The Solitary MaidenA Story by Shadows of Memories
I ran to the balcony as I heard the ambassador car stopped in front of our main gate. On the morning itself, I got the phone-call from my mother that she’d be sending her by the driver. As I peeped through and tried to get more detail peek, I found a short thin man getting out of the car with a torn old duffle bag on his shoulder and a skinny girl, aged around mid teens, scaly dark-skinned and oiled-hair that was neatly tied, wearing an unfit long frock. I indicated the driver, to let them come inside and wait downstairs. In haste I draped my housecoat on me and tried coming to the ground-floor in high pace.
‘’Namaste, Madamji’’, softly said the not so impressive figure, bowing down with his folded hands, to see me coming down and opening the living room for them.
‘’Namaste”, I responded in reflex, and asked them to get inside the room and take their seats. From behind, I could see the girl, with her shining widened eyes opened wide and capturing every sneaks and peeks of my house, more precisely the spacious hall room, in her sentient silhouette. Instantly the girl took her seat on the carpet on the floor, as the short man pinched her and indicated her to sit on it. He was still waiting for my order to be seated, with the duffle-bag on his shoulder and his hands folded together at me. I felt so uncomfortable with the man’s extra-humble attitude. Hence, I asked him to take his seat on the couch at his left. He acted like a disciplined student of any school. I instructed my maid to get them two glasses of sorbets. I could well imagine at what time of the day they had left their village to reach my house and how would have been their journey for long three hours of a crowded local train and then another forty-five minute by car in such a scorching summer afternoon. Before I could try offering them the drinks by me, the man almost snatched the glass from the tray, kept on the tea-table and drank full of it in a single breath. He seemed so thirsty and hungry too. The little girl still was kind of astonished and turning her head around slowly and repeatedly to scan my well-decorated living room.
I looked at the girl and asked her, “What’s your name?”
Without being delayed for even a second, the man replied, “Ramdas, Madam.”
I was little confused to know her name as Ramdas as that sounded a bit unusual to be a female name. I exclaimed to reconfirm. Ramdas blushed and laughed that he made a mistake to understand my question and confirmed the girl’s name as Laali. I noticed as Ramdas laughed, his semi-toothless gums adored his dark shinning wrinkled unshaven face that complimented well with his bald head. I smiled at him too and took my eyes away from him to look at Laali.
“Laali, do you know to read and write?” I asked her softly who was still wandering virtually with her eyes on the walls and roofs and corners of the hall. I found Ramdas, confounded why I was interviewing her about her literacy. Still managing himself, Ramdas pinched Laali and threw a red-eye at her. Laali little scared and confused, looked at my face with her eyes requesting me to repeat my question. I smiled and asked her the same question once again.
“I only know to write my name.” The slow but spontaneous reply came from Laali, trying hard to hide her facial rodent-palette.
Ramdas was getting restive to settle down the money and leave. Ramdas is her uncle, who by profession is a bullock-cart driver in my father’s native. Though apparently, he looks very simple and clean, but at times behaves extra-smart and defiles situations. Laali being a parent-less child, had been brought up by this uncle and his family, who now is trying to make money off her for whatever he had invested during her past days. I finalized the amount as eight hundred rupees a month, to be directly sent to him at his village through my messenger. He handed over the bag to Laali and whispered something into her ears briskly that almost petrified her and made her look pale. As I frowned with a clear discontent on my face, he left with his same demurring ‘Namaste’ to me.
I got worried when I came to know of her having lice in her hair and which needed an immediate treatment. I just could not take chances with my two year old baby son, still so small to bear the pain. Soon, I got a bottle of lice-treatment medicine and informed her about the usage. I tried finding a few of my old childhood dresses for her temporary wear that would fit her well and properly.
She was then groomed well enough with no more lice or so much of scaly skins too. Though, sometimes her yellowish front pair of teeth, which could never fit themselves in the mouth and peep even through her closed lips, made her look cute, she used to try so hard to hide them using all her facial muscles while at big laughs or small smiles. I always felt so covetous whenever I looked at her bright shining black-eyes, ennobling and amplifying her beauty. I found her many a time, living in her own realms and dream world, when she restricted to answer back at my call and continues to hum bucolic tunes. Though my mother wanted me to appoint this rural girl for doing all domestic works, but I circumscribed her jobs to play and spent hours with my son and sometimes may be just helping at my hand. I had decided to invest part of my leisure hours at brushing up her literacy, which I hesitated to disclose to my mother so soon.
