It was black. It always was black. But somehow it looked like a shade darker than the usual engulfing the air in the vicinity. A quick scan around showed nothing but the never ending darkness of that day. Stillness kills change and things needed to change or at least the inertia needed to be broken in that moment. It was late.
Pain is subjective. Pain is different for different people. Sometimes it is a series of mind numbing incidents where all you can feel is a gut wrenching pain at every point of your body which makes you long for it to stop or separate the soul from the body and beg for death. The trick is to fool the mind. Life had always been a struggle for her and she knew the dark tunnel which was her life had no light in the end. She didn’t know what it was to wake up to the ‘light’ of the day.
Distant barking of a stray meant the bulb was out and the usual of the day was slowly pacing. An arm on the cool cement floor and other on her rib protruding stomach, Megha stood up and instantly felt the heat rising up from her legs. The brutal burning had melted away the primary hairy cover of those slender legs. It was yet another night when her husband, Sanjeev had come home drunk after losing all his money to cards. She was somehow more determined now to save the little money from her husband which she had earned from working day and night mopping houses of the posh neighborhood. She couldn’t let her two children cry for food. It broke her heart. So she braced herself and said No to Sanjeev. No to losing her hard earned money on alcohol and gambling yet another night.
The result was not something she had foreseen or even imagined in her life. She had been through unrelenting beating and getting thrown out of her own house to sleep on pebbly hard roads while he beat their kids up in frustration. Tonight, to her horror, his aggression had reached another degree of wrath and madness. He pulled out the chain from his cycle and started heating it on the stove. Megha grabbed her kids and sat in the corner of the house with terror in her eyes. She could feel her heartbeat rising to her mouth. Her wailing kids made Sanjeev even more agitated.
The kids watched in abomination as their father wrapped the chain around her mother in a tight circle as she screamed in pain and begged for mercy. It was the first time she wished death came to her sooner than reaching the crest of agony. The sensation from burning was taking over her entire body. She could feel the heat rising up from her ankle to the top of her head. In revulsion she first saw blood then slowly her skin coming out from the sides of the strangled chain. Her legs had deep embedded chain molds on her flesh. She howled in pain as the neighbors came running to the hut. She saw her friend in tears as she barged into the hut along with some other ladies of the hood. That was the last that Megha saw of that night as she passed out on the floor.
It was times like these when Megha wanted to run away from this life. To run away from her husband and her house to a place where she could eat two meals and sleep in peace. Our society has built itself in such a way in the past few centuries that it acts more like a wall of destruction than protection for its people.
A poor uneducated woman only has her husband to define her identity in this unbelievably doctrinal society. What is Megha without the identity handed to her from her husband? The assessment here is at fault but merely thinking about such questions and thinking that she will live on her own terms also seemed wrong to her as her conditioning was amiss. So she continued to drag her life like a half dead snail.
Megha screamed in pain when her friend came rushing to the hut to help her. Sahiba was not only Megha’s friend but her sister in law as well. She pitied and cried with Megha as she suffered silently and ‘healed’ her from those wounds from time to time. But this time it was different, it was beyond repair for her.
Sanjeev’s bloodshot eyes and monster aggression scared her. She froze in her spot when she saw the scenario painted in front of her. Sanjeev threatened, “You either walk out of this door right this moment or I will kill her. I swear I will kill what’s remaining of this ungrateful bitch. Now get out!!!!!”
Sahiba fell asleep outside in the bushes while hiding from Sanjeev and waiting for him to leave. She rushed to get help when she heard Megha scream. She felt guilty and glum thinking about the moment when she fell asleep and let her friend suffer. The next door rickshaw puller dragged his rickshaw to the front door and carried Megha on his shoulder to take her to the nearby government hospital. They couldn’t just let her die with Manoj nowhere in sight. The sun was up and the sweltering heat slowed down the rickshaw, after all a manually pulled rickshaw could only speed up so much with four people hanging on it.
Megha’s breathing had become shallow and she was reaching her last breath when the doctor attended her. Her kids later joined in with other people who lived around their hut. The kids had run out to their friend Raju’s hut at night before their father could have a chance to kill them in that moment of delirium. They waited in anticipation as the doctor tended her.
They say human beings show utmost compassion when the other is in need while it might not hold true for every one of us, the destitute truly value that human connection. Devoid of ego and an unnecessary need to filter emotions and garnering selfishness, they represent unity in times when it is needed the most.
The doctor stepped out in the dimly light hallway in a flickering bulb light almost making it impossible for others to make sense of how he actually looked. Dr. Salim’s silhouette on the wall opposite the operation room announced that he was a slender 6 feet tall man with little hair on his head. He walked towards the group closely knit worried souls all talking in hushed voices in fear of getting thrown out of the hospital; a treatment they were used to now. They knew they will not be treated equally.