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Trigger Warning: This deals with child sexual abuse and may be triggering for survivors.
It has now been a week, and Nandhini has almost settled into her new job. Nandhini’s grandmother named her so, as their family experienced immense joy after her birth. She grew up as a single child in their family in a village deep south. Her parents were farmers managing their tiny land that sufficed their daily needs. When Nandhini turned twenty, her father passed away due to cardiac arrest. Soon they were in unseen debt. With their family friend Muthaiyah’s help, she entered the city.
Not just the environment, everything looked different to her. The tall buildings, busy people even at night, different types of vehicles clamping the roads, and the list went on.
Muthaiyah worked as a security guard in a fourteen-story apartment. One of their residents was a couple, Sanjay and Roopa, who lived with their seven-year-old daughter Mia. Sanjay worked on the cruise and spent most of the time in the waters. He would visit once a year and that time the house would be filled with all their relatives.
Roopa began to find it hard to manage Mia. Though they had house help, Roopa was tired of Mia’s tactics. If not a constant watch on her, the roof would be on the floor. After hours of discussion, she finally made up her mind to hire a caretaker for Mia so that she too would have her “me-time”.
The word passed around and Muthaiyah felt Nandini would suit the role. He convinced her that it was safe for her to stay there, and that he who is like her uncle, would always be present on the premises if ever she needed anything. He also taught her the basic words for her to understand and communicate with Roopa and Mia so that language wasn’t a barrier. He did give her a heads-up on Mia’s naughtiness.
Nandhini’s calm attitude attracted Roopa. She instinctively felt that Nandhini could be trusted. She would get all the basic needs and a salary.
Nandhini was happy with her salary. She quickly calculated that all their loans could be filled in two to three years’ time. And if she stayed a little while, she could also retrieve their lost lands and continue with farming.
“I like you, Nandhini. I am sure Mia will too. Remember to be by her side always. She is too mischievous. I am tired of scolding her. Ensure she doesn’t make the house a mess and herself too.”
“Sure Madam,” Nandhini nodded with folded hands.
“That sounds too formal.”
“Can I call ‘Akka’ instead?”
“Deal!” Roopa smiled.
Nandhini watched over Mia from the time she woke and left for school. In that time Nandhini helped with the household chores. Her neatness and perfectness won Roopa’s heart. After Mia returned from school, Nandhini sat with her all the time.
Mia was not happy about someone watching over her. She could no longer wipe the paint off her hands using the curtains, nor make a drawing on the floor using her noodles and then try to eat it off.
Nandhini knew being strict wouldn’t help build a bridge between them. She had to win Mia’s heart with her love.
“Yes, Aunty!” Mia replied still tapping her elephant on the floor.
“You like painting, right?”
Now her face gleamed.
“You can paint on my face and hand, as you wish.”
That was a good start. Mia began to get close to Nandhini. Sitting on her back as Nandhini pretended to be an elephant made it more fun for her. They invented their own games and Mia loved to be in Nandhini’s presence.
Muthaiyah kept tabs on Nandhini and ensured she was comfortable.
Roopa inched towards her goal. Leaving Mia with Nandhini she went out on her personal work whenever she wished.
Her neighbors weren’t supportive of Nandhini working there.
“Did you check her background? We just can’t trust girls who walk in from villages. Do keep an eye on her.”
When Pamela Aunty warned Roopa, she only smiled back because she knew about Nandhini well.
That evening Roopa was out with her friends. Mia was watching her favourite cartoon. The doorbell rang.
Nandhini opened to see a forty-year-old man standing.
“Rithesh Uncle!” Mia exclaimed.
“Please come in Sir. Madam has gone out,” Nandhini let him in. Though she wasn’t aware of him, she knew he was a known person by noticing Mia’s reaction.
Rithesh handed over the chocolate box to Mia and she was excited to see a huge one.
“Get me some tea,” he ordered.
Nandhini went into the kitchen but kept an eye on Mia.
Mia was busy opening the box.
“Oh my darling, everything is only for you,” he said, and then he lifted Mia and placed her on his lap.
Suddenly Mia’s laughter was missing. Nandhini rushed out.
To her horror, she saw his hands rolling up Mia’s frock and that disturbed reaction on Mia’s face was enough to explain the situation. Quickly she grabbed the mop stick and unscrewed the cloth part.
She stood before him.
“Leave Mia now,” she said in a commanding tone.
He looked up to see a fierce figurine raging in the fire.
“Do you know who I am? I will dismiss you right away!”
Nandhini pulled Mia and made her stand in her room.
“You think you can escape me? Oh, you have a weapon, a mop stick!!” Rithesh laughed out loud managing to hold his devilish attitude all over him.
Mia held her teddy bear tightly watching over them.
Nandhini began to rotate the stick with one hand. To the left and then right she swayed it all along. Her speed also increased.
Shocked within seconds, Rithesh couldn’t understand, but within a few minutes, he was on the ground.
Just then, Roopa entered the house, and she panicked.
“What’s happening here?”
Mia ran to her.
“Ma, Rithesh Uncle came today. He got me chocolates. Suddenly he did something Ma. I never liked it, but he held me so firmly Ma. Then Nandhini Aunty came with this stick. She turned it around and Uncle fell to the floor.”
Roopa understood the situation and her eyes turned moist.
“What did you do Nandhini?”
“Akka, it is called ‘Silambam’, a type of martial art. My father taught me from when I was five. I couldn’t protect our land from the loan sharks. But given any day I could save myself from these kinds of animals and today I knew I also could save other girls. I am proud of my father and someday I will get back our land and make my father proud of me.”
Roopa hugged Nandini.
“Will you teach Mia?”
“Oh sure Akka.”
The three embraced a beautiful moment and an everlasting bond of love dawned significantly.
Image source: Idol of Hindu Goddess Durga during Bengal’s Durga Puja festival by shouvik mondal from Getty Images Free for Canva Pro
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