student of Pune University, pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree. She gathered five school students and taught them after returning from college every afternoon in the weekdays. Then she’d burn the midnight oil and study for herself. She never missed a class in college. In Professor Udit’s class, where the very few students who remained in the class scribbled in their notebooks or chatted on, this girl would carefully take notes. As her vocabulary enriched with every passing day, two words never got a place in her dictionary: Fatigue and Exhaustion. She used to come home once a week on Friday evenings, and leave for college hostel in the Sunday afternoons. It was the dirt path shadowed under the canopies of mango trees, the Baya Weavers weaving their nests in palm fronds, the lakes rimmed with coconut trees swaying in the November breeze… and it was the mother, her own mother who kept her anchored to the village. The girl’s dress changed from Salwar-Kameez to shirts and trousers. She was on her way to becoming the most educated person in the village, after completing her 3-year Bachelor’s Degree.
 

Women are meant to be submissive and docile. Women shouldn’t learn to read and write. Women shouldn’t wear Western clothes. Women should be married off as soon as possible, sometimes even before she reaches pubescence so that she could serve her sentence of being born a woman by becoming a slave of her husband and her in-laws. She must live as a living-puppet of her house before marriage, and her husband’s after that. These are the tacit rules of our society. There are more for the offenders. If a woman shows signs of emancipation from the patriarchal principles, forewarn her first by outraging her modesty. That ought to silence most of these weeds of the society. If one of them becomes malevolent enough to prop up and fight back to shatter the manacles of patriarchy and misogyny, take resort to sexual violence to subdue her, and after that, put the entire blame upon her. This ought to silence her forever because we have taught her since her birth that the last thing a woman can lose is her virginity. She will become a pariah and finally concede. We win no matter what, without even a drop of blame staining us. We are geniuses, eh? — These are the slogans of the society wreathed in patriarchy, giving birth to sheer apathy and misogyny. How would the patriarchs nurture and manifest their (façade of) strength if they don’t choose to dominate the ‘secondary citizens’ of the country?
 

Like every girl, who tries to live on her own terms, gets dominated by the society, this girl also had to come face to face with the scourge.
 

It was a Friday evening in the middle of December. The girl got down from the bus and took the grainy dirt-path leading to her village. The sun had just set below the undulating horizon contoured with trees. A villager was leading a herd of cows towards home. They ran farther away from the girl, with a cloud of dust following them. Amidst depravity, there was something so magical, so emancipating about this village, that it kept her moored to her mother-soil, her home!
 

Mommy must be waiting for me back at home; she said to herself and folded the cuffs of her black trousers made of soft denim cloth. She started walking faster. Just then, she heard the sound of a motorbike behind her. It started sounding the air-horn repeatedly, as if it were stuck in a typical Indian city-traffic. Without looking back, the girl shifted to the left side of the dirt-path to make way for the motorbike. The motorbike revved up and slowed down as it came to her right side. Then it started moving along with her slowly in line with her pace. There were two riders on the motorbike, none of whom she recognised. Both of them had very dark complexions. The driver was clean-shaven, while the fatso pillion rider had a thick beard, a thick moustache, and bushy eyebrows. He also had a long ‘Tilak’ dividing his forehead into two equal halves. Both were in their mid to late twenties. The motorbike swayed left to right, unable to keep its balance at such a slow speed. These men were not of her village; the girl was sure of that! She shifted her eyes away from them and walked ahead faster, confidently. Although she was near her own village, although she tried to show confidence outside, the girl’s petrified heart was palpitating inside. She was still a mile away from her home, with nothing but trees and paddy fields and birds in sight. Her chest heaved as she breathed deeply. There’s nothing to be so afraid of; she tried to convince herself. But it was impossible for her to hear that little voice over the resonating drumbeats of her own heart.
 

Just then, the ugly pillion rider extended his hand towards the girl and squeezed her bosom. For a few seconds, the girl’s breathing stopped in an intense pain. She fought with herself just to breathe. The motorbike’s engine revved up and the riders started to make an escape. But the dirt-path strewn with small gravels couldn’t sustain their speed. When the insufferable pain in her bosom became bearable, the girl put her handbag across her shoulders and ran to catch the motorbike. She succeeded. The girl stood before the two-wheeler and blocked its path.
 

“Get down!” She shouted.
 

Surprised, the driver turned around and looked at the girl’s molester.
 

“You didn’t hear me? Get down!” She clenched her teeth and shouted, much louder this time.
 

The molester got down from the pillion and yelled back, “Here! Now do what you can.”
 

