The sun was beginning to hide behind the big glass building, and the city got ready to live the night as the birds took their cue home. The view from the window pane seemed to make it look like a picture, a painting of the world Chandni never saw. She was glad though that this place was away from the bustling of urban life and had a few trees to call its own. Never had she missed a Sunset in the past fifteen years of her life here though she hardly knew why. The sparrows coming back to their nest in the banyan tree always made her melancholic. They had a home to come to, children to feed, life to live, life that civilization could not snatch away, that society could not throw away. And yet there was a certain solace in witnessing their homecoming. They had given her the strength to hold on in her darkest moments of despair. “Never give up on Hope and Faith” her mother had told her, “they will always create a bridge where you think you will fall”.
‘Home’ the word meant nothing of worth to the women living in Kamathipura. To Chandni it meant the treachery of the father she had idolized, helplessness of the mother who adored her and mockery of the place she had thought was her fortress. Over the years the memory of that distant place had faded into oblivion but for that last day that decided her fate.
They were quarrelling as usual that day, her parents. But suddenly she saw a hand go up and her mother screaming in pain. Frightened, she let go of the rasgulla she was eating, a delicacy she got once a month if father thought she had been a good girl. That month she had gotten two. She never understood why her parents never had one. Anyways, Fleeting memories apart, Father has never slapped anyone before, what was going on? But before she could make any sense of it her mother grabbed her, then five years of age and ran. From the corner of her eye she saw Sheila (her next door neighbor and her most favorite person in the whole wide world) held back by her mother as she tried to come to me. The next few seconds were a blur and between her father screaming and mother running down the flight of stairs in the chawl she could grasp word like “Debt”, “50,000”, “kill me”, “Survival”, “Happy”. They had only gone so far as the ground floor when she was flung to one side as mother fell to the other. Harsh Chachu’s towering figure stood over her little frame smirking like he had found treasure. The last thing she saw before she was blindfolded was her mother, screaming, “Rimjhim”, bleeding, trying to reach out and the whole Chawl looking on, silently. The sight froze her tears and she went from feeling horror to nothing. As she sat on the lap of the fat lady she would learn to call Ammi, she was baptized Chandni and yet Rimjhim truly died the day they “violated” her. A smile played on her lips as she rebuked herself for using that word. All Chandni knew then was pain; ‘violation’ was a later concept, a construct of her teenage mind when she believed she was fighting a war she was sure to win. Repeated failures and broken trusts taught golden rules of acceptance. Now as she looked at the glow the sun left behind, she pondered over the single question that still held on, why would father do that? What could her five year old mind not comprehend?
‘CHAAAANDNIIIIII!’ called Manchali. This was enough bring Chandni out of her reminiscing and make her smile. She had friend here, comrades rather who had grown together. She was not an object of pity, she choose not to be. She was induced into making a business of her body and yet she could not think of a better career option for herself as she though she really excelled in it. She could have rasgullas anytime she wanted now. She knew no material desire that could not be fulfilled, knew how to have her own way as long as it did not interfere with work, lived in a community that respected her and even though the rest of the world did not understand, she wanted no truck with it. It was not ‘home’ but the best shot at it she had and she was willing to live it with a self-sense of dignity. With the sun gone now Chandhi finally had her answer. She knew what drew her to Sunsets. Every evening brought with it a new discovery and todays was-
Life is not about finding answers to all your questions. It is about the choices you make with the ones you do