Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Am Not

I can still feel him sitting beside me, looking at me. But something is wrong. I think I remember a time when he looked at me differently. Or was it someone else? I am going to sleep again; the medicines they give me make me sleep. I don’t want to sleep. I want to stay awake. To hold…

“I think we should take an auto back”, I said. “It’s late and they’ll lock the hostel gates.”
“No they won’t. I’ve been at the university longer than you. And I don’t think I’ve had enough of you for tonight.” His voice took the chill away from the night.
“But I’ve to meet my professor at eight tomorrow and I really need to catch up on some sleep. Between him and you, I barely have time for a wink.”
“You know one day, I might just commit a murder… out of pure, unadulterated affection.”
“Are you jealous, that I spend more time with my books than with you?”
“Nope. I’d rather call it love. Come now, there’s the train. We’ll reach faster than I want to, now.”

A buzzing woke me again. The television was on – a heated debate on some inane issue. “Of course they have to pay for it with their lives”, a woman in a red saree announced in a loud, bossy voice. “Capital punishment is the only solution. You have to tell these perverts, these anti-social creatures that they can’t simply walk away unscathed after ruining someone’s life.”
“They brutally raped the girl. Their lives are forfeit”, agreed a man in black-rimmed spectacles.
“But is it in our culture?” questioned one man in a pristine white kurta, emphatically blowing his moustache. “All this gen-x bravado, that’s landing these young people in trouble. Get into college, hook up with someone, and roam around till the morning. And when something bad happens, blame everyone and everything in sight.”
“We’ll continue our panel discussion on the burning issue of increasing incidents of women being molested, after this break”, the journalist announced, turning her face to the camera. “Meanwhile keep sending your responses and messages to our website.” She smiled, and the screen became a picture… of me.
I looked from the screen to the person sitting near me. I must have made some noise, because he switched off the TV and turned to me. It was then that I realized what was wrong – the bandages, his red eyes…

We were in the fast train, and at the next station the three others in the compartment got down. We had just begun congratulating ourselves on our luck when five guys got in. they swayed to the bench near the door, obviously drunk and making enough noise to wake the entire city. One of them saw us, and suddenly an empty compartment didn’t seem so lucky. He held me tight, as if he wouldn’t let go of me, but it was a desperate, useless attempt.
He had held me a minute ago, I thought as I saw three of them forcibly holding him down. And then there was pain, wave after crushing wave of it. The only thing that kept me sane was the memory of his touch, of the way he held my face and how he liked to breathe into my hair.
I remembered other things now. A flood of cameras and flashes and noisy people with microphones. Words, worse than the pain – ‘victim’, ‘punishment’, ‘death’ – all meaningless.

“I am not…”, I said and he came a little closer. “I am not… a victim”, I repeated, looking at him, wanting him to understand. “I am not the girl who was brutally raped. I am not the girl whose life was destroyed. I am not a reckless young woman. I am me. I am not; I have not turned into her, have I? I am not… HER.”

(“No. you are not”, he sighed into my hair, like old times.)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting portrayal. I hope and pray that it was not your own recollection.