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Women like her reminded them of their own disease of casting and shunning out many innocent lives to die, get raped and prostituted only to uphold their honour and cover their naked shame.
It was just another of those several uneventful nights. But, the same couldn’t be said for the secretive lives people led and the tragic choices they made. One unfortunate victim of such a choice was a tiny baby, left to wither and putrify naturally to her death, among the trash cans in Mumbai city.
The baby´s fault? – Chromosomes XX? A bastard child? Kidnapped victim? No one would ever know the truth!
For now, she was yet another trash bin baby left to her own fate. She had to pay a heavy price either way – Death or Life. In fact, the odds were stacked up more against her if she were to leave unscathed without a brain injury from being flung mercilessly or left disfigured after being gnawed by filthy, ravenous stray dogs, rats or flies.
They say time heals wounds. But some of us remain scarred for life. Physical scars are easily visible, begging for sympathy and compassion. What about the emotional scars that come with being abandoned by your own… father?… and mother perhaps as well? Society? God?
As afternoon approached the next day, Munni, the rag picker went about her usual business, looking for her day´s treasure at every trash bin she could find en route. She found Society´s trash, peering at her with the most divine and beautiful eyes as she gave out a little gurgle. As she came nearer to have a closer look, the baby held a tight grip on her little finger and something about that touched the deepest core of Munni´s heart.
Indeed, one man´s trash is another´s treasure! Munni took her little treasure home and named her Rosie. For she was of the rosiest pink hue in complexion and soft to touch and cuddle!
The next ten years of Rosie´s life were spent in the Mumbai shawls. Munni was as straightforward as one could be, making it clear to Rosie how she was found among the city´s leftovers.
Rosie was exposed to the dirty secrets of Mumbai´s underbelly. Her adopted mother, Munni was a rag picker by the day and a bar dancer cum prostitute at night. Every night, she headed out into the city in the brightest and shiniest sarees which left nothing to the imagination. Her blouses would seductively display an ample amount of cleavage and her underskirt rested at the ´lowest of the low´ part of her waist, showing off the maximum area of her midriff and navel. She decorated her hair with jasmine flowers and confidently strutted out in her brightest red pout.
She was aware of Munni´s reputation in the neighbourhood early on. Initially, it disturbed her when they called her mother all sorts of names ranging from ´Randi´ (whore), Kutiya (bitch) and more. But, seeing Munni act indifferent to such cat calls and names slowly made Rosie understand that there was no place for emotions in this world. As for her, she admired Munni for her grit and courage for holding her own in a world filled with big, bad wolves in sheep´s clothing.
‘Yes, I am a prostitute! This is my fate. But, it is also my choice as much as it is of some of the men who want me for the night.´
‘Then, why are you the only target of hatred and judgement by Society? Doesn´t it take to two to tango?´ Rosie asked earnestly.
‘I leave that answer to your own discovery, interpretation and judgment of life itself as you grow and learn along the way,´ smiled Munni.
Rosie found Munni´s trust and confidence in her, to find her own answer to this perplexing question, highly reassuring of her own self-worth and value. She learnt that day sometimes the wisest and evolved minds came from the most unlikely people and places.
But, Rosie´s happiness was short-lived. One day, Munni came up to her with the most shocking news.
‘It is time for you to leave, Rosie!’, said Munni one day, matter-of-factly.
‘But why? Am I a burden?´
´No, Rosie! You are no one´s burden. But, I am no saint and way more flawed than you imagine me to be. There is a very lucrative offer that is hard to deny. I have a choice to keep you with me always and letting you never fly away on your own or to give us both a better life.’
‘A better life? For whom? Not for me, Amma! I cannot imagine a life without you.´
‘See Rosie! I have been honest with you from day one. And, it is because I wanted you to understand that there are no obligations between us. Whatever I did in the past, I did it on my own will and choice. I decided to bring you home and give you the best I could offer at that time. But, the time has come for us to part. At the end of the day, opportunities like these don´t come knocking on our humble doors every day. But, I leave it to you now to go or stay here with me.’