Much to his unexpectedness, the girl landed a hard slap upon his face. His face swung to the right and then to the left, until he put his hand on his face. He looked at the girl with an unblinking stare, as if his fiery gaze could turn the girl into ashes. He looked back at his confederate and asked, “Just say the word!”
 

“No!” He warned him. “Don’t forget boss’ instructions.”
 

He looked the girl, ground his teeth and said, “You can’t get away from us. You’ll face revenge, I swear!”
 

That was it. He got up on the motorbike and the partners-in-crime sped away, disregarding the ‘speed-limit’ of the undulating, grainy path. They could insult a girl any day, but being insulted back by a girl was too much for them to endure. Such frail they were with the façade of strength!
 

Darkness had come. The girl sat on the log of a fallen tree by the side of the path. There was no one in sight. She put a hand on her breast and closed her eyes. She wept alone. A cold wind blew through the stillness of the village. She felt the coldness of the world though the two cold, vertical lines running from her eyes to her chin. The cold wind was calling her name. She knew it was a call from her mother waiting for her back at her home. The girl got up from the log and started walking fast towards her village.
 

There were many more miles to go, but she felt proud of herself today. She had stood up for herself. She had stood up for all women who had suffered, who had endured.
 
 

***

 
 

It was an afternoon in the last week of December 1990. The girl was returning home from college. The Christmas holidays were going to start from the next day. As she got down from the bus and started walking along the dirt-path, she was smiling by herself at the flashbacks of the ‘College-Fest,’ the day before. As DJ Minnie drove the turntable with her adept flick of fingers, a senior student of the college offered to dance with her. Although the girl knew nothing about dancing, the boy made her dance like the television stars with his expertly executed, fluid moves. That night as they were bidding each other goodbye until the New Year, the boy said to her, “You’re extremely beautiful by all conventional standards.” That was the first time someone complimented her beauty after Audra years back. The girl walked fast. She couldn’t wait to get in front of the mirror and smile through the fringes of hair upon her face.
 

This boy was tall, he was fair and he had a French Cut beard. Boy! He was handsome. The girl couldn’t stop thinking about him. He was the first male she’d ever come so close to. As she walked down the dirt-path to the village, she wished he were here to share the long walk. On her way home she’d tell the city boy about the village life, about the birds and about the trees. In return, he’d have to tell her jokes on the way home. That very afternoon, they had chatted for a long time over lunch in the canteen, both missing their respective classes after lunch break. His sweet smile and sense of humour had got indelibly etched in her mind. She couldn’t wait for her holidays to end.
 

The girl was so immersed in a world where she was the princess Cinderella, dancing to the slow beats of the music with her Prince, that she didn’t notice that a black and yellow auto-rickshaw had stopped beside her on the dusty road. Before she could understand anything, two men got down from the backseat of the auto-rickshaw and grabbed her arms from her back. It all happened within a fraction of a second; so quick as if everything were a vision from a different frame of time. The girl resisted with all her might, but the professional thugs overpowered her and tied her hand to her back with a rope. She looked at them and recognised them at once. They were those two confederates who had molested her some ten days back. She was yelling, crying out for help, but the roads were empty without another human being to be seen. A stray dog, brown as the dusty path, was passing by. It looked at her ruefully, but that was all it could do. The fatso molester dragged her and made her sit in the middle of the backseat of the auto-rickshaw. Each of the thugs crept on to her either side, holding her tight by the shoulders. The girl was still shouting at the top of her voice, but they silenced her by taking out a stinky piece of cloth from under the seat and tying it over her face.
 

“Boss!” He yelled. “Start the rickshaw!” The boss cranked the starter lever under the front seat and the engine started. He didn’t look back even for once, but the girl found his physique somewhat familiar from behind.
 

The auto-rickshaw turned around on the dirt-path and sped off toward the bus route. The road was populated with bicycles, motorcycles and occasionally, buses. The girl felt a little relieved to think that someone might see her condition and rescue her. She moaned and tried shaking herself free to attract the attention of the passers by. But to her intense surprise, no prince came to rescue the princess in the real world. As the auto-rickshaw crossed three miles along the asphalt road, three or four men on bicycles did make out she had been abducted, but thought, if I rescue her, I’d get into trouble. If I don’t, the world wouldn’t turn upside down. So why bother? They turned their faces away from the auto-rickshaw giving the thugs the impression that they hadn’t seen anything. That evening, the girl got acquainted with the apathy of human mind. Surely the world wouldn’t turn upside down if they didn’t raise their voice against the crime, but an innocent girl’s world would.
 

But who cared?
 

