The noise from the adjacent flat grew louder and louder. Like every other day Ankita increased the volume of the television. No sooner did the hindi song started blaring, Ankita rushed to switch on the motor and hurriedly started loading the washing machine. As she picked and poured two spoonful of washing powder then a few tender fingers held her hands. The grip was hard and strong.
"No Mumma! Please stop making noises. Its so disturbing." Ruhi, her little girl all of ten, screamed.
Ankita hadn't expected Ruhi behave in this manner so she was surprised. She became angry and raised her hand to hit Ruhi, but stopped.
The little fingers withdrew itself and the face scrunched. Ankita bit her lower lip murmured something and cursed someone. She had never raised her hands before.She felt guilty but was surprised to see Ruhi today who was adamant as she was demanding her mother to find a solution to put an end to this everyday's noise.
There was a moment of silence as if the universe had stopped functioning. The minds of the two souls entwined into one and secretly engaged in finding what lied beneath the subconscious mind of the other. The mind waves travelled along the ripples in the void.
"Mom", Ruhi broke the silence. Suddenly the noises started disturbing again. Ankita could feel the uneasiness.
"Why do you always raise the volume of the TV and music system whenever the Sharmas quarrel?", asked the gentle mind.
Ankita had no answer. Suddenly like a flashback a myriad of incidents, faces, scenes and emotions started to possess her mind. Next moment she shrugged off her shoulders and splashed water on her face. Wiping it with a towel as she turned back, she noticed the Sharma's noise had died down. She decided to switch the TV off.
To her surprise Ruhi still stood near the washing machine carrying the same question in her eyes. Ankita had never learned to give up and Ruhi was her own blood. Daughter had taken after the mother. Raising both her hands up as if surrendering she gently held Ruhi by the arm and brought her to the dressing table. She felt that her little princess was growing up and some questions should be answered.
Ankita found herself in an awkward position and did not know how to explain to the tiny soul that why had she been behaving so weirdly. She stood along with Ruhi facing the mirror and gently covered Ruhi's ears first then the eyes.
Then she spoke cautiously "Ruhi my child, I do not want you to hear the filthy abuses that they are hurling and nor do I want you to see how they are assaulting one another. I want to protect you from the shadow of the blood moon, the lunar Eclipse of the doomsday lest it should harm you anyway.".
The little girl looked up at her young and pretty mother perplexed. She couldn't understand anything but felt the importance of her mother's words.
Ankita whispered "I don't want you to be my reflection. I want you to be brave. I want a beautiful life for you"
Ruhi left the room quietly and sat on her large wooden chair dragging it close to the dining table leaving her mother in her room. Little later Ankita found Ruhi solving sums in her notebook. She walked upto the refrigerator, pulled out the family pack vanilla ice cream scooped three dollops and placed it in the ice-cream cup. Further she decorated it with shredded chocolate and placed it lovingly before her daughter. The joyful and glinting eyes of Ruhi met with that of her mother and both embraced each other. What a great way to patch up!
Ankita was married to Anuj twelve years ago. It was an arranged marriage. She was just seventeen and Anuj thirty-two. It was told that the groom should be older than the bride. He will love and treat his young wife well. Mishra ji, Ankita's father was convinced of this fact because Anuj had a government job, company quarter and no dependents. He quickly agreed to give his daughter's hand for marriage. By the time Ankita understood anything, she was dressed as a bride in a red six meter heavy banarasi saree. The night just passed with rituals after rituals and the poor girl kept yawning. The whole days fast, then the heat, saree and rituals made her so tired that there wasn't any charm left about the word marriage for her. Next morning, by the time she was bidding goodbye to her family and young friends she fell asleep.
The long and tiring journey of five hours in the bus just went by. Anuj kept shaking her, sometimes to wake her up and sometimes just like that. On reaching, what was supposed to be a palace she realised it was a matchstick box type house where her dreams of living like a princess with a handsome young prince and maids all around would be brutally grounded in less than an hour.
She lost everything she had. The gifts, utensils, new sarees and few pieces of furniture lay on the floor just as she lied on the pool of blood, dead like a corpse and nobody to tend her. Her story books had false stories, the characters were unrealistic, the love, care, fondle, caress, embrace, kisses, shame all seemed baseless and meaningless to her now.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. One day she gathered courage and demanded to meet her family which didn't go well with Anuj. She met with a special treatment that evening. He beat her black and blue with his leather belt. Weeks later it was her neighbour who told her that Anuj visits the forbidden places too. Anuj, on learning this that Ankita now knows about this fact, found it easier to bring those women home. Now it became Ankita's routine to cook, clean, wash, get laid and beaten everyday.
Once it so happened that Mishra ji, on his wife's insistence happened to drop by his damaadji's quarter. Before he could reach his damaadji's door, many information and news started filtering and reaching his ears. Yet he knocked at his damaadji's door with two baskets full of fruits, gifts and sweets. To his surprise, he was welcomed by a pale girl clad in a dirty saree upon a frail structure. Mishraji couldn't wait there any longer when the lady refused to identify him as her father. He took the baskets along with him.
Ankita slammed the door at her father and turned to see voracious Anuj ready to devour her wearing a wicked smile upon his lips. She let him have her that day. By now she had adjusted to his needs and learned not to say no. Denial meant hell. Her eyes were expressionless and her body turned into stone.
As he rolled panting, lying on his back, Ankita held an iron rod kept behind the door and struck on his head. ONCE, TWICE and his body lay motionless. Ankita found strength in herself. Like a flash of lightening, she shuffled his pocket and found few hundred rupees, two gold rings and his gold chain The next moment she was out on street and then to the bus stop. Neeta, her only confidante and helped her get a bus. Neeta had promised her to help one day if she desired to escape from that hell. She kept her promise.
In a state of trance she reached the city, then to the hospital. Neeta joined her later. Ankita didn't know if Neeta had discovered the truth nor did Neeta ever questioned her.
Ruhi was born in the hospital. Neeta helped her find a job later and thus her life changed.
She further moved to the present city changing her identity, hair and her name. She has no contacts whatsoever with Neeta too. She's a free bird today. She doesn't want her past, pain, agony or suffering of any kind to even bother her life, her daughter, who is the only reason for her to remain alive.