This came as a rude shock to Rosie. But, whatever said and done, it was Munni who rescued her and gave her a home, some food and a place in her heart. She even took the place of a parent in her life. Albeit, for a while! If Munni wanted her to go now, how could Rosie hang around?
‘You have rescued a bright gem of a piece, I mean girl, I see!´ gleamed Aunty.
It didn´t take much for Rosie to figure out that she was in a brothel. While she felt the cores of her stomach churn in disgust and sadness, she mustered the courage to hug Munni one last time and give her flickering peck on her cheek.
´Rosie! I understand that you feel betrayed by my decision and I hope you do forgive me. Poverty is hard, my child. We are all victims of our own circumstances. But, I know you will survive like you did as a baby. I know that nothing can break you however bleak the situation. You will somehow find the light at the end of this dark tunnel. I will keep you in my prayers always,´ said Munni regretfully before the final parting.
As Rosie watched Munni´s silhouette gradually disappear into nothingness, she realized the sad truth that she was all alone in this world again.
However, the shock was nothing compared to what lay in store for her that night. Before she knew it, there was an old burly man in her room, who couldn´t contain his excitement on seeing her.
´This Maal is perfect. I will have her for the night,´ he informed Aunty of his decision.
´She has just started puberty last month and it is her first night here. This Maal is as fresh as fresh can be, Saheb! Hehe!´
The lusty old man couldn´t be any more pleased. By the looks of it, he seemed easily around 65 years at least.
´You better be good and obey his orders. Saheb is a very great and kind man,´ warned Aunty to Rosie on her way out the door.
It was her worst night ever. She had nowhere to escape and there was no one coming to rescue her from this hellhole. When she tried resisting the old man´s advances, she was pinned down onto the floor even more violently. There was no way she could match the towering six footer. His age belied his manly strength. She gave up after a desperate fight and let him feast on her till his satisfaction. While he snored to glory after having sex with this girl who was younger in age than his own grand-daughter, Rosie didn´t catch a wink of sleep trying to make sense of what just happened to her. She felt violated and wronged. Before she even knew what rape meant, she fell a hapless victim to it.
The next morning, as the old man buttoned up his shirt, he found traces of blood on the bed sheets to his delight.
´Ahhhh! The bliss of making love to a virgin. Here is an extra Rs.500, Sweetie´ Saheb muttered as he tucked a bunch of notes between her budding bosom.
Rosie looked away in disgust as the old man planted one last slurpy wet kiss on her lips. Aunty walked in very pleased to find a handsome amount stashed with Rosie.
´I will give you your share at the end of the month. You are on probation for now. Learn the tricks of the trade as much as you can. It will help you tremendously in the future´
The rape left Rosie in a state of chronic depression over the next few months. She attempted suicide not once but several times but was always rescued in time. She felt like she was in a bottomless pit where there was no way up. She just kept falling and crumbling emotionally with every sexual encounter with a random stranger.
Rosie felt dead for the longest period of time. Until one day, she decided to gather all the strength that she could muster and face life. However, cruel and lonely it was!
She realised that there was no escape from the brothel at least for now and that she had no family other than its inmates. She decided to come face-to-face with reality and soon started forging bonds with other girls caught in similar situations like hers and even worse. Some were molested by their own relatives even before puberty, some physically beaten by their own father, some sold by their family to rich old Arabs and ultimately landed in this dingy brothel.
Sometimes, Rosie wondered if it would have been better if she was left to die in those trash bins than to face this living horror day in and day out. But, whenever she felt disillusioned with life, Munni´s parting words always came to the rescue.
´I know that nothing can break you however bad the situation might be. You will somehow find the light at the end of this dark tunnel.´
Looking on the brighter side, Rosie had more company than she had ever had. All the inmates were her sisters now who confided in one another. They would laugh at the various stories that they shared – from their poverty ridden past to some of their funniest clients to the monstrous Aunty! They managed to find humour and maintain their sanity even in the darkest place. And, Rosie would be a child all over again.
It was business as usual at night and many men clamoured for a piece of her meat. In many ways, Rosie saw life in its myriad forms through her male clients and their stories. She listened intently to their stories, conflicting thoughts and masked words.
