Ashwini (a non-fiction piece inspired by the true events in the life of a young girl) -1/5.

Girls with henna-ed palms- Image credits (Megan Grieske).

In a city of the Indian state of Maharashtra.

Midnight was closing in, her once-beautiful mother was grievously burnt, and the police were coming for the pimp and his fires. In a slum hut of the red light district, Ashwini’s mother came to a decision with characteristic bravery. The mother, a sick woman, would wait inside the lopsided hut where the family of four resided. She’d retreat quietly in morning. Ashwini, the eldest sibling, was the one who had to flee, with her sister, Komal, on her back.

As was typical, Ashwini’s opinion had been sought, but already she was “mule-brained with panic.” She was eight years old, or maybe nine — her mother was hopeless with dates. Her mother, in her vibrancy of words, had named her “Ashwini” for brave. Ashwini’s mother was the wordsmith in the family. For Ashwini, words came stiff and slow. A coward: Ashwini said it of herself. She knew nothing yet about running. What she knew about, mainly, was massaging. For nearly all the nights of nearly all the years she could remember, she’d been made to massage the pimps and customers the nights that the pimp threw her away from her mother’s home.

Now Ashwini grasped the need to disappear, but beyond that her thoughts tripped on themselves, booby-trapped by fatigue. She took off running, then came back home. The only place she could think to hide was in church.

She cracked the door of the family hut and looked out. Her home sat endways down a row of hand-built, tin roofs; the pimp’s trash-strewn shack where she massaged him and the customers was just next door. To slip by this shack unseen would deprive her neighbors the pride of turning her in to the pimp.

…to be continued

If you liked this story, please recommend it to others. Read the 2nd part of Ashwini’s story of survival of the red light district- (Be Brave).