A lost scream, gone unheeded in the
Succumbed to the demons, broken hollow and soulless
Seemingly alive, but mutilated, killed and long
A ghastly memory of a happy dream, snuffed
the torture doled out, incapable of resistance
muted, expressionless state of impassive acceptance
to endure and exist enslaved in drudgery forever
corpse that lingers on, an eternally undead cadaver
white light, shimmering colours so bright
remembers the dark ones, the different hues of the night
When the seven
vibrant ones appear, of praise, there is no lack
ones though many more, are somehow all called black
lives are four – daughter, mother, sister and wife
one is a goddess, or a tainted soulless low-life
No one wants
to gaze in the dark to decipher its many hues
Unsung I thus
remain in shadows, unworthy of a single muse
I am a member of the human species, Gender – Female.
have many lives, many of which are gone, unsung, forgotten and probably never
given a second thought about. I am non-existent in life and probably
inconsequential in my death
am not a woman whom one would address using one of the four respectful titles –
wife, mother, sister or a daughter. Nor am I a revered monk, famous politician
or a celebrated Diva. I definitely am not a goddess or a super woman.
might refer to me as a little girl lost, burden to parents, daughter of a
street walker, a jilted lover, a slave of my own actions, a victim, a wench’s
wife, a temple dancer, a child bride or an anonymous non-entity.
life started as others’ would have – with the words “it is a girl”! Depending
upon the life, the next reaction however varied between exuberance, sadness and
in some cases, total disdain or anger.
Childhood, teenage and sometimes my adulthood was equally muddled – they were a
huge medley of frantic hiding, getting trashed, rushing off to school, begging,
performing various duties at home, helping mother out in her work and bearing
humiliations for tiny pleasures as slowly and yet surely the real hues of my
life manifested themselves in their lacklustre splendour and clarity.
many eventful events, my life eventually came to convergence as one, a few
years ago, in this dark dingy place. There is no air or exit. I haunt the
lifeless abode as I haunted the earth all along, in a lifeless inconsequential existence
that went unaccounted for.
book is a journal, chronicle and a book of records on my life in its various
dark hues with their equally darker annotations.
burden to parents
fault I am not for your poverty
why, why such crippling cruelty
am just a child unfortunate
not blame me for my fate
made me a victim of your hate
sadism left me in this state
cry foul, I too have a right
human so lofty with might!
was what I was – a burden!! “Kill her” – my father told the midwife as soon as
I was born. His mother was kinder – “Let her live”, she said, “what is one
extra mouth to feed, plus she might be the lucky one to bring forth a brother”.
“She’d better be”, the father replied, “else you will personally finish her off
or I will murder both her and you”.
first few years were not too bad; playing in the sun, eating the meagre meals
that my mother could provide us, with the wage she earned as a domestic help
(or ‘servant’ as she was referred to, back then), in the houses of the more
affluent, wearing hand-me-downs from the daughters of the more fortunate lot,
avoiding father’s blows and grandmothers’ taunts and sleeping curled up in the
corner of the hut.
day when I was six years old, my mother happily announced – “we are going to
have another baby”. I did not understand what she meant, but I assumed that it
was something good.
was good in some ways – my mother started taking me with her to the houses
where she worked. She would make me help her in sweeping under the beds and
dusting behind refrigerators, where she could no longer reach as she was
getting fatter. She would then share the tea and biscuits or bread that they
would give her, with me. Some days, I would even get some left-over food or
snack to eat. One day, I got to eat some half-eaten and discarded burger and butter-scotch
ice-cream. It felt like heaven.
a rainy day, when I reached my mother’s place of work all drenched, I was
allowed a hot bath and a glass of hot milk. I had never had a hot bath before;
the water warmed my skin, the shampoo made my hair really soft; the milk was
sweet and warm - “I will do anything for this”, I thought, not realizing that
life would take my words literally and end up (in more than one way) the way it
other pleasant thing about those days was that when it got too hot outside, I was
allowed to sit under a fan and on some really hot days near an air-cooler,
enjoying the cool breeze, looking at the pictures in the books of the girls in
the houses and thinking about my friends who had to go to local school in the
my mother became too fat to work, she began sending me to those houses with my
grandmother, who made me do all the cleaning; she also would make me rinse and
dry clothes while she did the washing and arrange the dishes that she washed.
If I missed a spot, dropped a cloth or kept a dish at a wrong spot, she would
reward me with a rap on my head. The raps however were worth it; I got to eat
all the biscuits and most of the bread they gave, as grandmother’s teeth were
loose and her appetite was low.
I was seven, the long awaited baby came. Only, she was a girl, who was dead ere
she came into the world and took my mother away with her. I did not see it
happen, but learnt about it a couple of days later, from the lady next door.
All I remember of that day was, my father running towards me and hitting me
with a huge log, my grandmother’s frantic struggles to pull the log away from
him and the second blow that landed at the base of my skull and made everything
around me go dark.
I came to, I was lying in the hut next door and my head was bandaged and sore.
There was a severe ringing in my ears and the world around me seemed like a
misty blur. I asked for my mother; the lady who lived next door and had been a
friend of my mother when she was alive, gave me a hug instead and handed over a
bowl of hot gruel and bid me to drink it. It hurt to swallow and ere the hot
liquid touched the walls of my stomach, I began retching and throwing up. The
lady held me while vomited. I heard the loud voice of her husband yelling at
her for taking up ‘trouble’. I tried to get up, but had another blackout. This pain, blur, vomiting and black-outs
continued for many days, during which I learnt about the events of the painful
by the sight of the still-born child and the dead wife, my father took a huge
log from the log pile and attacked me with it. When my grandmother intervened,
he hit her so hard with the log that she died on the spot. When she fell, my
father dropped the log on the ground and ran out, never to come back. The neighbours
arranged a funeral for my mother and grandmother.
thought I also was dead and were about to take me to the cemetery, when the
lady realized that I was still breathing, carried me to her hut and tended to
my wounds to the best of her abilities. “your mother gave me money when I
needed it the most” she said “I am more fortunate, I have two sons; so my
husband would not dare kill me – although looking at the fate of your
grandmother, I feel I also should not be too sure of my safety once my sons
wept a lot those days. I wept for my mother, grandmother and father. I also
wept out of severe pain and some times out of sheer exhaustion after a vomiting
the black-outs and vomiting subsided. I was able to walk about on my own
without falling down every ten steps. The vision however stayed blurry as it
did all through that life.
day after I had recovered, the lady brought a man and lady to the hut and
introduced them as my uncle and aunt. “Please go with them”, she said. They helped me into a nice new dress and
braided my hair. They walked me over to a white car and told me that we will be
going to where ever we were to go, in it. I had never sat in a car before; the
seat was soft and covered with clean white linen; the car’s interior smelled of
roses. I was too excited and taken by the splendour of the moment to understand
the words of pity expressed by the lady next door or her tears as she hugged me
car brought me to this house after it made a stop at a place which one can
refer to as hell, for a want of a more derogatory term. I spent four years in
that place, servicing my uncle’s master and his friends.
services involved getting whipped, having my orifices invaded without mercy,
drinking all kinds of foul things that included urine, dancing nude and getting
burnt with cigarette butts, amongst other similar tasks. Needless to say, after
a couple of years, my blackouts returned. With each passing day, the duration
of those blackouts increased. These blackouts turned out to be a blessing in
their own strange way; one day, while rendering my services in a smoke-filled
party, I lost consciousness after receiving a blow to my head. When I came to,
I found that I was lying on the road, next to a gutter. They assumed that I was
dead and threw my out; somehow my body survived. I was rescued by a kind lady
who ran an organization that helped rehabilitate unfortunate woman like me. She
gave me a pair of glasses to improve my vision and medicines to heal my body. A
quiet woman, she asked no questions; nor did she ever judge me or my actions. After
a couple of years at her centre where I learnt embroidery and tailoring, she
helped me get a job at the boutique and provided necessary support when I moved
to my room in this house.
and nightmares have become my constant companions; I hardly ever leave my room;
a girl from the boutique visits me every day with order details and raw
material and takes the finished orders with her; she is one of the only three
human beings I can bring myself to meet; my soul moved on to the netherworlds a
couple of weeks after the first car ride to hell; my broken heart will never
learn to trust another human being; I am not sure how long I have to live; all
I can say is, reeling under the never subsiding after-effects of those abusive
four years, my body continues to survive and haunt this world!
pain, glitter and riches can’t hide
bring shame to your life of pride
the rules set, I still abide
I am, your child bride
life started when I was ten years old. My father lost his arm and leg in a
factory accident. Mother began working in a rich man’s house. The rich man had
two sons and a daughter. The elder son was retarded and had an intelligence
level of a three year old. When the younger son got engaged to a girl he loved,
a strange decision was taken by the parents to get the elder one also married. It
is really unfortunate if the body grows and the mind stops growing. In my case,
the misfortune turned out to be mine.
girl chosen was my elder sister, who was seventeen; unfortunately for all of
us, she eloped with the boy next door, a couple of hours before we were to
leave for the wedding, taking my other sister, who was thirteen, with her. My
mother was distraught; she cursed her luck, my elder sister, her luck, the boy
next door, her luck and the family of the boy next door before desperation
drove her to take desperate measures. She and the lady next door, who agreed to
help her in the scheme to prevent her from calling the cops, draped a saree
around me after making me wear a padded blouse and put on a lot of make-up. I
did not refuse their command as the glitter of the jewels that the mother of
the groom gave overshot any other thought or word from my head and mouth respectively.
I was made to wear a long veil made of satin georgette and was taken to the
house of the groom. My mother told me on the way to the house (which after that
day became place of residence) to tell any one who asked, that I was fifteen
and was the second daughter of my mother and father. The grooms mother did not
protest too much – she probably realized that it would be extremely difficult
to find a bride for her over-excited son at such a short notice
wedding was fun except that my groom insisted on holding me, pinching me,
spanking me and feeling me all through the ceremony. I got to eat good food,
was treated like a princess and was given expensive jewels. So overwhelmed was
I with the whole lot of good things, that I failed to notice that other than
the priest, my mother, her friend, my father, mother and brother and sister
in-law, there were no witnesses to our wedding.
the ceremony ended, my mother took me to a corner, hugged me and told me that
she was her best child. She also told me that now that I was a married woman, I
was expected to behave like one. She told me that I had to agree to everything
that my new mother – mother in law said and cater to every need of my husband
and never say no. She told me that I should take his love and anger with a
smile and support him till my last breath. When she uttered the last two words,
her voice broke, and tears started streaming down her cheeks; before she could
say anything, however, my mother-in-law came over, gave her a huge bundle of
notes, told her that it was time for her to leave and led me up the stairs to our
living quarters were in fact a five-star jail, which my in-laws painstakingly
got the third floor of their house remodelled into, when the decision to get
their son married was taken. The decision I heard, came after some unfortunate
incidents involving maids, money spent on escorts and an episode of gross
misbehaviour with the brother’s fiancée that almost ruined his marriage.
to the living quarters – The stairs opened up to a small room that had a door –
the door opened up to a ‘hall’ with windows of un-breakable glass; which were
further fortified with metallic grill doors that were bolted and locked up from
outside. Through artistic carpeting and careful arrangement of plants and
air-conditioners, the hall was designed to give a feel of a lawn in a garden. There
was a bedroom adjoining the hall. It was artfully furnished with a low
king-sized bed that had hidden straps a person could be tied down with, if
needed. There was a massive LCD TV mounted on one of its wall – it gave a real
wide-screen experience. There was a DVD player connected to the TV. Soft toys,
and expensive clothes from across the globe adorned the padded plastic shelves.
