“Maina Devi!!!”, the old accountant called out and looked, from above his spectacles, at a group of women waiting eagerly for their turn to come. A frail woman in late twenties, with face covered in veil stood up. Accountant asked her to put her thumb impression. She stretched out her hand, full of bangles, pressed on the dye and put her thumb impression. The accountant gave her the money for the day’s labour. Maina kissed the money and put it on her forehead, thanking her God for the first payment of the day. A factory was being constructed in the village; so they employed the women folk of the village for manual labour. Maina husband had gone to city to work and sent money for home on monthly basis; but by the end of month it always fell short. Now she could earn money on her own, and make her family’s ends meet. On her way back Maina remembered that she had to take groceries also. With veil down till her chin, she rushed towards village grocery shop. The shopkeeper was an old man, so upon entering the shop she touched his feet. With barely audible voice, she asked for things she wanted to buy. With her head lowered she made the payment, bowed in front of shopkeeper and made way to home.
On her way to home she wondered if Tara, her daughter, had prepared dinner. Tara was ten years old and the eldest of her three kids. By the time Maina reached home, Tara would finish all the household chores for her. The thought of Tara brought a fond smile on her face. Upon reaching home, Maina saw that all her work has been done. A rush a relief swept Maina and she sat down to rest. The moment she relaxed, her elder brother-in-law entered the room; Maina jerkily put her saree down her face. She had never talked to him face to face. He was probably looking for her mother in law. In his presence Maina did not dare move. She stood still. In her veil, she failed to notice his flustered expressions. But she was surprised to see him at home that evening; he always returned late evening. Being a widower, he seldom stayed at home. Maina and her mother-in-law took care of his two kids. When he left, Maina looked for Tara. She called her twice or thrice; but no response. Maina walked up the roof to look outside, when she saw Tara sitting in a corner. She was probably crying. Maina asked her the reason but Tara ran away; evading her questions. “She must have got a beating from her grandmother,” thought Maina.
Somewhere in the City: Household where Maina’s husband worked
Naina came back from her kitty party. Petite and lovely looking Naina was married in one of the most influential families of the city. That afternoon, Naina got late to reach the stop, where Sara’s school bus dropped her. Sara was an eight year old child, studying in one of the best schools of the city. As Naina rushed towards the bus stop, she saw a happy, jumping and jiggling Sara coming with her nephew Amit. Amit was Naina’s brother son. He was studying medicine and stayed with them only. Naina smiled at both of them. Amit said, “I observed that you were late, so thought of picking up Sara myself.” Sara excitedly said, “Mom, Amit Bhaiya is so good. From tomorrow onwards he will pick me from my bus stop. You know we had such fun on the way back.” Amit also said, “ Yeah from tomorrow I will pick Sara.” Naina heartily accepted.
Back in village, Maina was waiting for her husband to come. Every night would seem so long to her. Laying on make shift bed on the ground, Maina looked at her kids. She observed that Tara had gone very quiet these days. Even though she completed all the household chores, but seldom talked to anyone. She turned her side and lovingly put her hand on Tara, who was sleeping next to her. The moment she touched her, Tara jerkily got up from her sleep and gave out a small shout. She shivered with fear. Maina consoled Tara, and put her to sleep. But a sixth sense, usually attributed to mothers about their kids, gnawed her. Something was wrong with Tara; she was not her usual self. She wondered what might be the reason.
Well!! It did not take long for things to get clear. That day Maina had come back early from the site. She saw that all her room was turned upside down. Hmm that must be Tara again; she keeps fiddling with my sarees to play with her dolls, she thought. TARAAA !! She called…but she got no answer. Suddenly she heard a muffled shriek. That was tara…she knew. She ran in the direction from where the sound came…and what she saw took the ground off her feet. She saw her brother-in-law raping Tara. Tara was struggling to free herself, but he was strong enough to overpower her. For a moment Maina did not know what to do…but then she thundered, “Bhai jee..how dare you touch my daughter? Get off her, or I will chop your head off with my sickle.” Hearing her stern voice, he got off Tara; picked up his clothes; and ran to the other room. With trembling hands, Maina held Tara’s hand, dressed her up, and came outside. She knew what she had to do.
Naina was laying table for the dinner, and Sara was playing with her dolls. She had a male doll and a female doll in her hands, and she was talking to them. Naina smiled and blissfully watched her little doll playing with dolls. Sara was trying to get them close. Suddenly Naina’s smile turned into grave expression. Sara was telling them kiss each other, by putting their tongues into each other’s mouth. Naina took Sara into the corner. Conscious enough to not to show fear to the child, Naina asked her, “Sara!! Who told you that, baby?” Sara innocently said, “Promise me that you will not tell anyone!!” Naina said yes; Sara said, “Amit bhaiya told me… He has taught me to kiss…now he will tell me how to make babies also.” Naina’s heart stopped beating. She did not know what to do…if she made a scene out of it, Shekhar, her husband would come to know. This would affect his relations with Naina’s brother, who was Amit’s father. Amit’s father was Shekhar’s business mentor as well. Everything would get affected. For the financial well being of her family, she decided to keep mum. She consoled herself saying that “Afterall Amit is my nephew. In the end, blame would come on my parent’s family.”
From that day, Naina guarded Sara like her shadow. Everytime she would see Amit talking to Sara, her anger would rise. Sometimes, she felt like killing Amit; but could not say a word to him. She looked for an excuse to ask Amit leave their home, but could not find any ...her happiness and contentment was lost. She would remain tense, feel guilty, curse herself, and be worried all the time for her daughter. Rather she was getting paranoic about Sara...
Few Days Later:
When Ram Kishan came back from his village, and along came Maina with their kids. Naina was looking for a household help; so she employed Maina as her maid. When Maina met Naina for the first time, Naina could not help wonder about her frail body…Maina was so weak. After few weeks, when they were alone, Naina asked Maina why she had come to the city. Maina looked reluctant, but then opened up. She narrated the mishap with Tara. Naina’s heart missed a beat…how similar was the incident that happened to Sara.
Maina continued saying, "When I came to know about my daughter's incestuous rape, I went straight to the village chief and called Panchayat. In front of entire village, I accused my brother-in-law of raping my daughter. Police was called and my brother-in-law was arrested. Due to the incident, my mother-in-law threw me and my kids out of her home. When Ram Kishan came to know about the incident he rushed back to village; met the elderly people of the village who asked him to accept me and Tara with due respect. So we came with him to the city." Naina was surprised. She looked at Maina and asked, “Are you not scared of consequences? What about your daughter's honour, her name?" Maina gave a thought to the question and said, “I have two daughters. Had I kept silent about the rape, he would have raped my other daughter as well. And he himself has a daughter. If he did not spare his brother's daughter, he wouldn’t have spared his own daughter either. This way I have saved my other daughters as well. Nothing is more important than the safety of my children. So far as Tara is concerned, I will try getting her married in city itself. But I am happy that that animal is behind bars."
The determined look in Maina's eyes brought an ashamed look in Naina's face. She felt very small in front of Maina’s frail personality. Naina repented the fact that she spared her child's molester for trivial reasons. But not anymore!!! Naina knew what she had to do…