In Her Eyes…

I have this adamant streak sometimes. I don’t know why. I have a sensitive side too, and that was pricked badly by a story written by one of my closest friends. It was a discussion with her that has led to this story. That, and my adamancy to attempt what she wrote from a different point of view, even though I knew what it’ll take out of me. This is a fiction story inspired by real elements. The credits of the plot go entirely to her. The link to her take is at the end of this post. Please do visit her after you read, and give her the praise that story merits.


There is no moon in the sky tonight. Looking out the window of my room, I had noticed it earlier. A breeze comes through the window. It is the one that usually croons Aaliya and me to sleep. But tonight, it does little to dry the beads of sweat on my forehead, the drops that trickle out from my eyes. Thirty years it has been, but I remember every moment like it happened just two seconds ago. I remember the promise I had made to myself then, chanted with my prayers every day. Those are the same words I murmur, my voice breaking with each passing second as I tug at the knots of the rope holding my hands and feet to the corners of the bed. It was history repeating. And I had to stop it.

I hear the voices chanting in the distance. The slow measured chanting of the prayer. Just like thirty years ago. It had done little to calm me then. I remember the look in my eye still, like the lamb being taken to slaughter. I had been pushed into a room then, on my 11th birthday, my braids falling open and my white school skirt sliding up as I fell on the bed. A scream breaks through the monotonic chanting, and my struggle with the ropes become frantic. I hadn’t had the chance to scream back then. My mother had held my mouth closed, my aunt had held my hands tight behind my back. From the moment I had fallen on the bed, I had known I was trapped. Today was Aaliya’s 11th birthday, and her Naani had pushed her into the room soon as she returned from her school. I’d screamed, tried to get her out, but the man had been stronger. He had carried me to the next room, pushed me on to the bed and held me down as my mother and brothers’ wives tied my hands and feet to the bed’s corners. He had shown the glint in his hand as he walked out, locking the door behind him.

The knots give way, and I rush to the door, but the bolt outside doesn’t give in as easy as the rope. Another scream echoes through the long hallway, and I know I am too late. I remember it had happened to me. The ladies had sat around me, chanting while the man had pushed my feet apart, and taken out the blade. He had held my skirt up, and with a deft swipe, found his target just as my mom had let go of my mouth. My scream had echoed then through the halls, rising above the meaningless chants. My mother had had no mercy. She had held me tightly as he swiped again. The blood had stained the bed, and he had pressed my skirt back down, staining it deep red too. Forty minutes… forty long, hard minutes, that was how long it lasted. Mother had locked me up for forty days after that. She needn’t have shown that mercy. I couldn’t have moved even if she had wanted me to.

The third scream jolts me back. I know the second swipe has also finished. I sink to the floor, my feet numb, the tears falling freely, my scream echoing in the hallway too. The sound of the bolt makes me look up. My mother is there, and my mother-in-law too. They look chuffed at their victory… at my defeat.

“Humare Izzjat pe daag lagane chale the aap. Dekho uski iccha, tum nahi kar paaye. Aab aap ek acchi ma ki tarah jaake apne bacchii ka khayal rakhe.” (You were going to mar our honour by your actions but see His will, you could not succeed. Now go and tend to your daughter like the perfect mother)

My feet refuse to move, but I drag myself across the hall to the room. Standing at the threshold, I see my Aaliya lying there on the bed, her skirt stained deep red from the gashes on her clit. She looks at me. In her eyes, I see the fear I had then, I feel the pain I had felt then. In her eyes, I see the emptiness of a broken promise. In her eyes, I see the questions she would ask of me soon. “Why?” she would ask, and I don’t know what I will tell her. I don’t know if I can stare into those eyes without feeling pain, shame, guilt and anger. If I could, would I be her mother?

Nothing has changed. I was butchered thirty years ago. Today, my daughter suffers the same fate. Would it come soon… the change… the change that takes away the fear in her eyes?

Jaibala Rao, my friend who wrote the original story, is quite a talented author. Read her piece titled “Failed Determination” and you’ll know I’m right. The story maybe fiction, but the practice of FGM {Female Genital Mutilation} which it talks about, is very much in practice within many communities across the globe. I read about it after I read Jai’s story, and it is very hard to imagine the pain each girl goes through, let alone do it from the first person voice of a loved one, or the girl itself. I hope that change, it comes about soon.

(16th July 2014)

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Poetry & writing are to me, a breath of fresh air in a life that is sometimes covered by the smoke of sorrow or self doubt. They also become the sweets I share to celebrate when life offers me a reason to. But most of all, they are to me, my life. For each word I write is a piece of my heart, a thought that just had to find its way into the world.

14 thoughts on “In Her Eyes…”

  1. You have done your bit in helping raise awareness, and done by hitting that nail so hard on the head. And Thank You for doing it the way I could not, for writing it from this perspective. I tried and I failed to do so, so I know how hard it was for you to have done this. I just hope that this effort helps generate some kind of awareness about this heinous crime, and the change comes soon.

    • I too hope the change comes soon, Jb. It’s a heinous crime, and it was very tough to write on. Might not have managed anything if your take wasn’t there.

  2. OMG! I feel like crying out loud after reading this.

    So painful, such a shameful act! I did not even know something like this happened until now. Its really very sad.

    You have written it beautifully though. The pain shines through.

    • I know. It was tough to write without letting the emotions get to me, Soumya, so I can understand the reader’s state of mind too. A shameful act indeed.

  3. I don’t know what to comment on this story. It’s disturbing on so many levels. But what is truly tragic is that it still happens. You have written it so well. The pain and angst…

    • Thank you, Aathira. Even I didn’t know what to say when I read the first take by Jaibala. It’s a tragedy, and very disturbing for sure.

  4. :'(
    this made me cry.. first Jai’s story made me cry and now your view
    its barbaric, inhuman and awareness helps..
    you have expressed it hauntingly well Leo. Its heart wrenching..

    • It moved me a lot, Jai’s post. Tears didn’t come, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the pain that girl would have felt. Barbaric and inhuman, yes. And it still continues to happen. Which is the heart-wrenching, insanest part I think, Pixie.

  5. I read Jaibala’s and yours… the pain in both the stories is what strikes me the most. I cannot get beyond the knowledge of knowing that women too support this act 🙁

  6. I don’t know what to say but story left me wondering about the cruelties still inflicted upon women.. It’s sad and heart crushing 🙁

  7. I feel helpless not teary eyed, a spike of hate and then dejection and frustrated.. I have read about it before, but didn’t know it happened in India..
    It doesn’t matter though whether it happens in India or anywhere else , but the fact that it happens anywhere in India is very disheartening ..

    • Well, according to Wikipedia, it isn’t very predominant in India at all. But yes, that it happens, is disheartening, Simple Girl. And yes, very helpless to imagine that it does.

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