The bedroom had an attached bath, which was specially modelled with
‘child-safe’ fittings and padded to prevent a fall or ensure minimal wounds in
case of one.
I was there, the rules – very simple ones were explained to me. I was
full-time-care-taker-cum-wife of my husband. Since I was still young, my
mother-in-law would stay with us during the first fifteen days, to train me in
my duties and to ensure that I performed them correctly. Stay she did, and made
sure I learnt to help my 30 year old child-husband in his toilet, give him a
bath, feed him, load and unload a DVD as needed, play cricket with him, read
him stories (yes, I had attended school before my father’s accident and could
read comics, fairy tales and even the adult picture books); she even helped me render
my wifely services - gagging me and tying me down the first couple of days, to
ensure I did not scare my husband with my struggles or screaming.
my husband used to have bouts of extreme violence at least once a day, it was
imperative that he be kept locked up at all times; as his wife, I shared his
jail. My mother-in-law carried the key to the jail, which would be opened only
when my husband needed her, or when I failed to oblige his needs to his liking,
when she would bring a stick and make him punish me. There were 20 cameras
placed at various locations. She also had a few child monitors installed to
listen to our conversations and kept a strict vigil.
I can say is that she was a doting mother and a kind but strict mother-in-law
who understood my pain, but did what she had to do, as there was no other way.
I knew it because of the way she would scare her son that she would send me
away if he hit me on certain parts of my body, because she gave me the books
and because she let me go and take my exams and because of the baby.
my marriage, I was a spirited ten year old and a student of class 5 in an
English medium school; the marriage ensured that life slowly took all my
spiritedness away from me and taught me the following valuable lessons - My
husband, a retarded son of rich people was free to do what he felt like, in
that room and with me. I, his wife, picked up from a poor family, was free to
live with him, eat good food, wear good clothes, apply balm or ointment on my
wounds as applicable and be his dutiful wife.
it is not considered correct for a woman to describe her married life, I shall
stick to essentials. When my mother told me that I had to cater to every need
of my husband, she was not joking. My daily routine during the initial three
years went like this, getting up, finishing my routine, waiting for my husband
to wake up, and feeding him milk and sandwiches, an act that was invariably
coupled with the rendition of wifely services or a punch for a gulp deal, depending
upon his mood. Every morning I would pray that it was the former as it hurt
the morning meal, it was toilet time, followed by a bath. Ensuring that he and
the bathroom were clean was not an easy task. But slowly I learnt the required
tricks for the job. “If you allow me to clean you there, I will kiss you there”
and if that trick did not work it was “if you allow me to clean you there, I
will allow you to pinch/punch me” if neither worked, I would let him actually
pinch or punch me, while I cleaned him. On bad days, I earned nearly a pinch or
punch per crevice and he was a huge man.
followed the ablutions– his mother and he always had their lunch together; his
father would join in a couple of times during the week and would always be present
during weekends; on real rare occasions, his brother would also take part in
the ritual. I was always excluded from this family time; instead, I would be
allowed to have my lunch in the safe solitude of the room next to the stairs.
Entertainment time always followed lunch time.
The entertainment would vary, sometimes it was a game of ‘hide and seek’ – my
husband would hide and my mother-in-law and I would pretend to look for him. It
always ended with him jumping up or giving one of us (mostly me) a slap on the
back, with a loud yell. Sometimes when he felt overfed, or when his father was
around, instead of a game, they would all choose to watch a cartoon movie on
TV. My husband’s favourite character was pop-eye and I was always the bad guy
whom pop-eye trashed up. Post entertainment time was study time. I had to teach
him his letters and make him read small words, under the supervision of my
mother-in-law. That was the only time of the day when she would insist that he
treated me with respect and listen to what I said. Needless to say, the study
time always ended with him getting a kiss from his mother and a wifely reward
from me, except on those days when he was not in a mood for studies and hence
felt that I was to be punished for making him study. As time passed, I noticed
that the days of punishment always coincided with the days when his brother came
up and would say special prayers for my husband’s mood on the days he did.
special reward and punishment time was followed by a nap time. The routine
after the thankfully long nap-time involved a couple of adult movies
accompanied by appropriate services from me and dinner, which thankfully used
to be laced with enough sedatives to make my husband sleep peacefully for the
next eight hours.
during my husband’s afternoon siesta time, I would gaze out of one of the
windows and see kids of my age return home from school and feel nostalgic. As
time passed, the memories of the days before my marriage faded like long lost
dreams. They were replaced by plans and strategies for successful completion of
my tasks and prayers for lesser pain.
day, two years later, my mother came to visit me. My mother-in-law allowed me
to meet her in private, while she went in to ‘sit with my husband’. The moment
my mother-in-law closed the hall door, my mother hugged me and broke-down. I
was too numb to react and just stood there like a stone. When she finished
crying, she asked me how I was – I mechanically replied that I was fine. She
then asked me if my in-laws and husband treated me well – I did not know what
to say and hung my head. My mother decided to take it as a nod. She then told me
that my eldest sister who eloped on my wedding day got jilted by the boy she
eloped with and was now willing to take my place if I wanted her to. I do not
remember my exact feelings at that moment; all I remember is that I pried
myself out of her hands and ran back through the hall door, straight into my
mother-in-law, who I assume was standing there listening to us. I really do not
know what would have happened if I had gone back with my mother and I do not
want to think about it; all I know is that after she left my mother-in-law
asked me about my performance in school, got me enrolled in open school the
next day and got books for me to study. Her treatment towards me improved and
she stopped allowing her son to hurt me in her presence; she went to the extent
of threatening him that she was watching him and if I complained, she would
send me away and he would be ‘all alone’.
to say, I liked the new improved life better and actually started considering
myself a fortunate wife in a respectable family. I was grateful to my
mother-in-law for keeping my husband sedated during my exams and actually
allowing me to leave the jail, go, write the exam and come back. When I passed,
she was the one who came and broke the news to me. “You have cleared class eight”,
she said and actually gave me a hug. I wept in joy. She also explained that if
I behaved myself, once I turn 14, she would let me take class 10 exams.
else happened before I turned 14; it changed my life; it all began one
afternoon with severe bout of vomiting followed by a black-out. My mother-in-law
thankfully, was around when I blacked out; she gave me some orange juice and
took me downstairs. Once I was there, she asked me some questions about my
latest period; when I told her that I never had one, she took me to a nearby
diagnostic centre for an ultra-sound. The results confirmed her fears – nature
had taken over; I was going to become a mother of twin babies in less than
mother-in-law and father-in-law had a long discussion; it was decided that they
would allow me to keep my babies. “It will be a caesarean, it has to be”, I
heard her say “We do not want another child to suffer like our son”. She then
took me upstairs to my husband and left me behind after warning him that if he
so much as gave me a punch, she would take me away for good. Thankfully my
husband paid heed to this warning. He had grown quite dependent on me and was
scared of me running away. The remaining seven months were blissful; I was
allowed to go down in the afternoons when my husband was asleep; and was given
multiple meals during the day. I was even allowed to have my lunch with my
husband and in-laws. I felt accepted and blessed. When I was into my ninth
month, my in-laws took me to a private nursing home. The doctor gave me an
injection that made me sleep; when I came to, my mother-in-law showed me my
babies – a boy and a girl. “They look perfectly healthy”, the doctor said. On
my mother-in-law’s special request, I was brought back home two days after the
surgery. I was allowed to sleep in a room downstairs for twenty days after
which I was sent back upstairs to my life, which to my horror changed back to
the way it was nine months earlier. My husband stayed grouchy; his bouts of
violence increased; so did his need for wifely services.
babies thankfully were kept downstairs as it was unsafe for them to be with
their father. I was allowed to come down to feed them only when he slept – “He
has been without you for so long. You need to be there with him to compensate for
the time lost. That is why I have kept my grandchildren safe with me away from
your crazy world” my mother-in-law said, when I complained one day about the
was the urge to be with my babies that led to further degradation in the
quality of my wretched life. My mother-in-law had kept some sedatives for ‘emergencies’.
One evening in a hurry to come down, I mixed an extra strong dose of the
sedatives in my husband’s evening meal, not realizing that my mother-in-law had
also done the same. My husband slept soundly, never to wake up. The whole house was in turmoil; to prevent
the guests from seeing me, I was asked to stay upstairs with my babies; so,
stay I did, too numb to think or speak.
few hours later, my brother-in-law came up and gave me food. While I was
eating, he told me that he and his had seen the recording of me adding ‘the
stuff that killed him’ in my husband’s dinner. He also told me that they had
erased that bit and will not tell anyone else about it; “I do not blame you”,
he added, and asked me if I wanted to eat more; when I declined, he quietly
took the plate and left, without locking the door.
few minutes later, his wife came in with a couple of white saris. She asked me
if I had any white blouses; when I said no, she gave me two white T shirts and
told me to use them for the time being. She then took the babies and left
saying – “I will take care of them, now. You please take care of yourself”. I
handed the babies over mutely, and watched her walk away with them.
moment she left the room, however, I burst into tears. I shed tears for the
handsome boy, who spent thirty four years of his life in a prison inside his
own house, for my little babies who would never see their father, for a little
girl whose life got cruelly ruined four years earlier, for a sacrifice gone
waste and strangely, for the ornaments that I could no longer wear!
long I cried, I do not remember; I probably cried myself to sleep, for, when I
got up, it was dark. I quietly got up, removed all my ornaments, took a bath,
wore a white sari, went and sat in a corner of the small room next to the
stairs, not sure if it was allowed for me to be a part of the family’s mourning
or not. My fourteen year-old heart however did not understand the rules; all it
knew was that the existence it got used to, with all its pains and tiny
blessings, was over - I was now a useless widow. It wept and so did I; I wailed
aloud, banged the hands that added the poison, against the walls and the head
that gave them the idea, on the ground. Hearing my wails, my father-in-law came
up the stairs, told me to do whatever I did quietly, as there were guests in
the house and left. Fear made me keep my mouth shut, but the tears refused to
stop; every spurt of tears brought in new feelings of self-loathing. My heart
called me a murderer more than a million times that night.
next morning, my mother-in-law came up. In the whole house, she probably was
the only one who understood my pain. She hugged me hard and said – “I wanted to
tell you that I had added the sleeping draught and you should not. I am sorry I
forgot”. I screamed out like a maniac – “it was me,” I wailed, banging my arms
against the wall. I was responsible for the loss of her eldest son; I was the
killer – my hands were the ones that administered the fatal dose. She held me
for a few minutes and wept with me. Then she told me something which increased
my respect for her, manifold. “My daughter’s daughter is twelve years old. She
does not think of anything beyond her next new dress, new books, new toys or
her next test. This accident brought my son his release from a painful
existence; it freed a child from staying locked up in a man’s body. He lived a
good life and thanks to you, died a father of two lovely children. We can never
compensate you for the four best years of your life you sacrificed for us; I
however will make sure you get a life.”
to her words, a week later, she took me to the nearby open school and enrolled
me in class 10 and in spoken English classes. She let me stay in the tiny room
next to the stairs on the third-floor, while I finished my class 10 and class
12 and my diploma in nursing. She even helped me get my first job – one that
was apt for my wretched existence – at the morgue in the government hospital.
