Content warning: This story is about a tragic experience of sexual exploitation which may upset some readers.
Ganga was lying on the bed, naked. Her hair was messy, kohl was smudged, her bindi* was not in place and her eyes were blank. No emotion, no tears, there was nothing. Today was the sixth day. She didn’t feel pain- physical or emotional anymore. As per the contract, one more day and then she would be with her baby, who was in the care of her friend and neighbour Renu. She put her hand on her breasts which were paining because of unused milk and fresh bite marks.
My poor baby will be suckling the nipple of the milk bottle!
“You have married a lower caste boy. He has made your Brahmin body impure. You are now dead for us. We will perform shraddh*on your name.”, her mother told her after her marriage.
Brahmin body?… Do these bodies have caste?… If they have, then what’s the caste of Jaggi Seth’s body? …Mother, see, your daughter’s body now…Is it impure or useful?… It’s so useful that it can save a life…
After her marriage, Ganga shifted to Mumbai with her husband. With the help of their friends, they both found a job and started a happy new life.
That day she didn’t go to work with her husband because of her visit to the gynecologist. She was so eager to tell her husband about the movements of the baby that she saw on the black & white screen. But her happy world came to an end with the news of Mumbai’s footover bridge collapse and her husband was one among the six dead.
Ganga’s baby was born prematurely with a hole in her heart. It was very difficult for her to work and take care of her baby. Slowly, her savings started diminishing.
She was very worried when her baby’s doctor advised immediate surgery otherwise her baby’s life would be in jeopardy.
“Renu, I don’t know how I will arrange two lakh rupees for the surgery.”
“Ganga, why don’t you meet our area’s corporator? He helps needy people and his daughter is of your age, he will surely help you.”
Oh, his piercing eyes are looking through my clothes, making me so uncomfortable… but…my baby…
A phone call by him and one lakh less to pay for the surgery!
“Will you be able to collect the remaining one lakh rupees?”, he asked.
“It will be very difficult for me, Sir.”
“Don’t worry, I will do something, but you have to co-operate with me.” Pressing her shoulder he gave her a suggestive look.
And then entered the universal law of modern day – ‘give and take.’
He made an offer.
“Take your time and decide.”
“Sometimes there is no happy choice, Ganga, only one less grievous than the others.”, she said to herself. “For me, my baby’s life is more precious than anything else.”
And here she was, at the resort away from the city, paying for the remaining one lakh.
Bindi – A decorative mark worn in the middle of the forehead by Indian women, especially Hindus.
Shraddh – In the Hindu religion, it is the ritual that one performs after the death of family member.
Author’s note: After hearing about two real life incidents of sexual exploitation, which happened before #metoo India movement, the author decided to write on this subject to speak up for those people whose voices were swept under the carpet.
The above story is an entry into #TheChoice a Five00 entry.
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Photo by Davidcohen