There was a fly sitting on her eye. She knew that. She could feel that. It’s a beautiful life … She did not know how to make it go away, as it tickled her slightly swollen eyelid looking for something between those lashes and making tiny footprints with the kohl that had formed wild black streams near her nose. It was moving around, that tiny fly, confident as if knowing the hands that could smash it away would not do it because they were stuck above her head, feeling the wet straw between the numb fingers. Wet. The cow must have urinated again. How many times do cows urinate? Is this the third time since I got here? Fourth? Is that the Sun outside? It’s a beautiful life … Something is crawling up my thigh … or is it flowing down?
Her eyes remained motionless as she lay there, as if in deep sleep, while her mind played images ridden with white noise like an antenna on a stormy night which could not handle the gusts. Cannot handle any more, how tired I feel … that … that man … was just a child … murderer … no matter how hard she tried her hands still disobeyed and refused to crawl to that patch between her legs and under her. What was warm a few hours ago was fast becoming dry. And brittle.
Then, she urinated.
It burned like acid through her very being. The fly flew away. A drop of hot tear had disturbed its peace. The cow looked on, still confused after a whole night.
There were whispers around the house which her pregnant mind had not comprehended. To her, all that mattered was the reason to celebrate. For the first time in her year old marriage, if someone was to remove her ghunghat and look at her face, they would have beheld happiness personified like never before. Hope too, but happiness more. Where once a will power of steel was required to make unheard taunts about her family, her sisters, her father, her mother, her clothes, her thin frame, her 12th pass certificate, her oily food, her wasteful habit of buying bangles, not minding her pallu, her … now nothing was required. Once, it was as if she was made to stand barefoot on a hot tava, and still expected to not jump. But now, with head bent and eyes looking at her chipped toes in respect of everyone but herself, she just shut her ears when venom was poured into them. She now had something to look forward to. To keep her expectant mind cocooned. Beyond this noise.
Whenever people disturbed her thoughts about the future that was fast approaching, she would let her finger brush against the gold-plated earrings which then chimed a giggly-girly tune. A tune that would make a few waves around her ears dancing like a dervish before entering her being making her whole body ring with happiness. A reminder to self, or maybe a secret signal shared with what was to come? Nervous with excitement she would clutch her stomach, look for a vacant spot behind the mud house and just close her eyes, feigning giddiness. To feel one with herself, all parts of herself. It’s a beautiful life. It’s just so beautiful… and her 19 year old mind would cook up a tune singing this line on a loop. As if it was a tiny girl sitting on a swing with the ribbons on her two plaits flying carefree in the wind.
That night she had woken up when she felt something was pressing down on her stomach. Or was it pressing from within? It was him, her husband, on top of her. We shouldn’t … it’s not right … please … it’s risky, it doesn’t feel right … please and in that moment she had realized her hands were tied. And he was tying up her legs too, right at the thighs. Bewildered beyond belief she had tried to scream but her calls for help only fell on invisible ears acting abettors. A black tape sealed her lips together to make her swallow her own disbelief. It made mute the gold-plated earrings too. As if her secret signal had been found. The prick of the injection was the last feeling she remembered. Not even the sounds and smells of the cow shed woke her up for that one hour. She remained on the floor. Alone. Like a bundle of clothes one tosses out for they have no more use for it.
It is then that she woke up, and died a million times over.
The labour had been induced. The girl was coming. But, it was not meant to. Not today, nor ever. It was pushing against her insides desperate to be freed and here she was, helpless to let it come to spread her legs to even scream. It must be a mistake … he should know … help … but all that the cow heard was muffled sounds it understood not.
Her back burned and radiated shocks of pain towards her front, tightening those claws by the minute as if asking for deliverance for itself from committing this evil deed. Her wrists bled and the rope dug deeper into her thighs as her legs ached to open wide. To let out, let go, let be, be free. Nothing worked, as she writhed like a worm that has been stepped upon. She lay praying she would explode. Hoping her belly would burst open and make the baby come out. Alive. Alive, please… please. By now she had swallowed her vomit three times. The pain didn’t let her faint, waiting to reach that threshold which even Gods must shudder to think about. Where are you, dear God? Help me, please, help, hel … and then she had passed out, imagining the last sound that she heard to be a baby's cry.
My belly has burst … my … my baby is free. Free. It’s a beautiful life. How many times do cows urinate? … Is that the Sun outside? It’s a beautiful life … Something is crawling up my thigh … or is it flowing down?
It’s a beautiful life … my … my baby is free.