She only gotten up to pee, her bladder wouldn’t hold. Squatting in the dark her sari skirt lifted above her bare feet the splatter of her urine belayed the urgency. When they knocked her off balance dragged her through the dark by her hair, her screams had gone unanswered. She wasn’t experienced enough to understand exactly what they were doing, except having watched enough animals to understand generally that she was being raped. They forced her over on her face broke he nose and collarbone, shattered her shoulder. It was painful and rough she recognized their voices the men who’d fought with her father over a buffalo they’d bought from him and a week later the thing had died.
She screamed as they violated her vagina then her anus; bloody torn hot and painful as their grunting and sperm filled her with loathing. They hurried their turns thrusting silently, violently, then discarded her crumpled in the dirt without a word. She dragged and stumbled her way into the house, woke her mother, who screamed, slapped her and threw her to the floor. Her father dragged her to the police, now a crowd behind them in the early dawn. Even though she was torn and bloody the officers acted as if it was her fault, then after they realized she was too numb and injured to be deterred they acquiesced to get her an ambulance.
She must have passed out, woke on the exam table screaming not understanding where she was. After restraints were applied, the soft voice of the nurse was small comfort as an IV filled with pain killer and a sedative was inserted and she was stitched inside; her shoulder, collar bone pinned and set, nose packed with gauze and re shaped as best could be done.
The next days found it hard to walk and her shoulder excruciatingly painful, her black eyes scared her brothers and sisters. A teetering walk to the pump resulted in taunts and a pelting by the local boys with rocks. Not enough to do damage but a clear warning to stay inside. Her story reached the papers, the Delhi media and the regional Rajasthani reporters showed up, the anger of her father and his intent for blood revenge for the lost bride price she would no longer bring was all over the news. The rapists long vanished, her father and her uncles began talk of retribution by other means, a payout by the family of the men perhaps.
The entire incident was spiraling out of control it became obvious she was a bit player in the drama of conflicting agendas but at great risk nonetheless as her village became increasingly hostile. A case worker from the government convinced her father to allow her relocation to a safe house in Delhi.
This was, in many ways, worse, as she had never really been out of her village. She missed her little brother and her mother’s chapattis. The water tasted funny and the air stung her eyes. But no one glared at her or called her a whore or threw rocks. This was good. They made her go to meetings with other girls in similar circumstances. All worried about never being able to find a husband now and how to ever make their way, how to live, and what would happen to the younger siblings they were responsible for…All kept reliving what they could have done differently to prevent their attack, berating themselves for how stupid they had been, what shame they had caused, and how they wanted simply to die. During this time she had school lessons, tests to ascertain what education she needed to prepare for further schooling to make her able to have a job out side her village. It was hard to concentrate and all she wanted to do was sleep.
It became obvious she was never going home. Two girls in the next dormitory hung themselves during this time. They died together as if they had made a pact. Their families didn’t come to claim them and they were cremated together, their ashes given to the Ganges by a foreign stranger.
She made friends with a beautiful round faced girl from the Kashmir, very strong and very smart. Her new friend helped her with her studies. She had been repeatedly sexually abused by her father who was a violent drunkard since she was six years old. Her mother, badly beaten by the drunkard, had been complicit in allowing the abuse. At the ninth grade she had gone to the school, told a teacher what was happening, following a particularly violent episode where her bruises were too obvious to hide.
A huge media maelstrom had ensued, her life was endangered, her father was given a minor fine and sent back to his village. (Kashmiri property is often matrilineal.) Her mother’s village became angry at her for causing them embarrassment. She had been vilified and taunted by her villagers, rocks thrown by boys on her way to school. The authorities moved her after a fire was set to her house. She was considered a threat to her mother and her younger brother and an embarrassment to the village. Her shame was palpable.
The two girls bonded tightly and studied hard, realizing their lives were now on a different arc, as if they had been plucked from one universe placed in another. The Kashmiri girl was Buddhist, the Rajasthani girl, Hindu, they placed their altars side by side and offered prayers together, incense mingling as it wafted heavenwards.
They were generally resigned to their fates in a profound sadness, until the news of an unmarried girl of twelve and her newborn were burned alive near Naguar.
Suddenly neither girl felt sorry for themselves. Their collective out rage and clear understanding of how narrow their own escapes from a similar fate sunk into their consciousness. A shudder of fear for the possible retribution that might lie back in their villages erased all longing for a return home. Suddenly they looked at the twelve year old and her baby as victims of murder, not horrible wanton miscreants. And they both wondered aloud about who ever had impregnated her, why her rapist was exempt and how possibly could a girl of twelve even realize what had happened. Never before would they have dared to think in this way.
Suddenly this poor girl’s death gave them a kinder view of their own circumstances and a path forward.
Suddenly they became human beings with sovereignty.
Suddenly they had anger on behalf of themselves and the murdered twelve year old and her infant.
Suddenly they were alive, reborn in a new form, with new thoughts, new purpose. They placed objects representing the immolated girl and her baby at the base of their shrines, thanked their gods for her life and the lesson it provided them, asked for an easier incarnation for her next life.
Then the girls returned to their own business at hand, unsure but purposeful, like toddlers learning to walk un-aided, so determined to just make it across the room on their own.
Copyright March 1, 2017
All rights reserved
Margaret Diane Kruger
Sarasota Florida USA 34236