Yoo hoo!! I am here! Behind the bushes, under the leaves…look! Here!!
I guess you can’t see me because the red stains have turned brown and are camouflaging with the dried leaves and mud.
Hey!! The wind just blew away some leaves atop me… NOW can you see me??
Huh! Looks like you have decided to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to my appeals. On that note, tell me, did you hear her desperate pleas for help?
When he first grabbed her in the forest, she screamed loudly after that he closed her mouth and I heard her painful, muffled cries. She was hurting… but I couldn’t do anything; I was the first thing that he grabbed at and threw away. I could feel her bosom imploring me to stay back, but I was helpless – no match for his calloused, powerful hands.
He flung me carelessly and as I was flying across the jungle when I realised that this was the last time that I would see her.
My mind raced to the first time I met Meena….
I remember little about how I was born. Not surprising because nobody does, do they? They unwrapped me from a plastic wrapping and hung me on the display window. That’s the first thing that I remember about the beginning of my life. I lazily opened my eyes to the hustle bustle of a busy market. All around me were colourful saris, dupattas and dresses. Above the noises of the market, I could hear the clothes chatting among themselves. One of them told me I was a dupatta, a bright yellow one with a golden border. I swayed back and forth thanking my new friend and enjoying the attention from the passersby.
My friends informed me we were in the Punjabi market in Hathras. I heard some men talking about how despite it being 2019, shops were available at a rent of INR 11 rupees per month in this market. They said it Hathras was a poor district in Uttar Pradesh. I wondered what price they pegged me at.
Just then, a bunch of girls barged into the shop, giggling and chattering non-stop. At first there was pure chaos and later I learned that one of them was going to get married. The others were there to tease her and help her shop.
I couldn’t hear half the things they were saying because all the surrounding clothes started whispered loudly, “Pick me!” “Pick me!” “Pick me!”.
I wondered if the girls could hear the garments. I kept silent because all this was new for me; I was still getting used to it.
I heard a loud squeal of happiness!! She had chosen me! I was so happy because she was full of life. She hurried home and then showed off in front of her brothers, sisters and parents. I remember that she was trying me on in her bedroom when her mother walked in and pinned me on both shoulders and placed me neatly across Meena’s breasts.
She said in a low voice, “Gehne ki tarah dupatta pehnna seeko. Ladko ki aankhe neechi rahengi.” (Make your dupatta your prized jewel, it will keep the boys at bay)
Her mother was wrong – whether she was wearing a dupatta or a burkha, it didn’t matter to the boys. It was what was under the dupatta and between her legs that interested them more.
One evening, four monsters pounced on her while she was returning from college. They they attacked her like hungry scavengers. While one satisfied himself the other two pinned her down firmly and the fourth one did a victory dance around her. After all four had had their turns, they got time to see how she lay like a helpless piece of flesh – that’s when the devil took over. They poked and prodded her; she tried to run…she spotted me under the tree, grabbed me and covered her bare bosom, her body was full of cuts and bruises and she limped towards the road.
The weirdest of them all, who walked with a limp grabbed her right leg and she fell forward on her face. He turned her, pulled me off and threw me away. He then started plucking at her breasts and biting her like a hungry animal. The rest of them arrived at the spot and they started fighting over who gets to throw the first stone at her.
I watched them tie her naked, bleeding body to a tree and started pelting stones at her. She had no energy to scream. Her non-responsive manner seemed to make them upset and one of them hurled a slightly bigger rock at her. She whimpered, and they shouted in joy! This went on for a while till she was unconscious.
The phone in her purse started ringing.
The ringtone played, “Mere ghar aaye hai ek nanhi pari!” It was her mother.
The ironic lyrics echoed in the silent forest and broke the pace of the atrocities. They suddenly stopped and ran away.
I watched her helplessly from under the leaves. She was still tied to the tree, naked and bleeding, slouched forward and stayed there for a very long time. I couldn’t make out if she was conscious because after a while her whimpering had stopped. The forest patrol car found her after a few hours and whisked her away.
Even though the entire area was sealed, there was a flurry of reporters, local politicians and public who kept visiting the spot. Whenever anyone passes by, I scream from my spot in a hope that they would see me. I think the incident made me turn invisible.
A few days ago, some boys visited the spot when no one was around. They were continuously chattering about the incident. One of them played a video on their phones. The video spoke about how the evidence was inconclusive and they couldn’t affirm that rape was committed.
I wriggled and jiggled in anger and frustration. Screamed out my threads to tell those boys they hid me among the dried leaves.
They must know that I am a prime witness, I saw everything. I recognize all the monsters and can help the police nail them.
Find me. Please…find me!
I am the dupatta that her mother lovingly draped over her daughter’s virtuous bosom. I let down her mother and Meena. I couldn’t protect her from their prying eyes. I lay helplessly while they hunted her like a pack of hungry wolves.
I am the culprit; I didn’t help her.
I am selfish because I am narrating the story without referring to the harsh truth that Meena was dead much before they found her.
I am a liar because I didn’t tell you he used me to strangulate her for a brief while before she struggled her way out from his ravenous grip. Actually, I am ashamed and that’s why I couldn’t tell you.
Find me. Please find me.
I am not ready for the political and media circus that will surround me. There will be many who will question my testimony and mock my presence. Vested interests will decipher and conjure sub-texts from my statements. But that is not the worst part.
The worst part is that millions of citizens will hide behind their phones and computers and talk about woman empowerment and stopping rape. More than half of these will go back home and abuse their mothers, sisters, girlfriend, wife and relatives.
What’s even worse is that the womenfolk will join the banter and join the jamboree in either putting down the other woman or attempting to uplift her. In both cases, Meena and her pain will disappear into oblivion.
I couldn’t help her. Hathras, Jaipur, Mumbai, Pune – my helplessness is prevalent across the country. I couldn’t prevent the Hathras Horror, nor could I do anything for Nirbhaya. I am a nincompoop. A useless piece of cloth. The daughter of India treats me like a shield but I am merely a tool that they tug at to pull her closer, a murder weapon, used to strangulate her.
Don’t find me. I don’t have the energy to witness another rape of my intentions and truth of my testimony.
Note: NCRB’s report on September 29, 2020 records, One Rape Every 16 Minutes in India: India recorded an average of 87 rape cases daily in 2019 and overall 4,05,861 cases of crime against women during the year, a rise of over 7% from 2018, the latest government data released on September 29, 2020.
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