She was 6. Her eyes were fixed on the TV screen that played her favorite show ‘Chitrahar’. Every Friday at 7.30 PM, they played the latest Hindi songs and she wouldn’t miss it for anything else. At sharp 7.25 PM she would be gaping into the screen awaiting the end of the boring news & for the music to begin. But today was different.
Today, her eyes were fixed on the TV screen. But she wasn’t watching it. She clutched the remote control tightly in her tiny palms. They were sweating. She could vaguely see some movements in the TV. She could barely hear the song over the conversation raging in the adjoining room. She was scared. Scared to listen. Scared to not listen.
She fidgeted with the remote control & finally increased the TV volume. Yet, she could make out neither the conversation, nor the music. And then, she heard it again, loud & clear. The dreadful noise of flogging. The clap that has always terrified her. The clap of a slap. She heard it repeatedly. As the screaming and shouting increased, the slaps sounded like thunder in her ears.
She sat there transfixed. Eyes wide, breathing faster, her hands holding on to the remote as though the harder she held it, faster it would all end. Her eyes filled with tears as she remembered that her mother was bearing a baby inside her. Will that baby die?
‘Should I go in there? Or should I sit here and wait for my mother to die? Will he kill me after that? Will he hit me for increasing the TV volume? Or for switching it ON? Or shall I decrease it? But what if he hits me for reducing the volume & listening to them?’
Suddenly, he came out of the room and stormed into the kitchen. She could hear her mother’s sobs. She was crying like a little child. She wanted to see her mother. But…
He came out of the kitchen holding a heavy pounder(used to grind spices) made of iron. Her eyes widened as she saw what he was holding, ‘My mother is going to die. My mother is going to die.’ She didn’t dare make a noise. But she was screaming noiselessly & running around the hall, her hand cupped over her mouth. She hoped that her silence would solve everything.
She knew this day was coming. Each time her father flogged her mother, she thought it would be the last time she would see her. But today, she was sure. She knew that next will be her turn. She went towards their room & stood still. She couldn’t see what was happening inside. But she waited, for the blow.
‘You have the audacity to disobey me!? I’ll show you what I can do.’ Saying so, he lifted the pounder. Before the final blow, she heard the most outrageous cry that will haunt her forever – The cry of an animal about to be torn by the wolves. The cry of fear, pain and fury mingled with the last desperate attempts to escape.
And the dead silence.
She took a step forward & peeked into the room. She sighed…
…And slumped down on the floor.
17 years later…
Mother: (Her face is scarred & shadowed grey through the years. Wheezing deeply) Diksha Aunty called. She has got a proposal for you.
She: Don’t bother Ma, I told you many times & I tell you now. I’m not getting married! Can you at least hide that swelling on your face? It makes me want to kill him. But you wouldn’t let me.