‘I want to lose my virginity.´
‘My wife doesn’t need to know. Sex is something that we just don´t discuss.´
´I have no sexual desire at all. Is something wrong with me? Help me.´
‘I get bored of the same type. I need some fun and variety in my life.´
Through them, she learnt about the unbelievable ways of Society and the hypocrisy that surrounded the whole basic act of sex. Everyone thought about it, desired it, looked for it, indulged in it and yet, talking about it openly was strictly taboo.
What Rosie found the hardest to digest was the fact that women were targeted and judged harshly in any sexual encounter, be it out of consent or otherwise as in rape. Even in a strictly commercial business transaction like prostitution which was like any other trade, where there was mutual consent involved, it was she who was perpetually the bad woman who Society looked down and frowned upon.
Yet, they were blind and unashamed of the baby who was discarded as trash or killed in the womb owing to either its gender or being born out of wedlock. They were unashamed if she was raped by her own family or anyone for that matter. They were unashamed if she was sold off to a brothel… or if she lived or died. Who gave a damn?!
Isn´t it ironic that the men who slept with her, ranging from politicians to godmen to adolescent boys to business tycoons to cops and more were considered to be highly respectable and honourable people by the very same moralistic Society. Forget Society and its naysayers, the very men that she had slept with had no respect for her even though both of them were equally involved in the same amorous act.
Falling in love was not an option for women like her. Men only loved her body and nothing more. However genuine her love or concern was for them, she failed to earn their respect or love, simply owing to the profession that she was in or the fact she chose (or didn’t choose…it didn’t matter either way) to get laid.
She was just an object to be used and thrown. Objects were not supposed to have feelings or emotions. This objectification served as the perfect convenient excuse for the men and less painful for the women involved.
´Then, why are you the only target of hatred and judgement by Society? Doesn´t it take to two to tango?´
´I leave that answer to your own discovery, interpretation and judgment of life itself as you grow and learn along the way.´
She finally found the answer to her question when she became pregnant with one of her clients. He refused to acknowledge it was his baby, after all, owing to his social, economic, political and marital status. He offered her an exorbitant fee to abort the baby. But Rosie´s natural urge to be a mother was much stronger than any money proposition as she decided to have the baby with or without a father.
Rosie looked at her naked reflection in the mirror in deep admiration and gratitude. At last, she was going to have her own family.
‘How beautiful nakedness was! We come into the world naked, procreate and bring forth another life in our naked being and we leave this world behind in our nakedness. Yet, we all live in our grandeur naked illusions!´
Society would rather appear to be spotlessly clothed with their reputations intact in their illusionary virginity of body, mind as soul. Their skewed sense of morality reflected the deep sense of shame and honour that they attached to the naked body. If only they attached honour to the soul and mind instead of the body alone!
In many ways, women like her reminded them of their own weakness that they found hard to resist. The world would rather be comforted with hypocrisy and lies rather than the stark naked truth. The truth was like a bitter pill to them that they did not want to gulp down. It reflected the Society´s cowardice to face the naked reality. Women like her reminded them of their own disease of casting and shunning out many innocent lives to die, get raped and prostituted only to uphold their honour and cover their naked shame. Women like her were called all sorts of horrid and unmentionable names only to save them from their own embarrassment and judgement.
Rosie was beyond the shackles of society´s naked illusions, cowardice and masked lies. She was not afraid hiding anymore from the world because she had the powerful weapon of the naked truth on her side. She decided that her child would learn her naked truth that she was an honest, dignified, brave and a proud woman. Damn the world and their pitiable honour!
Image source: pixabay
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Winner of the Rashtriya Gaurav Award (2019) in association with the Government of Telangana for ‘
The Construction Worker Who Showed Me The True Meaning Of Empowerment
Let’s Talk About The Naked Truth Of An Indian Girl’s Experience With Rape Culture
Let’s Look At Padmavati’s ‘Choice’ In The Absence Of A Society That Supports Rape Victims
Mentally Tortured & Treated Poorly, She Finally Decided To Simply Give Up
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