“You shouldn’t be here at this hour of night”, said a coarse, middle aged male voice with a touch of naughtiness. Normally this situation would have aroused fear in the mind of Aditi, but today was different. She could not afford to sway her mind elsewhere. Tonight she was a woman with a mission. True to her name she had to “release from sin”. She had finally gotten here after years of struggle.
Pained by her complete ignorance, the man sitting on the bench of the platform got up, brushed his cigarette with his chappal and started chewing tobacco. Aditi lifted her right hand to the level of her eyes and a Sonata watch revealed the time as 11:30 pm. “You know madam you shouldn’t be revealing a costly watch like that at the middle of the night on a deserted platform either”, said the man. Till now Aditi had been ignoring the man but this went too far. “And who are you to give me such advice?”,she said; her voice not too rude but loud and determined enough to drive home a point.
The man just sneered and looked away. From a distance came the sound of an approaching train. Aditi had a feeling of excitement and nervousness simultaneously.She knew that she would never return to this place; leaving behind the thousand happy and sad memories which had summed up to form her life. The train halted with a loud thud. Aditi dragged her suitcase on the platform and entered the AC-3 compartment. As she was about to slide the gate of the coach, she remembered that she didn’t have a ticket and it didn’t matter in which coach she entered.
For a moment she felt like running back. She wanted to forgive whatever was done. All those feelings of denial she had been having for the past several years came flooding back to her. Added to that was the fear of unknown. She was leaving behind the only people she had really known in her life. She felt like going back. Her mind screamed her to return. “No”, she tried saying that in her head. It actually came out loud..loud enough to wake up the ticket collector.
“Yes, Madam? What do you want?”
“Can I please have a ticket to New Delhi station? It is very urgent; I didn’t have the time to take a ticket”. The ticket collector thought “ There is nothing which I can take as bribery as the coach is almost empty”. Besides he was not in a mood to argue with a girl in the midst of his sleep. So,after eyeing her from top to bottom he gave her the ticket.
Aditi thanked him and went to her side upper berth. She tried to sleep; sleep which has evaded her since a long time. She could not remember the last time when she had slept peacefully, without any pain physically or mentally. And with it came the horrifying images once again; the images which shook the bottom of her soul; which had changed her very existence; which were the reason for her being on this train. She tried blanking her mind and said to herself. “Whatever you are doing is right. This should not happen to anyone else; any other daughter” .The last word made her feel anguished. Am I a good daughter? Well to be one, one should have a good father which I never had. She instructed herself “Enough! I have got to have some sleep. Tomorrow’s gonna be a long, long day”
She started counting down from 100. This was the same technique that had let her sleep all these years. She had now grown used to telling herself bed time stories, singing herself songs and tucking herself in. And as always she drifted off to sleep.
Her deep sleep was interrupted by some commotion outside. True to the nature of the people in this state somebody was shouting. She was still in trance as she sat up and tried to figure out where and what she was doing. The train was currently at a station. “It shouldn’t be far from New Delhi. I wonder which station is this”, she thought to herself. She got up and with faltering steps went towards the door.
Quite a few people were gathered on the platform watching with amusement as two people went bricks and bats on each other. She tried to listen. The row was between a passenger and a hawker. The passenger said he had paid for three plates of “Aloo-Puri” but received only two while the hawker said he had already given him three.“What silly people!” Aditi thought to herself and looked around the platform to catch hold of the name of the station. Suddenly in a flash she was alert. The yellow board on the platform had Mathura Junction imprinted on it.
“Aditi, come close to me. Don’t run in the temple courtyard, otherwise you will be lost”. But Aditi paid no heed to her mother’s voice. This was the first time she had been allowed to come to a different city on her summer holidays. She was 10 years old, but in this long period she never had the freedom to play with her friends outside her house. All her friends had to come to her house to play which they didn’t seem to enjoy at all. There were always restrictions imposed by Aditi’s father on their movements. They couldn’t play Hide-n Seek, they can’t have Long Race. Even in school, there were always two bodyguards for her security. All her friends were afraid of the bodyguards as they looked dangerous; long, thick moustache with a revolver tied to their trouser belts, chewing paan or puffing beedi; without showing the slightest sign of any human emotion. Once Aditi had complained,” Papa, why do I need so much security? Why do other girls of my age are allowed to roam freely but not me”. To this her father had shouted,” You are the daughter of an MP. Do you know how many enemies I have?? What if they kidnap you and use you as a bait against me? Do you know what all bad things they can do to you? I don’t want them any chance to explore my weakness. You have to do as I say or else stop going to school”.Aditi had cried the whole night. Her mother tried to console her but nothing could ease the pain in her heart. Why do Papa not understand me, he thinks me as his weakness & Mummy also doesn’t say anything to Papa. She always tries to make me understand instead.
Aditi was enjoying the marble engravings depicting different forms of Ma Durga. In one of the depictions she was distributing wealth and prosperity in the form of Lakshmi and in other she was killing a huge demon as Kali. Ma Durga helps us to fight all evils present in the world and also within us;her mother had taught her. She was keenly grazing the temple walls when a familiar voice beckoned her ears. “Aditi beta, meri pyari Gudiya, what are you doing here? Come with me. I will take you to the idol factory at the backyard of the temple and show you how these beautiful works are created.” Aditi became very excited,held her Chacha’s(Paternal Uncle) hand and started going to the backyard. Thankfully there were no security guards to follow her .Since Uncle was there, her father had not felt the need to send so much security. Her Uncle like her father was a minister in the government.
