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“If It Is The Most Important Part Of A Woman’s Body, Why Is It Called Shame-Shame?”

I tried to move my feet, but I couldn’t. I shivered, as the wind picked up its pace. The pain down there lingered, like a dull nagging ache.

I tried to move my feet, but I couldn’t. I shivered, as the wind picked up its pace. The pain down there lingered, like a dull nagging ache.

Trigger warning: This has graphic descriptions of rape and gender based violence, and may be triggering for survivors.

The sunbeam of the weak winter sun fell on my face, causing it to tingle a bit. I tried to pry my eyes open, but all I could manage was a tiny slit. The wind from the north was blowing furiously, and I wanted to pull maa’s chaadar over my body. It was then I realised that I was all alone in a field, and without a stitch on! The metallic stench around me overpowered my senses, and bile rose up in my throat.

Memories of the night before came gushing in. Just like the gooey thing that had trickled out of my shame-shame part. Maa always used to whisper to me about keeping it safe. Whatever that meant!

How, I had asked her one day! Her eyes darted around, as if checking to see if baba was around. And then, in a hushed tone, she told me, “That’s the most important part of a woman’s body.”

“If that’s so, then why is it shame-shame? And it’s not definitely called that!” I butted in. In response, I got a whack on my head.

“You are not to question me, Bindiya!” her eyes were bloodshot.

I murmured a sorry. She continued, “Soon, you will get married, and have children. For that, you need to preserve that part.”

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How, she didn’t reveal it. I didn’t ask her either. At that moment, bhaiyya returned from school, and threw a tantrum about being served the same roti-sabji every single day. Mother rushed to the chulha to prepare a fish curry, which she had bought from the money that would have paid my school fees for the next month.

Bhaiyya! I also have the same food, but I don’t complain like you.”

Three pairs of furious eyes stared at me. I felt as if a thousand daggers had slashed my skin. Baba had come home for lunch, and my statement had obviously startled him. The massive blows from his chappals hurt like hell.

I tried to move my feet, but I couldn’t. I shivered, as the wind picked up its pace. The pain down there lingered, like a dull nagging ache. The son of the sarpanch had pinned me down to the ground, and stuffed a piece of cotton cloth in my mouth. I had whimpered like a tortured puppy, begging him to release me. But he had pulled down my salwar in a gruff manner. That’s my shame-shame part, I had wanted to scream. Then, I averted my gaze when he hitched up his dhoti. A searing pain shot through my body, and I passed out.

“Why can’t we have a toilet in our house? The sarpanch has it!” I had asked maa one afternoon, chewing on a rubbery roti.

“We cannot afford it!” she had said, wiping her tears.

Is it a crime to be poor? I continued to lie on the grass, motionless. Maa would be angry with me. She would blame for going out alone in the night. But what could I do? I had to urgently pee, and I had prodded her to accompany me to the open fields. But she continued to sleep on. Maybe she was too tired from the slaps she had received from baba.

“It’s only a matter of five minutes,” I had reasoned to myself.

I coughed loudly. The breeze bullied the reeds forcing them to swish and sway to its vagaries, forwards and backwards, this way and that. Everything was as it had been yesterday and the day before. The cuckoo bird continued its ‘coo-coo-once-is-not-enough-here’s-another’ coo-coo call, pleased with its own poetics, its rhythm unfaltering. So much had transpired, yet nothing had changed. I was sure nobody would miss me. Life would go on. Maa might cry for a day or two, a voice inside me whispered. But another one reared its head and reminded me of bhaiyya and his countless demands.

My teacher always used to say that I had a bright future, and that I had a way with words. She had read out to me poems sometimes while accompanying me to my house, which my classmates never had grasped. Would she miss me? Would it pain her to see her favourite student being absent from her class?

I got up slowly. I turned around to look for my clothes, when I gasped out aloud. In front of me lay a fifteen-year-old girl. Her fair body was covered in black and blue bruises. A pool of blood had accumulated between her thighs. Her body was still. Anguish rose inside me. I had failed to keep my promise to maa. If only I could tell her that the son of the sarpanch had also shown his shame-shame part to me. It had pained so badly! Trust me! Would he be punished too, maa?

This story was shortlisted for our September 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest. Our juror for the month Manjul Bajaj says “A very bleak story echoing the grim reality of rural India that we read about. A good attempt. I would recommend making it a stronger story by not telling it as a flashback. Let the reader arrive at the end after living through the event with the narrator.”

Image source: Maica from Getty Images Signature Free for Canva Pro

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About the Author

Narayani Manapadam

I am a boring IT professional, lost in the monotonous world of Excel. So, I seek refuge in Word, pun intended. And.. I am a crazy cat person, a badge I proudly flaunt. read more...

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