by Sreesha Divakaran
(Bengaluru, Karnataka, India)
It was DECEMBER - days turned quickly to dusk, and LIGHT quickly to darkness. Under an indigo sky, two women sat in quiet meditation in front of a lit brass lamp placed in the courtyard of their HOUSE. The older of the two chanted, “Rama, Rama…”. Her expression however, was not peaceful as one communicating with the divine. Eyes pressed close, a frown on her forehead, greying eyebrows knitted in pain – unspoken, intolerable pain. The younger one kept her eyes downcast, and if she prayed, she did so in her mind. ***
Sighing deeply, Narayani startled Girija by asking, “Are you happy?”
Girija turned to her mother-in-law, without keeping her incomprehension HIDDEN.
“Sandeepan is most likely dead. We’ll receive word shortly. I am sure of it,” Narayani continued, her voice incredibly steady.
“What-“ Girija began, but Narayani held up her hand.
“Don’t pretend to be shocked or unhappy. I’ve lived THROUGH many more summers than you have.”
Girija wrapped her sari tightly around herself against the COLD. She looked down at her lap, pursing her lips. Narayani waited; receiving no response, she continued, “In a way, you’re lucky your child died. I am under no illusions - what my son did was wrong. Did you want a child from such a monster? Yes, monster. The war is over. Another country is being born – it will not be East Pakistan anymore. And you – so far away – are being given a chance to be reborn. To ESCAPE this life that was forced upon you.”
After letting out a few deep breaths, Girija said, “I was returning from SCHOOL, one day, in the RAIN –“
Narayani Amma shushed her, “I know everything.”
“The relatives – they talked as if I was lucky to be married to him. They laughed saying he did it only because he had not seen a woman for so long, being in the army. That I should feel flattered! And lucky - to bear his child!” Girija’s outburst was a year late in coming, but it did, on a December evening turning too soon to night - inconsolable, angry tears - for an alien country that lost a war, for a husband that died defending another, for a lost child, a child borne at the cost of her innocence, and for all the blessings showered on her, EARLY last year, as she was forced to wed the man who raped her.