Bone-crushing pain! That’s not how I had envisioned my first few hours outside my home. A sweet kiss, a tight hug, or loving hands caressing my cheeks is what I had dreamt of. But my dreams lie crushed under gnawing teeth, suffocating in the clutch of rotten stench. A soft fleece blanket would have been much better than these inky newspapers, stinky cartons, and soiled sheets. Alas, reality vastly differs from dreams, and this marauding pack cares little for my body or dreams.
Hot, moist air seeps into my skin through the open gashes. My yowls go unheard under their ferocious growls, just like how her muffled cries were extinguished by a vicious monster many moons ago.
I wish she would rescue me from here, but I know she can’t. How can one prisoner rescue another? I don’t hate her, and I don’t blame her.
She is responsible for neither the beginning nor the end of my story. Both were beyond her…
She sits cross-legged under the shade of a banyan tree, rocking her doll to sleep. Her bony rib cage juts out from her threadbare frock, which is clearly two sizes small. She digs her nails into her matted hair and scratches her scalp, inspects what she has found, and turns to her doll again. Her eyes widen as she spots a familiar figure walking toward her waving a large packet.
The leaves under her rustle as she rocks back and forth and waves her arms in the air. He kneels in front of her, wipes his greasy hand on his overalls, and brushes the hair out of her eyes. Tearing open the packet, he places a few brightly coloured toffees on her lap. A wide grin forms on her face as she grabs the sugary delight. The wrappers crinkle as she pulls them open. Little drops of sticky red juice drip down her mouth. He wipes it with the tip of his thumb while she continues munching. He sits down next to her and rubs his hand over her stooped back. “I’ll get you a new frock next time. What colour do you like?”
But she pays no attention to him. Her gaze is fixed on the saree-clad lady walking across the lawn. She stands up immediately, scratching furiously at her arms.
He murmurs a few incoherent words, raises his hand to his forehead in a mock salute, and disappears behind the bushes before the lady can say anything. The lady holds the little girl by her hand and pulls her away towards the ramshackle building, ignoring the girl’s grunts.
She twists her back and hisses, pointing towards her abandoned treasures, and tries to wrestle her wrist free, but is unable to release herself from the lady’s iron grip. She continues to wail as another pair of hands grab her and drag her frail frame over the chipped cement stairs.
Soon, she finds herself back in her room. She flinches her arms and legs as the lady struggles to shove her ankles into the steel shackles. But she gives up after the lady’s fat palm comes pounding on her back. Once the woman leaves, she drags herself towards the lone metal bed in the room, even as the chain rubs against her skin and opens fresh wounds, and leans against the cold bare wall, banging her head against it in slow rhythmic beats.
Sometime during the night when the pale light trickling from under the closed door dims further, she pulls her up onto the bed, curls up in a foetal position, and rocks herself to sleep.
She blinks awake when the door creaks open and lets out a silent squeal when she sees a hand holding her doll through the tiny gap. Her friend in the blue overalls tiptoes in and places the doll in her stretched arms. Wiping her drools with a corner of his shirt, he leaves as noiselessly as he had entered. She drifts into a peaceful slumber, hugging her only beloved possession.
Soon, her friend starts visiting her often in the safety of darkness. Her face fills up with joy every time he comes bearing gifts-toffees, chips, a new comb, a hairband, and a new pink frock. The hassled caretakers in white sarees pay no heed to the articles piling up in the room. How can they notice every single thing when they have so many children to take care of, and that too, children who are not aware of their senses?
Then one dark, dreary night, the inevitable happens.
A warm smile spreads on her face when the door creaks open. Alas, it is not her friend’s regular smile that beams back at her. She sits up straight when she sees the glint in his eyes.
She frowns as he runs his hands all over her. She squirms and grapples to break free, but her stick-like arms are no match against the mountainous force crushing her. He wrenches her frock away even as continues to scratch and shriek.
But no one hears her muffled screams- not the women, not the other children, and certainly not her friend.
No one notices the blood-soaked panty and frock thrown carelessly in a corner.
No one acknowledges the purple bruises running over her body.
And by the time anyone notices the tiny bump under her new frock, it is too late.
But she is the only one who is oblivious to everything- she continues playing with her rag doll, as always.
Satiated, the street dogs leave my mangled remains.
I have so many questions, but no way of getting answers.
Why did this happen to her, and to me? Does she know about me? Who left me here, and who abandoned her? Will she ever find herself?
I just wish she could have held me in her arms the way she held her rag doll.
My biggest regret as my soul leaves my body is I never got to know my mother…