She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. Unsuspecting heads turned to the ravishing beauty sitting upright and alone. Her silky, black hair were tied roughly in an adorable ponytail. Her perfectly diaphanous eyes studied the passers-by on the busy street in the October heat. She wondered how many had the same slimy blood like the one that glistened on the blade beneath her blue Zara scarf. Her heart was beating fast, but, her expression was calm and languid. Her olive skin was cool in the conditioned air of the café. Her head would find a perch on the heels of her palms from time to time when she would keep the hot cup of coffee on the table for a while. There was nothing curious about her. There was something intriguing, though. She had been the ugly duckling at a time. But, today, she was the object of all admiration and envy. She was always aware of the way people looked at her. A fleeting thought passed her mind and she smiled. It would be funny when they would see her as a culprit later today or tonight. All these people will be shaken to their souls. They’d go about telling that they knew something was extraordinary about her, they just didn’t know that she was the Fallen Angel and not the Good one. True, looks can be pretty deceptive.
Divorced, a lady of 33, she sat – a murderer- in her Motherland. Delhi had changed in the couple of years that she had not visited home. Her home back in Banaras had become cleaner, but, that was the only major change that she’d noticed. She was still the talk of the town. People often talked about her beauty and her divorce, always linking them in a mysterious but funny-to her- way. She thought it was hilarious how they tried to join dots about something they didn’t have the remotest idea about. But, that was typical of the society. You really can’t help much with that. The only time, she’d lose it was when her parents or her sister were taunted at about her individuality. And what she did when she would be mad at the imbeciles was just leave them with a smart sarcastic remark to ponder and vex about. She had been saving to take her parents along with her to Dublin where she was the Professor of Ancient Roman History. And had she not been forced to make this visit, she could’ve taken them along with her when she came two months later in December.
Her eyes fell on her blue scarf. It veiled the instrument of her freedom- of many freedoms. It veiled the brave end to her distraught, disgusting, dark childhood, adolescence, life, self. It captivated her vengeance that helped many innocent lives to come alive. She was not filled with a sense of grandeur at the mammoth task that she’d done. She’d known all along that it was bound to happen. She had just done her best to avoid it all along though that meant that she was a highly insecure person, always hiding something so dark, so gory, that it would have driven everyone out of her life. Hiding didn’t help. Everyone who loved her, other than her family, ultimately got frustrated of her mysticism and left her for their own good. They’d never turn back to look at how they’d broken her and how all her efforts at keeping them close had gone waste and she’d been left alone by her loved ones anyway.
She could never muster the courage to tell her parents about it. The tune always stuck awkwardly and she knew, something never felt right. For, however rational it may seem and however strong she maybe, she could never run the risk of losing her parents forever- either by falling in their eyes, or to something more catastrophic by imparting the knowledge. However, there was just one person beside herself and her abuser who silently, helplessly watched it all – her elder sister. Her sister was bound the same way as she was.
Tears threatened to overflow her moist eyes. She picked up a Starbucks tissue and dabbed at her eyes. There was no make-up to worry about ruining, but there was a façade that had to be maintained till the Police came and handcuffed her pretty, slim wrists. There was a faint, impossible hope that she’d escape the country, unconvict, but she knew the chances were slim. Also, she wanted the society to know what harm they’d done and had been doing. True, hers wasn’t the worst life possible. True, Utopia seems impossible, but, there are boundaries that can’t be crossed just because the society and this world don’t have entertainment or a life to keep themselves busy. Curiosity can’t be reprimanded just because the wise aren’t that wise after all. She hoped, her exposure- her “crime”-would end hypocrisy of a tiny section of the society. Wake them to a consciousness that is sensitive and real. But, if that is how the world worked then Galileo and Copernicus wouldn’t have been executed; People wouldn’t be afraid of denouncing the evil that they hailed in the pretext of the latter’s having done godly deeds. It isn’t hard to gain popularity; however, it is hard to be true.
Sipping her coffee and staring at the passers-by with a distant look in her eyes, she began to reflect on her life. It had never been very tedious, now that she looked back. It had never been pleasant either. Or, maybe, all of it had just made her stronger. All of it had redefined her.
She had barely started pre-schooling when, one day, her elder brother- her first cousin- took her to the backyard to play.
She picked up the tissue again and dabbed at her eyes, fearing that it wouldn’t be long before she’d finally breakdown. But, she didn’t want to shed tears in front of a crowd that would never understand her. Actually, she wasn’t sure that anyone would see how her crime was not only justified but also a needed good.
She grew into a lonely, depressed child whose presence repulsed every sweet thing alive. For, the game that had started that day in the backyard had, well… just started. And that innocent child, who would believe anyone, was being mercilessly pawned and beaten in this game.
