Continued from Broken Wings (I)
Raj and Meera were school teachers. They also conducted private coaching classes for which they used the old house where Meera’s mother used to live before she passed away. Opposite that house was where Malti lived with her family.
Malti had a father, a step-mother, an older sister who was married and a younger brother. Her sister and she were born to their father’s first wife. The step-mother was a neutral character. She did not torture, but she didn’t support either. She wasn’t a force at all; neither positive nor negative.
For some reason, Malti was fascinated with Raj and Meera; a tad more with Raj. She would come and sit quietly in the room while he taught. She would run errands… sometimes sweep the rooms. After the students would leave, she would sit talking with Raj and his wife for sometime.
Raj and Meera felt there was something tragic about the child, but she would tell them nothing- though they questioned. She behaved as if her life began and ended in their presence; as if the rest of her existence was not worthy of notice… or acknowledgement. Their persistence met with rebuttal so many times that they gave up trying to ask her anything. They just accepted her presence as a given.
Suddenly, the girl stopped coming by. When a week went by, both Raj and Meera were uneasy. They thought of going up to her house but they didn’t want to take the risk of meeting her father. He was a rude, rough, uncouth man who would as soon pick a fight with people as look at them.
Very uneasily, Raj and Meera waited.
After nearly ten days of absence, Malti crept into the room just as Raj was leaving one evening. Meera had not accompanied him that day as she was not well.
Malti was scared to be seen talking to Raj so they went back inside the room. There, almost stoically, she told Raj that she was pregnant. She said her father would beat her if he finds out and begged Raj to help.
Raj was severely rattled. She looked like a child of ten-twelve to him! How on earth could she be pregnant?! Did she even know what it was?! His first impulse was to disbelieve her. He was sure she had no idea what she was saying… and he said so. He was shocked to know that she was twenty-three, not twelve. Disbelief still being his primary emotion, he had no choice but to accept.
Raj asked her who the guy was. She lowered her head and was silent. He kept asking. Silence. No matter how gently he asked, she neither said a word nor raised her eyes. He said he won’t help if she wouldn’t tell him the guy’s name. Silence. Then she got up to leave… dejected and drooping in sorrow.
He was petrified she might take a desperate step- every line of her body spoke of giving up. She was the most defeated human being he had ever seen. Coming to him was her last act of hope. She didn’t give a damn what happened to her now that hope was dust too. He stopped her and told her he would find out what best could be done.
Before she left, she begged him to promise her that he wouldn’t breathe a word of her troubles to Meera. She was so distraught that he was compelled to promise her.
Next day after getting the name of the pill from me, he bought the dose and gave them to Malti. She still didn’t tell him the name of the guy. He told her this must not happen again for he wouldn’t help her a second time. She didn’t say a word and just left.
To me, the thing that is worse than death is betrayal. You see, I could conceive death, but I could not conceive betrayal.
Two months later she matter-of-factly asked him to buy him another dose of the pills. He was furious and refused. He raved and ranted. He threatened to tell her father. She broke down and cried horribly. Once again, Raj gave in finally. But he promised himself that he would not help her a third time. He began to ignore her when she came to run errands. He made his displeasure known very clearly.
The day Raj brought her to me, he found her standing near his home when he returned from his tuition classes. He was surprised to see her there… alone… and in that disheveled state. Her marriage had been fixed a month ago. She was to be married off five days later and her house was full of guests already. She begged him to talk to her.
Raj knew well Meera would not like it if he took her home, so he took her to a small restaurant to hear her story. He was quite sure she would ask him to help her run away from home because of the guy she was seeing. He certainly did not expect what he heard.
Malti’s father had been abusing her sexually for ten years!
To be continued…
Note: This is a true story, no embellishments, no exaggerations. Some names have been changed to protect privacy.
Written on: 21st March 2010