The only pain she put me through was a separation from my children. “It is for
their own good”, she would say, “let them not grow up knowing that their father
was imbecile and their mother was a child who accidentally killed their father”.
When I got my first salary, she told me that I had to move out of the house. As
long as I stayed with them, I would never be able to forget that I was a widow,
who was partially responsible for her widowhood; she also would never be able
to get over the pain of losing her son. “We all have to move on”, she said. She
gave me my parents’ address and phone number and said – “I know you will never
go back to them, but I had to give this to you”
touched her feet one last time, called a female colleague of mine, got a
confirmation from her that I could move into her apartment if I agreed to foot
half the rent and walked out of my home, for the last time.
have been staying in this room in the house since then. I go to work every
morning and come back home every evening. I take the same route to work and
back. I do not look up or speak to anyone during the day. After my colleague
got married and moved out, this room became mine. Four years of marriage and
another four years of lonely existence as a widow have left me devoid of any
urge to have conversations; my nightmares and memories are my companions and
thus they shall be….
of a street walker
Pure I am but
Object I am of
To be left
alone and forlorn
Born I am to a
My life has no
glow or gloss
letter is my cross
mother earned her living by providing entertainment and physical satisfaction
to her customers. People use many
derogatory terms to address or refer to her. There were times in my life when I
hated her for it; I loathed her the day my class teacher made me sit in the
corner as none of my classmates wanted to sit next to me.
spent most of my childhood in one missionary hostel or the other where the nuns
taught us about prudence and sin; they explained why only woman had to suffer –
“because the first woman ate the forbidden fruit and brought suffering to all
never went home for holidays; my mother would instead come once a week to
school, bringing in snacks and treats for me and my friends. She would meet me
in a quiet corner of mother superior’s cabin, handover the goodies and leave
quietly. Once by mistake, the day she landed up turned out to be school’s ‘open
house’ day, one of the girls’ fathers or uncles recognized her and informed the
others; no one felt the need to ask him how he knew about my mother’s
profession, instead they thought it fit to lodge a complaint to the school
management for allowing a child from a background of such disrepute as mine to
attend classes with their daughters.
of the members of the management supported the plea of the good parents; the
senior most amongst them however thought otherwise; the mother superior of the
congregation that ran the school supported his decision. They would not condemn
an innocent child for something she is not responsible for. If the lord himself
could accept Mary of Magdalene, who were they to point a finger at me. The
decision was taken – I was to continue in the school;
decision however resulted in a great upheaval – my classmates refused to sit
with me in the class. The teachers started making snide derogatory remarks
about my mother and me; one teacher went to the extent of asking me if I was
studying to ensure a better clientele when I went and took the reins of our
profession over from my mother. If days were bad, nights were worse – as my
classmates refused to let me sleep in the dorm, I was given a bed in the
convent. Some of the nuns openly called me a seed of sin.
next time my mother visited, I cursed her for her existence, said hurtful
things to her and asked her to take me away. After a couple of hours of trying
to reason with me, she took the approval of mother superior and took me with
her to her house for the weekend. The house was a dirty house of sin. My mother
was a worker under a ‘madam’ who controlled her team strictly. She ensured
quality of their services, managed customer relations and sometimes doubled up
as their marketing manager. Her first reaction when she saw me was to ask my
mother if she brought me over to help her at work. When my mother replied on
the negative, she told her to make sure I went back the next day; else she
would be forced to make me work.
mother took me to the room of one of the younger girls, told the girl to chat
with me while she went and got food for the two of us. The girl who was a
couple of years elder to me explained to me that I was fortunate that my mother
despite all the pain she faced sent me to school. She described the hurtful
things customer did to her. “My parents sold me to madam when I was of your
age. I know the amount of pain your mother goes through to keep you away from
this hell; please go back to your school, complete your education and pick up a
job” – she said. When I refused to listen, she took my mother’s permission and
let me watch her serving a customer from behind a curtain. The sight scared me
enough to meekly go back to school, the next day.
am not saying that the conditions at school improved overnight; my response to
them however did. I stopped listening to the taunts of my classmates and
willingly sat in the corner seat. I did my best to improve my image in the eyes
of the nuns who naturally assumed that the child of such a mother as mine would
be inclined towards ‘sinful things’ – I studied extra hours and helped the nuns
clean the chapel every day.
nearly six months, the nuns started accepting me as what they termed “a poor
innocent child”. Thanks to all the extra studies, I began topping my class.
After initial disgruntlement and some remarks that indicated that I probably
cheated in my tests, my teachers began appreciating my performance. Needless to
say, I did really well in class X boards.
They day after my boards Mother Superior called me over to her cabin. My
mother was sitting there, with tears in her eyes. Mother superior made me sit
on a chair and have some cookies and coffee; while I sipped my coffee, my mother
explained her life to me she told me how when she was eight years old her
father fell ill and how one of her elder relatives brought her to the city to
‘work’ and dumped her with the ‘madam’; she described the pain she went through
as a child and her promise not to put me through it, when I was small. The
madam, who was extremely strict when it came to the service levels of her
girls, was really a kind woman at heart; she helped my mother put me through
school. She then cut to the point – Now that I had finished my class 10, I had
two options ahead of me; pick up a job and support my mother or join the
convent as a ‘candidate’ and let the congregation take care of my further
second option seemed the best one at that time, and I readily embraced it.
superior asked me to step out of her room and spoke to my mother, while I
waited outside. I did not exactly hear the conversation, but was able to
understand that my mother was given an offer to move to a convent of this
congregation present in a remote tribal area, take up her vows and become a nun
which she accepted gratefully.
nearly twenty years later, looking back at the events of the day, all I can say
is that my mother’s decision was the best one for her; unfortunately my
decision did not turn out to be so, for me. Let me tell you why
two years of higher secondary school, thanks to my excellent marks, I was sent
by the convent to the medical school. In my third year, one of my fellow
students saw the woman in me through my thick black robes and fell in love that
woman. When I turned down his advances, he began pestering me with tears,
letters written in blood and threats of suicide. One day he followed me all the
way to the convent, much to the horror of the nuns. Mother superior heard about
the incident and called me aside. She then asked me to describe my feelings for
the boy truthfully. I told her that I was really confused – I had never lived
in a real world or experienced real love; all this dedicated attention was
really touching; my vows on the other hand, were something I really valued more
than my life. They gave me an identity beyond that of an ordinary woman. I was
one chosen to become god’s bride.
superior understood my predicament; she advised that I should describe my background
to the young man and tell him that if he could wait for me and not pester me
with his attention till we both finished our respective doctorate in medicine,
I would give my vows up and join him as his wife. In youthful idealism, the boy
assured us of his willingness to wait for me till the last breath, when the
question was posed to him, post narration of my story.
to those assurances, over the next couple of years, the boy and I grew closer
to one another. In our final year together, we even began making plans for a
long future as man and wife and reached the verge of crossing the delicate line
of intimacy, restrained only thanks to my vows of celibacy.
his graduation, the young man’s got an admission at a prestigious medical
institute in London and went there with financial support from his parents
after promising me in the presence of Mother Superior that he will take me to
the altar as soon as he got back. Mother superior gave our relationship her
blessings and advised that I took up a mission in a remote tribal area while I
awaited his return.
her advice, I moved to the remote location with a few nuns from our
tribal area had strange customs; the sick went to a quack doctor who they
claimed had divine powers. He disliked missionaries in general and me in
particular. “You bring evil and ill luck from cities”, he would tell us –
“there is no place for the likes of you, here”. Another menace that was rampant
in those areas was cross border and tribal terrorism. The terrorists kidnapped
and killed anyone who dared opposed them; they would poison their victims and
leave them in the centre of the village to die slow painful deaths in public;
anyone who dared saving them, met with a similar fate. It was unfortunate, but
a fact, which I found out about, in a real unfortunate fashion.
of days after I arrived, I was walking down from the village well towards our
camp, when loud wailing and screaming
made me stop in my tracks and run towards the source of the noise. On
arriving at the centre of the village, I saw a man with his arms and legs tied
up, wailing loudly. Despite instructions from my colleagues to the contrary, I
ran up to the man and untied him. Refusing my attempts to help, the man ran
towards a nearby hut, took a huge knife and plunged it into his own body.
was flabbergasted by the whole episode; my fellow missionary calmed me down and
explained about the terrorists. He warned me to pack my bags and leave the
place immediately. “They will come for you tonight – I am sure they will,” he
said; “There was another man from our camp who tried to save one of the victims
a couple of months ago, they took him away that night; we have not seen them
for me, the terrorists did not wait till nightfall for the abduction exercise;
they simply came over, tied me up and carried me off, in broad daylight; no one
in the village dared open their mouth let alone oppose the terrorists.
quietly carried me to the middle of the forest, tied me up to a pole in the
centre of some kind of a camp and walked off. Terrified, I sat there, without
making a sound, silently praying to god to help me get out of the place
virtuous. A couple of scary hours later, a uniformed man walked out of the
tent, dragging a emancipated specimen of human species with him. He advanced
towards me, threw the man down near me and said – “Tell her”. The man spoke
thus, in a real broken voice – “Like you, I also tried to help someone
condemned to die by commander here. Now I am a prisoner here for life”. He stopped for breath, only to be kicked hard
in his ribs by the commander. He let out a groan and continued - “Commander
here has agreed to let you go if you agree to take a knife and slit my throat”.
My reaction was a look of disgust and a scream of refusal. The commander then
made the same offer to the emancipated missionary; either due to the apparent
extreme torture he had faced or the thought that since I anyway had planned to
die in the camp, he might as well send me off the easy way out, the missionary
agreed to kill me. The man in uniform loosened his bonds and handed the knife
over to him. He came over to me, untied me and said – “run while you can; if he
catches you and kills you, he lives; if you manage to evade him long enough
till he falls, you live”. I simply sat there – not willing to take part in
something that caused the death of another human being; looked at the man
defiantly and said calmly that any day is a good day for dying; and if it is
god’s will that I died, then so be it.
feeble missionary slowly crawled towards me, knife in hand, and hesitated for a
few minutes, praying before raising his knife high, all set to strike me. I
closed my eyes and waited for the end; the end did not come; instead the sound
of gunfire made me open my eyes with a start. The missionary was lying dead at
my feet; the uniformed man had shot him. I got up screaming and started hitting
out at the man; he retaliated with a kick that left me doubled up on the ground
in pain. As soon as he walked away, three of his scouts duly came, one dragged
the carcass of the poor missionary away, while the others tied my arms and legs
and dragged me into a tiny tent where they left me and moved off.
