#MeToo. Her Tale.

The dull blue door of kholi number gyaarah of the old two storeyed tulsibai chawl in a small town opened with a creak…dressed in an old white kurti that was a couple of washes away from turning into rags and a pair of dark blue denim that was bought on the roadside stepped out Simran, a girl who never even knew what #metoo was. She wasn’t really beautiful, she was dusky and the glow was miles from her skin. But her smile was something that you couldn’t miss!

This morning, Simran was in a hurry. It was evident as today she had forgotten to seek God’s blessings on her way out. She would kiss her folded index finger while looking at the sky, something that a lot of people do. She started walking, actually, almost running immediately after putting on her once shiny red sandals while holding the handrail of the old wooden railing that was a proof of the chawl being of the pre independence times. The staircase was wooden and one could tell the exact number of steps simply by listening to footsteps during quiet hours of the day. About a kilometer away at their usual meeting spot, a tea stall, waiting for her stood Raj-A dark but not so tall, average looking boy who had won her heart apart from countless other scholarships in school. With the heat spitting sun overhead, who said love was easy even if for nineteen year olds?! Pandit kept stirring the tea everyday apart from being the only witness to their love story!

Finally he saw her at a distance. One glimpse and he completely forgot that he had to crib about being made to wait for more than 45 minutes. It was her birthday and Raj had been saving money to buy her that blue anarkali dress she dreamt of having. “Thats how you plan a surprise!” he said to himself as he made up a reason for going to the mall with her after the tea. “Thats how you surprise someone” Simran said in her head as she saw the jaw dropped Raj! All that he had managed to say on seeing her today was “Hi!”! She looked pretty in white.

Raj simply stared at Simran whenever he could while walking to the mall! You know how you sometimes act stupid when you don’t want to miss out on even a second of someones company?! That! Exactly That! Raj wanted to buy the world for her with the limited money he had in his pocket. He couldn’t hold the surprise any longer as he hurried his way to the store they had seen the dress at, and Simran who was completely clueless simply followed him.

“Happppppppybirthdaaaaaay!!!” Raj almost screamed and Simran realised what had been going on!

“But..but this? Isnt this too?”

“Sssshhhh! I have been saving for it! Anything that my sweetheart wishes for shall be hers!” Raj said proudly while comforting her. “Now go try the dress!” commanded Raj in his “lovey-dovey” voice! Simran was bound to obey! She liked this dominance! It seemed tailor made for her as the smooth cloth slid ticklishly on her body all the way down. It was the perfect fit! They spent the rest of the day on a plate of panipuri topped with lots of love. After all, money is the one thing you cant even pretend to have!

“I Love you”, He said. “#metoo”, Replied. The day had been perfect. She slept happily.

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The next morning as she returned from the dairy with the usual quarter litre of milk, she saw Waseem who lived one flat away standing in the passage. He was dressed in the regular netted vest and a dark blue lungi. She had never liked him and so maintained distance. He stared at her with a smile that immediately made her uncomfortable…teeth, lips and tongue that moved in a rhythm while chewing tobacco that made him look like a ruminating ox. Soorma lined eyes that made her feel like he was looking right through her clothes. As if he knew how she looked beneath the yellow kurti. She entered the house, her lips moving the entire time as if saying something..she was cursing Waseem..!

Praying in front of her mother’s picture immediately after bath had become a part of her routine since the past 6ish years. Her phone beeped. It was a message from her best friend from school telling her not to worry and that it wasn’t her fault and that god is with her. She had barely finished reading the text when her phone rang. Raj was calling. She answered the call. All she could hear was him crying. What had happened? Why were these two behaving this way she thought as she got a second call on call waiting and then started a shower of calls and messages. None of them telling her what had happened. Only that people sympathized with her, prayed to god for her and telling her that it will be okay. But the question still remained…WHAT HAD HAPPENED??

“NO!!!!!!” her father screamed as he almost collapsed to the ground looking at the phone. A father being sent a video of his daughter changing clothes is something you wouldn’t want even for your worst enemy. A hidden camera had recorded Simran changing clothes. The changing room in the mall?? The anarkali dress??

“Why?! Why us! What harm have we done to anyone??” he cried as he pleaded, reasoned and begged in front of the three photo frames that stood in the home’s temple. Who had done it? The mall couldn’t be blamed as it was a cellphone camera that had recorded everything. You could clearly see a hand digging it out of the stack of clothes rejected by people who had used the changing room earlier..It was obvious.. the entire town had seen Simran’s secret and the damage was growing with every phone beep, every internet search, every unbuffered second that the video played.

