It is not a new day she wakes up to. She doesn’t see that ray of hope in the sunlight like the world around her does. When dawn breaks and the breeze blows, the smell of a fresh morning doesn’t revive her. The site of dewdrops doesn’t make her heart skip a beat and the butterflies don’t give her those jitters of happiness. The chirping birds are not lively and the fading sound of crickets, not pleasing to the ear. When they tell her to wait, she waits but never expects. They tell her that tomorrow will be better, she listens but never believes. She hears the voices asking her not to give up and she holds on, but never clings onto her hope.
That day was still fresh in her mind. It was her fifteenth birthday. For some strange reason that she still isn’t familiar with, her birthday wasn’t ever celebrated. But it wasn’t strange at all how her brother, four years elder to her, always got the chance to have a jovial time on his birthday. No one questioned this discrepancy. Neither did she. That was just the way it worked then and the way it would always work. So while practically the entire town was invited for her brother’s birthday, the only presence felt on her birthday was that of her aunt – that too a happy co-incidence.
“Oh you’re fifteen! Look at you, turning into a woman already. It is difficult being one though, you’ll see..” , she had said.
She was living each and every sound of that warning today. Everything that seemed perplexing and queer back then, seemed to make sense now. Why her birthday was never celebrated. Why she was made to clean the utensils. Why there were no books in her room. Why she was never asked if she was in pain or was hurt or upset. Why her approval was never taken about her life decisions. Why she had to dress up in clothes that suffocated her and jewellery that made her body itch. Why she was shown around like a show piece. Why she was never taken to the world outside the domestic sphere. Why she was being forced to walk around fire with an old unknown man, in circles. Why he tied a chain around her neck and why no one ever asked her if she wanted to be taken to that room alone with him. Why she couldn’t make a sound when he forced himself on her naked body. Why she was never asked and why she would never be asked. All the pieces fit. She finally had the answers to solve the puzzle. Whether it was win or lose, she couldn’t decide.
It hit her like the strongest whip that he now cracks her with. She had been brought up as a girl. This is who she is. She was her parent’s daughter before her husband’s wife and her child’s mother before the new family’s daughter-in-law. Who she was, she didn’t know. She wasn’t told and she never asked. Like every other question that was left unanswered, she knew this one too would go to the stores of her endless pondering. Her thoughts ran like a forest caught fire. But this time, she didn’t stop. She let them run. This was her time, her solitude, her fort of deliberations and contemplations. One after another, the pain from the old wounds resurfaced. One after another, the incidents replayed in her mind and for every question that she had never asked, for every beating that she hadn’t raised a voice against, for every decision she that was forced into, her blood burned and boiled. She watches him come home every night, reeking of the smell of alcohol and cigar. She would wait for him to move to his room, while she would stand in the kitchen, trembling and shaking with that glass of water in her hands. She knew if she didn’t take it to him, he would come looking for her. If she took it to him, he would only smile grimly before taking off his belt. With every piece of clothing that he would take off, she would feel herself losing every ounce of her dignity and her self respect. With every sigh of exasperation that he would let out, she would feel herself losing any control over her voice and her strength to speak out. Then there were those days when he would be so aggressive and so uncontrollable that she would have to call his attention to her, so he would have some mercy on their daughter – the little girl of six, who learnt hate before love, force before persuasion, tears before laughter and pain before life. She knew violence before she could even spell it.
She couldn’t answer any of her questions for herself. She knew there would be no one to listen today. What she didn’t ask then, was now forgotten. Dumped in her nightmares of despair. The damage was done, the deal was final. Yet, the road seemed clearer. As her daughter sat with her, knees stuck to her chest, she felt terrified for her little girl. As her daughter hugged her close, breathing out every fear, every trepidation and every dread, she wanted to hug her back with an air of fortitude, resilience and faith. Her thoughts paved a way for themselves and she started looking at the other way now. He will come home tomorrow. He will wait for that glass of water tomorrow. He will take off his belt tomorrow and he will be more aggressive tomorrow. But she won’t be there tomorrow. Questions she never asked, her daughter will. Doubts her conscience is haunted with, her daughter will clear. Notions and conditions that clouded her judgement will not blind her daughter’s mind. Her daughter will not be his daughter. Her daughter will not be a wife. Her daughter will not be a mother. What she will be, is herself. Her. She will be an individual, a girl. Brought up as a girl, empowered and enlightened and educated.
She will wake up to a new day, see hope in those sun rays and relive every break of dawn with the smell of a fresh morning. She will watch the dewdrops, the birds and the butterflies. She will see a better tomorrow and she will make it for herself. She will know who she is and she will make it for herself.