A couple of hours later, a uniformed woman
came in with a stick, whipped me with it twenty times and went off. She was
followed a couple of hours later by another woman in uniform who pounded me
with fists before feeding me dry bread and water. A couple of hours later, the
‘commander ‘ returned asked me if I wanted to use the bathroom and when I
refused, kicked me hard in my abdomen till I urinated. He laughed loudly and
said – “I do not ask – I order and you have to obey” before walking off,
leaving me in pain, humiliated to the core and stinking like an animal.
was left alone for the rest of the day; late in the evening, a woman came,
poured cold water over me, fed me dry bread and water and left without saying a
word. That night, two men came, dragged me to the commander’s tent, left me there
and went off. The commander asked me if he could use my body, kicked me hard
many times when I refused and ordered two woman to take me back to my tent and
hit me on the soles of my feet with sticks till I learnt who the boss was. A
couple of hours of beating later, I was again dragged back to his tent – this
time when I refused, he took a big log and broke my knees with it before
shouting out to the two woman to take me back to the other tent.
spent the rest of the night in severe pain and fear of being called back for
another round of persuasion. Thankfully by the grace of god, none came.
next morning, two women came, untied my legs and told me to go with them to a
nearby river; I tried getting up, but my broken knees gave way; I however told
them that I would follow them if they led the way and dragged myself all the
way behind them to the river. The expression in the eyes of the ‘commander’ as
I passed by his tent fortified my resolve to stay strong.
the river, the women thankfully allowed me to stay in the water long enough to
let the water numb certain amount of pain from the previous day’s beatings, but
the sooner we came back to the camp, obeying their commander’s commands, they
made me lie face down and gave me hundred lashes each with leather belts. After
beating me up, they took me over to the commander’s tent, tied me up and walked
away. Helpless, hurt but with my spirit intact, I bit my lips, closed my eyes
and ignored the presence and the gloating words of the commander who again tried
to convince me to let him have his way with me and spare myself of further pain
and troubles. When his words failed to work, he called a couple of his men and
told them to tie me up to the pole in the centre of the camp and let me ‘die in
the hot sun’. It was a hot day, and by late evening, I was badly dehydrated and
delirious. The ‘commander’ and his army had gone during the day on a looting
spree to some nearby village; they came back late in the evening with eight new
captives – five men and three women. They tied all the men to the same pole I
was tied on to; they then started lashing the three captive women up with belts
and kicking them with their boots; they would stop after every ten blows and
tell them that they would be spared of the torture if they agreed to make
‘commander and his men happy’. Ten minutes into severe lashing, one of the
woman agreed; two terrorists untied her and gave her food, while the others
continued lashing and kicking the other two female captives; Five minutes into
the continued torture one of the other two captives incurred the wrath of her
captors when she wailed aloud that she would rather die than give herself up to
animals. The commander ordered his team to stop; there was complete silence
except for the sound of weeping of the two tortured female captives. He then
took a vial of some vile smelling liquid, told his people to pry the woman’s
mouth open and emptied the contents of the vial in it. He then asked the third
woman captive if she also wanted to get poisoned; the third woman fell at his
feet, weeping. The commander had his way with her and told the others to ‘enjoy’,
before going to his tent to probably sleep. The men used the two women captives
in turns all night and the next morning in open; all I can say is that the pain
and humiliation the two endured was far less than the suffering of the third,
who kept screaming in agony while the poison acted on and damaged every cell in
her digestive system before she finally succumbed nearly fifteen hours later to
in the afternoon, their sadistic desires sated, the men went off to their
tents; the two women terrorists took the two female captives to the river; when
they came back only one was there with them. I learnt later that the other one
chose death by drowning to a life of humiliation.
three went into the tent of the commander who came out a few minutes later and
announced aloud that he was quite proud to introduce the newest female member
of their team. He then turned to the captive men and asked them if any of them
were willing to join his higher cause; or preferred death; two captives agreed.
One stayed quiet while the other two expressed their desire to die. He made
them drink poison and told his men to take them back to their respective
villages and leave them there to die.
men left with those two unfortunate men, leaving me and the quiet captive tied
to the pole.
night the entire gang had a drunken orgy with me and my fellow captive as
witnesses. Somewhere in the middle of the night, we both were given the option
of killing each other, and beaten up with sticks on a quiet refusal. Early next
morning, a fight broke-out amongst the gang. After-all they say, good are good
to all, but those with negative intentions cannot stay friends for ever; soon
the fight intensified; people started firing at
and stabbing each other – a couple of hours later when the confusion
ended, only the commander and the three woman remained standing. He took the
three women into his tent, abusing the other men and kicking their dead and
wounded bodies on the way. A few seconds
later, there was another gun-shot and loud screaming; the three women ran out; two
of them, including the newest member had guns in their hand, there were three
more shots, all three of the women fell.
Couple of minutes later one of them, the newest member got up, fell, sat up,
felt the bullet wound on her side, crawled over to us, untied my hands and said
– “you are a doctor, I heard. Please save me – I am dying”. I examined her
wound – there was no way I could save her, unless I could get her to a hospital
in less than an hour. She saw my expression, and quietly told me to take the
male captive and run away before one of the men recovered or their accomplices
came over. I quietly untied the man and told him to run. Then I held the hand of
the unfortunate woman and told her that I was in no shape to run, but I could
take her with me and try crawling down to the village – if she survived till
then, once in the village, I could try to operate her to save her life. “Have
faith in god, I told her. He is merciful; he will save you”. She burst into
tears – “They killed my husband; my two year old daughter is all alone in the
house; we were expecting our second baby – if I die, he dies too – please save
us sister”. I closed my eyes in agony; but as she mentioned, there was no time
to waste; so I began crawling with her across the forest, towards the village.
was a torture, moving through the thorny underbrush. The only thing that kept
me going was an urge to help the woman. She was weakening rapidly; every few
minutes she would stop, clutch her wound and moan for a few minutes before some
sound from the forest would alert her to start crawling; after a couple of
hours of crawling, she stopped and asked me if we could rest for a while. I
told her to lie on top of me while I did the crawling for both of us; she
looked at me with eyes full of gratitude and weakly did so. I kept crawling
till I reached the village; half way there, I realized that I could no longer
hear her breathing; I however continued on, with a futile hope that I might be
able to save her. When I reached the village, I checked her vitals, she was
beyond human help.
highlights of the events that followed are as follows; I was flown down to the
hospital in the state capital; I stayed hospitalized for nearly six months
while my body healed; the young man for who had pledged eternal love for me,
came visiting one day and told me that he did not believe that I stayed virtuous
during my captivity and hence did not want to marry me; some of my old
classmates who came visiting a month after he left, told me that he had got
married to a rich girl whose father owned a large private hospital. I was
offered a gallantry award by the authorities of the tribal area; I politely
refused as I knew in my heart that the lady who died was the real gallant one;
mother superior and my mother visited me three times during my stay; on my last
day at the hospital they brought a girl with them – the daughter of the woman I
could not save.
the girl studies in the school attached to the convent where mother superior
lives; I work as a doctor and inhabit this room in this house; like all those
in it, my heart also is broken; my soul thankfully has been preserved and taken
by the kind lord; the body limps through its duties, as it waits for the day
when the little girl is old enough to take a call about her life and to enable it
to crawl back into the safe and pure confines of the convent.
The Marred Mystic
those hallowed halls of sheer magic so pure
communed with the divine in majestic allure
and love, the essence of my soul and life
holy and divine, god’s lawful wife
I stand now, in this puritan realm
lawmakers statured at its helm
and labelled a common whore
marred a soul no god can ever reestore
am highly trained in classical music, classical dance and in the art of
pleasing god and men; I am a temple dancer’s daughter who had been made a
‘god-wife’ and had dedicated some valuable years of my life to the holy duty,
myself. Do I believe in god? I do not know if I do; all I know that minus the ‘god’
factor, my existence has no meaning.
do not know who my father was – I grew up believing it was god. It could have
been the chief priest too – why do I say so? I looked a lot like him.
the time I learnt to stand I was taught by my mother and grandmother to walk in
rhythm. “One foot behind the other – no straying; left hand on the hip; right
arm should sway at every step and so should your body; like a creeper in the
wind” – were probably the first ever instructions I received.
lived in a large temple situated at the junction of twenty villages. It was a
sprawling landscape with massive halls supported by sculpted pillars. The
temple was and probably still is one the best example of temple architecture of
ancient times. Birds, animals, flowers, human figurines were sculpted into
stone so artistically that one could use them to narrate stories; monolithic
elephants, chariots, horses adorned every nook and corner. Chains of stone
nearly hundred meters long with interlocking rings and no attachments acted as
a few of its many similarly intricate and elaborate ornaments.
us, it was our home - the place where we lived, ate, slept, learnt our art,
practiced our art, served god, served children and servants of god and died in
service. There were many girls who shared my home with me. Some were children
of other dancers or ‘god-wives’; some were initiates, whose parents pledged
them to god when they were born or chosen by the temple as ‘god-wives’. Most of
the initiates were left in the temple when they were old enough to eat and
drink on their own; some came in when they were around eight; the others came
in for the first time on their wedding day.
lives were simple - We would get up at the break of dawn, bathe in the cold
waters of the temple tank, wear our silk saris (yes, I never wore a frock or a
skirt – we were expected to wear a sari – only the style of draping it
differentiated the wedded ones from those yet to be wedded), sing and dance
after the priests finished reciting their early morning prayers and performing
the morning rituals, consume the food that had been offered to god during the
morning rituals, go to school (oh yes, we went to school – even the wedded ones
– in fact we probably were those few who were allowed to get our SSLC) , come
back to the temple, have our afternoon meal, take a short nap, take a bath in
the temple tank, change, attend our dance and music classes respectively, play
in the wide corridors of the temple and go for dinner and night time worship.
After worship, the unwedded girls would be allowed to play indoor games till it
was time to sleep, while the mothers and the wedded girls went to the holy area
for their holy duties. My mother and the mothers of other girls would come back
after a couple of hours, while the girls who did not have any children would
sleep in the holy area.
loved my dance lessons more than the music lessons. I had a good voice, but the
music teacher was not my grandmother, but the dance teacher was, and as her
grand-daughter, I always got to be the monitor of the class. The classes would
take place in one of the huge stone halls of the temple; the ground of the hall
where we practiced had got really levelled and evened out by the foot-falls of
the dancers through centuries – my mother once told me that it was in that very
hall where my great-great grandmother composed a special item number when a
famous king came visiting.
grandmother would sit on an ancient intricately carved wide wooden bench at the
eastern end of the hallowed hall of learning, with a rounded stick in her hand.
