It was raining. She was staring out of the window, recalling when it all started. And then there were tears in her eyes, unlikely of her nature to cry but then she thought " Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water" and with this she went back in time... back... back... back....!!
There was unspoken sadness in the air when Malti bai announced, “Ladki hui hai…”. The enthusiastic bunch of a few relatives that had taken the pain to come by to eat some sweets for free, on the birth of a boy, left the hut disappointed and apologetic. Devika opened her eyes to a hostile world.
Ever since she last remembered, she was not sure if either of her parents had ever kissed or hugged her. She was a beautiful baby girl, and at the age of five, local kids she used to play with hated her for her fair complexion, her blue eyes and dark brown hair. Her appearance was an enigma to the rotten, backward and underdeveloped society that she lived in. At the age of ten, when she dressed herself up for the first time, for a cousin’s wedding, she was teased by all for looking like an ‘English memsahib’. They used to laugh at her and alienate her.
She had always been puzzled as to why she had a different appearance in comparison to other members of her family, until one day when she heard her father slap her mother, screaming, “Us maa***d firangi student ke yahan tuney rotiyon ke saath saath bahut kuch pakaya hai,kutiya! Saali, nikal ja yahan se!”. And the yelling continued until she fell asleep, unable to hear further.
Education was not provided to her after the fifth grade, as the family was too poor to afford the sixth grade books, among other things. She being a girl, it was completely out of the question, investing money in her education. As she grew into her teen years, unaware of the fact that she was indeed the girl with the fastest growing curves in the area, she suffered emotionally as a victim of wolf- whistling and eve teasing in the places where she used to go to work as a sweeper. At nights, she read History books of a twelfth grade arts student that belonged to her elder brother.
Life in the Post Independence era saw changes in the society. But the rift between the rich and the poor was as large as ever. Things were no different in metro cities, like Delhi. Even in the these times, the economic profile of Delhi indicates that 34% of the population belongs to the ‘poor’ class, 48% to the middle class, and 18% to the rich and very rich people.
This 18% of the population is the lot that is mostly kept in the limelight. People who always feature in Page 3 parties- the people who always drive the most luxurious cars across the streets, who enjoy a high class lifestyle. These are the people with whom little Devika belonged, deep within her imagination.
Her childhood was comprised of more dreams than realities…she had beautiful fantasies but she knew that they would never come true. And this truth left her feeling extremely bitter about her life. Selling toys at the age when she should have been playing with them was a necessity, since the only breadwinner in the family was the mother, who used to sweep houses and clean dishes to earn a meagre income. The father was a drunkard, who beat his wife and kids… snatching money from them was the only other thing he ever did.
Her brother used to sell kites and he was the only one to whom she felt emotionally attached. He was elder to her by six years and had taken care of her since as far back as she could remember. The family kept changing location, and somewhere down the line, they realized that every house they got to live in had similar problems- lack of sanitation, clean drinking water and what have you. The neighbourhoods they stayed in were full pimps and criminals.
On her twelfth birthday, Devika was gifted a skirt and a tank top by her brother, which he had purchased from the Chor Bazaar at the cheapest rates possible. She observed her reflection in the mirror and instantly realized that she was breathtakingly beautiful. Her looks became her weapon one day. In the years to come, her beauty took her to places where she had always wanted to be in.
By the age of fifteen, Devika had developed a fascination for flying and she wanted to be an air hostess. Her thoughts and dreams were laughed upon by all, except her brother. He made it a point to bring her magazines and newspaper articles that would guide her in her quest. He too was a dreamer and wanted to own a sweet shop in the market area. Both siblings were fond of each other, and they alone understood the world of dreams that they resided in.
On her 17th birthday, when her distant uncle tried to grapple her and rape her, it became unbearable for Devika to live such a miserable life any longer. She and her brother left their home in pursuit of their dreams. A predominantly male dominated society that it has, Delhi presents some of the most perplexing situations to outsiders. On the whole, women hardly seem to be little more than sex objects. For a lot of male residents, respect and equality for women appear to be textbook concepts. Devika learnt this when she went searching for work at homes and shops, where the employers always gazed at her voluptuous body with lewd looks in their eyes. She and her brother had no shelter and lived on the footpath- or rather, just slept on it, since the whole of the day her brother kept selling newspapers at the railway station, earning just about enough money to buy a small packet of milk for himself and his sister for the evening meal. The only meal.
