Broken Wings (Fin)

Continued from Broken Wings (I) and Broken Wings (II)

A week after her elder sister had been married off, he had forced himself on her. She took her sister’s place who was his ‘plaything’ before Malti. He had formed an incestuous relation with his first daughter even before the child had turned ten. In that sense, Malti was luckier. She was thirteen after all.

When her sister’s abuse began, their mother was still alive. She found out what he had done and kicked up a terrible row. A week later, their mother died mysteriously. She was hale and hearty in every way. Barely six months later, he remarried. For two months he kept off his daughter, but once the newness of his second wife wore off, he resumed with Malti’s sister again.

Four years ago, after seven surgical terminations of pregnancy, Malti gave birth to a son. She was taken to a strange village by her step-mother for the confinement. The boy was left there in care of some people they barely knew. They were promised a monthly remittance to pay for the boy’s upbringing but beyond the first six months, nothing was sent. Malti had no idea whether the child was dead or alive.

Neither her step-mother nor her sister dared to intervene on her behalf. They were so severely traumatised themselves that they had no courage left. The step-mother knew of the fate of the first wife. Moreover, she feared for the life of her son.

The torture had continued… for ten long years. And now he hoped to marry her off- ravaged, broken and destitute in every possible way.

She refused to get married. At this unexpected rebellion, her father had beaten her. Without her consent, he fixed up the marriage with a man with no family. Malti was not allowed to see the man she was being tied off to.

As the wedding day drew closer, Malti’s protests became more and more vociferous… and he became correspondingly more violent. That day, he had beaten her up mercilessly. In panic and desperate outrage, she ran away from home. Raj was the only one she trusted so she waited by his house to talk to him.

Both Johnny and I were sobbing bitterly by the time Raj finished telling us her story. He looked and sounded abjectly beaten. I know he was still trying to accept the horror of Malti’s life.

Raj didn’t know what to do, so he brought her to me. He was sure Malti’s father would be hunting for her. He dared not take her to his home. He wasn’t sure Meera would support Malti either, though she was sympathetic towards her.

We discussed many options. I would have taken her to my home but I was facing a crisis at home too and there’s no way I could have taken that bruised child there. It would have done her more harm than good. Finally I told Raj to put her into some decent hotel and to take her to the police station in the morning. We decided it would be best if he took her to the women’s cell. I promised to meet them there.

We noticed Malti hadn’t touched her tea. When Raj asked her why, she said her left elbow was paining. That’s when we saw the pool of blood beside her chair. A part of her kurta was dripping with it. I told Raj to take her to the doctor first of all.

An hour later he called to say that Malti had a fractured elbow. They were at the hospital waiting for the x-ray report. She had a fractured elbow and she was sitting quiet as a mouse in my office! Before that, she had been wandering about town since two in the afternoon cradling a broken elbow! How traumatised was she that she could quietly suffer an injury as serious as the one she had without a murmur? What on earth had she become!?? It seemed to make the horror more real, if possible.

In the morning, she asked to speak to us before she lodged a complaint against her father. She told us that during the night she had decided to get married and get out of that house. The only complaint she want to make against her father was that he beat her, nothing else. As you can imagine, I wasn’t happy with that at all. The man needed to be punished, after all.

“God will punish him ma’am”, she said in her quiet way. Raj and I argued with her. We knew she was terrified of him, so we tried to reassure her of her safety. No matter how much we tried to convince her though, she remained adamant. I remember I was very upset. I couldn’t bear the thought of that animal getting off scot-free. If I had my way, I’d throw him in boiling oil… and things much worse besides.

She could see Raj and I were upset. Finally, she said, “Sir, Ma’am, I am very fond of my brother. That animal (her father) would not hesitate to sell off the boy. Of course, he may still but at least let me not give him an excuse. I won’t have that on my conscience. I’ve already caused death or misery to one boy… not another.”

There was nothing Raj and I could say after that. We had to accept what she had decided. The decision was hers to make, not ours. And who’s to say what brings greater peace to another person- letting go completely or to make sure the guilty are punished and retribution served?