She would tap the stick on a solid block of wood (with a deep indention in the
centre owing to long and many years of tapping) and chant out the beat. She
would sometimes stop mid-way through a chant to shout out instructions to
students - “tap your feet hard; move your eyes; move your neck; move your hips,
thrust the hips and chest out while you walk and stand; stand with your feet
together; bend your knees; that’s right – form a diamond with your legs,” and
so on. We would practice for two hours on weekdays and for nearly four to five
years on Sundays.
classes would follow Dance classes; extra classes were given to those with
melodious voices and a good sense of music. I hated those extra classes – they
ate into our play time; moreover the music teacher was extremely strict and
hated those who relied too much on natural talent and insisted on ‘no mistake’.
Not that she ever resorted to physical violence – she did not need to; a “looks
like you did not practice properly yesterday. Stay back after every one leaves
and practice with me for another hour” was enough of a punishment.
daughters and young wives of the priests also sometimes attended the music
classes with us. We however never made any lasting friendships with any of them
as the daughters would get married off before they turned ten and the wives
were not regular with their classes and would walk in quietly and leave as soon
as the first half of the classes got over; moreover the classes of those
married woman ended when their motherhood took over.
remember the wedding ceremony of one of the priests’ daughters who, being a
good singer, attended the extra music class with me and shared my misery of
having to sit and sing while the others played. Her wedding was different from
our ‘weddings’. It was drab and noisy; many people came to the temple, the
priests chanted and the poor girl had to leave for her in-laws house soon after
the ceremony. I felt really sad for her.
day, a couple of weeks after this girl got wedded and went away I overheard a
conversation between my grandmother and another lady of her generation. I
gathered from the conversation that my wedding was to take place that year, a
couple of weeks before my winter vacation. I ran to my mother who was
decorating the goddess with flowers and asked her if my wedding would be like
that of the girl who went away or like all the others I had grown up with. She
replied that for those privileged to be ‘god-wives’ the father and the husband
were both god and there were no ‘in-laws’.
was happy that I did not need to go away and my wedding would not be different
from those of my peers who grew up with me in the temple. A nagging
apprehension which had nothing to do with the fact that I could not continue my
night time games or cuddle up and sleep next to my mother once I became a
god-wife, took hold of me and kept me a little sad, till I got the news that
couple of girls whom I played with, also would get wedded along with me.
wedding day dawned bright and clear; we girls were given a ceremonial bath and
adorned like the goddesses or yore. Once we three were dressed to the
satisfaction of the ladies and the priests, we were taken to the sanctum
sanctorum where the priests chanted Holy Scriptures, while we exchanged
garlands with the deity, wore the sacred vermilion on our respective heads and
the special chains that signified that we were god’s wives. We were then made
to recite our pledge to god while the priest branded our shoulders with god’s
emblems. The branding hurt; but we bore the pain with pride. Post the branding,
there was a twenty four course feast which went on till late in the evening.
After the feast, we three were ceremonially escorted into the holy area by the
senior ladies and priests.
holy area at last! We were excited as well as apprehensive. I for one did not
want to be a cause of embarrassment to anyone. I however need not have worried.
The moment I entered the holy area, its magic took over. We all became a gods
and goddesses, ‘yogis’ and ‘yoginis’ taking part in the heavenly ritual; our
bodies automatically moved to the tune and chants along with the others who
were but spokes in the great magical wheel of the universe. Over the next few
hours, in complete state of trance, we all traversed multiple realms of
alternate reality where only love and devotion existed and bodies became mere
instruments of expression, creation, beauty, love and power. I must have
fainted in the midst of it all; as, when I opened my eyes, I was lying on the
side of the holy tank with my grandmother sprinkling water on me. My body felt
torn and bruised and the real world looked ugly after the magical world; in a
state of pain and confusion, I burst into tears. My grandmother held me softly
while I wept; she anointed me with a mixture of butter, honey and some herbs
that eased the pain and bade me to have a hot water bath. The bath brought some
of the memories of the previous day and many questions that went with them; my
grandmother forbade me from discussing the events and said that we should let
that magic be and not think about it and lower its sanctity. After the bath,
she ordered me to get dressed, go to school and behave as if nothing happened
or changed in my life. “The happenings in the holy area are restricted to the
holy timings and to special people. Normal people would never be able to
understand it; we as the holders of the secret should never vilify it by
comparing it to any human act, thinking about it during normal hours or
divulging the details (however little we remember) to normal people”; though
totally sore and confused; As per her advice, I have always and shall always
true to my tradition never try to recollect or reminisce over or discuss about the
holy duties or the happenings in the holy area.
my double life, the day time schedule of which stayed as it did before my
wedding, began. The difference in the attire was the only outward sign that
something changed in my life. The reverence to the attire in the eyes of those
in the village added to the already blossoming sense of pride that I cherished,
as a proponent of an age-old tradition.
next change in my life occurred when I was seventeen.
change was heralded by the arrival of an elderly lady in white to our temple.
She was the principal of a reputed institute of music and dance in a city which
was about a hundred miles away from where we lived; widowed at a young age, she
was allowed to complete her education and learn music from the temple teachers
by her broad-minded, educated and politically influential father; she was
secretly taught dance by my great-grandmother, who saw the passion for the art
in her. She was about the same age as my grandmother and there was a very
strong bond of friendship between the former and the latter. She made a very
strange request to my grandmother – that I be allowed to pursue a two year
diploma course at the music and dance college. My grandmother to my chagrin
agreed to accede to her request provided the chief priest gave his permission. The
permission was something that came easily – a little too easily I thought for
my comfort. Being a biological father, he probably felt that I should learn
about the other side of life too. So a month later, I let myself get packed off
to the college after extracting a promise from the lady in white that I would
be allowed to come to the temple once month for the special full moon day
at the college was quite different from the one I was used to; people were too
complicated and had strange ideas about right and wrong. Things and man-made
rules were given more importance than purity and human happiness. Each one came
with preset rules about right and wrong and was more than ready to point a
finger at those who did not share the same rules. At the temple, we never had a
concept of ownership – we shared clothes, friends, beds living quarters, books
and everything that could be shared. At the college, I learnt another facet of
human nature – people loved to possess, hoard and own things and people whether
or not they needed them.
I expressed my distress and cultural shock, my grandmother gave me the best
lesson of my life – “every truth, every attitude and every life is unique and
perfect in its own way and has its own place in the world; acceptance of the
fact with a faith in every truth including ones own is the ingredient that
makes the world a heaven”. This lesson helped me smile and stay quiet when
girls around me spoke about their relationships with their special men; it also
made me maintain a golden silence when questions about my life arose.
through my first year, I started noticing that one of the boys who attended the
theory class with me had developed a strange kind of interest in me; he would
look for opportunities to chat with me, sit next to me and walk back to the
hostel area with me, amongst other small acts that suggested that he probably
was besotted with me.
special attention brought in some strange feelings in me; I started thinking of
this person as my special friend and almost reached a stage where I imagined a
life where he and I shared a home and family in a perfect world where we all
together convened with god. Thankfully I got slapped square on my face by
reality before things really got out of hand.
I was in my second year at the college, we received a horrible piece of news about
a new law passed by the Government; this law equated our holy duty to the
profession where carnal pleasures were provided for a price. The day the news
reached us, our principal, the lady in white called me aside and advised that I
do not tell anyone about my life and not retaliate if and when people discussed
this topic. “I understand the purity and intent of the folks out there at the
temple, having lived there myself; but the people out here will not be able to
comprehend your reality; it would only attract unwanted attention to your folk
and it is not good at such adverse times as this”, she said.
advice came none too soon; a couple of days after I got her advice, while we
were walking back towards the hostel, my special friend began a conversation in
this topic; he made strong statements deriding the god-wives, peppered those
degrading statements with some offensive gestures. This unexpected behaviour
shocked me so much that I wordlessly ran back to the hostel, locked myself up
in my room and cried myself sore. The realization that I never could share the
world of people like him and vice versa, hurt me more than any rejection could.
I began avoiding him after classes and in them. He tried his best to learn the
reason behind my changed behaviour, but my lips stayed sealed.
my silence could neither conceal the truth forever, nor prevent the
catastrophic events that took place a few months later.
my final exams got over, our principal the lady in white asked me to stay on
for a couple of weeks to choreograph and lead a ballet that we had to perform
in a large event. I thought of it as a last forage into the world before going
back into my shell; couple of days before the event, I got a shocking phone
call from one of the girls at the temple.
seems though not obvious at first, the new law brought subtle changes in the
attitude of the people in the village – initially it was just a snide remark or
a jibe; soon the treatment became nearly unbearable. The whole feeling if ire
precipitated that morning when a group of puritans from nearby villages coupled
with some groups in the government cracked down on what they referred to as
centres of unholy eroticism – our holy temple.
stormed our holy abode with arms beat up all the priests, arrested the
matriarchs including my grandmother on charges of forcing young girls into
immoral activities, forcibly took the younger woman like my mother along with
their young children into their ‘protective custody’, demolished the temple and
left. The only girls not taken by them were those who at the time of attack
were in school.
of them, the girl in class X thankfully developed enough sense to call me up.
I ran to the lady in white. She immediately agreed to go with me to the
village. The carnage that met our eyes when I reached there broke my heart; the
temple was razed to the ground; the chief priest was beaten so badly that his
entire body was paralyzed; some of the younger priests had real serious
injuries on their bodies and needed immediate medical attention; the younger
girls were in distress and were huddled together cowering in a fear of another
aware of the extent of hatred, the lady in white took me to the police station
to seek their assistance; the reaction that we got when we reached there shook
us apart – they told her that it would not be good for a lady of her repute to
associate herself with a lowlife lot like ours. Shocked, she took me to the
puritan group to reason with them – our distress and shock got compounded when
we reached there. We learnt that the ladies they had taken in instead of being
respected were being tortured to ‘exorcise the demon’ that was making them
perform acts of immoral orgy and some of the elderly ones, including my
grandmother were really in a bad shape. Though shaken by this experience, the
lady kept her head. Taking the younger girls who were left behind at the
temple, she left for the city. Out there, she used her political clout to
influence the local politicians to tell the puritans to stop the torture.
tortures finally did stop; but their ending came a bit too late for some
elderly ladies like my grandmother who succumbed to the injuries they were
cessation of atrocities and the ‘kind and merciful’ exoneration also had a
price, the young ladies like my mother, along with their children had to bow
down to the religious philosophy of the puritans, leave behind their ‘sinful’
ways and become monks or nuns, behind the closed walls of the religious centre
of the puritans.
lady in white helped me out in those traumatic days; she helped in the
hospitalization of the injured priests, arranged the funeral of my grandmother
and managed to get my mother to meet me one last time before she got locked up
behind the walls of the puritan religious centre.
hold my mother’s words of parting close to my heart till date. Here is what she
said – “The world along with everything in it is illusion; what we believe is
our truth. We can build the sacred halls around ourselves and surround
ourselves with the music and magic and convene with god as we like even in the
confines of what to others might appear as a dark lonely room, if our faith and
the magic within us is strong enough. A true ‘yogini’ is one who can reach the
heights of nirvana even when she is stuck in the trunk of a coconut tree”. She also
told me to keep the art alive in the world and hold the tradition in my heart
till the day I die, before giving me one last hug and leaving for the abode of
heart fumed at the dogmatic approach of the puritans that deemed a harmless
pursuit of ones religious beliefs sinful whilst terming tortures in the name of
purification holy; I wanted to initiate a protest against government’s act; I
wanted to scream out that the faith I grew up in, was as pure and as holy as
any other; I wanted to tell the world that goodness lay in kindness and simple
happiness and not in pursuit of dogmatic principles that judged, persecuted and
hurt simple people. The lady in white dissuaded me and advised that I instead
should concentrate on giving a life to the girls I rescued, and work towards
the propagation of the ancient art form of my ancestors.
day I went back with her, I had to face another painful experience; my
erstwhile special friend who had found out about the chain of events and my
background despite the discretion of the lady in white, confronted me on my
arrival back at the college; he told me that he was thankful that truth
prevailed before he got irreversibly caught in the clutches of a characterless
person like me. He also told me that people like me were to be publically
lynched; I made him see the girls the lady in white and I had rescued, and
begged him to keep the matter a secret; he agreed to do so, if shared my bed
with him once. I still laugh sadly at the irony of it all.
rest of my life has been what one would have expected under those circumstances
- I joined college of music and dance and took over the guardianship of the young,
unfortunate, homeless girls. When the
in White left the world; I, a lonely lady in red took her place and became the
principal of the college.
did my best to keep the art alive for many years till I was told to step aside to
make place for a smart young lady with plenty of political clout and the man
who knew my secret, for a father.
