The Warrior Girl
The Warrior Girl9 mins 211 9 mins 211
“Valour needs first strength, then a weapon.” – J.R.R.Tolkien
"I endured the pain of being born as a girl. I was made to live my sin.”
The words hopped out of Shweta’s tongue, sprinted into my ears, glided through the eardrums and mystified my head. I didn't have the slightest inkling of the tale that was about to unfold.
I had a ceaseless longing to escape to the freedom of the mountains. Yet, when the opportunity arrived, I was sceptical. But Mother Nature managed to work things out, her way. She made me shift my base to a remote mountain village and helped me to discover within me, an invincible summer.
And that was where I met Shweta.
It was the end of the weekend. After running a few errands in the nearby town, I was on my way back to the village I was residing. As it was the last car for the day, the service vehicle was overloaded with goods and humans. It wasn’t unusual, yet quite risky, considering the serpentine roads and hairpin turns of the rugged mountain trail.
“You should talk to the Jeep Association and tell them to arrange for an extra car during the weekends. It's too cramped in here.” A girl in her late teens grumbled, but the driver casually diverted the conversation and switched on the stereo.
I peeked to catch a glance at their facial expressions, but to my dismay, both were stolid. Sandwiched between the car door and the sleepy passenger, I kept enjoying the onrush of scenery that repetitively filled me with sheer joy. As the car meandered through the jungle roads, I kept humming… Hey, it's good to be back home again… Yes, and hey, it's good to be back home again…
“We didn’t enjoy a normal childhood. I'm the eldest of the three siblings- three girls, unfortunately. Hence, we were the ‘unwanted’s and was deprived of basic human needs. Dad was alcoholic and monstrously abusive towards mom and us. Every evening, our place turned to a poker house, where neighbourhood pimps and crooks gathered to drink and play cards. During those hours, Mom kept us locked inside a room. We weren’t sent to school. Malnutrition kept us weak and lack of financial support led us to despair. Mom chose to remain silent and that worsened our condition. But I was matured enough to understand the afflictions we were in.” Shweta looked disconsolate.
I offered her a piece of chocolate, hoping to lighten the gloomy vibe. “So how did you manage to study? And your sisters… How did they cope with the situation?”
“I used to gather old books from the neighbourhood kids, and read them out to my sisters, in broken sentences. It was our little secret. Dad would’ve killed us if he ever caught hold of the books so Mom made sure to hide them in safe corners. My sisters, Sheena and Sheetal, were sold off for money, during their early years. They were too innocent, to detest the curse that fell upon them. Seldom, Mom had to compromise with the dishonourable indulgences of dad’s mates, just to keep me safe and away from dad’s wrath." Shweta’s face flushed with anger. “I wanted to fight against the fate that dad inflicted upon us, but mom bunged me. She was scared of the aftermath. So we had to survive through hell.”
At that point, my lungs ached for air. I didn’t want to hear the rest of her story; rather, the story of her life. Shweta noticed my uneasiness. So with a tender smile, she said, “Let’s just stop here. It isn’t a fairy tale anyway.”
“Nah! Let’s continue. And remember- every fairy tale has a dark phase in it.” I inhaled deeply and took a sip of my cappuccino.
“I clearly remember the days when I was put to sleep, with an empty stomach. Dad rarely supported us with money, and he didn't allow mom to go out and work. In addition, he forbade us to meet or talk to our relatives and neighbours. You know what, mom used to tell stories of prince and princesses, of fairies and castles. Maybe she wanted me to feel the warmth of hope during those dark, chilly nights. Maybe she tried to make me ignore the growls of our empty stomachs.” Shweta gulped the lump and sipped her coffee.
It was a tale that wrings the heart. I was flabbergasted and chose to remain silent.
“Adolescence was knocking on my door, but I didn't want to be a vulnerable damsel in distress. I refused to be an emotional wreck. Instead, I decided to chase liberty. To seek freedom; physical and emotional. Mom refused to leave, so after a week of fevered speculation, I finally managed to flee.” A smile flickered on Shweta’s face, and I heaved a sigh of relief.
And it was a turn of fate, that brought together the two strangers, who had nothing in common and managed to connect them with a bond unknown.
One day, I was at the village market, when a girl approached me with a smiley face. "Hi! I'm Shweta. Remember... we travelled in the same car the other day."
It took me a minute, but I recalled. After a brief exchange of greetings, Shweta invited me to her maternal uncle’s place, where she was residing at that time. While in conversation, somehow it seemed as if she wanted to offload some burden off her mind; as if she needed an unbiased soul; an impartial human who would simply hear her story.
And there I was, all set to lend my ears, understanding and empathy.