The brother was aware of the fact that Delhi is an outright dangerous place for women, especially after dark. Rather than the perpetuators of the crime, it is the traumatized rape victims who are forced to go through hard times because they are promptly labeled as women of ‘loose character’. He watched his beautiful young sister as she slept with her head on his lap and shed silent tears, helplessly wondering whether he had committed a sin by leading her out of their home in pursuit of their dreams…dreams which now seemed impossible and ridiculous.
A few weeks thereafter, Devika’s brother ran into an owner of a large showroom selling garments for women. The merchant and his wife ran the expensive store, and they needed a new female staff member, and a deputy assistant at the cash counter. The tears and distraught faces of these young kids ‘broke’ the merchant’s ‘heart’. Mr Kashyap couldn’t refuse them the job they so desperately needed. She was too beautiful a girl to lose…Kashyap’s wife was too old for his dirty little fantasies. The moment he saw her, he knew this was it!
Things improved for them…drastically. ‘Kashyap Sir’, as Devika’s brother called him, had arranged for a room with a negligible rent and a fair enough wage for both the hard working siblings. Her brother bought her a beautiful dress for her 19th birthday. She looked beautiful in it. They went to Kashyap Sir’s place after work. He’d said, “Betiya ka janamdin aaj hum log saath manayengey”.
When they reached his house, they were informed that Mrs Kashyap had gone to her parents home for some work. They ate the extravagant dinner as they listened to Mr Kashyap’s tales about how he had made a hundred sacrifices and worked so hard to own the best selling saree store in the town. Devika’s brother listened, fascinated… idolizing him.
Devika went into the kitchen to clean the dishes. After what felt like a New York minute, Mr Kashyap came up to her from behind and rubbed his hands all over her. She screamed and pulled away from. She ran to the living room and narrated to her bewildered elder brother, her protector, what had just happened.
When she finished, he got a hard look in his eyes. He spoke softly, but his tone was full of bitterness, “Don’t be selfish! This is our only chance.” She started to speak, confused by what she heard, when he slapped her hard across her face. She stood still, turning cold. She stared at him, not sure of how to react…unsure of whether she should cry or scream. She blinked away the tears that were sure to fall, and slowly made her way to one of the bedrooms in Kashyap’s house.
He devoured her all night like a ruthless animal, and she never protested…she was numb and indifferent to what was happening to her…physically. It was her mind that was screaming with agony...ceaseless, terrible and terrifying agony.
She woke up late in the morning and saw the old and ugly Kashyap lying next to her, gazing at her with a grin on his face. “You were the most beautiful thing I had ever had, my dear… I’m sorry that you missed the opening of the little sweet shop that your brother opened today… he came by, early this morning, to collect the papers of the shop for which we’d made a deal… when he’d entered my store for the first time… with you”.
He sold me… She thought, numbly, a chill running down her spine.
“What would you like to have for breakfast?” said the creep, kissing her cheek with sickening, sticky lips.
“I would like to live on my own- away from my brother. And… have a place all to myself, Sir… a place where we can do ‘this’ more frequently… on weekdays…A place of our own… I think it’s about time I learned to please the man who can… satisfy my needs.”
Kashyap stood there, frozen and shocked… The bitch has changed her tune... Has she grown up over night? He thought. He looked at her while she smiled at him with growing mischief in her gorgeous eyes…the girl who had been raped the previous night… he was sure he was too ugly for any girl to actually like him in bed … Yet, there was honesty in her eyes. An innocence that was spellbinding, and there was a newfound, attractive command in her voice.
“Sure!” He smiled back and took out ten thousand bucks from his vault and gave them to her. “This shall serve as a rent for a good enough flat nearby.”
“But there is an initial deposit that will be needed…”
Said Devika, the devil in her eyes.
Kashyap took another wad of ten thousand rupees and handed it to her. “Take his too, honey.”
She went to the kitchen and happily prepared a sumptuous breakfast for him. He waited at the dining table, confused by the change in her behavior. She had a cup of tea and watched him eat the sandwich made by her, looking highly amused. He was still perplexed and shocked by the sudden transformation in her…
He dropped her at a medical store where he wanted her to purchase an anti- pregnancy bill and told her to meet at him at the workplace. He then went to pick up Mrs. Kashyap from her mother’s place. Devika smiled him, as he left. Then she took an auto rickshaw.
“To railway station!” Said she. There was a command in her voice, a tyrannical force.
She knew what every guy wanted and she also knew that she had it in her.