 

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         At such times, everyone around you tries to come up with a solution which leaves you with a thousand ifs and buts and a room full of confusion and countless sleepless nights. This gets you more tired and lets you put your guard down. She fell asleep. When she woke up, her father was sleeping. Maybe he put his head down on the table while sitting on the chair she thought. But she knew something was wrong when his clenched fist caught her attention. It’s not very easy to quietly put your head down while the poison fills up your lungs with water and you start getting desperate to breathe and choke to death. He was no more. Her only support in this situation of grief was her love. She knew Raj would never leave her side. She had seen it in Raj’s eyes. Plus whenever in a situation of troubles, your loved ones are your only constant support. Raj wanted to see her, to be with her till as much as he could at least till the difficult times passed. He wanted to be there to wipe every drop of tear that slid down her eyelids. Afterall, even her tears were precious to him. The first time Raj came home after her father’s death, people spoke about it. The next time he visited, they left the doors open on purpose. It was for the world to see that it was a pure relation and that they were just talking. But people still spoke about it, this time with cooked up stories. She was already facing and battling a lot and people, they just wouldn’t stop talking. She had to ask him not to come home. But then they couldn’t meet outside either. The whole town knew her now! Raj on the other hand, had kept a thing from Simran. Its not that he wanted to hide things from her. He just did not want to add to her worries. After everything that had happened, Raj’s family asked him not to be friends with such an ill fated girl. ”Friendship” they thought it was. The only way of communication left was the phone. Raj couldn’t concentrate on his studies. He just wanted to be with her every second of the day to make sure she was alright. He tried to rebel against all odds to be with Simran. But when his family who had seen his phone ringing with Simran’s name saw this as a distraction and without wasting any time Raj was sent away to Surat to live with his uncle and complete the remaining years of college. The uncle had instructed his wife to keep an eye on Raj so that he couldn’t sneakingly make phone calls to Simran. At 19, not many can be rebels. With each passing day, Raj and Simran drifted apart. After all, what doesn’t lie at the mercy of distance and time? Like millions of others, they too were lost in the pages of time.

A few days went by. Not that anything had changed, except that Simran had started getting used to people staring at her with a smile she knew the reason for. The stomach is known to be the cruelest. Cruelest because no matter how big or bad your grief is you cannot not pay attention to your hunger for long. The weather department had failed to predict rains again. It was raining cats and dogs. After having cooked the last spoonfuls of rice in the morning, Simran walked to the Nathubhai general store, to buy groceries. This was the go to shop of almost 70% of the households in the locality. Jignesh, Nathubhai’s son was at the shop with a friend that day. She had managed to reach just in time as they were closing and handed over the list of the bare minimum things she required. Little did she know what was to happen next. She had missed the signal that Jignesh had given his friend as soon as he had seen Simran walking towards the shop. After seeing the opportunity, Jignesh’s friend pulled down the shutter behind her to lock her in the shop. Simran screamed as they pinned her to the ground. But her screams went unheard. The rains had kept the people off the streets. Her dignity was torn to pieces just like you destroy a flower by completely crushing it in your fist for its fragrance. The room now had two disgustingly satisfied people and a girl who had decided to never trust anyone again. On top of that, jignesh had recorded every minute of it.

The rains stopped. Simran was bruised, in all places. She managed to get up. Screaming had not helped then and it wasn’t really going to help now. “Keep giving me what i want and the video stays safe” he said in a tone that was….Simran didn’t even care about the tone. The words had struck her, frightened her. She had to live under a dangling sword. Waseem wasn’t the only person she should have stayed away from. “The groceries are on us” Jignesh’s friend giggled while stuffing the bag in her hands as she left.

Sleepless nights started once again. But this time she was more angry than helpless. Also every time someone tries to forget something like this, society keeps reminding them of it. Simran had taken up a job of a typist at quite a distance from her home. It didn’t pay great but she got the much needed change of people there. Lunch breaks would be fun, the boss was supportive and the evening chai was office paid! What more could an employee ask for? Plus, Simran’s colleague Ravi was a great help at work. They became friends almost immediately. Simran’s long lost smile started appearing again. But darkness doesn’t leave your back! Although it gets beaten by dawn everyday, it still shows its presence in full power. One day when Simran reached work she felt discomfort in the environment. She saw the male employees smiling differently at her. The smiles looked oddly familiar to her. Women are said to have a sense of these things. You cant really hide these kind of things from them. They sense it. She figured out that her past was in the picture once again. She sat at her desk. Ravi came and sat down with his cup of coffee. Simran knew what had happened and didn’t want to beat around the bush.

“Ravi, who brought up the video?” Asked Simran. Her question clearly startled Ravi. He didn’t want to talk about it because he thought it might hurt Simran and he had clearly not expected Simran to ask him this. This meant she knew everything already! “Hari had saved the video. Only that he took time to recognise you and put a finger on exactly who you were.” Ravi said. Hari was the office boy. More than doing his own work he would be seen doing personal works of the seniors who kept him happy with rewards. Naturally he was close to them. He had told one of the seniors and the news spread vertically among all males of all ranks. Simran was now tired of recovering to be knocked down again. She decided to quit the job but it was Ravi who supported her and gave her the strength to try and fight the situation. But how many minds can you fight? And that too when they have the upper hand already?! Then one day something happened. Something that Simran thought was impossible to happen in such a place. One of the employees squeezed her rear near the photocopier. This was a moment of horror. Terrified, Simran picked up her bag and left for the day. That same evening she got a call from a guy who introduced himself as a friend of one of her colleagues. “How much would you charge?” Simran was asked. One incident after the other, Simran started losing faith in humanity. How would she not?! Her parents had left her, then the mall video, then the grocery store and now this. Thoughts went in circles in her head. She was angry. She picked up the phone and asked Ravi to come home without thinking of what the society would say. ‘”Make the best of what you have..go against all odds and make it happen” her parents had always told her. She made up her mind. She was going to do just that, only that she wasn’t using the words in a situation of her interest or in a way her parents would have liked. But if this was what destiny had planned for her, she was going to punch it right in the face.

