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Note: This story is contributed by our lovely reader, Lakshmi Seetha. We have not edited this story in any way. All rights for this story belong to the original author.
I was shocked to the extent that now I needed a glass of water to calm myself. As coming back to senses, “Mother?”, I looked at her raising my eyebrows.
“Surprise…right?”, she began to play with the girl. “Who is he?”, the girl innocently inquired about me. “That uncle…is my friend”, she introduced me as her childhood friend. “Go on, shake hands”, the girl initially refused to even look at me. But, on her mother’s insistence, she stretched her to give me a shake. “Arjun”, I shook her hand with a smile. “Archana”, she smiled back and quickly rushed back to her mother’s lap. “Why don’t play with your friends?”, before she could complete, Archana ran to her friend’s home.
“Who is she?”, I asked her scratching my head. “My daughter”, the woman responded brimming with pride. “She is 5 years old and goes to home school run by nearby orphanage”, she introduced about Archana. “Now, shall we continue?”, she wanted my opinion. “Please…”, I signaled her to start.
“With no hope, I wandered on the streets searching for petty jobs”, she continued her narration. “Did you get any?” I wanted her to say yes. “Yes”, her answer made me smile.
“But …” she shut me down quickly. “But what?”, I was anxious to know what happened. “Everywhere I went, I became an object of ridicule”, her response made me to know even more about her. “The places I stayed had no privacy”, she continued her explanation. “People would barge in at anytime from anywhere”, as she continued. “So what?”, I interrupted her. “I got caught”, she rhymed her answer with a laugh.
“While leaving my home, I snuck one of my mom’s saree to keep me company. One day, I was unable to control my feelings and dressed up in her saree. Unfortunately, I got caught by one of my co-worker with whom I stayed”, she narrated this entire episode in a calm manner. “Then?” I requested her to continue. “Usual things began. They began to abuse and call me words. No one was willing to talk and they distanced themselves”, her explanation revealed how much pain was inflicted upon her.
“This continued everywhere I went. People would either notice my feminine behavior (or) the saree in my bag and then usual abuse continued.” She was thrown out the moment they found her out. “How did you end up here?” I wondered what made her to come here.
“Death”, she gave a cryptic answer. “Death?” I requested to elaborate more. “With no place, I began to sleep on platforms at nights. As each day passed, only the money I saved from work got spent. The number of times I ate reduced to NIL over the days”” she explained her poverty. “Were you unable to find any job?” I stressed upon it. “No, I did not”, her efforts to find a job were rubbished. “One such night, while walking on the pavement I collapsed due to hunger. While lying on the pavement, I saw 3 blurred faces running towards me to help. Next day, when I woke up I was here”, she pointed towards the street.
“Who were they?”, I put forth my question wanting to know more. “Those 3 women were living here and working as… you know”, I understood what she meant and nodded.
“That’s how you began your new life?” I wanted to confirm with her. “Kind of” she was cryptic again. “What do you mean by that?”, I requested to explain again. “Same as you, I was disgusted to be here and left immediately. But, the society made me come here again” she explained that no were willing to give her job and she returned back with no choice. “Once again my mom to came my rescue here”, she showed the loose end of her saree gesturing that the one she is wearing was her mother’s. “How it… “, just as I was about ask her. “Felt? the begging?”, she completed it. “Yeah”, I answered back. “Initially I felt bad, the hooting and abuses. Now I am used to it”, her voice suggested she has come to terms with her current life. “Yeah, that must have felt worst initially”, she laughed hysterically looking at me. “Worst?… I told I felt bad. You have not heard the worst part?”, her answer meant that she had faced something far worse than begging.
“Worst Part?…Do you mean… No way”, it hit me like a thunder regarding what she meant. “Yes… you are right”, she said casually. It was my turn again to drink a glass of water to keep my senses in check. “Wait…wait…When? How?” , I asked a barrage of questions. “Easy… Easy…”, she gestured me to calm.
“It all turned from bad to worse in one night”, she continued. “After roaming around nearby area, I walked back without noticing that a drunkard had followed me to my home. Just as I was about to close my door, he pushed me inside and locked the door.”, she continued. “Why didn’t you just shout?”, I asked at her angrily. “Shout?… in here.”, she mocked me. “What were you thinking about this street? Some kind of posh area where rich people who don’t what to do their money stay here”, she made me realize the reality of people who live here.
“Just come here at night, you will hear all varieties of sounds from all houses”, her answer placed the final nail in the coffin. “I tried to push him out”, she began her to narrate that fateful night. “But my actions turned to be futile. He beat me and threw me on the floor. He ignored my pleadings to leave me alone. Then, removed my saree and he… he …”, tears flowed uncontrollably and I quickly stopped her from narrating further more.
“I wanted to die”, she continued controlling her tears. “Just as I was about to hang, I heard a child crying in nearby bin. I went outside to see no one and grabbed the child in my arms” she obviously meant Archana. “That’s really nice of you”, I thanked her for saving the girl. “She saved me”, she reversed my sentence. “She gave me a reason to live and now I am here”, she smiled and explained how the nearby orphanage was kind enough to home school as she does not want Archana to live the same life as hers.
It was 7pm, when Archana came back after playing and quickly sat on her lap. I turned my attention to the girl and asked her few questions. Though hesitant to answer at first, she slowly dropped her guard and gave me cute answers, making both of us laugh. This continued till 8pm and took a photograph of her for the article and thanked her for her time. Just as I was about leave, I saw 2 men coming towards her and started talking about rates. I tried to intervene, but she stopped me and ordered those men to wait outside till she gets ready. I understood she had taken it as a profession for sake of Archana. “I will pay the money, please don’t do it”, I pleaded her not do it. “Will you give me tomorrow? How about the next day?”, she dismissed my sympathies. “Archana, Mummy has some work to do. Why don’t go to your friend’s home. I will come and pick up later”, her words were rebuffed by the girl as she refused to leave her. “Archana… please listen to mummy”, no matter what she tried she met failure.
“I will take care of her. That’s the least I can do”, I stepped in to help her. “Uncle is calling you. Why don’t you roam around with him?”, we both convinced her and I grabbed her hands. “Please come after 90 minutes”, she requested me and ordered those two men to come inside. I took Archana to nearby restaurant and gave her freedom to order anything she wants. Excited by my proposal, she ordered literally the entire menu card and smiled at me. After some 20 minutes, the order was placed on our table. “Thank you Uncle”, she gestured towards me and began to eat. Her unintentional action made me guilty, as I never thanked my mother for cooking. But, I would scold her if the food tasted bad.
After spending 90 minutes, roaming around the area, I took her back to home. I saw the woman in tears and was not able to stand properly. As soon as she saw us, she quickly wiped her tears and sported a smile. She quickly carried Archana on her hip and thanked me my help. I thanked them and started to leave.
As I looked around, it was heart breaking to see all those people suffer for society’s mistake. Especially, the kids whose bright innocent faces were in complete contrast to dark and gloomy street. “What if the society accepted them as they are?”, the question burnt my heart as I walked back to my room. My phone vibration distracted me from my thoughts. It was my mother who was calling to check upon me. I picked up the call, “Yeah, Tell me… MOM”, I used the word which I had long forgotten.
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