Atonement


Disclaimer: I have been struggling on whether to write about this topic or not for almost two years. The act would always seem predatory and opportunistic and maybe, even tasteless. But I somehow feel compelled to let it out now for the simple reason that many more inappropriate and downright stupid things have been said in my silence. I write this with sheer humility and self-awareness. There is no intention to hurt or offend anyone, especially the victims. 


The floor is moist when I wake up. This is the least of my problems right now. The wound on the temple is still bleeding. I have asked for some medicine but no one here seems to be keen to help me. The beating last night was pretty severe from what I can remember. These damn flies refuse to go away. I am so happy that mother is coming today.

The jerk constable is here to take me. The grip of his hand is tight like the first time. He whispers in my ears-" Keep your mouth shut about the beating. You deserved it". My hands struggle to loosen the handcuffs so I can slap him.

My eyes are almost filled with tears on seeing mother. She seems stoic until her hand reaches to inspect the wound. No matter how badly the child stumbles, a mother will always be there. 

The handcuffs are released and I can feel my wrist for the first time in days. The inspector gives me a look of derision. I join my hands and give a salute to him. I am escorted outside by the lawyer and mother as the inspector screams behind-"See you soon".

I am aching to get in the car when mother stops me.

"Wear this." she tells me as she hands me a burqa,

"Nice one, mother." I giggled.

She seemed pretty insistent- “The family has worked really hard to get this car. We don't want a rapist being spotted in it. Besides, if your face is covered, I am not inclined to slap you again and again."

"But, mother.."

"We can always send you back in."

The woman is pretty stubborn. Let me just wear it for now. Father will take care of her later.

The entire ride is filled with silence. I keep looking at mother who is quietly looking outside the window. I try to break the silence-
"Shame I have got this on. All the girls are missing out on my pretty face."
She turns to me and gives me a hard slap across the covered face.

"One more word from you and you will starve the whole day! I will throw you out on the streets."

The house seems quite upon arrival. I throw the burqa away and rush to my room before Rajanbhai stops me.

"Come to the living room."

I go in there, expecting a long lecture about how badly I had screwed up. I didn't do it dad. I am saying the truth. She came onto me. When I refused, this is her way of getting back.

I see father sitting in his chair with Prakash and Akash uncle by his side as the television is blaring on. Rajanbhai also settles down next to him.

I approach father at snail's pace. It is better to go slow with him when you are in hot waters. As I come closer, I see tears rolling down his cheek. This is the first time I have seen him cry.

I turn to the television and can't believe who is on air. It's her.

" He kept shoving the bottle to my face, saying it will be easy , just let it happen. I tried to shove the bottle aside, at which point he slapped me. He said- Enough of the games. All night you have been teasing me, now I take what is mine."

She was dressed in pain clothes. If only they could see what she was in that night, who could blame me?

She was giving an interview to a news channel, recounting all the things I did that night. Allegedly.

Father turns off the television and looks at me. "Did.. you..do this?"

I froze. I couldn't say anything. The well-formed excuse was refusing to leave the mouth. Looking at her recounting the night, I felt a weird sensation in me.

"You think there is a doubt left? They have 4 witnesses who saw him with her. This is not the first time. Have you forgotten the 3 girls who wrote to me last year? He has finally done what we feared." Rajanbhai said in an agitated voice.

"I kept telling you guys- either make him work or keep him home. His wild lifestyle has ruined us all. What was the need to go out that night and be stupid? Someone leaked your photos to the press. Everyone knows it was you. Do you know how humiliating it is to be asked if your brother is a rapist? Your sister-in-law told me that she never wants to see you again. Mother only agreed to bail you out because of dad's fragile health. You think anyone will ever marry you? You are damaged goods."

Father raised his hand up. Rajanbhai stopped his rant.

He turned to me and said in a deep voice-" You have ruined our legacy. I will not let you ruin our future. You will remain in the house till the trial goes on. From today, you don't know anyone except your family who wishes that they didn't know you. No matter what the outcome of the trial, you will change your name and leave us alone."

Father and the group gets up and leaves. I feel.. numb. I look around to see that our family portrait has been removed. The photo of me riding a horse as a child is missing. I just sit on the floor.

Why can't anyone see my side? She was dressed like that to attract me. The way she danced with me and the rate at which shots went down her throat... she was on for the night. Then, when we get alone, she says let's meet for coffee tomorrow. Bloody bitch gets me all excited and then wants to take it slow.. who was going to take care of my boner..

I slapped my hand loudly at the ground. Suddenly tears are flowing down my face. I don't understand this. Her cries are ringing in my ears. She begged me to stop so many times. I slapped her and scratched her neck... 

The uncomfortable feeling refuses to go away. I look around if anyone is there, who I can tell that I know I was wrong. Not a soul in sight. Maybe I should just end it.


Sadly, most of the events and thoughts described in here (Italicized in bold) happen to the female victims of sexual crimes in India. What can be said of a society which vilifies and judges a victim of a grotesque crime but is often forgiving of the accused, some who even retain the sanctity of normal lives? I would rather be an island than be a part of this society.



FYI: in the United States right now, a group of women have accused Bill Cosby of Rape and aren't shied away from the media or ever blamed. Cosby has been forced to cancel public appearances and resign posts. Guilty or not, there exists a silent convention and culture in America where the victim is respected and heard but the accused withdraws out of shame. 






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