From the Days of Rajni

One from the archives. This piece found a place in the HER WORLD section of THE TRIBUNE published on August 26, 2001. One of my very early and raw pieces, it came much before the advent of the #MeToo movement and similar stuff. It can also be accessed on  www.tribuneindia/days of Rajnisad-young-woman-girl-sitting-floor-corner-room-66390371

Not that I ever knew why she stood her ground. Not that I ever wondered either! For someone who stood barely four feet above the ground, Rajni’s battles seemed incomprehensible. Still I loved her. Because everyone else did. Because my mom loved her. Every time Rajni appeared armed with courage, I could sense my mother smile in anticipation of something similar happening in her life. But mom and I weren’t working for DD you see. And in real life battles are hard to fight….. still harder to win. Time elapsed. It flew. My four feet added another one. My mom didn’t grow taller. I thought the onerous kitchen stunted her growth. But I wasn’t too sure. Because she always smiled, even though she had been declared guilty of having borne two girls, like some “water-borne disease.” My education was embellished in the best available institutes in order to rehabilitate some sublime aspirations. And I never felt the need to question, to ask. I never felt she needed to remember Rajni.

You are never aware of some crude realities (realities are almost always crude!) until….My mom still stood in the kitchen. And now she walked me ko stand beside her. I had no qualms, although I wondered how anybody could spend a lifetime there! But some deep secrets must always remain buried. And so I never asked.

My nineteen years had added a good deal of feathers in my cap. And yet life takes bizarre turns. Nirmal uncle stayed with us for four days. My dad’s friend—I had heard of him every time they spoke of America on TV. He was always mentioned at home then. That evening he was to leave us all and go. Mom went out and about shopping for him. I stayed over. His American talks lured me.

Nirmal uncle left and I was nowhere to be found. The dingy storeroom in the basement was where I hid. Despondent, forlorn. The door screeched and my mom entered. I shrivelled and slid into a corner for fear of any ray of light (hope) reaching me. I never wanted to be discovered. Never ever. My mom came closer. She met a hollow gaze. Last night we had witnessed a discussion on sexual abuse, harassment and rape. My mom and I followed a long silence. I knew that this silence was to stretch into eternity. There was a session of some serious talk between my mother and me. No, it was a monologue. My mother spoke. I listened and I understood. I had to understand. Some incidents are too gruesome to be mentioned at all. The chapter had to be shut. And with every argument that my mother gave, I reached the grand finale of a life born, nurtured and buried in silence.

I lay on my back and looked at the sky. I saw Rajni. Beckoning and calling,, I looked downstairs and saw my mom…. some distances, are inconceivable.

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