She heard voices far away. They were so familiar. Was it her mother? They became louder and louder. And louder until her ears ached. “Please stop it!” she begged. But the voices continued. What kind of a cruel joke was this? She felt tired and her body felt sore. She wanted some peace. She wanted to sleep, curled up inside her mother's womb. But these voices!
“Don’t speak or laugh loudly.”
“Sit properly with your legs close to each other.”
“Wear loose clothes that don’t reveal the shape of your breasts.”
“Don’t mingle too much with boys.”
“We are expecting guests, go and wear your dupatta.”
“Don’t ask too many questions, just do as you are told.”
“Better learn to cook, sew and clean the house.”
These were just few of the strict instructions Meera had received from her mother and aunts through her growing years. From that day. Yes, the day she first saw that bright red streak of blood as she prepared to shower. Little did she know that it would change her life forever.
For a few days, perhaps even months she felt very special. She could join her older cousins Lavanya and Namita in gossiping and sharing secrets. Earlier, they used to speak in hushed tones while Meera was around because she was just a kid. She even felt elated that some of the boys in class had begun to look at her differently. She enjoyed the attention secretly but never forgot her mother's words. “Wow! It really feels special to be a girl” she thought, as she browsed through her wardrobe unable to decide what to wear to the party that evening. She liked being her parents' little princess, she felt protected and vowed never to disobey them.
Her mother kept feeding her with lots of dos and don'ts. Why not? She was a girl, like a burning splinter, dangerously placed near fuel. The only solution was to douse the splinter. Sometimes Meera felt they were appropriate and at other times she would ask her mother to stop nagging her. She was a good girl, she would never do anything that would make her parents upset. So she was safe unlike those bad girls who wore short skirts, who had boyfriends, who conveniently forgot their dupattas at home, who roamed the streets after dusk and sat carelessly with legs apart. She took pride that she was growing up to become a well mannered and respectable young woman.
She woke up with a start. Her mouth was parched, her feet cold and her head felt heavy. Then she heard other voices.
“Hey you! Beautiful.”
“This won't take much time.”
“Come on, don't do anything stupid. Or you will regret.”
Then after a long pause, “The bitch deserved it. Come on let's leave.”
Her eyelids could no longer contain the outburst of sadness as her entire body wept. So did her spirit. She felt her mother's warm hands caress her tear stained cheeks. What went wrong? For a second, her gaze met her mother's. With utmost pain she realized that there was no answer. With a sigh she closed her eyes again hoping to slip into another world where she would truly be a princess.