Reading Time: 10 minutes
Like many other victims of rape and molestation, Shobha was also denied of an identity, mistreated and misunderstood by her neighbours and her relatives. As a journalist, this scribe was given the task of interview her since others weren’t comfortable doing it. She was initially rude. Ultimately, she gave in to his persuasiveness and persistence. She narrated how other journalists had behaved and what they had written previously. Shobha felt insulted and insecure. She didn’t like talking to people. Almost everyone was judgmental. Her behavior was predictable. She was later a good friend. Here’s a fictional account of a victim of rape and how she was rejected by her own family, friends, and others in the society. She was an outcast Shobha is a metaphor, an example. There are millions like her in our society. Subhajit portrays the sufferings of one such victim, Shobha, sensitively, in a new column, Victimology that would appear every alternate Thursday, in Different Truths.
The world acknowledged her to be the Goddess of art and culture, of knowledge and wisdom. Her chastity and appearance were considered to be befitting for her offsprings who would seek to be underneath her umbra. The entire universe rejoiced at the emergence of a wise and equally mesmerising deity. However, the ones she had sent to spread the light of education, the angels and muses, weren’t quite safe in the world of darkness and savage motives. They had to overcome many hurdles, bear the pain of many wounds and for many, beauty became a curse. Had the Goddess of books and quills been created as a Goddess of wrath and fury, demolishing all those sins and darkness, the story would have been different, quite different.
“I was walking down my memory lane. There has been a lot that I have been through… and I feel happy that I haven't forgotten them. Their everlasting flames keep me alive, help me survive and fight the odds. After all, no one will ever pat my back and tell me, “Kamal ka kam kiya hai tune Baccha (You have done a wonderful job, Child). I am proud of you.”
The first thing she said when I had asked her if the journey from being Srota to Shobha was easy enough for her. Like many other victims of rape and molestation, Shobha was also denied of an identity, mistreated and misunderstood by her neighbours and her relatives. I was given the task of interviewing her since my fellow journalists weren’t comfortable doing it. They were possessive and didn’t consider her to be cooperative. Yes, as a matter of fact, she was rude to me when I met her for the first time at her apartment. I was there without an appointment. Her assistant was hesitant to introduce us since I had come to interview her. She narrated to me how other journalists had behaved and what they had written previously. Shobha felt insulted insecure. She didn’t like talking to people like us. Her behavior was predictable. She shut the door on my face on the very first day. I stood there like a vagabond, staring at the red carpet for almost half an hour, before vanishing into thin air.
“You remember… I wasn’t willing to talk to you. I had called you by unkind names as I pulled my assistant inside and shut the door on your face. I fired her the very next day for disobeying me. She begged me not to do so but I didn’t pay heed… I believe I hadn’t done that. It was too rude. After all, it is because of her, I got such a good friend, a partner of my business.”
Listening to her voice amused me. She had been such a great personality. It was nature’s trick that she had been entrapped into a vicious circle of power and lust that ripped off her identity.
She was an amazing person.
“Why don’t you call her back and let her in… as an assistant?”
“She is working at a call centre right now, opting for the job at some agency. I don’t want to pull her back and make my slave. She has a life to live, so I would let her enjoy it.”
Shobha wasn’t as cheerful as she is now when I first met her. She was an introvert, meek and mild. Her voice came out only when she was angry. She was completely detached from a social life. How could she be? None used to talk to her in her apartment. People used to gossip about her every time they saw her crossing the streets or coming out of her apartment. She was considered untouchable. It became a daily routine for her, hearing whistles and immodest words when a group of so-called men (read spoilt brats) would see her walking on the lanes, the hush-hush gossip among women, she was even disturbed by irritating phone calls with offers for one night stands. Not a single soul turned up to support her. She had lost all faith in life until she learnt to walk alone.
“You know, they say teachers are the embodiments of Saraswati, the Goddess of education. They teach, impart wisdom, manners and knowledge, the seeds to a fruitful tree. Who knew these angels would be at risk someday, who knew the students, the learners would act like beasts, would try to hit on their guides, their mothers?”
I was obviously not expecting to hear this. She did seem stressed out but whatever she just said wasn’t making any sense.
“What do you mean?”
“I was a teacher at St. Paul’s, a guest lecturer. I used to teach Economics. I had got the job opportunity just after my B. Ed. I was happy to be at service. Teaching the students helped a lot. They were really good listeners. I taught for a year and the batch did quite good in their examination. The class average was nearly 65%.”
“You must have worked hard!”
Shobha smiled at me. “Life wasn’t seeming to take this in a good way. The new batch that had come wasn’t as good as the previous one. Good students were a handful, most of them were rustic and rough. There was a group of six boys, who used to mess around in the classes. Taking the classes was so difficult when they were present. Things turned out of control. They began eve teasing female students and harassing them in the campus. Students from other departments started complaining about many of them. We had very few faculty members in our department. We took it to the principal for a strict action but he was already bought by their parents. He told us to solve the problem. He couldn’t lose the investors who fund the college. The HoD had warned many a times but they were just unstoppable…”
“Oh! What after that?”
“One day, while I was working in the computer lab, I overheard two of them gossiping about some drugs. I knew they were addicted from their appearances but I wasn’t quite sure if they were selling it in the campus. My inquisition was quite high. I followed them to the backyard of our old building. To my surprise, they were ragging a few fellow fresher students and forcing them to sniff heroine. I took some shots in my mobile and hurried towards the department to inform. Teachers were shocked to see the photos. Along with the anti-ragging squad, we caught them red-handed that day. A guardian meeting was organised the following day, the principal suspended them for their mischief. They knew it was me who took those photos. I became their new target.”
I didn’t want to stop her in between. The temperature inside the room was getting hotter. I looked at the window. There were thick black clouds. Would they rain down? Shobha didn’t stop. She went on.