Laali being a very susceptive and responsive girl would take good care of my son, when I used to be staying out for some works. I could stay away from the tensions, if Jiko was with Laali. Jiko, who was then just two, could easily make anybody go mad with his constant notorious plans and their executions. But Laali was the one, who could easily handle him with all her imaginative stories from the land of kings and queens. Initially, though Jiko had a major problem with her presence all of a sudden in our house, but later on he always needed this girl to score for his cycling or football. They both grew up like siblings together and I found my girl-child in Laali who was aborted by the miscarriage of my first issue. Laali had been staying up with us like an epiphyte, with her big heart and rodent smiles all around. One would never come across a “no” from her for anything on the earth in return. Her hums used to fill up my house like a non-stop radio and I felt good that she had adjusted so well with my son and others in the house. Sometimes, she tried to copycat me putting on my cosmetics on her face and hands in my absence. Though she looked like a cute joker with her painted face and lips, but she pretended as the queen like she used to narrate to Jiko. I could well imagine she had started idealizing me as her perfect idol, like any daughter would do to see her mother.
As the seasonal sale approached the urban-summers, my aunt and mother decided to visit the city for any budget-shopping, staying in my bungalow. That did sound so pleasant and pleasuring for me, that I could not resist myself from cooking variant dishes for their lunch. They would be here at any time, in the afternoon. They also had been missing their beloved grandson since couple of months as it had really become difficult for us to make off our schedule to visit except on some occasions. I found Laali to be extra enthusiastic to take care of the house and re-doing with its decor. The little girl seemed to work hard to surprise my mother with her angelic touch.
She ran downstairs fast to heft the luggage, making sure my mother and aunt should not feel any discomfort and difficulty by any means for anything. We decided to visit the sale-markets after the completion of our lunch, and would not take Laali and Jiko, as it was hot and sultry outside. I made Laali understand about Jiko’s food and other things to be taken care of and also told them to visit the nearby park in the evening. Though my mother was not really so comfortable to leave Jiko alone with Laali, I knew that was the best thing we could do to let them avoid the scorching afternoons. So we drove the car away for the markets and left them in the house along with darwanji and Purnima, my maid.
We had a gala shopping time and also lavish coffee breaks in between to give us a stupendous family-treat and entertainment. There were so many toys and clothes for Jiko and I bought few salwars for Laali too and some utensils and cooking ware for myself. My mother and aunt almost bought shops of so many things, including bed-sheets, curtains, door mats and linens. The traffic was congested enough as the busy city draped in the streetlights of dusk and the cacophony of innumerous vehicles heading back to respective homes. And so was our car got trapped in the immobile traffic-jam on the by-pass. The air-conditioner in the car was full on, trying to let us relax in the sultry season, when my eyes through the covered-window tracked few motorists with disappointed faces and wiping off the sweat and heat. No trace of cloudy sky or rainy drizzle was cited in the atmosphere. The weather was getting exceptionally hot, humid and swampy. The footpaths were adorned by the ice-cream sellers and nimbu-paani trolleys. Every now and then they were getting rushes of people quenching up their thirst and dry throats. The gul-mohar trees here and there by the roadsides seemed to woo the travellers and the passers-by and lured them to get mesmerized by their beauty and lust. I was getting restless and trying to hold back the hands of my watch, as I had been trying to call residential phone-number for over an hour but could not get through. Every moment I was scouting the time and getting tensions inside. I though knew Laali was enough to take care of Jiko, but I was getting antsy for both of them. I could see the stolid queue of different vehicles clotted altogether in a quiescent road rage that had made the city’s busiest road stagnant and paralytic. We would take still twenty five minutes drive to reach my bungalow. We could not understand what had happened for which such a mess of mass was being created. Soon we got to hear some frazzled report of an old man, crossing the road, rushed over by a speeding truck, which was the root cause of the clogging. The instant death of the old man aroused the mob to go against the police and the public transports. I felt so disturbed inside with the communiqué of his death and started getting even more perturbed to get back home.
