Here’s a book extract from the forthcoming novel of Sumita, who writes under the penname ‘Shoam’. It is a coming of age story of a thirteen-year-old girl, set just before the Emergency, in 1975, based in a remote corner of Bengal. We serialise the first three chapters of the novel, in the weekly column. A Different Truths exclusive.
09:00 am, Wednesday, 25th June: Kidnapped
The floor trembled and rumbled. Jo’s white socks and shoes covered feet, sticking out of a jute sack tied at her knees, snapped me from disorientation. Those shoes were kicking my stomach. She was trussed up in the sack. We were in a moving truck. My limbs hurt—hands were tied stiffly behind, feet at the ankles. Head, rattling against the vibrating metal, throbbed crazily.
Memory cleared — the village market and that rat, Rakhal!
“Can you breathe? Did they hurt you?” I asked squirming towards Jo’s sack covered head. All I heard were muffled sounds. She couldn’t talk but wriggle ferociously. My voice calmed her.
Unable to help her in any way, I prayed the sack was reasonably clean.
Yeah, they probably wash it every time they kidnap a little girl! God, how could I have been so foolish? I thought they were approaching to thank me. Heights of self-delusion! I should have screamed first. I should have… I definitely shouldn’t have… an endless list…
“Rakhal Bhai, all done now.”
The name had whipped my attention. They stood between carts piled high with hay—two villagers; one servile, the other arrogant. I’d stared at Arrogance, wondering whether he was the Rakhal, who broke into my Grandfather’s house, aspiring to armed robbery. I didn’t recognise either of them. They had covered their faces when they invaded the house that night, and later when I helped them escape, it was too dark.
I knew their names though.
The object of my interest caught my stare; recognition leaped into the arrogant eyes. He smiled, said something to his companion. Both loped towards me.
I turned to look for my uncles, idiotically hoping Rakhal wouldn’t make a big deal of my help.
They’d lost no time dousing me in reality. A large hand had covered my mouth and nose. Indignant, I’d stepped back, right into a sweat slick body and unwashed odour. Clamping my arms, he’d hauled me up with shocking speed. The ground tilted dizzyingly, rushed past beneath his hurrying feet. In a flash, we were through the space between the carts, instantly hidden from the crowd. A number of trucks stood behind—metal monsters looming into my stupefied conscious.
I struggled, tried to twist my head to scream, kick, and break the lout’s shin.
“Get the other girl — green and white frock,” rasped Rakhal.
From corners of wild eyes, I spied his companion disappear. He’d gone after Jo. I sank my teeth into the salty fingers digging into my mouth and tasted metal. The arm loosened. My elbow slammed into his ribs and wrenched my body away. Freed, the ground met me painfully.
Roll, hit, kick, scream…
Head had exploded with pain… a high-pitched single note keening ceaselessly in darkness…
(To be continued)
©Sumita Dutta ‘Shoam’
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