I live all alone in this room. The girls whom I thus rescued many years ago
also have long moved on; some are married; some have become successful professionals
– the memories of the glorious days of magical holiness are long gone from
their minds like long forgotten dreams.
the solitary confines of this room, I try to bring alive the ancient magic of
love and Holy Communion of those hallowed halls of that long forgotten temple,
through my memories and faith. I know that once I leave the world, I shall take
the final traces of wonderful ancient tradition with me.
sometimes punish myself for not launching the protest against the government to
get the law that changed our lives repealed, the thoughts about possible
repercussions had I protested and failed mollify me.
are moments of introspection when ask myself if the holy communion we enjoyed was
in actuality an act sinful orgy as those puritans labelled it; I also keep
asking god if he really exists and if
yes, what his thoughts on the whole thing are. Someday, before the world ends,
I know I shall get my answer.
those pristine halls, beyond the confines of time and space
I did, in holy abandon embellished with love and grace
celebrated and deified, in a world so sinless and pure
in infinite ecstasy and enchantingly majestic allure
of my sanctified legacy, as god’s own beloved wife
dwelt in pious spiritual trance, the realms of a mystic life
from the mundane rules of the puritan world so earthy
the dogmatic laws that are slaves of the strong and wealthy
and marred I stand today, unclothed and bare in your midst
feathered, tarnished and crushed, under misogyny’s iron fist
a hedonistic lost soul, by the extant masters of the earth
those who hail me a sinner, in the world there is no dearth
communion is degraded to a street walker’s abject disrepute
mysticism’s shards linger, wretched, lonely and destitute
A Little Girl Lost
do not remember my mother; the only parts of my father’s body I remember are
the fingers which I desperately tried to hold in the crowd, the day I got lost.
I vaguely remember the flat I probably lived in and the crowded ally way where
I probably played before I got lost. The rest is a blur. Oh, yes, one memory
still stays vivid in my mind – the train that I boarded by mistake after
following someone who I probably thought was my father and the station I got
down at after realizing I was in a wrong train.
train was crowded with people – some young, some old; some who were travelling
alone and the others with their families. None of them spared a second glance
towards a young child who was running frantically across the compartment crying
out to her father. Not a single person stopped me when I got down at that
was late in the evening, the sun had set; not realizing the logistics of
trains, I dashed across the platform to find the ‘other correct train’ only to
discover to my chagrin that the train had disappeared; to add to the misery,
ere I could collect my wits, the train I just alighted picked up speed left the
station, which unfortunately was not one of the regular stops for any of the
major trains including the one that deserted me.
from a futile attempt to follow the train, I collapsed on a bench at the end of
the platform and wept myself to sleep only to wake up to a kick to my shins.
The person who kicked me became my guardian till he realized I was to be owned.
He was a beggar who pretended to be blind, played a harmonium and sang songs to
the passengers of passing trains for living. He ate, slept and lived on
platforms. Under his guardianship, I became one too.
routine was quite simple – get up early in the morning, use the toilets in the
railway station; smear black kohl around the eyes, take the harmonica, board
the first train that came along, sing songs, beg, get down once there was enough
money to buy food, use the money from begging to buy food, eat, wash, practice
music and sleep. The man would dye his hair and paint his face to give himself
an appearance of a frail blind old man; I used to pretend to be his blind grand
daughter; he used to walk with his arm on my shoulder, I used to walk around
waving a stick in front of me. He taught me both songs from movies and
devotional songs. “The song should be chosen based upon the audience. Older and
sober folks prefer listening to devotional songs and they pay you better if you
sing well; the younger lot do not care – sing a ‘film song’ and sing it badly –
they will pay up faster – to make you move away from them” he would say.
Singing badly was not something that came naturally for me; I had to try really
hard to sing off-key and needed some hard raps from the business end of the
walking stick wielded by my guardian for getting the wrong-key right!
I kept hoping that my father or mother would come one day and take me away; I
would wait expectantly after the arrival of every train and weep silent tears
every time the last passenger left the platform. I however kept these feelings
to myself owing to the trashing I received from my guardian the day after I was
taken into his fold, on expressing the hope of being reclaimed by my father.
the hope dwindled and became a distant dream; I started accepting the life as
the real one and began rejoicing in the guardian’s acts of kindness; kind he
was, in his own way - the last loaf of bread or the last biscuit was always
kept aside for me; my crude mattress (made using rags and old blankets) was
softer than his and when it rained and space was scarce, he would sit and doze
after ensuring that I got the only available dry spot.
passed nearly three years of my life, which ended on that fateful night! It had
rained heavily and the ground had become very slippery. We finished singing and
collecting the alms and moved towards the door, just as the train gave the
indication of moving. My guardian helped me alight the train and was following
me, when he slipped, fell through the gap between the train on to the tracks;
on a reflex, I held his outstretched hand and started trying to pull him out,
screaming for help. The help came too late for, the moving train first cut-off
the hand that I held, throwing me backwards, before it slowly but surely
crushed him to death; I watched helplessly as his eyes bulged in horror and
pain and listened to the deep moan he uttered as the last remnants of oxygen
left his lungs when they got crushed; I watched and listened on, in shock and horror,
as the moan ended in a deep silence of a gory death.
kept lying where I had fallen in shock, holding my late guardian’s severed
hand, till a couple of railway officials came to my aid. One of them took the
hand off me, while the other gently took me away from the scene. I was taken to
the office of the station master where they listened to my story and allowed me
a bath before moving me to the nearest ‘Home for the destitute’ run by a local
NGO headed by a renowned ascetic.
my life improve? It would be untrue if I said no, for in some ways it did get
better; I got to go to school, wear clean clothes, sleep in a bed, interact
with girls of my age and eat reasonably clean and healthy food. The cost of
these amenities is what made the whole experience painful.
‘ascetic’ who headed the NGO that ran the ‘Home’ had a weakness; he needed to
‘bless’ one girl every night. He would call all the girls in the room one after
the other in the evening and choose the one that needed blessing that night.
The girl would have to go to the matron, take a glass of milk and a cup of
honey and go to the special room where she would be expected to anoint the
‘ascetic’. After being anointed by the girl, the ascetic would drink half of the
milk and make the girl drink the rest before having his way with her. He loved
inflicting pain and made sure that pain was part of the girl’s nightly
girls who lived there since infancy knew very little about the outside world
and hence accepted these blessings as they came; but girls like me who came to
the ‘Home’ after having spent some years of their lives in the outside world
found it humiliating; during the first few ‘blessing’ sessions, I tried to
resist and ended up getting more hurt and humiliated; moreover the matron who
probably took stock of how well we got ‘blessed’ used to trash the ‘bad girls’.
I was not sure if I was the only one singled out or others also got blessed the
way I did and hence could not discuss about it with others; a painful incident
involving one of the slightly older girls made me realize that I was not alone
in my agony, but had to stay quiet about it. This unfortunate girl one day
declared in front of all that she was going to become the mother of the
‘ascetic’s child’. As a punishment for her sinful words, she was made to
disrobe in public, tied to a pole, beaten and punched so badly that she died
that night of internal bleeding. Since then, the matron began monitoring our
monthly cycles and would ‘heal’ those with ‘issues’ by administering ‘special
school we attended also was also run by the NGO and hence was within the same
campus as the ‘home’; we were forbidden from speaking to teachers; our fellow
students, who came in buses or cars to the school, wore expensive clothes and
paid heavy donations and fees, looked down upon us and maintained a distance
from us; so we were prisoners who had to endure a punishment called life.
to the scrawny, unhealthy figure I had developed during my life as a platform
beggar, I was looked down upon by those at the ‘home’ as well. This actually
ended being a blessing in disguise because, as the less favourite child, I was
not chosen more than once in a couple of months for blessings and hence could
pursue my studies in peace and could maintain my sanity far better than the
better looking unfortunate girls, whose shivers of fear and silent tears of
protest on they way to the special room of blessing, still haunt my dreams; I
remember how month after month they would cry out in pain holding their tiny
mid-sections as the special medicines took effect. Even today, decades later, their
painful voices penetrate the veil of time and assail my senses.
some of the others who stayed too broken to complete their education, I,
despite or probably owing to a late start and a strange worldly knowledge,
managed to stay fairly ahead of most of the girls in my class in terms of my
studies. The teachers owing to their natural prejudice against girls from the
‘home’ started targeting my answer sheets with extra strict markings enabling
me to work harder to stay ahead. My class twelve board results came as a
surprise to all – I was the school topper and stood third in my district.
I became the blue eyed child of the NGO and the teachers who realized how they
could use my name to improve their reputation and bring in donations from
patrons. I was recommended for a scholarship and given free admission under
economically backward category at the district medical college. The ascetic
(who by then had grown older and frailer) and our matron personally accompanied
me, on my trip to the medical college hostel, took me to principal’s cabin and
introduced me as their god given star child. My heart screamed out at the
irony, but prudence imbibed over years made me hold my tongue with a promise to
my heart that once I completed my medical course, I would rescue some if not
all the girls from the home.
studied really hard and finished the course. The only boy who showed interest
in me did a volte-face the minute I told him my story. After completing my
studies, I joined the same institute and the attached medical centre as a
life, since then has been a race against time to keep promises and a long and
painful journey where I learnt to learn and accept my limitations as a single
individual and understand that some scars are too deep for even time to heal,
some souls are too badly marred to be saved and some spirits are so badly
broken that they prefer death to a challenging change, however good it is.