She insisted on speaking to her husband to-be. She wanted to tell him- not the whole terrible story- but at least an abridged version of it. I was highly skeptical, though the thought of her marrying a man who had no idea what he was getting into, wasn’t a happy option either.  Again, the decision had to be hers.

Malti gave him a glimpse of her life, without naming the perpetrator of her miseries. It turned out that he had his own confession to make as well. He told her that he was nearly forty and sterile. Apparently he too had been trying to talk to her once before they got married so that he could tell her all this, but her father wouldn’t let him meet her.

He accepted her brokenness because she so readily accepted his. It was amazing to witness it.

After her police complaint, her father was called and bound to not harm her in anyway. He was also made to promised that he would let Raj and I keep in touch with her through phone- and to visit her- until she was safely married.

She called me the day of her wedding and to say good bye.

“Ma’am, I will never get in touch with you or Raj Sir again”, she began.

When I expressed surprise, she said, “Ma’am please don’t feel bad. I want to forget everything that has happened to me in the past ten years. I will cut off from my sister and brother too. I want nothing around me that will remind me of Malti. I have even told my husband that he must call me Reena. I will bury Malti in my father’s house before I go.”

You need to spend time crawling alone through shadows to truly appreciate what it is to stand in the sun.

~ Shaun Hick

I had never heard her talk this much. Truly, Malti Reena sounded absolutely new. I told her I would see her the next day. She forbade me to attend her wedding.

“Ma’am, no. You are Raj Sir must not come. I will not have you both eat that man’s (her father) food. Let evil remain where it is. I won’t have you tainted by it ”, she declared, her voice firm, decided.

“Alright Malti. Just as you wish. Will you be okay?” said I.

“Ma’am tomorrow is my liberation day! Of course I will be okay! I’ll be more than okay!”

“Now that’s absolutely wonderful Reena!” I said my heart full of joy and gratitude.

“You called me Reena! Yes, I am Reena now! Malti never was!”

Then she fell silent for a minute. In a wet, hoarse voice she asked me, “Ma’am, was  Malti a very bad girl?”

“No beta”, I said, struggling to reach her through my tears. “Malti was a good girl.  She was brave, wonderful and very, very beautiful. Don’t you ever, EVER, forget that, you hear?”

“I won’t forget ma’am. I won’t forget Raj Sir or you. And John Sir too. But ma’am”, she asked fearfully, “you all will forget me, wont you?”

“No”, I told her quietly, “there’s no way any of us would forget you. We are better people because you came into our lives. We will always carry the memory of you in our hearts, always, no matter what. You have shown us the kind of courage that is impossible to forget. You have shown us the most beautiful face in the world… the face of grace. We can’t ever forget you.  Do you believe me?”

“I believe you ma’am.”

And she rang off.

Broken Wings (Fin)

 Note: This is a true story, no embellishments, no exaggerations. Some names have been changed to protect privacy.

Written on:  21st March 2010

Broken Wings (Fin)

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31 thoughts on “Broken Wings (Fin)”

  1. Twenty-three years aand Malti had suffered and endured so much pain.
    Hope Reena finds dignity and happiness in her life. AMEN.

    Dagny your story kept me glued to the screen and I eagerly waited for the next part at the but at the same time was petrified what harm will befall on Malti.

    1. It did seem very dicey for Malti at one point Kalpana. But her grit and tenacity pulled her out from the eye of the most terrible storm one can imagine. I’m so happy you read this story. Thank you.

  2. I admire her, guts and courage. The journey from Malti to Reena must have been so hard for her to make and she did it, even when the odds were not in her favour. Thank you for telling her story, thank you for letting us get to know her. She for sure will never be forgotten.

    1. As you said Jai, she deserves to be remembered. I’m so grateful I was privileged to meet her… She changed my perception about a lot of things.

      Thank you for following this narrative. It is very important to me.

