Reverence

July 17, 2011 at 6:09 am (Amitava Nag, Short Story)

Sita gets impatient. She has been waiting outside this temporary makeshift clinic for almost an hour now. There are almost ten girls like her there. She just leans her head back against the bamboo frame. The temperature suddenly got low since last Saturday. She remembers she was waiting for Ramu, her brother. Ramu works in the city mill. He was returning from work after almost three months. He brings in hope, and warm clothes.

 

-‘Sita Naskar. Who amongst you is Sita?’ shouts the matron when Sita awakes from her rumination.

 

-‘Lie down there, on that bed and lower your salwar. And the pants too’, the doctor is nonchalant.

Sita is shy. She has never bared her like this in front of a man. But only once.. she sighed.

 

-‘Fast, fast. We have to test the other girls also and then in the next village’ the matron is irritated. Understandably so, she will have to return home in the city by evening. Sita closes her eyes and lies down on the bed.

 

She can feel the filth, the dry passage of subconscious agony mixed in the stains of pubic blood. She is fifteen only. May be a month or two more. Ma used to tell her about city. The lights of the city. Ma loved red as a colour and Sita remembers how she was so confused and panicked at her first blood. Blood is always red she thought earlier. Last Saturday she felt blood is black too. Sticky and black. So much that it won’t go, it won’t leave its mark even after she washed repeatedly. She was hysteric. Ma is no more to comfort. There is no one else. Sita sometimes thinks, is this every woman’s fate, she is alone, her Ma is also alone – in the city. She never comes home. Sita knows why, she doesn’t question that anymore now.

 

The doctor stoops on her vagina with a pair of tongs and scissors. There are so many things on the tray. Sita gets afraid. She prefers to close her eyes.

 

– ‘Hmm. Do you feel pain?’ The doctor inserts something inside her and Sita instantly knows that she can’t bear it any more.

 

– ‘Leave me sir. I know what happened. I am telling’ Sita reasons.

 

– ‘No. The political cadres will do so. They will help you. But I have to prepare a detailed report. Okay?’ The doctor goes back at pricking Sita’s private parts.

 

The mornings are the best time for Sita. She gets up early and goes to the river bed. With Malati and Latika she collects snails and shells. Its fun. Also that is the time for their girly talks as well. Sita is worried that Madan is taking interest in Malati. Madan is a drunkard. Malati is too simple, Sita gets angry with her only. ‘See, that Madan is only after your body. He doesn’t love you, you know?’ Sita said. ‘How come you so sure? He has promised me a sari.’ Malati basks in glory. Latika is the news supplier for them since her father is close to the Panchayet leader’s driver.

 

The doctor finishes his part. The matron, as sombre as she can be, draws a piece of cotton and throws at Sita,

 

– ‘Clean yourself, for God’s sake’ she is impatient.

 

– ‘See, your case is confirmed. Multiple occurrences. This is my part, rest your political leaders in Panchayet will do. Don’t ask anything from me’ the doctor washes off the blood in his hands.

 

Malati gets in next and Sita decides to wait for her. This is the first time Latika is not with them. She is ‘saved’. Its such a strange feeling when you are not in the same group where you belonged. You are now part of this new group – of 10 teenage girls.

 

Latika told them that police and security forces will be coming to their village – ‘Baba is worried. He said, they will beat all of us and take away the land.’ Sita wasn’t convinced, ‘Don’t be afraid silly. Its not easy, you know. Our Panchayet is here. They will save us. Its our land, if we don’t give how can anyone take that?’

The next day they heard it in the market as well. No one knew what is going to happen, police is fine but what is security force? Whose security are they ensuring? Sita couldn’t sleep that night. She sent message to Ramu for coming home. Dada is the only one who loves her. She knows that. She also knew that she is afraid.

 

Malati is all tears. Sita also feels like crying but seeing Malati cry she decides to stay firm. She feels sorry for Malati. She is such a kid. They heard, Madan has gone missing since Saturday. Is she crying for her or for losing Madan? Sita is unsure.

 

– ‘Girls. Come here. These babus have come here to investigate. They will send reports and the Government will help all of us’, the political cadre tries to comfort.

 

– ‘Sir, both these girls were there that night. Sita, you tell how many persons were there?’

 

– ‘How did it start? Don’t hide. This is required for their report.’

 

– ‘They took you near the farmhouse of the Ghosals’. Right? What were you wearing?’

 

– ‘Did they take off all your clothes? Or did they tie your hands and mouth?’

 

– ‘How many persons? All at once or one by one?’

 

– ‘See, we need to ensure that such atrocities against women don’t occur again. So that you don’t have to face this again, or any other girl of the village.’

 

The questions start bombarding them as if they are peeled off each layer of vanity. The lips moistened, saliva moving all over the crooked faces. In broad daylight, without moving an inch, they raped Sita.

Sita knew this would happen. Every detail will be plundered like the last thread from her body. That night was only for an hour. This day is for hours, this month is for days, this year is for months – on and on and on, the chronicle of rape.

 

Sita has thought it many times afterwards. What is in it for which this has become such a big farce?  Latika told how her sister is raped every night by her brother-in-law. But is it that there is no pain in it? Can rape be classified – graceful rape or not? She laughs. She knows, Ma is raped every night. She knows Ma loved only one man. She knows a lot, which is Sita’s problem.

In the middle of long chilly nights Sita wondered the definition of dignified woman. Ramu was upset and wanted to take her with him. But Sita knows that dada lives with friends in a mess, he cannot take her there. He will have to rent a new place and that will be too costly. ‘Can’t we girls take our own decision ever? Why should we always depend on men?’ Sita asked Ramu. Ramu doesn’t have answers to any philosophical questions ever, he knows he has to earn a lot for himself, to marry off her sister.

 

In the midst of the market Sita felt lost. She has come alone from her village. There is only one bus from there in the morning. Latika has pleaded not to leave, ‘What will you do there Sita? And what you mean by reverence?‘ Sita also doesn’t know what she means, she spent the whole night thinking of it and she took this decision. Spending more time with Latika means Sita will lose her stance. Latika has an infectious nature. She may force Sita to change her decision. But now that she is already in the city, she feels a little insecure. She has that doctor’s name and address, she also took direction of his chamber. But now as she stands near the chamber she feels nervous. Is the decision good? Or may be leading Malati’s life was better. Even Ma’s. Ma atleast has Sita. What will Sita have?

 

– ‘Hmm. So why did you come here? I cannot give any false reports now. If you wished I would have saved you from this dis-honour, then. Poor girl.’, the doctor’s eyes lit up as if he found his prey in his den

 

– ‘No Sir. I have not come for that’ Sita clears her throat, ‘I have come for a little bit of reverence, for me. I will pay you all the charges and your fees. But you have to operate. You have to remove my ovaries. I don’t need them. And no one else also should need them.’

 

The sun is at its furthest. The occasional mild wind makes the pleasant weather waver a little, reminds everyone of the merciless nights. Sita wraps the shawl tightly. She has won the first battle, and she knows that this time she is right.

 

– Amitava Nag

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