The glistening sun drops slipped off the leaf and collected underneath the trunk of the huge tree, the place brightened by yellow grassflowers. It was a beautiful spot to hide, I thought. But then I saw the red kite stuck in the branches of a nearby shrub and reached for it. It wasn’t damaged, I realized. With a bit of thread it could regain its skyward journey. I looked around and there it was, the spool lying hidden in the grass, as if someone had concealed it in a hurry. Tying the thread to the kite, I ran towards the open field, no longer wanting to hide. It would be soon free to fly, I thought happily to myself and ran faster. The winds caught my hair and tossed it about my face as I ran. I looked back to see the kite spread its wings, ready to take off, not realizing the stone on my way. Aaaaaaarrrghh!
The kite! Wait! Why was I shaking? I had fallen down, it’s supposed to hurt. Suddenly there was a sharp pain in my ears and I woke up with a start. Ma was making a lot of signs with her hands and eyes, which didn’t bore too well for me. She seems angry, I realized as I sat up rubbing my eyes, trying to understand what did I do wrong this time. I was just about to get out of the bed, when she caught hold of one of my braids and dragging me, pulled me to the courtyard outside and pointed towards the broken clay pot near the well.
I screwed up my face; this wasn’t me. I never remembered going near the well all morning. I tried shaking my head to make her understand she has got the wrong daughter. Within a fraction of a second Ma brought down her hands on my cheeks and I was left with a burning sensation for a few moments. Out of the corner of my eye I could see my elder sister standing in the verandah and smirking at me.
I looked up through my angry tears towards my mom but realized it wasn’t her fault; what’s worse, even if it was, she won’t know it ever. Grabbing hold of my braids, she pushed me towards my dark room. Subdueing my tears, I sat alone looking out of the window towards the falling afternoon. Soon it would be time for the other kids to come out and play and I would have to go back to my daily chores.
My world was made up entirely of small rituals throughout the day. In the morning when I went out to pick up firewood from the nearby forest, I would stand by and gaze at the rising sun, watching the sky change colours by the minute. Returning, I had to help my mother wash the rice and prepare lunchbox for my sister. Sometimes I couldn’t but feel a pang of envy towards her. Every morning she went out with father along the muddy road that ran across our house, and returned by afternoon, while I had to stay back home and help Ma. The road that took away my sister in the morning occasionally brought back one or two visitors in bullock carts. As I now looked out of the window, I wondered if ever I could travel down that muddy road and see what lies beyond it.
Soon dusk would settle in and the road would vanish into the night. I looked up at the sky, towards the approaching clouds in the horizon. It seemed as if it might soon rain. Firewood, I thought; they will be all wet by morning if it rains. I hurried towards the door when something made me look towards the garden; Ma was picking up clothes left on the fence to dry. Should I let her know I’m going out? I hesitated. Probably she would think it’s another ruse to go to the playground.
It was a long walk, but I liked walking down the forest. There was not too many people out there and if I watched carefully I could see the squirrels playing hide and seek within the thick branches. Today the forest was a bit darker, I thought. More intense, as if pregnant with some uncontrollable emotions. You can hardly see the heavens from here; the dense leaves covered the entire roof of the forest like a canopy.
It was getting darker so I tried moving a bit faster, when suddenly there was a lurch and two powerful hands grabbed me from behind and pushed me down on the hard ground. As my head hit a stone, I looked up at my attacker in surprise. It was our grocer’s son, I realized in shock. I didn’t understand. Why did he try to beat me up? What have I done wrong?
He was suddenly on top of me, clamping my mouth, making it difficult for me to breathe. Pinning down my hands with one arm, he was tearing away at my clothes, scratching my exposed skin. I was kicking him with all my might but he was too powerful. The more I fought the more he slapped me till I tasted blood on my mouth. Suddenly a pain shot through me and I felt as if I was pierced by a thousand arrows….repeatedly.
When I regained consciousness, I found the rain showering over me; thankfully the boy wasn’t there anymore. My entire body was in pain and I was reluctant to move. Though the darkness covered me up well, somehow I felt ashamed of myself, as if I have betrayed Ma and Baba. What would they say if they found out? I wondered. As I lay there trying to understand the events of the past few hours, I realized it was the favourite time of the day for me – twilight.
The twilight has always been my special friend. I found an inexpressible peace in her dark bosom. When my sister lighted the oil-lamp in the other room to pour over her books, I used to sit beside Ma while she bribed her gods with sweetmeats and rituals. In the soft light of the pradip, her face looked like an angel. At the end of the prayer she would give me her blessings and kiss my forehead.
But it was getting late. I looked around me to find my clothes and saw them heaped over a stone a few feet away. As I tried getting up my legs gave way and I toppled over the ground, hurting my ankle in the process. Shivering with cold I made another effort to reach the clothes and started back for home. It was the longest walk of my life.
When I reached, there was no lamp shining in any of the rooms. Worried I crosses the courtyard to reach the verandah and searched for Ma. Shivering badly, I reached for the towel and tried drying myself as by now I was soaked to the bones. Then I went grasping in the darkness in search of a candle. Putting on some dry clothes I was about to slip inside the blanket when I saw Baba open the door and come inside with the rest.
Seeing me Ma ran towards me. For a minute I thought they knew what happened and I broke down into tears. But then suddenly she started slapping my face left and right. Catching hold of my hair she thrashed me with the broom several times till it left deep red welts on the skin. Then she pushed me in my room and locked the door, leaving me in pitch dark emptiness. That was the longest night of my life.
The story of a deaf & dumb village girl through sounds – or the absence of it. This post is written in reply to DPChallenge for this week.