The backyard seemed to be a highly secluded area; there was no one present there; no clue of any factory; no sound of any tools. “Where is the factory,Chahchaji?” Her Uncle grinned in an unusual manner which Aditi had not seen before. He held her tightly and started to put his hands beneath her frock. After that he unzipped his trouser and looked at her with eyes that conveyed mischievousness and danger. The event that followed was very new to Aditi. She experienced extreme pain and tried to shout only to find her Uncle’s hand on her mouth. This lasted for a few minutes.After satisfying himself, the beast rose from her body. He touched Aditi’s cheek .”Meri Gudiya, take this chocolate and promise me not to tell this to anyone. You are a good girl na. You will follow your Uncle’s instruction”.The temple bells rang at deafeaning levels;but the Goddess was not happy.
The train started leaving the platform. Aditi wiped out her tears.12 years had passed after that day but her wounds were still intact. The physical wounds did take a long time to heal as her Uncle kept visiting her with more chocolates. But the mental wounds had left their imprint forever. Aditi shuddered remembering the touch of the ugly, rigid, tight hands on her body. An instant feeling of horror, hatred and anger filled her soul. But even more pronounced was the complete denial she faced from her mother when she finally told her about her exploitation by her Uncle. Her mother as always told her to maintain silence and not tell anything to her father.
The sexual abuse had ended as Aditi went to Delhi to complete her graduation;but the face of the devil haunted her wherever she went. She could not concentrate on her studies; every man seemed to her as a wolf of lust who will bite her with its teeth & scratch her body with its claws until its hunger is satisfied. She felt highly insecure interacting with people; it was as if the whole world had been spectators to what had been done to her and now they all were mocking her. “You don’t have any right to study, be independent, live freely”, the voices whispered in her ears when she slept at night.
Aditi’s mobile vibrated taking her out from the train of thoughts. It was the Editor of the news channel which she had contacted before.She knew that this has to be huge, the police is too corrupt to handle this. Media is the only way which can ensure action ” Hello Aditi, this is Vaishali speaking from India Today.I just called to know if you had reached New Delhi station. There will be a vehicle outside the station that will take you directly to your hotel. You can come to our studio from there.I am messaging you the details of the driver and the vehicle.” Aditi just replied with a thanks. She was still not sure if this is the right thing to do. Speculating her confusion came a voice from the other side,” Look Aditi, its completely upto you whether you wanna go with this story or not. There is no pressure from us. But I feel someone has to step forward to make a difference.” Aditi hung up the phone and started drinking the tea which she had purchased a long time before but forgot to drink.
Aditi was now in her hotel suite. She looked through the window and in came the images from yesterday flashing before her eyes. Aditi was standing besides a huge couch in a well-furnished living room. The other occupants of the room included a 55 year old man wearing a kurta-paijama seated on the couch and a woman of about the same age seated besides him.She had tears in her eyes and seemed to be feeling guilty for hiding something which should have been brought in light long before. After few minutes of awkward silence, the man said. “Beta,I can understand what you have gone through. Whatever was done to you should have never happened, you suffered a lot because of all this.But please think about it with a cool head. Nothing done now can undone the things happened in the past. Moreover,its family;its wise if the matter remains with the walls of the house.” Aditi could not believe her ears.It was as if the floor beneath her foot was suddenly removed and she fell into a pit thousands of meter deep. Tears started rolling automatically;the girl was betrayed by the very person who was supposed to support her ,protect her.Her father had just put a blindfold to her feelings,her pain,her deep agony.Aditi felt weak ;expectantly she looked at her mother only to see the same face as hers. ” I can’t let this happen to me.I am a strong women.I can’t allow myself to be dictated like this ; to loose my very existence.I will fight for it. I will have my justice whether you support me or not”.Her voice was shaky but filled with a sense of resolve.With this Aditi left the room and the house forever.
“Let me now welcome on stage the Honourable Home Minister of India”,said the Vice-Chancellor of Indira Gandhi School of Arts for Women. The beast sprang up from the chair and went to the podium with a plastic smile on his face.” First of all,I want to wish every women present here a very Happy Women’s Day. I firmly believe that a strong woman can only lead to a strong nation. Women should be given every possible support by the administration and the society .I, myself is a devotee of Ma Durga and treat every woman with the same respect and love as my mother. I strongly criticize all forms of exploitations done to woman and the government is taking ample measures to ensure security to women. We have deployed special police forces at critical junctures of all major cities after the recent rape cases which will ensure the complete safety of woman outside their homes.” Aditi gave a satirical laugh and switched off the TV.” And who will protect them within the house?? No girl or woman can be safe in this country until there are devils of lust like you roaming freely.How can a girl feel safe if the people meant to protect her start exploiting her.How dare you call yourself a well-wisher of woman when you had not even left your 10 year old niece untouched by your sins. You think that since you are a huge minister,no one can stop you. I will stop you Chachaji.”
With firm determination, Aditi stepped out from her room to the news channel studio. Ma Durga had stepped forward to assassin the devil.