It was the wee hours of the morning. The sun was just rising and it was still dark. That beautiful time at the start of the day when people woke up to look at the face of their loved one lying beside them, waking up to the chirping of early morning birds that sung sweet tunes of love into the light breeze that carried the mild fragrance of blooming flowers. It was that beautiful hour when any normal person, if awake, would feel blessed for everything that he had in life, especially for that special person. All but for one woman; she sat by the side of the dirty old stream under the bridge, all alone, with a dead look on her face. No, she had no special someone to thank God for. Sitting there, despite the foul smell of rotting garbage from the stream, Sunita felt strangely better than staying in that dingy hut of hers- The hut where she was held captive by her own inhibitions. But what other option did she have?
She looked at the dirty waters of the stream, stagnant, the floating rubbish making it move sluggishly. She closed her eyes and the events of the previous night came rushing back to her. She had had just a moment to look into those brown eyes of the man whom she had once loved; who, until a few years ago was her everything, her hero, her savior, the reason she was alive, her God. She could scarcely stand up, shivering and whimpering in front of her husband, seething, his eyes bloodshot, bellowing at her. She had hardly had time to move, when his hand had come hard upon her, sending her smashing down to the floor, face down. Her head hurt and her cheeks burned but he had not been satisfied. He was shouting like a mad man, dragging her by the hair as she tried hard not to scream and wake up her three kids. What if he did the same to them too? Her nose had started bleeding and she was slowly beginning to lose consciousness. Maybe it was the blood, or perhaps the copious amounts of liquor in him had taken its toll because he had left then and gone to sleep under the only creaking fan in the tattered hut. She had then huddled up in a corner and cried, not too loud, lest he should wake and beat her up again, lest she woke up the kids from their peaceful dreams. She cried the whole night until finally, at some point, she drifted off to sleep.
And now she sat there thinking of all the dreadful things he had done to her. She thought of all those times he had beat her, stamped her, snatched away her hard earned money only to return unstable and violent in the night, his head full of brutal and perverse thoughts that only alcohol could induce. When had it all started? For there was a time, she had loved him. There was a time she had seen love and kindness in those brown eyes. But now she was living with a fiend whom she did not love, who scared her, who had betrayed her, who had enslaved her forever.
Sunita was 14 years old when she had fled with her brown eyed hero who used to work in a tea shop next to where she stayed with her step aunt. He was around five years elder to her and was always full of stories that he heard from the workers who came to the tea shop. He used to tell her that he wanted to run away from there one day and go to the city that his worker friends so often spoke about. She was mesmerized by his descriptions of the magical place he called city. She was fascinated by his words, his voice and the way his brown eyes widened with excitement when he talked of his plans. She hadn’t been in love with him then, or perhaps she was; she didn’t know. It mattered little now.
She remembered the night that she had overheard her step-aunt talk to a big burly man who had come to the house. She had heard only snippets of the conversation ‘….yes grown enough… just the right amount… not bad looking… good money… pick her up in two days’. Sunita was old enough to understand what the conversation had meant. And she had known there was only one person who could help her right then.
And so she had fled, with her brown eyed boy in the middle of the night. He was tall and strong and she had a feeling of utmost safety when she was with him. She was in awe of her hero, who seemed to have it all planned out. It had been difficult, the first few weeks but she knew all was well. She was living with the man she loved and who loved her back. At least, it seemed so at first.
(to be contd...)