The auto-rickshaw took a left turn towards a dirt-path strewn with dried leaves and pebbles, and headed towards the bamboo forests. As a terrified heart beat at its limits within the chest of the girl, she moaned, she groaned, and she tried to overshadow all worldly shackles—the nylon rope that held her hands to her back, and the three hooligans. Only her determination was stronger than the manacles that chained her up. She didn’t give up until the auto-rickshaw stopped in the middle of the bamboo forest. There was no one in sight. As the engine stopped its ring-a-ding-ding, a fox cried out far away. Strangely that day, it startled her. It was as if it sensed the defencelessness and the frailty of the girl, and was calling out for help.
 

The two thugs threw her on the cold grass. The driver came forward and removed the dirty, oily cloth from her mouth.
 

“Shittuppam!” The girl said, her eyes opened wide in disbelief, pupils dilated in terror.
 

“Won’t marry me, eh?” He kicked the side of her ribs with his boot. The girl conked out in a sharp pain. “I’ll teach you a lesson today! You’ll come out more educated than your fucking Bachelor’s Degree!”
 

With her hands still tied to her back, Shittuppam leaned down on the girl. He brought his sweaty, sinister face near hers and tried to force his lips upon hers. The girl rolled to her left. As Shittuppam shifted to the left to do it again, the girl rolled again to her right. This went on until the other two men came forward and pinned her to the ground at her shoulders. The girl still resisted Shittuppam’s advances by shaking her head so that he couldn’t force his lips onto hers. He held her firm by the chin and succeeded. The girl felt a load of salty liquid on her tongue. She realised she was bleeding from her lips. Shittuppam tore apart her shirt and bit her breasts, her belly. Her left breast started burning in pain. Blood oozed from there as well.
 

There was so much pain, so much violence a girl of eighteen could ever take. Shittuppam started to unfasten his belt and unbutton his trousers. The girl closed her eyes. She shivered in the coldness, as the winter air touched her curly hairs, which no one else except her mother had ever seen.
 

This is it! She said to herself.
 

Evening shadows had fallen all over the woods. As her body shook fiercely with the onslaught of bullets from Shittuppam’s weapon that had the potential to turn a woman into a living dead, she wished she could leave her body at once and turn away forever from the pain that enfolded every part of her body—her body—that was once hers.
 

She didn’t know after how much time Shittuppam slowed down and stopped. Is it over then? Is my body finally mine once again? She asked herself. But it was too soon. She opened her eyes and saw two middle-aged men standing a few yards away from them. Probably they had come to poop in the public toilet of the nearby villages—the bamboo forests. She gathered the last grain of strength left within her and yelled and cried, “Help me! Help me!”
 

But there was none there, who cared to help, but not stare. One of the abductors chased them away. The way they ran for their lives made the girl believe that her abductors were very (in)famous. Later she’d find out that they were the active members of a political party.
 

“Enjoy her!” Profusely sweating, Shittuppam said to the other two.
 

“Thank you, boss!” The fatso said and jumped upon her. She was burned with violence; she was ripped apart by hatred. Even her own cries started sounding distant. Her pain was lessening, even when the hostility continued as before. She was drifting into unconsciousness—it was her getaway, her only refuge from a world where a woman who holds up the world is just a scapegoat of what we call the world’s most intelligent, civilized and advanced race. She loves, she creates, she preserves, yet she is immolated by repugnance and misogyny. Woe, what an irony!
 

The girl regained her consciousness with a shivering gasp. She looked around her. It was cold. Coldness emerged from the skies, the earth and its people. So cold it was! A moonless, raven sky painted the starry backdrop behind the tall bamboo trees. The treetops looked like they were going to consume her. The woods around her were dark, deep and depressing. The world seemed so estranging to her, as a profound emptiness engulfed her into its fathomless void. Something was snatched away from her that day. It was a pain so deep it was unfathomable. It was a pain so distant as the stars, yet so close as the beat of her heart.
 

As she lay there for a while, she heard the sound of pebbles crunching somewhere nearby. If it were some other day, she’d have been scared to death in that ambience. But eerily enough, that night she felt nothing, as she lay there impassive. When does someone fear? When she has something to lose.
 

A man had come to the woods with his bicycle to take a late night dump. It was so dark all around in the moonless night, that she couldn’t make sure what was causing the pebbles to rub against each other. She called out in a shivering voice, “Help me! Is anyone there? I’m here! Help me!”
 

The man heard her. He followed the cries of the girl and finally found her lying on the forest floor, half-naked and bleeding. “Help me…please help me!” She was crying.
 

He shone the beam of his flashlight on her body. As soon as he made out that something bad had happened to her, he uttered, “Oh my goodness!” and paddled his bicycle off, away from the forests. The girl was sure he’d return with help from the village. So she lay there trembling in the freezing cold, the pain creeping up her abdomen from the bottom parts of her body. Her stomach was burning in hunger. As she waited there impatiently for the rustle of fallen leaves and the crunching of pebbles once again, every moment seemed like forever. But an ominous silence prevailed all over.
 

