Under the hot sunMina lived with a perennial fear: the fear of that thumping knock at the door, the fear of the torture she would have to endure
On a sweltering summer day, trickles of sweat were dripping down her body. Plying the whole day in the intense sun was not easy but the obligations that life had presented her with numbed every pain. Mina, a woman in her twenties, was a resident of a rural village. Hardship that she endured in raising two children, mingled with the incessant torture of her drunkard husband, smeared her life with inexplicable torments. Days ticked over painfully.
After a long day’s work at a construction site, Mina returned home with messy hair, pale lips, filthy clothes, and a fatigued body. Spotting Mina at a distance, her daughter hastily approached her, flailing her arms and Mina scooped up the little girl in arms. The warmth of her daughter’s love mollified every discomfort she had. Boys, naturally, are less attached to their parents than the girls. With jumbled wires and old tape recorder Raj, Mina’s son, was busy at a corner of the small hovel. He feigned not to notice his mother’s arrival. The sun, eventually, descended behind the hills.
Mina began preparing dinner with a candle for light. Raj and Rima were chatting about the upcoming fair in the village. Mina would frequently be a part of her children’s conversation; she would describe the details of the fair to escalate her children’s excitement. While going about all this, an obsessive fear rattled Mina’s mind: the fear of that thumping knock at the door, the fear of the torture she would have to endure.
Suddenly, the door swung open. Mina’s heart skipped. A loud shout echoed and the children fell silent. Mina quickly escorted them to the next room and hurried to the door, where a man was standing, barely. A reek of alcohol wafted to her nose. She tried to help Rambahadur, her husband, inside but he shoved her aside. With his mood now dour, he grabbed his wife from her hair and slammed her to the floor. Children were peeking through the door in misty eyes.
Days passed by. Violence and quarrel were recurring events in this household. Children grew in the shade of their mother’s love and their father’s neglect.
Eventually, one day, a stranger arrived at the dusk, pleading shelter for a night. Seeing his modest attire, Rambahadur agreed to let him stay. After an hour-long chat with the stranger, Mina invited them for dinner. During dinner, Rambahadur announced that he had decided to offer his daughter to the stranger. When Mina tried to interfere, she was stopped and the next day a rushed marriage took place.
A year passed after Rima left home. By now, Raj had started working with his mother at construction sites. Mina was getting on in years, thus, it was now much difficult for her to work. But with Rambhadur’s income drained by alcohol, it was difficult for the family to stay afloat without everyone chipping in.
Finally, Raj decided to move to India with his friends and Mina lost both of her support systems. For her, life snowballed into an exceedingly insipid affair.
Raj, who was now working in a hotel in Delhi, frequently contacted his mother for the first few months but then kept to himself. Eventually, even the money he occasionally sent home stopped arriving.
One day, Raj was moving in the street delivering food nearby. Then he spotted a lady with an absurd demeanour. A cloth was wrapped around her face and she looked timid and fearful. As she approached, he noticed a familiar face—she was his sister Rima. He tried to stop her, but then, without even a moment’s pause, she hastened forward. It was only after he called her name that she stopped to look back at him. Seeing her brother, Rima was stunned for a moment then ran to embraced him in her arms. Trickles of tear flowed down her eyes and she told him how the stranger tricked her, promising her comfort and prosperity, only to sell her at a brothel in India. She had recently been rescued by a Nepali costumer and was roaming the streets seeking help to return back home.
At that moment, Raj saw glimpses of his own mother in Rima’s eyes. How the women in his life had suffered, beneath his very nose, without him able to do anything about it. And how in his helplessness, he has turned a blind eye to their suffering. If he just looked away hard enough, maybe it would all disappear.
Standing in the hot Delhi sun, Raj made himself a promise. He would look away no more. For the loudest radio could never drown out an abused person’s wailing, no land was far enough to distance him from the suffering.
Now resolute, he took his frail sister hand and led her away. They were heading home. Wherever that would be.
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