The Window to a Bare Body has been edited by Riya Jhala.
Covering myself with the bed sheet, I sat near the window and looked down on the street. As usual, the ladies were bargaining with the vegetable vendor. He was ready to make a deal, but eventually, agreed to add some free dhaniya in the bag. The heavenly aroma from a nearby sweet shop would linger in the whole area. It always transported me back to my childhood. However, it did not last long, because the stench of the open gutter replaced it. The drain running along the side of the street was now like a river. I frequently heard the children shout, “Don’t let the ball fall into the Saraswati!”.
It was always noisy out there, with the constant honking of vehicles during peak hours. Every day there was traffic. Every day, the bond between the horn and the driver never weakened but only grew intense as the minutes passed. There was this one day when a herd of stubborn buffaloes blocked the whole street. I guess they had made up their mind to teach these humans some patience. No matter how hard people tried to shoo them away, they did not move an inch. When the herd realized the humans had given up, they got up and left on their own. A few old three-storey buildings stood between the shops. It almost felt like a grandmother was holding her grandkids. I miss her, I miss everyone.
I was about to get up when my eyes caught the television screen displayed in the electronics shop. There was a girl who was kidnapped and locked in a room for days. Two men raped her every day, only because she had registered a FIR to the police against a stalker who followed her wherever she went. Squinting, I peeked through the small grill square of the window to get a closer look. It was obvious that she died out of pain. I got up, laid down with the little strength that I had left and stared at the ceiling. The window reminded me of the blood clotted wounds, bite marks, nail scratches on my back, the burning sensation and the continued soreness. The fan moved at its own pace, no matter what speed you set.
I lay in my own sweat and coldness for a long time. It took me just a few weeks to become a passive entity, but it did not matter. I stared at the window, the only open space from where light could enter. Closing my eyes, I let the darkness drape over me. At first, I was scared of it and craved for light, but now, I was accustomed to the hollowness. It had already nibbled away at my soul.
The window did not make much of a difference, it could not set me free.
It could not give me my childhood back, it was just an illusion for escape. I opened my eyes to find a butterfly sitting on my belly slowly fluttering its wings. It had been months since I had seen these creatures.
Memories rushed in, and I remembered the last time I saw one. It skipped and danced in my family’s fields. Me and my brother used to go to the fields every evening after school and swing under the tree. Before father finished his work in the field we both would run after butterflies with a net to catch them and hold them in our hands, just to compete who could catch the prettiest one. At home, we would show it our mother and let her decide. However, she always said, “Both are beautiful like my children”. After my father passed away, I stopped going to school and helped my mother in the field. One day as I was walking back home, I was grabbed. From then on, I have been locked in this room of torture.
My thoughts came back to the girl I saw. I wondered if she ever tried to defend herself by hitting those rapists or fighting her way back the way I did! But all I received was brutal pounding and thrashing. I felt every depraved thought of his between my legs. A sense of dominance in my vagina and barbaric screams in his grip on my breast. But all that I could do was allow my tears to dry out by the time he could please himself. I wanted to scream, shout out loud, “Ma I am here! Save me, leave me, stop. It is paining”. But my screams were mute by birth, I was born without a voice box. As the butterfly flew out of the window leaving me with memories, my eyes followed till it disappeared into thin air.
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