A Sentional Story
by Nidhi Mahesh


E- mail:  
Nidhi.Mahesh@hcl.in
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It was an unusual story… of a mother…. a child who was seen as a woman… ignored for her mental instability… victimized for her vulnerability…

Deepa Das…. mother of two at the age of 14… both the children conceived by rape… when I told my desk about the story they were over excited… it was a sensational story… something that could be played up… I got an immediate go ahead… so out I was with my crew to record yet another story on atrocities on weaker sex…….

I came to know of Deepa while traveling home in the tube…. Overheard conversations have always proved a treasure trove for stories… and this one was the most interesting of them all…. I had heard that she roamed on the footpath at Karunamoyee… just opposite Bikash Bhavan, the extension of State Secretariat in socialist Bengal… it would not be difficult to find her …

As soon as we reached Karunamoyee bus stop helpless cries of a baby greeted us…Under the branded new bus shade, a baby of no more than six months was being forced to swallow a rotten banana… the shrill wails of protest rang loud even in the din of horns and gushing vehicles…. A teen aged girl in dirty tattered frock…. shaven head… mud coated hands… was kneeling on the baby lying on bare concrete… no one needed to introduce us… this was Deepa with her daughter….

“What are you doing… she cannot swallow this… you will choke her…”, I shouted in apprehension… She looked up confused…. ‘o to emon i khaye” ..(she eats like this only..’)… she said… showing her yellow teeth with brown marks… perspiration dripping from her forehead mingled with saliva running from the corner of her mouth….

“tumi ki pagol… mere phelbe bachcha ta ke!!” ( are you mad… you will kill the child this way!!) I shouted in horror… To this she giggled… “sabai tai bole… aami na ki pagol !!” (Everybody says so… I am mad!!)

I looked at her upturned face… behind the dirt and grime… behind the perspiration and saliva… I could see innocence… she could not have been mad…

My crew also reached by then with their camera and microphones… reminding me I was here to do a story…
Hurriedly I picked up the crying baby… trying to console her.. “eta oke khawate hobe na… aami doodh kine debo” (don’t have to feed her this… I will buy you some milk”)…

“aamay ki korte hobe?” (What do I need to do…) she promptly asked… she knew every favor came for a price… what price has she been praying to keep this baby alive??? “kichu na… tomar saathe ektu kotha bolbo aar ko ekta chabi tulbo, kintu aage eke khaiye di… doodher botol aache?” (nothing… I will just speak to you and take some pictures… but before that lets feed the baby… do you have bottle for milk?”) I said and rushed ahead to find milk for the baby.

After feeding the baby and cleaning her up as far as possible, we got down to business… My crew got busy in setting up the camera for the soundbite while I sat down with her to run her through the process…

She was very calm and composed….if you could discount her tattered and dirty dress and her salivating mouth… she did not give any sign of mental imbalance… a kid of 13-14 herself, she was forced into being a woman…. something she could not handle…. Something that she was not supposed to handle anyway… she made a lousy job of rearing the child… true, she has no idea how to feed or clean the baby… but at her age how one could expect her to be an expert in child care!!

Her first child… a year older than the one, who was sleeping contently on the footpath, had been taken in by a NGO… “ek mota didimoni nie gelo...” (“a fat madam took it away…”) was all she could say… she is confused whether that child was a boy or a girl… she had given birth to it on this very footpath… but she could not recall anything other than the searing pain she felt and fainted…. She had no idea how was the baby born… some good soul must have helped her but she had no recollection beyond that…

She told me she was from a “very big and green place with lots of open land”…. maybe some village in the outskirts… she had come with her mother to the city after her father threw them out of home. Her mother used to be severely beaten by her father… she did not know why… she got the lashing too, occasionally… but once she came here there was no beating… she was scared someone will start beating her mother again so she behaved as “a good girl” and did “whatever” anyone asked her too… I could understand the meaning of this loaded “whatever”…