 

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Ravi rang the doorbell. It was 10:30 in the night. A very calm and composed Simran opened the door and asked him to sit. Ravi’s face had confusion written all across it. Simran brought tea. “I am done taking this crap” she said. “I am done running away. I have decided to use this to my advantage now. I am not going down again. I will fight against all odds of life”, she continued. “My body is what people want, they shall have it. But they will have to pay for it. If destiny wont allow me to forget my past I will embrace it and use it to my benefit.” Today Simran spoke with the same confidence a revolutionary speaks with. As if she had a calculated plan. In a way it was fairly calculated as she had seen the greed for her body in people’s eyes. Raj knew he wasn’t going to be able to pull Simran out of this one. When a wounded lady decides to hit back she can be fierce as well as fatal. A certain segment of Bollywood has established itself on this base! Ravi gave in and asked her what she wanted to do. Rather, how she wanted to go about it.

She then moved to ‘The City of Dreams’ to see what life had in store for her. Ravi helped her to settle in Mumbai with the help of some of his friends there. She then set out to change her destiny in a way the society would never like. But then, the society anyway never liked her, isn’t it? There”s a famous Hindi saying, “dhoondhnese bhagwaanbhi mil jaate hain…” Finding such contacts in the grey areas of Mumbai was relatively a piece of cake. She might have been average looking but she had everything that the business demanded. Plus, what can’t a good makeup artist do?! A once naive 19 year old was now a 20 year old they drooled over. A 20 year old who was confident that that a year later she would be the desire of the rich and famous. And boy!! It happened! It was difficult to decide who had struck gold! The “success” at business brought in money along with stepping into the know-hows of the uppermost circle of people…She now lived a life where she felt she had the best seat in the theater. Plus an access to the behind the scenes footage as everyday she saw masks and clothes of actors, politicians, bureaucrats and other infinitely rich people fall to the ground, and then them putting the mask back on as the door opened and they stepped out. On the bed, at the right time, she had the power of demanding anything. At instances she was also responsible for causing shifts in members of the top notch political parties! “Power broker” she said laughingly. The point from where she had begun, the pace the journey had picked up and the point where she had now reached seemed exactly like a fairytale. A hideous fairy tale.

Her name had topped the list when the income-tax department had made a list of the common connections between the most influential people in the city who were under the radar and were soon going to be raided for black money. That’s when the world found out about her.

 

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“Its very difficult to keep your inner child and your innocence alive in such circumstances madam. I have reached the breaking point quite a few times but managed to pull myself back in place and put on a smile for the world to see..” The interview was over.

Priya had been listening to the story very carefully as she sat on the teal sofa in Simran’s living room. Each word that came out of Simran’s mouth had gotten Priya more engrossed in the story. She felt like she had gotten herself a gold mine as she set down her cup of coffee, half of which she had forgotten to sip on as Simran’s story unfolded. She had her big story!

Priya was least interested when she had been given Simran as a subject to write on. She was a smart, young, fashionable journalist who had just entered the media industry, and had always wanted to write about the serious crimes happening in Mumbai. She was covering the ongoing #MeToo movement started by the women in the country, opening up about the sexual abuses they’ve faced. But she developed a minute interest in Simran’s personality as soon as she entered the house. The preconceived notion she had about Simran’s house was proved wrong. The house being of a high profile escort, Priya had imagined it to have lots of fluorescents with bright as well as dark reds and fancy oranges. But the house she entered had browns and beautiful wallpapers and a rich marble flooring. The house didn’t have a mandir. Her only two important people were her parents whose pictures were on the living room wall, together.

Simran did not let Priya go without having a very simple yet tasty lunch that afternoon. Being a reporter, she did have a question after the interview. “Was this the common story of every girl in the flesh trade?” The answer to this was still to be found.

In the cab, on the way home, Priya realized how the society doesn’t have any right to judge the people based on what they do as long as they don’t steal or kill somebody. Apparently, it is not only MS Dhoni who has an untold story and Simran’s story wasn’t any less inspiring. She took away three things from the entire episode as she looked out of the window while playing with her hair, occasionally running her fingers through them to straighten them out.

First, Not every Raj and Simran are lucky in love. Sometimes the dilwala and the dulhaniya get separated.

Second, Girls aren’t weak to go down quietly to. They can fight and go against all odds whenever the situation demands, just like Simran did even after being a #MeToo victim.

And third, life does give a fair chance but there are people who aren’t as lucky…

 

Please Note: This is only a fictional story to empower women in the light of #MeToo movement and give them some inspiration and strength and has no resemblance with any living or dead personality. Any such resemblance is just a mere coincidence.

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