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Serial Novel - Destiny's Daughter Chapter 6

by Eva Bell

Margaret had other important things on her mind and for the next few days, all she could think of was Ameesha’s care.

“I could not keep the child in the hospital nursery indefinitely. People were waiting to see how I would manage. They were sure that I would eventually send her to an orphanage.

I was desperately in need of a maid to look after her. Then my thoughts turned to Umakka.”
“But how could you even think of her when she didn’t want anything to do with you?” Andrew asked.
“Just as I knew Amy was mine, I was convinced that Umakka would one day land up at my house. I just prayed and trusted.”

Margaret went down to meet Umakka one evening. She could not run and hide because it had already turned dark. She stood outside her shelter and said, “I have a problem and you’ve got to help me. My child needs someone to care for her when I’m at work. She could be your child too, you know.”

“Ayyoyo, ayyoyo, Rama, Rama. You are polluting my ears with such talk. I’ve heard all about your foundling and where she came from. I may not talk much, but I listen. Not for all the riches in the world will I come. Better that I die in this shed and be sure of receiving moksha, than live in your house and be reborn as a dog or a pig.”

She covered both her ears with her hands in a dismissive gesture. Margaret went home feeling very depressed.

Just a few nights later, there was a frantic banging on her back door. Margaret ran to open it, and found Umakka collapsed on the steps.

“Oh my God! What has happened to you?”

The ugly red sari had been torn in places, and soaked with fresh blood. A deep gash on her cheek was oozing blood, and so was the cut on her shaven head. She was as light as a feather. Margaret carried her in her arms to the hospital. Umakka’s fair skin had taken on a frightening pallor.

They resuscitated her with intravenous fluids, and cleaned and sutured her wounds. Umakka lay there moaning, with her eyes tightly shut. In that white hospital gown, she looked so frail and helpless. Knowing how she disliked the hospital, she was shifted back to Margaret’s quarters. Towards morning, the sedative she was given had worn away.

“Where am I? What am I doing here?” she said, getting up with a start, and running around in circles like a bird in a cage.

“Umakka, you’re in my house. You came here last night. Do you remember?”

“Hi Rama, my head hurts. Yes, I remember. Those terrible men tried to hurt me. I didn’t know where else to go.”

“Lie down on the bed. You are still so weak. I’ll get you something to eat. Coffee? Some bread?”
“I can’t eat the food you give me. Rama, Rama….. I must go…….”
“Now you listen and hear what I’ve got to say. I’m not going to tolerate any more of your nonsense. I’m old enough to be your mother and it’s high time you listened to me. Young girls like you are not safe anywhere in this world, even in this village. You’ll be better off without any caste if you are likely to lose it by eating what I give you.”

No one had given Umakka such a pep talk before. She had only been blamed and humiliated ever since she lost her husband, whose face she could not even remember. Perhaps she would be safe here. She could try it out for a few days.

“If I don’t like it I’ll run away again,” she thought, “But where to? Yesterday I had a narrow escape. I don’t know how I got the strength of a tigress to fight those two men. The kitchen knife came in handy, and I’m sure I must have injured one of them. As this lady says, I am in real danger.”

Margaret was back with some bread and a glass of milk.
“Here, have this. You look like you could do with some strength.”
Umakka quietly gulped it down.

“I’ll work for you,” she said at last, “Any work like sweeping, swabbing, washing clothes or gardening. But not the child…… I will not take care of the child.”

“I have people to do all my other chores. I want a kind and loving person to care for my daughter. But it’s up to you. There is a store room at the back of the house which is not in use. You can stay there for as long as you like. And if you must, you can cook your own food too.”

As Umakka had come with nothing of her own, Margaret provided her with the basic necessities.

“I never broached the subject again,” Margaret told Andrew, who was listening with rapt attention, “She kept to herself, seldom coming out of her room. One evening, when I came home for a cup of tea, I heard noises from the back verandah. Umakka had picked up a sobbing Amy from her pram and was rocking her back and forth in her arms. She was also berating the temporary ayah I had employed. ‘I’ve been watching you,’ Umakka said to the ayah, ‘You’re very rough with the child, and you never pick her up when she cries. You’re so careless when you feed her. She almost choked just now. I’ll tell Amma to chase you off.’

There was no need for words. Umakka took over, and Amy never suffered again for want of care. They were inseparable. I was so relieved that I could attend to my own work without further worry. The process of integration into our family was gradual. Somewhere along the way, she forgot her caste restrictions, and looking after Amy became her life’s vocation.” be continued

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