“Teen din hue aaye Durga apni Kaki ke saath na baithi tu.” the old woman was braiding her hair. “ke hua chhori? Kal tak toh chupp na baith sake thi, aaj itni gumsum kaise?
Durga smiled and turned to look at her Kaki. Her dewy eyes filled the old woman’s heart with sorrow. After a very long time in life, she was questioning her work and what she made Durga do. “It is a part of our life. This is who we are. Do not be ashamed of yourself.” is all she taught every girl in the house, including her soft-hearted, kind Durga. She had ready herself for being blamed, accused, punished, and even banishment but never for the tears of her beloved Durga. She had not prepared herself for benevolence and forgiveness.
She held Durga close and caressed her forehead until she fell asleep curled in the grey dupatta of her Kaki. She remembered the day Hassan had sold Durga to her.
“Her parents cannot afford raising another girl, Ambika. But, look at her. She promises to grow up in beauty and grace.”
“Kya daam lagaoge?”
“60 me doonga. Lena ho toh lo nahi toh aur bhi kothe hai.”
“Je toh ghana moongho daam btayo se, Hassan.”
“Nijjar daal toh sahi, chhori ghani futari dikhe.”
Ambika bought Durga was the price Hassan had asked for. He is a fool, she had thought later that day, I could have given him double the price for a girl like her. Durga’s complexion, eyes, and the color of her hair were just like of the man who Ambika had once known. Her love for him had faded away or rather she had always known that women like her are not to fall in love – part of the duty. But, what was wrong with keeping a bit of it? She raised her teaching how to acquit herself, how to move gracefully, how to charm men with her voice, how to sound irresistible, and so on. She forgot to teach Durga how to guard her heart.
The girl always wore her heart on sleeves. When she was feeding the birds, dancing for men, singing, talking to a friend, kneading her Kaki’s legs, all this time. I wish I had taught her how to keep her fragile heart safe from being nipped at and torn.
Her soft hair were twisted in the fingers of Ambika’s fingers just like her fate and Ambika could not help but feel both guilt and compassion. Her most beloved girl was mournful – mournful for a man who wasn’t even thinking of her and probably would never do. I hope he never does, not again.
I cannot forget those beautiful eyes, honest smile, and polite gestures. I will never be able to forget those lips I kissed. Inappropriate! Inappropriate! Inappropriate! Get a hold on your thoughts, you have wives, family, and people who you are accountable to. It cannot be justified. This is anyway not love. It’s …it’s infatuation for sure. I will forget her in a day or a two. Such childish attitude does not suit a Raja like me. Her thin, long fingers will be forgotten and their touch, definitely will wash away from mine. The colour of her pink lips forever faded from my eyes. Her olive skin will no more tempt me to touch it, feel it, and run my hands along that curvaceous waist. Her light voice will be mute upon my deaf ears and I will never again think of listening to her long at length. It is not love, certainly not. This is lust. I only want what others want from a kanchani like her. After all, what she had for me was a part of her job. It was all very fake and make-believe. Of course, it was. But, then why I doesn’t it feel so then? Well, I am Raja. I am the ruler. I have the power, I can certainly find out.
“Go to the girl’s house who was here 3 days before and give her this letter.”
“Make sure you give the letter to the girl and not to anyone else.”
Madri took the letter from his master and walked away in his gray robe.
Madri? I have never seen you wear gray ever before. Is something special today?
“No, sarkar.” he smiled looking at Raja sa compassionately. “Rest as I go give your letter to her.”