(**Sha’Tara – the burning woman, I owed you one. Unfortunately, it’s not just a fiction – for someone out there, it could very well be the reality.)
You might be surprised to find this letter waiting by your bedside, but I couldn’t think of any other place where it might catch your attention. I am also sorry that you would waste the next few minutes reading this while you could have finished so many chores around the house before leaving for work. Trust me, if I had any other means to tell you what I have to, I would have. But there are none.
From my childhood I have seen you always in the same state – rushed, agitated and sweaty. No matter how early you woke up or late you slept, the mountain of work you had to accomplish never diminished. You accepted whatever life gave you with a sweet resignation that most people aspire to develop.
There were many occasions when you went hungry to quieten the growls in our stomach. You covered your body with the same tattered piece of cloth for years but every festival there were new clothes waiting for us. I have seen you look longingly at the happy lives of other families but still you never complained when he came home drunk every night and hit you. I only wish you had.
I have been holding on to my silence for past seven years now but this time I fear the silence will not be able to hide the sin growing in my stomach. Before you get enraged and curse me for bringing shame to the family, think about this. I am only fourteen years old. I never leave the house since you stopped school five years ago. Who could it be?
The first time it happened was when you were big with Raghu and were sleeping on the bed. Your husband and I had to share the space on the floor. They say that a man should not be trusted even with his own daughter even. If only you had believed in this superstition as well instead of disregarding it as nonsense.
He insisted that he loved me a lot and this was just the same as cuddling me on his lap. You loved me but never hurt me. Why did he? I didn’t understand that this was another kind of love, one that reared its head only in the dark of the night. He would stuff his shirt in my mouth as he climbed on top of me and pumped away all his frustration of the day. Every night I passed away unconscious till the light of day was on me. I didn’t know what was happening but there was no escaping the shame and repulsion. It was all over me.
You never taught me what it was like to be a woman – I learnt it all by myself. Lying in the arms of the man sworn to protect me, I felt the most vulnerable. He told me that it was a sacrifice I had to make if I wanted you to stay happy. I had never seen you back down from sacrificing anything for our happiness; how could I?
He had put a time limit on my “usage”. It was to stop once the baby was born. What a lie! There were nights when even after being with you, he crept out of the bed. Like a leech, he sustained on our love, hope and submission. You would get upset when I would remain lost in thoughts; I thought it’d upset you more upset if I shared my thoughts with you.
With time I grew to hate my body. The young firm flesh seemed to attract him more than yours. That didn’t stop him from giving you two more children before you managed to put a stop to it. I was lucky to have escaped that fate for this long. However, you can only tempt luck so many times.
I have kept all my pain, anger and suffering hidden inside me for so long that it took shape in my womb. While he continued snoring the night away, I had much to worry about. Maybe it was the residue of the evil he had lodged inside me, but life suddenly made sense. My release from this prison was long over-due. It was time to do something about it. Before the world punished me with their tongue, I had to ensure that justice was served.
He suffocated me for so many years, it was only fair that I do the same to him. He was too drunk last night to walk straight but even that didn’t affect his libido when he saw me. As he slumped off me, I resolved I would never cry myself to sleep again. I held the pillow over his head till he learnt the lesson of silence he had taught me so many years ago. He would never touch me again.
Mummy, every night I died a little while you were sleeping. I had thought that my silence was protecting you from a fate worse than death. It was only with time that I saw you were too busy protecting yourself to think of me. It takes a mouse’s squeak to wake you up but my nightly ordeals were never stopped. You wake up before everyone at home, but never spotted my clothes in disarray. Nothing could escape your eagle eye except something that happened every night under your nose. If I hadn’t been my own saviour, no one else was going to play the role.
I have realized that in this world, no one is truly yours. Not even this body can I claim to be mine. It is home to another now. A lot happened while you were sleeping; now it’s time for me to wake up. By the time you finish this letter I would have disappeared miles away from here. You can spend the next few hours cleaning up the house before breaking your bangles and howling your sorrow. No one missed him while he was alive; a few more hours won’t make much of a difference.
Yours in shame,