A Lawyer amongst the Lawless
the cold and heavy flood, intimidates and daunts
Pain rips my being and courage hangs by a tread
is my hard endeavor and not a sprightly jaunt
the tide and the dark, I truly shall trudge ahead
Though the sun may show his
fury and burn the very path
Though the thorns may cut and
mar me to death till I bled
Destiny in my heart, I shall
harken, despite their immense wrath
Along the eternal pathless
route, I truly shall trudge ahead
Born to a
divorced daughter of a rich man, I grew up, a pampered kid in a huge house
filled with domestic help. I remember my beautiful, headstrong mother, dressing
me and herself up during festivals, waiting, mostly in vain, for my father, her
former husband, to turn up. On the rare occasions that he did, she would parade
me in front of him and stand quietly revelling his appreciative gaze. I also
remember the tears she used to quietly shed after he left.
later, I learnt that she fell in love with my father during her school days,
eloped and got married when she was barely eighteen. She unfortunately could
not adjust in his tiny home and live on his meagre income. His refusal to move
back with her to her house resulted in an untimely end to their love-match. They
quietly continued to love each other till the end. It was this love that
eventually saved my life.
grandfather owned two large factories. My mother managed one of them; her
younger brother managed the other; her elder brother was a senior Civil
Services officer; her younger sister was married and lived in a different
country. My elder uncle was a quiet serious person who stayed with his wife and
kids in a nearby apartment. He never spoke to my mother or acknowledged my
presence. He was very fond of her and hated the way she wasted her intelligence
over an unsuitable boy. My younger uncle however was a jovial person who played
with me a lot and even let me sit with him at his factory, on Sundays and
holidays. When I was ten, my younger uncle got married. His wife, my aunt was a
sweet young lady who used to love singing songs and playing with me. Till her
son was born, she and I would spend the early evenings either cuddled up on the
couch, watching TV or in the kitchen trying out special dishes.. Her son was
born when I was in high school. Despite being busy with my studies, I would
steal moments from my books for a quick hug or a sloppy kiss of my little
cousin, whom I considered my real baby brother. The closeness we shared during
those days, made the events that unfolded later in life, much more unbearable.
I was a
studious child who did well in school and got selected into one of the nation’s
most prestigious law-schools. I was thrilled and so were my mother and paternal
was heavenly. I topped the batch every time and reached my final year with
great hopes for a successful future. I got selected as a trainee judge in one
of the prestigious courts of the state and was all set to join, when tragedy
struck. My maternal grandfather died, leaving one factory each to my mother and
my uncle respectively. A month after his death, my elder uncle died. A month
after my grandfather and my elder uncle’s death, my uncle went to court
contesting my grandfather’s will. My mother and tried to reason with my uncle. He
was adamant. I came to know through alternate sources that his factory was
badly underperforming, he was deep in debts and hence wanted to sell one of the
factories off. He assumed that as the only surviving male child, he would
inherit the entire property. When personal persuasions went in vain, my mother
hired a lawyer and answered his challenge, in the court of law.
The case ran
for more than two years in the course of which I graduated from the Law School
and began my training as a Trainee judge as the state court. I also met and
fell in love with a young man, who, as I found out later, wanted me only for
the wealth that I probably would inherit from my mother in the future
nexus between the lawyers and my uncle, my mother fired more than two lawyers.
When the third one also started showing signs of getting sold to my uncle, she
asked me if I could represent her instead. My boyfriend was in agreement with
her; he even offered to help me out with my case. After plenty of
deliberations, mostly emotional, I resigned from my stable job and took over
I have court
records to back my statement that I argued brilliantly; so brilliantly I
argued, that the judge who had taken a massive bribe also could not give the
verdict in my uncle’s favour. He handed the factory premises over to us; but
gave the control of the machinery and equipment, which strangely was not
mentioned in the will, over to my uncle. In essence, my mother and I owned a
large commercial property, which we could rent, use or sell-out.
The day after
the court decided, I went to my boyfriend’s house. We agreed that we should hand
the equipment over to my uncle, sell the premises off to a good buyer and
invest that money to buy a small office where we both could practice. We agreed
that we should quickly get married and move on. I went back home in glee to
discuss the options with my mother, little realizing the consequences.
My mother wept
on hearing my thoughts; she told me that the factory was my grandfather’s
legacy which would protect at all costs; she took me along with herself to the
factory and to prevent my uncle from carrying the equipment off, she locked me
and herself inside the factory. Unfortunately, my uncle also countered this
extreme step with an inhuman one – he locked the premises up, and handed the
key over to the court officials to hand it over to my mother.
I do not want
to describe the harrowing week of that my mother and I spent in the factory
premises. One does not need to describe a stay in a dark place devoid of any
kind of sustenance. The aspect that added to the woes was the fact that when I
called my boyfriend from my cell-phone to seek his help, he behaved as if he
could not hear me and later blocked my number off. Thankfully there was water; so we survived.
Liberty came in the form of a long forgotten father, who thankfully had kept a
track on my mother’s life despite not staying in touch. He, who used to take a
route that went past our house to work noted that the house seemed unoccupied,
came to look for us at the factory premises and managed to read one of the many
notes that I had written seeking help and pushed out from under the doors and
through the AC slits. He got the lock broken, dragged us out, half-dead from
the hell and rushed us to the nearby hospital. My mother died a week later; my
father was there next to her. He and his family arranged her funeral.
was there during the funeral as well, sheepishly describing how he somehow had
gone out of station on an official visit and did not know about my predicament.
After the funeral, he and my uncle took me aside and advised me as to how the
factory would no longer be of any use to me and how I, a lawyer was unsuitable
for running it. They told me that I should hand the factory premises over to my
uncle, who with all his love would pay a handsome dowry to my boyfriend and
arrange a lavish wedding. He also added that he will help me setup a new office
at a very posh locality and help me out with my first few clients. Screaming in
agony, I ran off from them to my father who understood the situation and took
me with him to his tiny two room apartment.
life of mine with him was extremely wonderful but short. A couple of days after
my mother’s death he fell severely ill and died twenty days later. Before dying he
told that he had always loved her mother and had lived in a hope that someday
they would be together again. He could not bring himself to leave his old
parents and hence could never agree to live with her. With the no hope of a
reunion, he no longer wished to live. He transferred all his savings over to
me, bequeathed his house to me and advised that I should fight to keep my
mother’s and grandfather’s legacy alive.
Since then my
life has been a struggle to keep the above described legacy alive. My boyfriend
and my uncle tried many times to dissuade me from going to the court; they got
me attacked and even molested by hooligans; my erstwhile boyfriend even tried
the “I love you and do not want to suffer, give up the love of that dead
property so that we could live” card. I face humiliation in the court every day,
mental scars prevent me from sleeping in the night, I fear closed spaces and
sometimes spend my nights at bus terminuses and waiting rooms of railway
stations. I a living wreck with a single aim in life. I am a lawyer, in this
The one at the verge
qualification is professional - as qualifications go;
am a professional too as all you professionals go!!
on conditions, to which I could never comply;
I stand at the threshold – as destiny shall ply
the verdict, hoping for kindness against odds
my story at the mercy of the master of gods
abyss I see and the wings that would help me fly
destiny dictates and plays, so shall I meekly comply
I used to work
before marriage in a city far away from home. Living on a beginner’s salary in
an accommodation shared with four more girls, dreaming of a knight who would
take me off to a new world called home. A place where I would be given love,
treated like a queen and allowed to serve and thrive. I hoped for a world where
I and the hero of my world would ride to work, an idyllic work location where I
could earn a respectable wage, learn and grow.
handsome young man came to see me at my parents’ place; I in a hurry to meet my
dreams agreed to the conditions that I should stay professional and contribute
to the family income. The marriage took place amidst great pomp and splendour.
The first couple of months of my marital life, flew off in a whirlwind of
bliss. The trouble began in the third month – I began hearing statements like
“there is no money; so please reduce the milk usage”, “you have to manage
within the income that is provided if you can’t work”, thrown at me. The real
issue actually began when we moved into the flat of my husband’s elder brother and
his wife ‘to save money’. The fact that the sister-in-law despite being less
qualified, had a stable job in the nearby school and brought home a ‘sizable’
sum of 15000 every month, did nothing to help my cause. The taunts got louder;
the responsibility of managing the entire household was dumped on me; every
mistake was jeered at, pointed out. Sometimes, I used be admonished in public
about how I was wasting their hard earned money and was a burden. Before we
moved in, my husband’s brother had a domestic help who would mop, clean and
wash dishes; after I moved in, her services got terminated and I was made to
take over her chores.
approaching various offices for jobs. Unfortunately the pay offered by those
willing to hire me, was not acceptable to my husband and the ones that paid
well, needed a city-bred, smart and experienced professional and not a hard
working newly married woman with less than a year in the industry. The last
straw fell one late evening when I got back home after an interview and a
dissatisfactory offer, only to be yelled at by my husband for being a slacker
and a waste of money and time. I took a decision to take this offer. It was
made in one of the firms that I had gone to interview for; it required me to
take on activities related to ‘corporate relations’, especially for niche
customers. I was told that I would get to use my professional skills on
projects that I could win for the company.
I was also
told by one of the senior employees in the organization that I need to worry
about agreeing, as the dealings are all legal and we never needed to cross the
As a part of
my joining process, I was given an advance to get into gear. As a professional
organization, we were expected to dress alike in formal attire; keep our hair
well styled and ourselves well groomed. The work was good; I got to learn a lot
professionally and technically. It was an architect’s firm with a niche
international clientele; as one of the three interior designers, I got to work
on planning and implementing the interior layouts of large corporate offices.
‘client relationship’ assignment came my way in my fourth month. A large
Japanese firm was planning to setup offices in our city and was tying up with a
large real-estate provider who in turn was willing to outsource the interior
design work to us, if we could help them clinch the deal. The entire deal
process took place in a hill resort. It involved many presentations during the
day and plenty of socializing in the evening. During the socializing, one of
the decision makers in the client organization took fancy to me and asked for
additional socializing in his room. When I refused, my manager took me aside,
told me that I was still in my probation and a refusal could result in the loss
of a job. I was told that as a professional, I did not have a choice to decide
where I could draw the line and should render every bit of my job to
perfection. “If we lose this deal, you will be held responsible”, he told me.
could say that I did not have a choice; looking back, I know that I did have a
choice but chose not to exercise it. We won the deal; I paid the price with my
After I came
back, I did extra to keep my husband happy; thanks to the deal, I got an early
confirmation and a raise. The extra income enhanced our standard of living; we
moved out of the shared flat, into one of our own.
The deal in
the resort was followed by another successful one, which in turn was followed
by another. My manager started recognizing my capabilities as a deal maker and
doubled my pay. Did I like my job? Did I like what I did? I do not know and
cannot answer; but the smile on my husband’s face when the salary hit the joint
account and the pride with which he drove our jointly owned car and sat in the
balcony of our jointly owned house sipping coffee certainly dulled any feelings
of impropriety and the pain associated with the loss of values.
So why am I at
the verge or threshold today? A month ago, we had a deal with a client from the
US. Three days ago, my manager took me aside and informed that the client who
socialized with me, was HIV positive. He advised me to get myself tested.
