Yes, this is my last night. I’m going home now.
But before I leave, I want you to know something. You should think I am a meek creature who sells her skin. Yes, the latter part is a truth as bitter as it may sound. But I do not fathom the former accusation. Had I been weak, I could not have tolerated stranger eyes, ripping off my clothing, one by one- leave alone their voluptuous hands and dreary desires. Had I been weak, I could have never looked into my mother’s eyes again. Had I been weak, I would have been sold to a foreign land where I would be a mere flesh for sale.
It was indeed a hard decision to make. To lose my pride, or more worse, to sell my pride was remorseful. It still is. Sometimes, I get pangs of conscience, such of a kind that chokes you through out and sucks out every drop of blood from your body that you are left a corpse at the end. Hollow eyes and limp legs. It is as good as dead but it’s also the only time when I don’t feel the flesh that had been scorched off my body and devoured piece by piece, one at a time.
Poverty crushes a person in so many ways. My mother’s husband (he has lost the title of a father for eternity) was a victim himself. He was not as strong as he thought he was. Otherwise, which father on earth would even think of giving away his own blood for some money? But that man did and hence he is not a father anymore to me. Only the devils of hunger know, he was innocent and I am still awed at the courage he might have had when he decided to sell a seventeen year old.
I want you to know something else as well. I never hated him for his disgraceful decision. Even though he wasn’t a good father, he was a sincere human at the least. His head hung low with guilt and shame as if trying to hide his hideous face. His eyes pierced the ground straight below him and his lips quivered ghastly at every word that managed to escape his strangled heart. He unfolded very slowly his grand and equally grave plan. As soon as my mother got a slight hint, she flew onto him faster than the light, grabbed his collar and stared into his shallow eyes as if wanting for them to say it was all a lie (the worst of its kind) or a nightmare or anything that wasn’t true. Alas his eyes were too honest!
She shrieked and started to wail bitterly. She stumbled backwards, thumped on the ground and then suddenly went into hysteria. My younger brother, who was hiding in the kitchen all the time we were talking, galloped towards his fallen mother and dragged her across the room into the kitchen. He had been witnessing all the mess through the holes in the kitchen door. But he didn’t panic. He saw his father sinking below the ocean of morality. He didn’t panic. He saw his mother crushed to the bottom. He didn’t panic. He saw his sister at the stake of shame and disgrace. Yet, he didn’t panic. He had never been so calm. That night, his calmness scared me more than my father’s decision. There had been many dark nights before but that was the time I realized the blackness of the darkness.
I was sitting on my bed watching every person I loved getting shattered, crumbled and crushed inside out. All this time, I was mourning my father who carried me on his shoulders, who woke up all night when I was sick, who bought me that red dress, who danced on my birthdays, who made dolls for me, who taught me to walk and whom I loved dearly.
“Go and sleep peacefully for I understand that it was not easy for you as well. I can imagine how you must have fought ceaselessly with my FATHER to get here. Rest assure that I know it’s not you, it’s the devils of our poverty that have caused this fatal incident.
Go and sleep peacefully for I will not let this burden strangle you. You will not have to sell your daughter’s skin for I will do it for you. You will not have to hide your shameful eyes in front of the good god for I will take your sin upon me. You will not have to run from the lenders for I will pay them back every last rupee for you. I will fill the holes in your heart with my own flesh and blood- only for you.
Go and sleep peacefully for you will have to stand in front of my mother tomorrow and hold her in your arms when I will be in someone else’s. You will have to mourn with her when I will be left a corpse every other night. You will have to wipe my tears that will pour from her eyes. And that’s not enough. You will also have to bear my brother’s silent hatred tomorrow. You will have to answer his questioning eyes. You will have to tolerate his piercing calmness. You will have to mourn with my brother who has just lost his father.
Go and sleep peacefully. Leave the rest to me.”
I felt like a warrior who had won the fiercest battle of all and yet lost everything she had. Years had passed since that darkest night of our life. I have paid them back every last rupee as I had promised. My brother now studies in a school because I wanted him to have what I didn’t. My mother wants me to come back home and stay by her side because she had been killing herself thinking of her little girl lying by a stranger’s side. She wants to see her daughter, kiss her and share her pain.
Yes, I want you to know that this is the last night that I am selling my skin. I am going back home tomorrow to my grieving mother and put life into her body. I want to tell her how scared I feel when I am out with a stranger. I want to tell her how the world is not good for people like us. I want to cry my heart out to her. I want to sleep in her arms and feel the life being pumped into me as well. I’m going home to my brother who had been silent since that terrible night. He had been cursing himself. I want to hug him and tell him that it’s okay. I want him to talk and smile and laugh again like he used to. I’m going home to find what I have lost, to take what’s mine, to see my mother sleep peacefully, to hear my brother laugh again and to sell my sweat- not skin.
YES – I’m going home.