The eerie silence enveloped the night. The stillness of the dark was broken by the chirping of the crickets and the occasional barking of the dogs. The mud smitten grass was wet below and the green blades pricked into her soft skin! A shadow slowly moved towards her and engulfed her in it’s murkiness. The rough hands grabbed her body and she gasped for breath! A loud shriek and darkness followed.
Meera suddenly opened her eyes and felt the loud thumping of her heart. Scared, she wiped the beads of sweat which had formed on her forehead and fumbled for her cellphone to check the time; it was 3:30 am in the morning. She had again had the same nightmare which had been haunting her since few years! She was too panic-stricken to even wake up her room-mate who was sleeping next to her. She curled herself on the bed, drawing her knees close to her chest and wrapping them with her trembling hands, she sobbed.
The dampness of her agony had dried up by the time the morning sun painted the earth golden yellow.
25th April 2014….FOUR YEARS BACK….
That day, eighteen year old Meera stood in front of the mirror getting ready for college. Born in a lower middle class family of two sons and a daughter, she was the apple of her father’s eye and pride of her mother. Her father ran a small grocery shop in the village and her mother worked as a housemaid. Their mornings would start with Meera’s bubbly chatters and the house would be filled with her gleeful laughter. Meera’s simplicity made her popular among her friends and relatives. She was good at studies too and always excelled in school and now in college. Defying all odds, her father had got her admitted to a college and Meera had promised her “baba” that she would never let him down.
Sitting on the partly broken “charpai” supported with bricks in place of wooden legs, her father’s wrinkled face would often become gloomy and small creases form on his forehead, when he would think of her marriage and the huge amount of money that he would have to pay for his daughter’s happiness. Laden by the responsibilities of running a house and raising the kids, her parents struggled hard to make ends meet.
Meera would then console her poignant father, “baba please don’t be upset, once I pass out from college I will not let you and maa work! I will take care of everything”. Her father would smile at her and gently stroke her head.
Every morning the house woke up to Meera’s sweet chirpy voice; “baba, I have made tea for you and maa! I am going out to get wood for the stove”. She would then lend a hand to her mother to quickly wrap up the cooking and cleaning of the house. And on Sundays, she would go to her baba’s shop and help him with the accounts of the shop.
By the time Meera finished combing her hair, her mother called out to her; “ Meera come and help me pack the tiffins”! She quickly rushed to help her mother.
“What would I do without you Meera! I would really miss when you go to your in laws house!” said her mother with moist eyes.
“No maa, I wont leave you and baba. If I go away, who will take care of you both? I will stay forever in this house!” Meera said and wrapped her arms around her mother.
After finishing the work, Meera picked up her bag and was about to close the door after her, when her mother’s voice stopped her.
“Meera, drop Arun and Avi safely at school, don’t forget to give your baba his tiffin and come back from college before it’s dark”.
Meera left the house with her two younger brothers Arun and Avi.
Striding on the “kuccha pucca” roads of her village and bathing in the sunlight that filtered through the leaves of the huge mango and Peepal trees, they finally reached the school where she dropped her brothers and went on to meet her baba.
“Baba, please have your food on time. And don’t worry I will get the milk and vegetables on my way back from college”, said Meera and left.
The sun had already left for the far west giving the dusky sky an orange hue. The birds returned to their abode and the earth awaited to embrace the gleaming silver disc and it’s dazzling stars.
As Meera’s mother sat on the floor blowing air into the earthen stove to ignite it, the woods burnt, creating golden streaks at it’s ends which turned into crimson flickering flames. While putting the tawaa on it to make chapatis for dinner, she suddenly remembered that Meera was not home yet and it was already late evening.
She hurriedly finished the chapatis and went out looking for her daughter. She frantically searched in her neighbourhood and some of Meera’s friends places but came back desolated and waited for her husband to come home. As soon as Meera’s baba returned, her mother rushed to him. He looked at her crestfallen face in awe and asked, “what happened? why do you look so distressed?” In between tears, she replied “Meera has not come home yet. I enquired with the friends and neighbours, but she is nowhere. I am very scared, hope our daughter is safe”.
The house was now filled with the grief and anxiety of her parents and brothers. Tales of human horror crossed their minds and they shuddered in fear for their little girl. The earth too had been deceived that night, for there was no moon and no stars. The sky roared in rage and poured down incessantly making the search difficult for Meera’s parents. The rains were ceaseless and so was her parents’ wait.
Finally the crowing of the rooster marked the beginning of a new day. Without waiting anymore, Meera’s parents went to the police station to file a complaint about their missing child. After much heated conversation with the officer on duty, an FIR was lodged.
The bereft parents returned home depressed and devastated. The home now wore a forlorn look and missed the chirpiness of Meera.
Days turned into weeks; weeks into months; and months into years but there was no news of their daughter. There was not a single day in all those years that eased their anguish which had left a scar in their lives forever.
Meera sat on the cement window sill with one hand holding the criss cross iron grills and the other hand playing with the ends of her loosely tied hairs; when she heard someone calling out her name.
“Sunehri....Ameena Bi asked you to get ready! your client has come and is waiting in the hall”.
Meera got up and sat in front of the mirror. Wrapped up in a red saree with silver glittery blouse..dark kohl lined rheumy eyes.. innocent cheeks lost in layers of concealer.. big golden jhumkas..hands full of colourful metal bangles..scraggly tresses loosely secured with golden pins and a big magenta rose on one side.. and a red lipstick on her quivering lips. She looked at her reflection in the mirror horrified and thought how all her dreams were shattered and she had been fooled by life itself.
Meera got up and went out of the room..leaving behind footprints of her crushed aspirations; to accept a destiny that her ill fate had forced on her!
It’s been four long years and still every single day, Meera fights a battle with her own self. She lost her sanity.. her name.. her identity.. her family.. everything! and because of whom?.... those inhuman greedy people whose thirst for lust and money is unquenchable.
That night Meera was kidnapped, raped and sold. She had fallen a prey to the flesh trade with which a part of her had died within her. Everyday hundreds of “meeras” are victimised. They are then either forced into prostitution or silenced forever!