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But honestly I could not muster up the courage to tell you how your so-called uncle raped your mom. But I can’t bear this alone any more. That gnawing itch won’t let me live.
I was caressing Shakti’s forehead as she slept on my lap. This had been the longest day of her life. After drowning herself neck-deep in tears, her eyes finally gave in and I didn’t want to deprive my daughter of a few moments of peace.
Suddenly she lept out of bed hysterically. “Shakti, I am here. Go back to sleep please.” I tried to calm her.
“I don’t know when will I be able to sleep again Maa.” She replied bringing her hands to forehead. “Does dad know of that night?” She asked, restlessness obvious in her tone.
“You think I would not have told him? He was my only hope and solace. In who else could I go confide? Especially when it was his own brother who committed this heinous act of rape!” My response to her statement was quite impulse. In-spite of having happened an year back, it still invoked daunting reaction from me. Like it was just yesterday when the demon pounced upon me sucking the blood and life out of me. Leaving behind a permanent sting under my skin, which even at the slightest touch caused excruciating pain.
“What did dad say when you told him?” Shakti asked seemingly unperturbed. As if she was just assimilating information not knowing how to respond.
I forced a laugh. “He said what I had expected. That his brother being IPS officer is a man of resources and means. If we go fighting a court case against him, all our money will get washed out. We may be faced with numerous life threats. Shakti’s life will be endangered. On top of it, the setback to our reputation because of a rape case will be irreversible.” With a sinking voice I continued, “And then he implored me to change my mind. To hush my voice and bow down to destiny.”
Shakti was too lost to say much. How different could I expect a 17 year old listening to her mom’s rape story. Like every other girl so far she would too have believed that such stories belong only to the newspapers. I could see the pain that she was being put to by shattering her make-believe world.
“And you agreed with him?” She asked gazing somewhere with the unseeing eyes.
I heaved a sigh and kept quiet figuring an appropriate response. “A few nights after the incident, I had a dream. Draupadi was standing on the vast crimson land. Vultures hovering above in the sky. Her untied hair waving like slithering snakes. The vast ocean of human carcass and wails of women had brought her to a standstill. A sobbing women with a little girl approached her. Gesturing towards the blood soaked twisted bodies she asked, “Draupadi, what have you gained out of this?”
Draupadi’s stoned eyes met hers teary ones and she replied,”Nothing. Nothing for myself. Half of my life’s possessions – my dignity and self-respect were crushed before the war and rest half- my loved ones, I have lost to the war. I don’t have anything left.”
“Then why this deadly war of vengeance?” The woman grumbled.
“Because some wars are fought at a time but meant for the future. If I had let all this pass, with the humiliation and disgrace that I had been subject to, what message I would have sent across? Men will continue to take pride in their audacity. And women will feel too weak to fight back thinking that if a queen could do nothing of such an heinous insult then what can we ordinary women do. This war is for the future to see and learn.” Turning her gaze to the little girl Draupadi said “This war is for her.”‘
For a few minutes thence the silence prevailed before Shakti interrupted,”You didn’t answer my question. Did you agree with dad?”
The way Shakti questioned made me realize how a bitter truth had matured her beyond her age. How it just took a day for my teenage daughter to become a woman. But she was waiting for my answer. “The following morning after I had a discussion with your dad he came to garner my opinion. I asked him ‘Had it been Shakti in my place that night, would you still choose to say mum?'”
For the first time in years in a fit of rage he raised his hand to my face and stopped midway. Seething with anger he howled “How dare you drag my daughter in this. How cheap of you.”
“Now you understand. Just why my head’s not bowed.” I replied looking straight in his bloodshot eyes. “You can’t even imagine something wrong with your daughter. But if your brother can cross his limits in your absence, can you guarantee about him or his son or any of the men out there? When you can’t change the world for your daughter, at least teach her how to face it boldly. Our daughter needs two lessons for sure- one in self-defence and second in fighting back. Not to sulk throughout life and letting a perpetrator bask in his audacity and redo it whenever he wills or his son wills it. I can’t set a wrong example for my daughter and all the next generation of daughters and sons out there, by letting all this pass. As Shakti’s mother her opinion counts for me and if my daughter approves of my action, I am not resting back.”
“Since then I have been waiting to open up before you. But honestly I could not muster up the courage to tell you how your so-called uncle raped your mom. But I can’t bear this alone any more. That gnawing itch won’t let me live. I filled an F.I.R a day after the rape but the devil had much influences to hush up the matter and I had no one’s support to continue.”
Shakti was still in a trance. I touched her shoulder to attract her attention. She turned her face and said, “Maa if my support can give you the courage to fight, then I must tell you I will stand by you whatever be the consequences. And consequences are never one-sided. With this rape case on, he is bound to loose his job. So in a way his influences will also be marred. As for dad, you know he is where I am.” Shakti smiled faintly and so did I.
“Shakti, there are two things which give the purpose to my life- you and getting back my lost pride.” I pressed my palm against hers feeling a surge of energies. “There are consequences to everything. But someone has to hold the baton in hope for a better tomorrow. What if a soldier starts thinking about the consequences before the war, will we ever feel safe in a nation? Or if a doctor starts weighing the consequences before a critical operation, will he ever be able to gain trust of his patient?”
“I understand Maa.” Stating she hugged me tightly and that’s all I needed to take the plunge.
Nithya rape case file was reopened after an year. The already filled F.I.R gave us the initial edge. With my fears already conquered and my daughter and husband by my side, I am determined to put up a brave fight.
Editor’s note: This story had been shortlisted for the Muse of the Month January 2019, but not one of the winners.
Image source: YouTube
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I am a stay-at-home mom, an avid reader and sometimes an impulsive writer.
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