Many ‘forever-s’ later, she realized no one was going to come back and save her. She gathered up all her strength and all her courage and stood up. She was the phoenix defying fortune’s spite! She was the phoenix rising from her ashes! As she walked, she felt a warm wetness trickling down her legs. She was still bleeding drop by drop. When her body failed her that night, courage sustained her. She walked with that indomitable courage and determination that had always set her free. She walked two miles to reach the nearest police station, and fell on the stairs. There was a deadening buzz inside her ears, and her vision was tunnelled by stars as if she were inside by an intergalactic cruise zipping through the Milky Way. I must not faint. Today, I must break the silence. If not for my sake, I’ll lend my voice to them, who still live a thousand deaths everyday! She said to herself. Today, there’s no backing out!
 

“Water…water…” She mumbled. A kind constable brought her a bottle of water and helped her inside the police station. The Officer in Charge looked up at the half-naked girl. But he was not shaken, neither shocked. But what he said thereafter shook and shocked the poor teenaged girl to her core. Such sheer apathy! Of course she didn’t want sympathy. She only wanted justice. The girl put her confident face up.
 

“Another dissatisfied whore. Why don’t you keep these petty issues to yourself? Why don’t you bicker with your customer and settle monetary problems within yourselves? You hoes always have to drag these cases to the police station and waste our valuable time!”
 

The girl raised her eyebrows, “What do you mean by that?”
 

“Lower your voice! I’m warning you! This is a police station, not your whorehouse!”
 

“Officer, I’ve been raped!”
 

“Raped, you said?” The officer scanned her from top to bottom. She was wearing a torn shirt and blue denim trousers stippled with blood.
 

“Can you prove it’s a rape?”
 

The girl silently looked down at her trousers and pointed to the blood patches.
 

“Feh!” The officer said. “Bleeding from down there can’t be a valid proof. You people bleed every month. Do you have any other proof?”
 

The girl’s hand trembled, as she removed a torn part of her shirt to reveal the bite marks on her breast. The officer’s eyes sparkled, subtly enough for everyone else to ignore, but the girl. She even saw a glint of smile on his face. A constable enjoying the drama with a cigarette held between his teeth cleared his throat. The officer immediately put on his stern face back and said, “Bite marks can’t prove you’re raped. Anyone can give you bite marks. We need a more conspicuous and comprehensive proof.”
 

Even with her little maturity, the girl reckoned that the officer wasn’t getting at anything good. “Officer, please take my FIR. I confirm it’s a rape. Sir, please.” She pleaded with folded hands.
 

“FIR?” He scowled. “For what?”
 

“Sir, I’ve been raped just now. I have been gang-raped.” She repeated, had the idiot police officer not made it out in the first place. “I know my rapist. Shittuppam and two others have gangraped me. Please take my FIR.” She was sweating even in the midst of the cold. The police station smelled of cigarettes and old documents.
 

“Why would I?” He said. “ You definitely were asking for it. What were you doing outside so late at night? Why were you wearing provocative Western clothes? Don’t you know what modesty is? A predator will always search for his prey. It’s the prey’s duty to keep herself protected.”
 

“Sir, with due respect, may I ask why I was sexually harassed at the age of five? Was I wearing provocative clothes? Or was I outside late in the night?” The girl came in front of the officer and pointed her index finger straight at his eyes. “It’s the mentality of people like you that causes rape!” Her voice was getting louder, and it reverberated loudly in the police station. She had nothing to lose. Somebody had rightly said that when fear reaches the skies, then it rains defiance. “It’s for evil officers like you that rapes are so prevalent and ever-increasing. You insinuate with your actions that it’s okay for men to rape; and the entire blame could be put upon the victim.” She changed her tone. “What will you do to me? You can lock me up, you can beat me up, but I will not quieten until you draw out the last drop of my blood. I’m not afraid to die with a sword in my hands! If you weren’t wearing that useless khaki uniform, I’d have punched you in the face and said that you were asking for it. Now open your diary, will you?”
 

The police officer conceded. He had never seen a criminal such determined like her, in all his life, let alone a victim—a teenaged girl—who was fighting for justice even in such a precarious medical condition. As she narrated the entire incident, her voice soared beyond the concrete ceilings of the police station, breaching the skies, breaking the cone of silence of the world. Her voice rained down from the skies and resonated with the unsaid words of every victim and every survivor. She was not only speaking out for herself; she was an ambassador of every woman spanning the globe!

 
 

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