I was 7 when you came to see us. You, a visiting relative, came stocked with sweets, toys and tales aplenty. My brothers and I loved you, for you added colour to our bleak, dusty existence. You enthralled us with stories from- what was to us, the biggest wonder in the world- the city. Rapt, we would listen when you described the big buses which can carry A Lot of people at a time and how it can drive without stopping (Unlike our lazy bullock). We would watch you with wide eyed wonder as you showed with your arms stretched wide, how wide the roads are and run, clutching the end of your kameez, giggling, as you showed us how the trains run. We laughed when you told us about the People Of The City sitting on a chair to pee and felt sad for the poor Women of the City who have so few clothes to wear that half their bodies are left uncovered.
I was so amazed by you, that when you came that night and asked me to come outside with you, I gladly obliged. I still remember how dark the night was and how tightly I held on to your hand as we walked into the bushes. I couldn’t contain my excitement, anticipating what new things you would show me this time. I was already preparing to wake my brothers up after we went back to tell them that you had chosen only me to give this special gift. And mid-dream you touched me. At first my cheeks, then my tiny chest…then with your groping fingers you undressed me. You did things which my 7 yr old mind couldn't grasp. I lay there, biting down the pain and holding back the screams…maybe I need to prove myself to deserve the gift? Surely there was a gift?
And then, when you were done, you got up and left. I lay there, in the bushes, bleeding, waiting for you to come back with the gift. You never came back.
The next day my father found me, lying naked, next to the bushes. He rushed back into the house and saw that you had left. He came back to me and jolted me out of sleep- A light dream where I was playing with a pretty doll you’d promised you would bring me. He woke me up and slapped me. Again and again and again. Then he sat down and cried as he pulled at his hair. I wanted to go and hug him, ask him what the matter was- but I was scared he would beat me up again. I stayed there till his loud sobs turned into whimpers and eventually died down. Then he picked me up, took me inside and wrapped me in a blanket.
I have stayed in ever since.
You visited me often, in my darkest nightmares. I run and you chase. Chase me with a doll…till I fall off a cliff and wake up in tears.
Yesterday was the last dream I had of you. 9 yrs. For 9 yrs I haven’t slept without seeing you in my dreams. I yearned to sleep without waking up. Without tearing up. Without knowing that I am torn. Forever, unmade.
So here I lie, floating in the river, dreaming blissfully of things other than you.
Disclaimer: This is not my story. But it is the story of thousands of other girls, in India and around the world. A story which repeats itself everyday, taking with it lives of innocent girls, burying their dreams deep below.