“ek din aamay maa bol_lo… tui maa hochchis… ammar pet aeto bodo hoye gaelo… prachur baetha hoto…. Kintu je din aamar sab cheye besi baetha holo maa ke khuje pelam na… ki jani kothay chole gelo…” (“one day my mother told me I was going to be a mother… my tummy grew fat… used to have a lot of pain… but the day the pain was worst I could not find her…don’t know where she went away…”)

So… her mother did not see her newborn… she was alone under this open sky with a baby who she says was taken away from her…

With nowhere to go to and no one to take care… this girl survived on favors… some favors were done out of charity and some for a price… the second baby she carried was perhaps the biggest price she paid to live on…

Did she know who the father of the baby was? She went on staring at space in reply… eyes turned blank… her face remorseful… she kept quiet for a while and then suddenly she held my palms tightly in her hands and looked pleadingly at me… appealing with her eyes… her words shocked me… “jano didi.. aami sabai ke ei kotha jigesh kori… sabai amai pagol bole tadiye daey… aamar maa chilo baba chilo… tomar o maa aache baba aache… sabar e to tai hoy…. Tobe aamar bachchar baba kaeno nei? Tumi bolte parbe?” ( do you know didi… I ask this to every one … they shoo me away… saying I am mad… I had a mother and a father… you too have a mother and a father… everyone has… then why does my child has no father? Can you tell me?”)

What could I say…? How could I answer that? How could anyone? I looked at her pleading eyes and felt guilty… guilty of being part of this society that victimized this girl… robbed her of her childhood and gave her a life worse than that of a stray animal... she had no idea who mated her to create the babies she delivered… she did not know how she will rear her children… how she will live…

My crew was getting restless… I did not feel like doing the story anymore… my cameraman knew me well enough to understand this… but he reminded me we were here on duty and we must do our job... after all we were professionals!!

So I went about my business… got the girl to sit in the desired profile… asked her all the relevant questions… ironically Deepa was very excited with all this… she thought I will find her baby’s father… I felt like a cheat… how could I tell her that the faith she posed in me was ill placed!!

After speaking to her we took sound bites of the people around… the tea stall guy… the hawker who sold peanuts at the bus stop… the pan shop guy…. all these people told us they have been seeing this girl for some years now… her mother died on the pavement… she was probably suffering from tuberculosis… this girl was mad… she could not do any work… she lived on alms… charity….

Charity… of course the girl lived on charity… and the biggest charity she got was her two children!!

My guilt for the faith the girl placed in me forced me to arrange for her and baby’s food supply for a fortnight in which time I told myself I will arrange a shelter for her… shoot complete I went back to office to file “the sensational story…”

I tried to be as matter of fact in the story as I could but it was a difficult job… Deepa had shaken me deeply and it was almost impossible to keep the emotions aside while writing the story… in the end I wrote the report that simply stated the girl’s plight… a mother of 2 at the age of 13-14… the hardship this girl faced and the insecurity that she lived with… she could be a mother again anytime… and would not even know who sires the seeds… and all this just bang opposite the state secretariat where ministers and bureaucrats of this socialist state brainstormed over bringing about a revolution… the champions of proletariat!!

My report was rejected.... in years of my journalistic career perhaps for the first time I was castigated for losing the “news point”… “where is the story… why did you not put the rape angle… this girl was raped… why did you not speak to police to find out about the case that must have been registered… who was the rapist…”etc etc… there were a battery of questions flung at me by the desk… my editor was “highly disappointed” with me… but honestly I had no answers to the questions they asked… I accepted that I did a lousy job at the report and was relieved they decided they could not telecast a story with no news angle.

I could finally find a shelter in a NGO for the girl in some days… but never could go to see her again… I did not have the courage… what if she asked me the same question again??





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Stories by this Author :
* A Sentational Story
* Lost and Found
* Ajmera
* Gobindo
* Mirage
* Mithun's Mother
* Resilience
* Defending the Indefensible…



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