I am standing
here at the clinic now, awaiting my results. Whatever the results are, pain
awaits me. If positive, I am bound to lose my job; if negative, I will leave
the job as I do not want to put myself and my family at risk. A jobless
existence will take us back financially and I cannot let my husband suffer… so
here I am - at the threshold.
roamed the streets all alone, carrying that sack oh, so heavy!
to eke her living, paying the ruthless life’s cruel levy
the routine, never to change, day by day, every day
and sell, that’s all she know herself, sometimes, along the way
the kids, feed the husband, and bear the torture and the pain
thinking of what to expect and never craving a single gain
by year, as I watched, grey she turned and weaker more
work by the fire and the toil in the heat, hollowing her very core
is now dead and gone, body lying limp by the roadside
and unwanted by all, forlorn in the world so wide
ones she toiled for, where are they, none of us can answer
lips that probably knew, lie sealed and silenced for ever
the traces of that withered candy seller would be forgotten
by the hearts of those who her wares gleefully had eaten
across the globe; I live alone; I am perceived as a strong, dominating, smart
looking and independent person; my annual income tax runs in six figures. I own
flats and houses in multiple geographical locations. I am feared, envied and
even hated by people. I have many acquaintances, many I hang out with regularly
and many more who would give their eye-tooth to hang out with me. I also have a secret life which none of my
acquaintances know about.
prince Siddharth became Buddha after he witnessed some events of the cycle of
life on a particular outing. My epiphany did not take place on a single day,
but was attained through a series of events that hit the zenith on a rainy day
a few years ago.
As the only
girl amongst three siblings, this life of mine began with a ‘privileged
childhood’. As both my parents were employed and earning well, there was no
dearth of money. I grew up in a world of luxurious wardrobes, leather-bound
books, expensive toys, piano and ballet lessons, debating competitions and international
Thanks to an
unusually high intelligence quotient, days spent at the nearby library and
educational guidance I received from my parents, I completed my education at an
unusually young age from the best institute of my country.
graduation, I strayed and got lost. I fell in love with a good man who would
not have me, went to a wrong person on the rebound and got stuck in a loveless
marriage. Three years after I held my graduation certificate in my hand, I had
a young daughter, a non-supportive ex-husband and no job. I crawled back to my
parents’ home to lick the wounds and work on starting afresh.
I did. Finding a new job was not difficult as I was willing to join at a
slightly lower level than my peers, as I knew that I could overtake them in no
time. I joined a multinational organization of a great ‘brand value,’ jumped up
the ladder faster than most of those around me and reached the ‘lower
management’ level in less than a two years.
I was all set
to climb to the next level, when the financial slump hit us. Most of the
projects in my organization except the ones I was working on, got closed. Many
senior people got laid off. Some of those with plenty of clout survived thanks
to god-fathers within the organization and got moved into my area. Thanks to
their clout, despite their inability to save accounts, they were given more
senior roles. In one of my critical projects, I had to report to one such
aspirations of many brilliant technocrats and domain experts depended on this
project. I let ends justify the means a few times and played to the weaknesses
of the senior dead-wood. Lines of propriety and morality are relative; so I
shall not discuss those. All I can say is, from a puritan angle, I stayed
the person till he agreed to let me operate independently. I ensured that the
interests of the people in the team were taken care of, till better
opportunities came along; the moment those opportunities knocked, I grabbed
them, along with the prized members of my team and moved out of the flotsam infested
I set my eyes
on him on the first day at the new organization. He was soft-spoken, composed
and shy, not very quick on the uptake but amazingly good at what he did. He
hated me for my outspokenness, my tendency to answer before someone completed
their question and the fact that he had to report to me. I liked him for his
meticulousness and never-say-die attitude.
such a vast disparity in our attitudes towards one another, we managed to complete
the project assigned to us and deliver positive results in less than eighty
percent of the allocated time; to ensure a better synergy, I stayed extra
courteous and nice to him, despite feeling like telling him off more than once
that changed my thoughts, my perspective and hence the aim of my life happened
in the 15th month of my employment… I got posted to a project in new
geographic location, in a foreign country. In a strange twist of fate, my
soft-spoken colleague, whom I would like to refer to as Mr Soft-spoken, also got
posted on to the same project.
course of the project execution, our team, which included Mr Soft-spoken had to
slog through days and nights to ensure a successful delivery. Mr Soft-spoken
and I often had to spend many nights together in my apartment, all by ourselves
to complete critical tasks. Having grown up, an equal amongst brothers and male
cousins and having studied in an institute where the male to female gender
ratio was forty to one and having worked in teams where I normally used to be
the only lady out of twenty individuals, it never occurred to me me those days
that he belonged to the opposite gender!
having lived through a painfully abusive marriage, I had developed an aversion
to any kind of a relationship that would make me vulnerable.
incident that occurred on that fateful night, gave me a jolt and put me in the
path towards my epiphany. It all started when I felt a bit out of colour one
evening and decided to take an early night off. At 3 AM, I was awakened rudely
by the door-bell; ere I opened the door, two ladies rudely pushed me aside and
rushed into my apartment. One of them I learnt later, was Mrs Soft-spoken,
whilst the other was a neighbour whom she had taken the help of, to locate her
‘errant’ husband. They rudely demanded to know where Mr Soft-spoken was and
would not listen when I told them that I had slept off early and was not aware
where he was. “I am sure he is hiding in your bedroom”, she wailed in her
vernacular, which I thankfully was proficient in, “do you think I do not know
what goes on here? I have tolerated your errant behaviour long enough; but
today I am not going to take it anymore!!”
I could not
make out what she was trying to say, for a couple of seconds; when I did, I was
too torn between anger and amusement for a couple of seconds to respond. Composing
myself to the best of my abilities, I told her very sweetly that her husband
was not there with me, I had no interest what so ever in him as I never found
him good enough for me and asked her politely if she needed my help finding
response probably was not something she expected; but her response shocked me
out to the core - She said, “he comes home late every night, sometimes he does
not come at all; since the day of our marriage, he has treated me like a
stranger. He comes home smelling of a woman, spends hours talking to someone.
When I ask him, he always responds that he was working with you!! What would
you do if you were in my shoes?”
I hugged her while her friend stood there dumbstruck. Taken aback, Mrs Soft-spoken
broke down in my arms. I held her till she calmed down. She asked me in the end if she and her friend
could spend the night at my place. I gladly let them do so.
At 6:00 AM, Mr
Soft-spoken sheepishly appeared at my doorstep asking me if his wife came over.
Apparently, he was in love with a lady who worked on another project. His
parents forced him into a loveless marriage to a simple innocent girl who
hardly knew English. On parents’ insistence, he brought her with himself to the
project location, but spent most of his nights, when not working with me, with
I told them to
call their respective parents and explain the situation. I helped Mrs Soft-spoken
plan her return trip back home. I even let her stay in my apartment till the
day of her travel, much against the wishes of her husband. Her friendly
neighbour stayed with her during the day; at night, I kept a vigil over her;
she was so distraught that we were scared for her safety.
left, her husband Mr Soft-spoken, and I continued working on that project, but
I could no longer bring myself to be ‘nice’ to a person who did not think twice
about my reputation or about hurting a simple soul like his wife; the project
delivery thankfully did not get affected by our acrimony.
The day after
customer sign-off, I requested Mr Soft-spoken to go back home and work his life
out before he planned his next assignment.
A year later,
I learnt from the lady who used to be his girlfriend, that on parents’
insistence, Mr Soft-spoken reconciled with his wife and was now a father of a
baby girl. I pitied the poor girl who fell in love with him in good faith and
ended up being the ‘other woman’ for no fault of hers.
must be wondering what happened to my daughter along the way; she grew up with
my parents and went to a boarding school when she was ten. I would go home to
my parents every summer and spend a month with her. The final spark of insight
that pushed me further towards my secret life flashed during one of those
afternoon, my daughter and I were on our way to a mall for an afternoon of
‘shopping and movies’, when our attention got diverted by a throng of humans
crowded around something lying on the roadside. Out of sheer curiosity, I got
down from the car and went over to find out what had happened. I was met by a
pitiable sight – an old lady was lying out there; there was a torn gunny sack
by her side, puffed rice and rice candies were strewn all over the road and
dogs were feasting on them. Out of all those people in the crowd, none dared go
near her. I walked over and looked closely – she was the same lady from whom my
mother used to buy puffed rice for making quick evening snacks for us. She had
once told us that she was married to a cripple, had a son who was wasting his
life and a daughter whose ‘hand she had to give off in marriage’. My mother had
helped her financially a couple of times and used to feed her, or give her old
clothes from time to time. I had not seen for more than a decade. I called my
mother over; together, we hailed an ambulance and took her to the nearby
hospital, where she was declared dead on arrival.
around for her son, daughter or husband and learnt that her husband remarried
and left her a decade ago, she went to her village with her son, but had to
come back a year ago after he threw her out, her daughter was killed by her
in-laws as she could not take enough dowry with her and she lived alone in a
small hut near the seashore.
With no choice
left, we arranged for her funeral; I visited the nearby morgue in that process
– while waiting for her body, I started chatting with the morgue supervisor – a
quiet, sad looking lady, aged beyond her years. She told me that roadside
deaths of lonely women was a regular occurrence and every week a minimum of one
such bodies would reach her morgue.
that they would, after waiting for a definite time for identification, cremate
the bodies in the electric crematorium next door.
She also told
me how she always took personal interest, met neighbours and acquaintances and tried
to trace the next of kin of those dead women; in most of the cases, some
nephew, niece, cousin or grandson would appear after the cremation and claim
the ashes. For those whose ashes had no claimants, she would jot down the basic
details of their life on a sheet of paper and store that paper along with their
ashes and other personal effects in a box. She showed me fifty boxes stacked
behind her chair and added that someday, she would make a trip to Holy Mountain
-Himalayas and send these boxes floating down the river. When I asked her the
reason behind this strange passion of hers, she replied that she was a long
widowed child bride who was well aware that her life also someday would end
like that of those unfortunate women. “That is the final journey I would endeavour;
it would be a final gift to the last remnants of these unfortunate lives; it
would probably be my parting service to my mortal body”, she said – “I always
wanted to flow down a river freely to join a sea and tell my story to all those
who came along the way”!
She asked me
what my name was… I told her that I was the eternally flowing lonely River of
the Holy Mountain she was destined to meet…
Thus began the
new endeavour towards my destiny…
the eternally elongated and endless gangway
constricting confines of the world so bleak, lonely and grey
escape a lifeless existence devoid of love or company
egress to the final extinction of the infinite misery
gazed around, at the carcasses sadly strewn
souls in their exodus mowed down and cruelly hewn
vain, lives forgotten, hopes eternally extinguished
of unchronicled lives singular and yet undistinguished
emptiness, their unseeing eyes narrated sagas so many
Of lost hopes,
condemned martyrs and droning ragas of disharmony
they beseeched, “tell them that our best we strove!”
“In the midst
of a merciless gale of misogyny to live, give and love”
rent my soul in an echo of a long-lost harmonious tune
And a newfound purpose, beyond the hail of
anguish and misfortune