The sun rays poured in through the small holes of the wasted wooden walls of the house. Rani squinted her tiny eyes to curse it. She changed her side and tried to sleep. Sleeping was never a problem for Rani. She could sleep for hours and never felt too awake. She was right in the middle. Two elder sisters always looked after her. She had one younger brother and the youngest was her darling sister Tanya. She was strategically placed in the middle of the family sandwich.
Rani was 12. She lost her mother while she was giving birth to Tanya. Rani was 6 back then and for her Tanya was a part of her mother just like she was. She made a point since then to take care of her. They ate together, braided each other’s hair and became inseparable. The elder sisters looked after their siblings and took care of the house. They were under their father’s protection who did odd jobs like going to a construction site or riding an auto. It was not enough to feed the family.
Rani spent a large time of the day standing in front of the mirror to pose and to just look at herself. She knew she was better looking than her other sisters and she was proud of how she looked. Of course she could catch those obvious signals from the colony guys who kept staring at her and threw chits to propose her. Her elder sisters always told her to stay away from such jerks, Rani smelled jealousy.
Her world revolved around her looks and Tanya. She liked going to school but not for the education but for the food she got to fill her stomach. Her petite appearance was growing worse with the amount of food decreasing each day. The monsoons were the toughest when the gaping holes all over their small wood house served entrance to the gushing rain water. They took refuge in the adjacent, more ‘sealed’ houses of their neighbors who only welcomed them once in a while.
One day their father came home beaming. He was smiling from ear to ear. The children gathered around him as he sat on a mat kept on the soggy ground. After a lot of interrogation he finally announced, ” Rani is getting married!! The boy has seen her several times and he wants her hand in marriage!”. The children were shocked and couldn’t make sense of what their father was saying. If he was marrying one of them then why not the eldest? “because our Rani is the most precious girl ever, he loves you darling”. Words failed her and she didn’t feel too sad. She was happy to leave this dingy place with sorrows. She wanted a better life but how could she leave behind Tanya? Life has its share of tough choices and this was one of them. Rani said yes, yes to an underage marriage.
Her hands were hennaed, her head covered with red veil and she was sent off with her ‘husband’. Rani was 14 that time. She reached her new home after travelling for 24 hours which was strange because her father mentioned that her husband saw her everyday and loved her. She didn’t say anything.
Rani’s husband Pankaj was brutal with her. He made her cook, do all chores and exploited her sexually at night. Rani cried but couldn’t do anything about it. She was threatened to be strangled to death if she complained about it. She lost all hope and accepted it as her fate. It took Rani 6 months to register the fact that she was sold to Pankaj. It was no figment of imagination but words spoken by Pankaj when exploiting her one day. She broke down completely. Meanwhile, Pankaj vented out all his frustration on Rani. He hit her, made her touch hot things, blamed her for his failures and used her for his physical needs, he raped her every night.
9 months later she gave birth to a baby boy. Pankaj was elated. It was the first time when he smiled at her and gifted her a new dress. But happiness was short-lived for Rani as soon as the boy turned 1 , he was sent away to his grand parents who lived in a village near by. No amount of tears and pain melted Pankaj’s heart. The village where Rani lived was peculiar. There were no girls or even wives. She hardly came across some women. But she never found the guts to ask anything. Instead she guessed herself.
The village regarded the birth of a girl as a bad omen and killed them as soon as they were born. Female foeticide was very common which led to a chronic problem, no girls. One of the reasons why Pankaj had to buy a wife. There were no girls for marriage.
Pankaj rarely worked in the fields and always dashed off to see his son, the primary reason for which he married Rani. One night he brought some friends over and asked Rani who she thought was the best. The question was weird but she couldn’t dare, ask any question so she pointed out to one of them.
Pankaj sold Rani to him. Anuj, the man who bought Rani married her for the society and she was taken away to yet another place. She wanted to end her life but she couldn’t muster enough guts do so. She was 19 then. Rani was repeatedly raped by Anuj and his friends. He wanted a child and some money which his friends gave every night. 7 months later Rani gave birth to a premature baby girl.
That was when Rani breathed the last time. The last time anyone saw her. She was beaten to death by Anuj and her friends due to the shame of a girl being born. Maybe it was for the better, a cursed life is far more worse than death.
An Excerpt from a Newspaper which will justify the whole story-
NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Police have arrested seven members of a trafficking ring that kidnapped young girls from the Indian capital and sold them as brides to middle-aged men in other parts of the country, the Times of India reported Tuesday.
The four men and three women were arrested following an investigation into the abduction of two teenage girls, who were rescued from an area in southwest Delhi.
“Police said the gang charged rich landowners in (the northern states of) Uttar Pradesh and Haryana between 50,000 rupees ($921) to 100,000 ($1,842) for a girl, depending on her age,” the report said.
Activists say tens of thousands of girls and women are trafficked in India every year, largely for domestic work, sexual slavery and increasingly marriage due to a lack of women in some parts of the country.
A strong preference for boys has resulted in decades of aborting female babies, leading to skewed male-to-female ratios in northern India and rising incidents of rape, trafficking and even “wife-sharing” – one wife shared amongst brothers.
The Lancet medical journal says up to 12 million Indian girls were aborted over the last three decades, resulting in a ratio of 914 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2011, compared with 962 in 1981.