The twenty-five minute journey was extended to that of more than forty five minutes finally to anchor our car to our bungalow. We were so tired and worn out enough to plunge ourselves to the dinner-table and then bed. Suddenly I found darwanji rushing towards us and he looked so tensed up and panic stricken. I frowned and was waiting for him to utter words. My mother and aunt were getting the packets of stuffs from the car. My driver was also helping them.
“Madam Ji...Madamji...” He was almost panting in pangs of fear and pain... “Madamji, Jikodada.... and Laali ...”
“What happened? What has happened to Jiko?” I shouted in an anticipation of spoors of losing something precious.
“Madamji ... Laali is hospitalised.” His last words gonged on my eardrums and I could not believe what he said.
Immediately we drove off to the nearby hospital, and found Laali under ventilation. She was resting in the ICCU peacefully with innumerable cut marks and blood clots on her face and hands that made my eyes filled with water. I felt as if somebody holding my oesophagus so tight and firm that I would probably get choked inside. I could see the bunny teeth coming out of her closed lips which she no more was trying to suppress. Her condition was obviously not at all good and she was announced to be in coma. The doctor confirmed me with her several fractures and multi-organ malfunctions that led to my utter anxiety and disbelief. I could not imagine still how a fourteen year old girl faced those drunken musketeers and might have fought back to save herself till she was in a sense.
Even after informing Ramdas and his family so many times about such miserable conditions of Laali, they did not turn up to visit her even for once. People when becomes unwanted, they are classified as burdens and therefore they are supposed to be neglected and ignored forever, even at their last breaths. I understood, I would have to act as her both guardian and parent, as she was also an anon boat on the vast ocean of life. It stroked me about my days when I was in the most crisis periods of the life, and decided to sail through all alone just with my son, as a single parent.
Darwanji could not hold his tears to narrate the whole incident: Laali as usual took Jiko to the nearby park in the evening. A small narrow lane has to be crossed to reach faster to the park. And while returning back they as usual took the same lane to reach back the home. And there three hungry drunken men took the corner under the street-lamp to eat my little Laali. Each of them raped her several times and left her aloof till she started bleeding profusely and finally became unconscious. Everywhere on her body were marks of sharp claws and teeth that tried tearing her flesh after tearing her dress. They seemed to be so unsatisfied that they possibly even tried to engulf her lungs and kidneys too. They hurt her like three ravenous beasts. Jiko was also hit hard on his head and he was too found lying senseless nearby. The postman found them lying likewise on the road, and was shocked to unearth the whole scenario. He recognised Jiko and so informed darwanji about the whole of it. Jiko was fine with initial first aids and some hot milk but Laali was inert. As the residential number was dead by the practise of the service provider, and also there was not much time to waste, darwanji without waiting for me took the strong decision to put her in the nearby hospital.
It has been now almost more than seven months for her in the hospital. The doctor suggested taking her back home as there is nothing more to be recovered and improved about her. Though she does not need oxygen supply for twenty-four hours or a food pipe to suck the food liquefied, but she stays benumbed and still like a lifeless corpse. Two weeks have passed she had been brought back home, and I miss her heedful scanning eyes; she does not hum those unknown tunes anymore or try looking beautiful applying my lipsticks on her thin lips, she only stares at the walls with her eyeballs fixed on them, that can even penetrate the concrete built to create a pore. The reddish marks and bruises on her body are almost faded away by now, but not the incident from the brain and its rooms. The police say they are still working on our FIR to find out the unctuous sinners soon, though there is nothing really to believe what they say. The ‘Laali’ who I invented as the most beautiful human being on the earth, with full of innocence and a non-stop slice of smile on her face, turned incurious and secluded. The obscurity and the ambiguity of solitude crawl silently in her veins leaving her vague and indifferent. I know I have become a good mother to her, but again I miss to understand the untold thoughts bottled up behind those still eyelids. I can understand the predicaments she had passed through and the trauma of being lusted, but I am unable to let her understand the primitiveness of those culprits, who are liable and punishable for their acts, that made her victimised of the incident. I don’t know too how to explain her about the uppity of the society that leaves us with an uncivilised sphere of brutes with no evolution at the end of the day. The only thing I know now that her dull uncanny numb stare petrifies me every moment I look at her eyes, being left and cursed with such calamitous life ahead and that the fourteen years of her life is being bottlenecked forever.
© 2012 Shadows of Memories
Shelved in 2 LibrariesAdded on April 7, 2012
Last Updated on April 7, 2012