In continuation of the first part of the short story ‘Of Darker Alleys’.
She started walking faster. She had to get to the house early to make use of all the time she could get. She wanted to get away from them. She was desperate.
She reached the house. She could see the men standing outside impatiently. Bowing her head, lowering her eyes, she walked past them silently. She felt their eyes piercing her back. An involuntary shudder passed through her as she walked in through the wooden door. It was the last time she was going to do it.
It was a beautiful house. Much better than what she had been brought up in. The elders of the house had built it with much love and money. Latticed windows, carved doors, floral designs adorning the middle of the courtyard; she fell in love with the place when she saw it. She used to imagine how she would one day take care of it. Little had she imagined anyone could be as unhappy here as she had become.
Her mother-in-law was walking towards her. She muttered instructions to her. All she caught was the confirmation that they would be back in some time. Possibly half an hour. She didn’t listen to anything else. Not anymore.
The minute they left the compound to attend the neighborhood wedding, she ran to her room. She didn’t want to attend the wedding. It was a trade. The girl was being sold and she wouldn’t know it for a while. That is how the village was surviving. The current generation had almost no girls. Who would the boys marry? They killed their own daughters and bought daughters of other parents only to sell them off as commodities once their utility was over. Higher the demand, higher the price. She preferred the dried grasslands over such fake lushness. At least back at her place, they treated humans as humans.
She had put together a few of her clothes. She was still in two minds if she should run away with her baby or alone. She knew if they found the baby missing, they would not leave any stone unturned to get to her. But if she alone went missing, they might not even bother. With a heavy heart, she picked up her little cloth bag and crossed the length of the house to leave.
She stopped right at the main door. Her son was wailing. Her only son was wailing! She opened the door. She tried ignoring his cries. She could see her freedom waiting down the road. She could hear a hungry heart and an impatient stomach calling out to her.
The mother in her had decided. She had decided to remain human. She closed the doors on herself again. Clutching her bag to her chest, she ran up to his room. Her baby wanted her. Her freedom would have to wait today.
P.S. : I do not know about other countries but I do know that such practices are rampant in India. How rampant, where, since when ~ I wish I could answer those questions with surety, but I cannot.
Picture Credits : Ishita Shah.