“When I returned from the college, everything was topsy-turvy in my house. Furniture were broken, books were been burnt and my house was a mess. I knew who did all these. I was about to leave when I saw them entering my house. I told them it wouldn’t be as easy as they had thought. I threatened them. I tried to call the police but they snatched my mobile and threw it down, smashing it into pieces. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do, I tried to escape but they grabbed me tight and closed my mouth with a hanky. I guess it was chloroform. I couldn’t remember anything after that. I was numb, had lost my senses.”
For a few minutes, there was silence between us. Her story made me recall the mythical tale I had heard decades ago from my grandmother. When the creator, Brahma created Saraswati, he fell in love with her. He couldn’t hold to His father instincts. He felt a strong pull for her. He desired for her, he sank in his passionate savage instincts to enter her, feel his creation and be with her. Saraswati wasn’t ready for this. She was his brainchild! If Shiva wouldn’t have had come to rescue, Saraswati would have been nowhere. I don’t know why this thought struck my mind. In some time, Shobha started speaking again.
“I woke up after two days in a hospital. I saw my mother looking at me and crying, my fellow colleagues who wore the face of guilt. My uncle was the doctor. He gently browsed his hands on my head and asked me if I was feeling better. I felt a severe pain in my abdomen as if something sharp had been pierced through my vagina. I was heavy-headed. I couldn’t sit for days. There were bruises on my head and around my neck. Uncle told me that I had been raped, not by one but by many, not only once but a number of times. The scars were severe, there were stitches on my vagina. The raw stitches tore often, causing bleeding and acute pain. I shrieked and cried in the beginning but as time passed, my tears dried, they stopped breaking through my eyes. I was discharged from the hospital. My parents had brought me back to my dilapidated house. Often I was haunted by the hallucinations of those memories. My relatives, who sympathised at my misery, stopped calling us. They started avoiding me. I wasn’t invited in any of the occasions. The society considered me responsible for all of this mess. My father stopped caring about me. Many a times, he told me to leave the house and leave the town. Although my mother was supportive, my sister, my own sister didn’t think twice before forcing Mum to choose between us. I didn’t want her to do it. So I left. With all my belongings, I left the house and the town. The news had spread like wildfire. Everybody knew me. Walking down the streets to buy the safety pad even seemed difficult at times. A good soul did let me stay at his house but his son was so mean… he thought once a victim always a victim. I used to teach him English. One day, he bluntly told me to have sex with him. He just threw it on my face. I couldn’t bear it. I left the place overnight. Thank God, our HoD was cooperative. She let me stay at her apartment for a while until I found a new job and a new house to stay.”
“Things aren’t normal for us. I got a job at an NGO. I was doing it but my daily life was just unbearable. I couldn’t find a maid. For two years, I shared the apartment with a gay couple. I felt safer. Life started moving but my isolation secluded me from the world. I did only that much what my job asked for. No parties, no invitations, no meetings. I was happy being all alone. The NGO started growing, people started knowing us, knowing me once again. But they never stopped reminding me about the horrific truth. I became used to insults. Many journalists had come to interview me in person. Most of them ended up with a heated argument. The newspapers spoke of nothing but my rude behaviour and my helplessness. I was sucked into my pit, into that aching vagina. Then you came and the rest is all known to you…”
Yes, the rest was all known to me. I was stubborn and I wanted to interview her. I requested my editor, who started a new column every midweek, to feature Shobha, her life, what she was, what she wasn’t. In the course of time, we became friends, very good friends. I started living in her house to write the column, getting deeper into her life, excavating some unknown facts about a different Shobha; her excellence in art and cooking, her intelligence and her mastery over music and dance.
She was a different Saraswati, hiding in a 10 by 10 room of a small apartment. The Goddess who had received nothing but rebukes from her near and dear ones offer to fulfil the desires of lusty men, in exchange of money and sarcastic comments from other women in her neighbourhood. Every day, as we share the first cup of tea in the morning, she repeats that I have been her change, I have let her grow up, mentally and emotionally. I don’t know if I really have, but I am glad if I could really be that change. I completed the column. I emailed it to my editor. Shobha had gone to the kitchen to make some coffee. She entered the room with a warm hearty smile on her face. It had started raining by then.
“So, are you done?”
“Yes, mailed the last part of the column. Mr. Bose said that a new column was beginning the following week, but I was not sure if I wanted to write.”
“Why not? You have a long way to go. Tell me, how can I help?”
“Just remain as awesome as you are right now!”
I let her go through the column submitted for publication – something that I never do. She was reading it when at some point she just stopped. Staring at me in a strange way, she asked, “How did you know my name was Srota?”
“I am a journalist. All scribes do a lot of homework.”
“Hmm….” She sighed.
“Wait, what happened? Why did you change your name?”
“Long story. My father didn’t want me to use it anymore. I opposed the decision but I couldn’t keep it with me for long. People get an easy reference. So, I decided to change it. My grandmother had kept it. Poor old lady! She told my parents once that I am born with misfortunes and I shall have to leave the house in future. I would be a free bird, away from all social bonds. Guess she was right!”
“I guess you should start using that name again. After she foretold that you would be free from all social notions! Your grandma must have been your well-wisher.”
“I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. I just don’t want to get into these anymore. Now chuck it and have the coffee. It is getting cold.”
We watched the rain patter down the window panes, drenching the lanes and the buildings, the trees far away from the apartment. The coffee and those hot pakoras just suited that perfect moment of gossip and giggles, as the wind hammered the window panes and the rain-wet smell made us feel its freshness.
I had met a different Saraswati, who is way better than many ordinary deities, far better than any normal passer-by and content than many rich entities!
Photos from the internet.
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