Between the Lines

It was just 10 in the night and Sweety was already sleepy. The day had been very draining on her. Her brown hands and bony fingers had spent a long time typing at her laptop and now her brain was without a thought and her body numb and heavy. Sweety made her long way back home. The auto-rickshaw she was in, played loud thumping music. Any other day, she would have asked the driver to stop it but today, the music, a peppy dance number, filled her empty brain. She tried to tap her toes along with the music but her leaden feet were heavy and unmoving. She looked in her bag for a cigarette and lit up. The autowallah uncle looked at her through the rear view mirror. She smiled apologetically at him, waving the cigarette about, for smoking while female in India.

The document she had been typing was in her bag. The bulge of the thick papers poked her from the side every time the auto swerved and reminded her of the task that lay ahead. The auto reached the destination and she got off. The walk to her flat through the narrow lane was uneventful. Few dogs followed her and others made way for her. To the dogs, everything was normal, they couldn’t sense that for Sweety, everything had changed. She walked on. A few more steps to her simple, mostly unadorned home. He heavy legs wouldn’t move easily. She pushed through the pain and discomfort and finally made it home.

Her roommate and friend and currently her lifeline, opened the door for her. Pinky was grim and unsmiling today. She took Sweety’s bag and pulled her in gently.

“Go have a warm bath. I will serve you dinner.” Pinky said.

Sweety stood under the warm water and held onto those words. So normal. Such signs of domesticity, ‘Bath,’ ‘food.’ Such love and concern and affection. So different from what had transpired in Sweety’s life, from what was now transcribed in those thick, white papers.

Pinky massaged Sweety’s feet as she sat in the best chair in the house as she pushed daal chawal and boiled eggs into her mouth. She was too tired to want to eat but she didn’t want to give in to that tiredness. “If you don’t love yourself, body and mind; nobody else will.” She could hear Pinky’s voice and her iron will in it, echo through her tired and woolly mind.

“Did you finish it?” Pinky asked her.

“Mmmm…hmmm.” She replied

“I know it must have been tough. But this is the best course of action. Trust me, even Caroline thinks so.” Pinky said.

Caroline was Sweety’s shrink. She was a trained psychologist and psychiatrist. Pinky and sweety had met Caroline through the NGO that had helped the police find Sweety. It was Caroline who had convinced the system to stop the institutionalisation of Sweety. Pinky had come forward to claim Sweety as family and had promised to provide a stable home. They had been classmates and friends before Sweety had been abducted.

It had been one year since the dramatic rescue. A lot of things had changed for Sweety. She now had a job which kept her busy and almost happy. Pinky protected her like a mama cat and with Caroline’s help and loads of of Psych meds, Sweety was in a much better place.

Sweety had never told the police the full story of what had happened to her for 4 whole years. “I don’t know. I don’t remember.” She had chanted automatically each time anyone had asked her anything about the who’s and how’s of her ordeal. Caroline told the police that she had really forgotten a lot, in order to get over the horrific few years. “It will come back to her soon.” She’d told the kindly commissioner who suspected Sweety’s family of having a hand in it.

Sweety and Pinky shared a bed. They had tried separate rooms and then separate beds in the same room, but Sweety just couldn’t deal with it. She wouldn’t be able to sleep without onto Pinky. All the lights in the house too needed to be on the whole night. Pinky didn’t mind. The thick bundle of paper tucked away in their safe was filled with the horrors she hadn’t even read in the most horrid of books.

The pages would bleed on the commissioner’s table tomorrow with the tales of brutal rapes, torture, the resultant pregnancy and unsafe forced abortions through which she had lost her womb. Tomorrow there would be tales of the breakdown of a girl’s spirits and a dissolution of her hopes and humanity; tales of being just a piece of flesh, which exchanged hands every few months. She had travelled the entire country in the trunks of a big car, drugged and bundled like a commodity for four years.

Pinky watched Sweety slowly give in to sleep. Tomorrow the journey would begin. A long battle lay ahead. The police force had assured them that Sweety’s case would be an example for human traffickers everywhere. The nationwide investigation and search would ensure that all ‘Rajus’ and their kingpins would be caught and tried in court of law, the Home Minister had assured Sweety and Pinky.

Tomorrow the battle would begin. Pinky put her arm around Sweety and went to sleep today.

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