  3. Gosh! Kudos to the women who are given so much strength to endure so much pain. She is one hell of a woman…wish we could know she was well. Dagny…you have your way with words…always a pleasure reading you.

    1. Janu, She truly was an amazing girl. I too wish I knew of her well-being. But that again, was her choice. May God bless her.
      Thank you for reading this.

  4. Wish Reena well. After going through such trauma, she deserves happiness. Your words conveyed her pain with such simplicity and honesty.
    Deep, somewhere there is sadness after reading this. Why? Life is so unfair.

    1. Alka, her pain was so invasive, I was so deeply affected that it was many years before I could dare to write about it. These events took place in 2006. It took me four years to put it all down. The first draft was awfully raw and disjointed because I would get very rattled as I wrote it down. Even now I can see the small pool of blood when I think of her.

      Life is indeed unfair. You are forced to put it down to Karmic debt, nothing else explains it.

  5. Reena deserves all our love for being who she is. Even after so much trauma both physical and mental if she could be big enough not to expose her father, she deserves it and more. You were privileged to have known her and for being able to help her. At the end of the story I have admiration for another person, the man who was going to marry her. Not because he married her, but because he was striving to tell the woman he was going to marry that he was sterile. He could have been another rogue, but he was honest. I am praying that the two of them are happy somewhere, finally having found love and acceptance.

    I didn’t begin reading till I saw that this was the last part. I am not able to bear suspenses any more. Of course at that time I didn’t know that it was a true story, not that it would have made me read it. I am glad I waited and read the pieces in one continuous narration. And that is why dear, there is only one comment from me. Hugs to you. A big tight one.

    1. As you said Zephyr, I was privileged indeed. She taught me so much in her quiet, humble way.

      I met her husband to-be. He came across as a reasonable man. He had already been married once. His first wife left him when she found out that he was sterile. He didn’t want to go through the same thing again. Still, as you said, he need not have said anything. Specially since Reena told him her story first. I suppose her courage rubbed off on him.

      I too don’t like to read a series until I can read them all together. I just can’t bear to wait for the next part! So I totally know where you are coming from. 😀

      A big big hug to you too. I feel healed because you read it. I hope Reena did too.

      Thank you!

  6. Inside every tortured body is a Reena waiting to emerge.

    Knowing you Dags, I’d say Malti was lucky to find you. But then again, you were lucky to have her in your life too. The transformation from Malti to Reena is something that can teach us all a lesson or two about breaking free from the ones who inflict harm on us

    1. As you said Sid, I was lucky to have met her. My sense of justice made me very unhappy with her choices at that time, I remember. But I am glad by the time she called, I had accepted her decision whole-heartedly. She deserved nothing less.

      I’m happy you read this. This was important for me.

  7. I read a staggeringly similar story in a hindi daily recently! Jesus! There are so many such horrible monster fathers out there. The report said it was the fourth reported case of father abuse this month! I shudder.

    Just the way you wrote this story drove the point home. You are just such a wonderful writer and person…way to go.

    1. Thank you! You warm words made me smile. But honestly, it was no hardship being there was Reena. She would inspire the coldest person to want to do all they could for her.

      What endears her to me specially was her simple courage. At no point did she show that she expected us to help her… or that she took it as something we owed her. That attitude is so amazing in today’s world where people are steeped in a sense of misplaced entitlement.

      Thank you for reading this. I’m sorry for this delay in responding… I was offline for a few days. Thank you for your patience. 🙂

      1. Oh thats okay, Im ofline most of the time myself. True what you said there, its indeed rare to see people asking for help but not implying that we owe it to them. simple courage really isnt that common.

  8. What horrors this young woman had gone through in life! I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of inner strength she had to go through it all and yet come out of it all with a heart full of calm courage and compassion. Not a desire to seek revenge or wallow in the self-pity of a victim but to focus on turning a new page and leave behind everything. Thanks Dagny for introducing her to Reena.