“I was just thirteen then. Unaware and oblivious I was, of the world outside my house. Yet, I was determined to work things out. With no penny in my pocket, I roamed, knocking doors for help. I washed dishes, mopped floors at restaurants; even cleaned toilets for a few additional bucks. The generosity of few humans, helped me strive through the cold days, and hope kept me alive. Soon, the cons made it hard for me to survive alone. Putting my safety on priority, I landed at the door of a Care Home that sheltered orphans and distressed children. For, I realised, that I needed a safe haven; that I needed to arm myself with skill and knowledge.” A slight smirk crept over Shweta’s face.
Dusk was setting in, so we decided to call it a day. Her life story though kept flashing before my eyes. I offered a silent prayer and dozed off to sleep. Shweta’s yearly vacation from her job abroad was nearing to end, so we decided to wrap our conversation, over that weekend. We met at the café, and after a brief exchange of friendly greetings, she started to unfold the events that followed.
“Eight years. It took me eight years to educate and refine myself. Ama, as everyone calls her, was the head of that Home. She loved us unconditionally; worked for us tirelessly and always voiced for our rights. With Ama’s help and guidance, I managed to graduate from High School. She is a woman of substance; an irreproachable human being. I will always be indebted to her. For, if not for her, I wouldn't be the person I am today. From a deprived and hated girl child, to a lady with an identity. It wouldn’t have been possible without her support and guidance. I missed mom but never dared to go home ‘cause dad vouched to kill me for betraying him.” Shweta snorted in disgust.
She was beleaguered beyond imagination, but she managed to break free and traverse through the thorny hurdles. I felt a strong sense of pride for her. After all, she fought with her demons and emerged as a winner.
“Shortly after, I took up a job at the cafe. The pay was fair and gradually, positive feedbacks and handsome tips boosted my spirit. I enrolled on a foreign language course to add to my competency. Life was flowing smoothly when I received the news of my father’s death. I took a week’s off, went to the village, sold our house and lot, paid off the debt’s piled by dad, and together with mom, returned to the Care Home. I heaved a sigh of relief with the belief, that God finally gave me a chance to help mom to revive.” Shweta’s hazel eyes sparkled.
“Bravo!” I exclaimed.
Carrying a smile, she continued. “Yet, somehow I felt incomplete; I felt stuck. Unexpectedly, a mysterious urge for more kept flashing in my mind. Then, one evening, a visitor at the café, approached me with an offer. A job as a Barista, at his café, set in a foreign land. Lucrative it was indeed. Luckily, Ama and mom granted me permission to travel abroad. Ama personally visited the offeror to cross-check the authenticity of the job, and to reassure my safety.”
“That’s incredible! So… how has your onward journey been?” An inquisitive me, couldn’t hold onto my horses.
“All good by God’s grace, I must say. It was a very different world out there, but I stayed positive and learnt from the tough situations. Sarcastic remarks, indecent proposals, and gruff games failed to crush my conviction. I remained invincible. For, I was determined to face down my critics. After a year and a half, I was promoted to Team Leader. And recently, I’ve been entrusted to run a newly opened café, as a Chef Manager.” A smile of contentment and pride flickered on Shweta’s face.
“Wow! You are truly an inspiration. Perseverance, patience, self-belief – there’s so much to learn from you.” I appreciated her zeal. “Many would’ve succumbed to such miseries, but you stood firm with faith and strength.”
“Surprisingly, when they were felicitating me on my accomplishment, memories of my childhood, flooded my mind. When I thought the pain was over, it found its way back, into my heart. The pain of losing my sisters. You know what, Ama treated everyone to celebrate my success. I felt fortunate and happy to be the reason behind those smiles, that glimmered on the faces of my dear ones. Their support was the soil; their belief – water. And their trust was the most essential nourishment that helped me to flourish. I owe it all to them. Now, it’s my turn to give back; share my blessings.” She looked at me and smiled.
“Indeed! And you must,” I added.
“I’ve decided to help Ama to expand the operations of the Home. Moreover, I’m meticulously working to empower those minds, that are yet to acknowledge their worth. Besides, I’ve taken up the initiative to look for my sisters. The search is on.” Shweta took a deep breath and looked up as if to wish upon a star.
I kept staring at her; in awe and admiration.
Authors note: I read somewhere that warriors are not born. They are creations in progress through pain and suffering and through their ability to conquer their faults. With hope as their shield and courage as their sword, they charge keeping their heads high, with a strength that can never be denied.
Shweta was one such warrior; a brave heart. And I was truly inspired by her life story. The two most powerful warriors are patience and time, and from that day onwards, I marched forth, holding their arms tight.
The name is fictitious, but the story- factual. I hope it will inspire and motivate many to rediscover their true identity.