I’m tired now… tired of running away, tired of people leaving when I’ve begun to love them. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. I’ve seen it all. Or at least I think I have. I can never be sure. Just when I think there’s nothing more to see, my journey shows that I could not have been more wrong.
I was quite young when I was given away; too young to remember who held me first. I don’t know if they smiled with happiness when I was born, or cried in despair when they gave me away. I’ve heard people say they were born as orphans. True, those people were too drunk with sorrow to realize what they were saying, but I feel that to be true for me.
I remember the mansion. I had gone there with the man who first held me. It was big, and old, with fine chandeliers and a long staircase that took him and me to the upper floors. There was a woman there, and she smiled seeing him. “Come, I was expecting you,” she had said, her teeth stained red by betel leaves and a big round dot of red on her forehead. I felt him push me toward her, and I went. She looked at me happily. She took me to a room, and pushed me inside, locked me up. I was afraid then, for he had never locked me up before. And from the window, I could see him walk away, leaving me alone for the first time.
The mansion was my first home, and thanks to accursed luck, it was also my home for much of my life. Once in a while, I would be let out of the room. I would be given to a man, who’d take me home with him. That was when I would see the world. I would smell the fresh vada-pavs as we went past a roadside thela, and hear the bells of the ice-cream vendor’s bicycle. I’d see little children ride past on bicycles, and feel the salt from the sea breeze. It’d be only till we’d reach his home. There again, I’d be locked in a room very similar to the mansion’s room. After a while, he’d take me back to the mansion. Every time, it would be a different man, and somehow, I would end back where I started. No escape. The woman didn’t mind. “She’s like my lucky charm,” she used to say.
I was saved, if you could call it that, by a policeman. He saw me with a man, and left him no choice but to free me. When I saw the man reluctantly let me go, I thought I was saved. But my journey continued. The policeman took me home. He used me as he saw fit. He gave me to another woman, and the woman put me in another room. It was long before I saw the light of the sun again. With every hand that touched me, I felt more dirty. The silver lining, if you could call it that, was that I saw the world. I saw that the world had kind people, and I hoped that, someday, I would be rescued by one of them.
I realized when I was rescued, to my misery, that even kind people had no intention of setting me free. They’d treat me kinder, but use me nonetheless. I realized then the reason why I was born… to be used. A luxurious life wasn’t in my destiny. I saw others like me sometimes in much better places, and a tinge of envy would rise within me. But, no, not all was dark in my world. I had a comfortable life for a while. I played with children. The sea breeze felt much fresher then than when I was going in and out of the mansion. I fell at the feet of God when I went to the temple, and prayed that He cleanse me of all my sins, and of the sins that I had seen. But like I said before, just when I had begun to love the people I was with, they’d leave me. I’d grown old, but other people were still happy to see me, use me, and make me dirtier than I was.
I’m tired, but I can’t help but wonder if I’ll see more people before I die, see more places. Luck hasn’t favored me on my life’s journey so far. I’ve only been to a few places, and seen a few smiles. I’ve never been out of this city. I pray that even if I don’t go out of this city, I never go back to that mansion again. I’ve seen enough of that place, that red-mouthed woman and the men that go there.
After all, even a hundred rupee note can get tired of seeing the same hands over and over and over again, right?
(11th April 2014)