As years passed, sure she became physically stronger to be able to protect herself a little. But, molestation couldn’t be stopped. That Beast would molest her as and when he pleased and would go unsuspected and unpunished. She often cried to herself. There was no escape. But, relief came when she started college in a different city. It meant that she’d not have to face him again- at least not till she had to return for mid-semester breaks. These were the times that she hated and feared. The only time when she would be a child afraid of the dark yet forced to live in it all night. It was the ugliest punishment in all of this whole wide world. She desperately wished upon red mail vans and any superstition that someone would save her from it, and her family, too. She wanted no association with this. WHY? Oh! Why is HUF such a fuss? What age are we living in? Why can we not coexist peacefully before pointing fingers and accusing of following the Western cult? How is it wrong to live and breathe free if that is what you’re being barred from in a family where the rites are just carcasses of traditions that barely hold any relevance now? Was she even right thinking about and craving her freedom from the pompous shackles of this society? Or, were these corrupt thoughts that would end in her perdition? Would God punish her for raising her voice and even her most intimate thoughts against this society?
A smile lit her lips again, making her eyes darker. She knew now that god was just a belief and she chose to believe that it was in line with all the other fantasies of this world. There came no god to save her and millions others for all their lives. She had her own arguments that were stupid and utterly bold to some and wise and boggling to others. Until much pressured to reveal them, she kept her arguments under veils of discernible disagreement and respect for the other person’s beliefs. Her smile broadened as she realised that she was a taboo of this society. She’d been forced into incestuous relations with her brother; she had been the outcast in school; despite her beauty, she was lonely and divorced. There was no reason for anyone to take pity on her or even slightly sympathise when they saw her face on the newspaper the following day. They knew nothing about her. But, just enough to gossip. Does it matter what people talk about you when you’re at the gallows?
That day, back in Dublin, it had been 9:19 in the morning. She was leaving for her first lecture when her phone rang to her mom’s call. The conversation had been candid. Somehow, she’d sensed that her mother sounded worried. After talking to her dad for a while, she switched back to talking to her mom. As the story unfolded, she was left with a sense of loneliness and humiliation; guilt washed over her as she stood transfixed by her front door. It turned out that her family had rented a portion of the big house to someone with a little daughter. Apparently, this little girl had been playing with the Beastly brother and had returned to her room really late that evening, and ever since she returned, she had been morose and lying in her bed. The little girl didn’t even dine that night. Perhaps, her mother said, that girl had lost some game.
“No one should lose this game, mom. No one should be playing this game!”
But, our Beauty said not a word. She hung up, promising to be there, soon. The water had gone overhead. She had to do something, now.
She cried that night. There was no one to talk to. These weren’t pleasant things. These were things that made anyone, with shame and reputation, avert his eyes. She had no shoulder to rest her head on. Much worse, was the guilt that was killing her. She was cornered-trapped.
Two months after the conversation, she sat in her ancestral house after two years. There, in front of her, stood the uninterested and distracted little girl. She was clearly not interested in meeting this family member. Or, maybe, she had the same fear as her elder counterpart- to be in the presence of the Beast- that monster. If only she knew what bound this tall, picturesque lady to her was a grotesque truth- identity- that never should have been, maybe she would have dared to be more profound in expressing her helplessness that now she spoke shyly only through her eyes.
The week that followed, brought the two victims closer. The elder one took all measures to keep the younger one away from those ugly, abusive clutches. Then, finally came the day when it had to end.
She had always known that it would only end with either of their deaths. She had often thought of killing him, but, a sense of morality and duty towards her family stopped her and made the whole idea seem impossible and wrong.
But, on the auspicious morning of Durgashtami, while all members of the house were at the big festival grounds, hailing a goddess that might have or might not have been, an atheist entered the room where a little girl was brought in by a Beast. There was a knife in her hand that was often used to chop meat in the house. Her eyes were filled with tears of rage, disgust and humiliation. The little girl ran to her for refuge. The Beast fell to his knees, groping about for anything to save him from the pent up lava of the dormant volcano that had finally been roused to life. There was no escape. There was no other end. Beauty killed the Beast in three crude stabs at the heart. The chariots of Gods had descended once again only to be penalised for-what to the world of ignorant was- a heinous crime.
She didn’t expect the world to understand or hail her. She didn’t expect anyone to understand. She didn’t instruct the girl to save her from Justice. Freedom felt good. Freedom emboldened her. There is nothing greater than your dignity. She should’ve raised her voice long back. The real problem is, many of us are too scared to raise our voices; too scared to be the taboo; too scared to stand out in a quaint way; too scared to fight when we can win; too scared to take our chances to make life better; too goddamn scared of this society despite ages of instances and literature for the otherwise circumstances.
Six hours later, she was sitting at the airport, waiting for it to happen, when she spotted the men and women in khaki uniform. She smiled, picked up her luggage and walked over to them. Her family stood there, too. That was when she broke down. She could see, she had been rewarded for her delayed but utmost act of valour by falling in the eyes of her parents that could never leave the ground for shame of their daughter’s deed.
She was interrogated. She was charged for the crime. All the while, she was hurt that her parents be ashamed of her. All the while, she feared what the little girl will have to deal with as she grows up in this insensitive society. All the while, she hoped, she’d done the right thing. For, now, she wasn’t sure anymore.
She was a blotch on the honour of her family. After all, at the end of the day, what matters is, what colour you wear in this society, and though the society ennobles black in a romantic light, it is a sin to be sprayed black by someone else.
Your beauty lies not in what you do for others, but in what others do to you. Because it is hard to be true and harder to lose fear.