The Awakening

selective focus of cow photo

I sit next to Gauri, the new calf, half mumbling, as she swats the flies off her back with her tail. “They are marrying me off Gauri! Already!” I whisper. “To a man who is as old as Amma.” Gauri nods. She understands everything I tell her. She also doesn’t think I am stupid like the rest of my family.

Amma says, I should be happy. At least I got an alliance. That too without much dowry. They wanted just a calf, to take me! Will you come with me Gauri?” 

Gauri nods again, this time softly. I think she is searching for her mother worried about the impending separation.

*********************************************************

I and Gauri set foot into an alien home, both alone and scared. We become each other’s confidantes. My new husband, though a man, turns out to be an animal in disguise. While Gauri, an animal by birth, is as humane as possible. As I often sit crying next to her, tending to my sores, I see tears in her eyes too.

Why is he so horrible to me Gauri? Doesn’t he see how young and frail I am? Why did Amma marry me off to this monster without any cross-checking? She used to call me her doll. Was I her burden just to be offloaded on any? He doesn’t even let me talk to Amma. I miss her terribly.

Gauri only moos in solidarity.

**********************************************************

Years crawl by. I’m an Amma now. Though I had to abandon my new-born girls, for that flag-bearer of a son. I was still sedated when the husband took the girls away. I shudder when I wonder what was done to them. I never had the courage to ask the husband. I didn’t want to face the ugly truth. Living in ignorance is safer. In hindsight, maybe they had it easier – rather than living in hell.

My routine is spectacularly simple. Rise in the morning, make food, feed the animals and the husband, send the son Shyam to school, work in the farm, wait for the night to fall, wash, cook, eat, wait for the husband to finish his carnal business and roll off while I grit my teeth and stare at the stars twinkling through the holes in the thatched roof, wash myself and fall off to a dreamless sleep.

This routine is so rammed into my barely registering system, that comforting tears have dried up.

Gauri has also become a mother. But in her case, the female progeny are welcomed with festivities.

I still talk to Gauri and she still moos, occasionally nods. But she has become busier and frailer tending to her growing flock.

Days roll by. Uneventfully. Heavily.

*******************************************************

One evening, the husband comes in agitatedly.

We have to safeguard our cows. Nothing is safe around here. We men, are teaming up and will be doing rounds of the village once the night falls. Give me my roti quickly.

As he takes a morsel, he throws the plate and beats the hell out of me.

Bloody woman, been married for so long, yet cannot rustle up a decent meal. Gauri is the only plus point of marrying you.

Taking his lathi he storms off. He doesn’t see that the lathi is blood tinged and that my forehead is bleeding.

After a while, I get up, wash my wounds, apply some turmeric on them and check on Gauri as instructed.

Gauri licks my hand. She knows. She understands.

Husband comes back after hours with his friends. They are all laughing and talking about teaching some wretched infidel, who was caught carting cattle, a bloody lesson. An example has been set and surely there wouldn’t be a repeat. Even if there is, this time there will be mayhem awaiting the scoundrels.

I shudder involuntarily.

The rowdy gang celebrates with Toddy. The friends leave soon. Husband demands freshly cooked food and sex.

I feed him broth and lie down. He hungrily attacks the food and me. This time I feel utterly violated and debased. I have slept with a murderer. That is a new low, if possible, in my utterly nondescript life.

As he snores, I pick up Shyam, my little satchel and run for my life.

Because the broth had a generous quantity of rat poison.

Before that, I cuddle Gauri saying “I have to leave you Gauri for I am just a wife. He will look after you well because you are the cow. This tyranny has to end now…I have tried to stop this monster from hurting more people. In doing so, if I end up dying, so be it. Just breathing, bearing, living is not enough…I have to do more. If I hope to live for some time I have to make a run for it. Destiny willing, we will surely meet someday.

She doesn’t moo. But she agrees.

What happens tomorrow?

That will depend on my catching the early morning train before anyone spots me.

I am Janki and this is my story…So far!

 

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