    I read her whole story in one go (all three parts), she has touched me somewhere deep and I feel grateful just knowing that there are women like her in the world. I wish nobody else has to go through what she went through, but given the present state of the world I know there are and will be many more Maltis suffering silently all kinds of abuse. But I sincerely hope and pray that they too will find their own Raj Sir and Dagny Ma’am, and most importantly their inner Reena’s. May the tribe of such Reena’s increase!

    1. You are so right Beloo! That she went through so much… and did not let it make her bitter and revengeful is probably her biggest achievement. I hope she found her peace. I hope she and her husband have helped heal each other’s wounds.

      May her tribe multiply. There is hope for us still if the world can yet produce a Reena for every monster that walks amongst us.

  9. Hmm….feeling very sad and sorry for the girl, but glad finally she got someone who understands her and is a genuine one. Wherever she is, I wish she is happy and have a peaceful life. And that fellow will rot in hell. I can’t understand how she could let it go. How hard it must have been for her to do so, right? So much pain.. I read all the three parts at once. All in a row. Hugs for being there for her!

    1. It couldn’t have been easy for her to let go. Maybe pain like that teaches us to let go of that which will bring on more pain. God works in strange ways. Often when He can’t grant us a wish, He moves something within us so that we stop wanting it. Either way, He resolves the issue. 🙂

      Hugs back to you!

  10. I have a lump in my throat. I was waiting for the final post so that I could read them all at once. I’m glad I did. Child abuse is so rampant in our society that I wish I could torture the abusers to my heart’s content. They must surely be Satan’s house. I was happy to note that she didn’t choose the easiest way of killing herself, but to be liberated. I sincerely wish that no child must be subjected to child abuse as it breaks their confidence and trust in humanity. A father figure doing the same is all the more horrible.

    1. She could easily have chosen to kill herself, couldn’t she? People commit suicide for the flimsiest of reasons. If anyone had a right to do it… surely Reena did. But she didn’t. If she had, her story wouldn’t have made as deep an impact of us as it has. Her courage has given us courage as well.

      Thank you for reading this. This was a very important series for me.

  11. Having led a sheltered life surrounded by love I can’t even imagine how it must have been for Malti. But fhe courage and magnanimity she showed is remarkable. Hope she is doing good wherever she is

    1. I hope she is doing well too and has found happiness. She surely deserves all there is in the world.

      Thank you for reading the series!

  12. I just read all the three parts together. I found your thoughts of reena being grace the best. The positive thread of the story is amazing. Hope she is in a good place now.

  13. I hope Reena finally found her peace.
    The bitter truth of this ‘great’ nation of ours is that this kind of thing is more commonplace than we would like to believe.

    1. Oh we’d like to hide our head in the sand and pretend there’s no elephant in the room. Meanwhile the elephants are silently grinding many a Reena to pulp.

      Thank you for reading the series…

  14. I have a tough time articulating what I feel. First emotion is respect for her because she was strong, way stronger than anyone I know. So brave too. She still had hope after all the horrors and empathy for another human being like her husband to be. I believe that one must be happy and content in order to give. But she still found it in her to give. That she had good people like Raj and you in her life were the only saving graces. But, what an incredible woman! I wish we could know how she is doing now. But something inside me tells me that she turned into kundan from gold and that she will make her future life a triumph.

    I also feel deep pain and hurt. A father and a daughter, a parent and a child — the relationship is sacrosanct; it is nurturing and empowering. Perverts should never be parents. It is not fair.

    Thank you for sharing her tale. It give me hope despite despair. Is it too much to wish that these evils be forever gone?

    1. She was indeed very strong. I am sure she is doing well. If she could survive this and emerge from it without letting betterness corrode her, I’m sure she will deal with anything life throws at her. I just hope life is kind to her now. She has dealt with enough… a lot more than enough. Life hasn’t been fair to her at all.

      Parents as molesters… that, as you said, is THE most awful thing to deal with. It is the most terrible betrayal imaginable. But there are so many children who have had this inflicted on them. My heart weeps for them.

      I join you in praying that these evils are gone forever.

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