When Balram came to his senses, he found himself in a hospital. His wife and children were standing next to his bed, looking down at him with tears in their eyes. Sushma started wailing when he looked up at her and grunted. He was still in pain and could barely move his hips. She began sobbing noisily and flung herself at his feet.
“Haye bhagwan, kya ho gaya mere aadmi ko.” She clutched his feet and kept wailing.
“Chup kar,” he snapped at her as he squirmed, trying to rise. His anus hurt sharply.
Apparently he had been sedated because he kept crying in his semi-conscious state.
The doctor that came in after some time, grimly told him that he had been sodomised brutally, multiple times, or by multiple people, so that there were tears in his butt hole that they had to begin treating.
The police had come by but they were unable to lodge an FIR due to the unusual circumstances. His wife too had refused to believe that he had been raped, and did not consent to filing a case for that. She kept saying that men could not be raped – only women could be, despite being counselled by the nurses.
The doctor was kind but helpless and advised Balram to rest. He said they would test him for possible STDs and give him painkillers. He also recommended going to the police since it was a case of gang rape, and the culprits were operating in an area close to a university campus.
Balram listened in silence, barely processing the words, his jaw clenched as he felt a wave of nausea again. Sushma continued sobbing in the corner and he would have slapped her if he had the energy. He was feeling increasingly sick and his head felt like it would explode.
Doctor...” he began slowly.
“It was...it was monkeys.”
“It was monkeys.At least thirty...fifty of them...Maybe a hundred.They raped me.”
There was stunned silence.The nurses and ward boys
seemed to freeze around him.
“What are you saying?” the doctor asked uncertainly.
“Doctor sahab,” he said, trying to keep an even tone.
“There are monkeys in the ridge.They raped me. Not men.”
“Balram, you are in shock.” The doctor said, sounding somewhat uncertain and uneasy. But he was trained to treat these cases with clinical rationality. “Please rest,” he told him gaining more confidence. “Perhaps we will get you in touch with an organisation that deals with such...incidents. I know the lady who runs one. Don’t you worry!”
But Balram did not care for NGOs.
Sahab, believe me. It was monkeys. I know it sounds absurd. But it is true.”
The doctor hesitated. “Fine, Balram. I will take note of that...and I will take up this matter with the police if you want.”
“But what would the police do? No...tell my wife to come here.”
But Sushma did not understand. In fact, her wails grew louder when she heard him narrate the bizarre story. She thought he was going mad, apart from having been emasculated. She had not even understood sodomy, believing it to be castration.
“Toh kya wo napunsak ban chuka hai?” she had wept before the nurses.
Balram hadn’t expected anything more from his dim- witted wife. He did not know whom to discuss the incident with.
Balram did not know what to make of what had happened to him in the ridge that night. Had he just imagined that monkeys had raped him, not men? He could no longer tell how much of it was hallucination and how much of it was reality.
Had his mind somehow skewered up the memory due to the horrible brutalisation of his body? Was he losing his mind? Was it trauma?
He couldn’t make up his mind even after days of reliving the incident. It kept coming back to him in flashes...stumbling around, being unable to balance on his legs, his anus hurting unbearably because of so much thrusting...
And the monkey faces – the oddly human – like monkey faces with wicked grins and lascivious stares. He remembered vividly how they bounded around, jumping from one place to another, watching him lecherously as he was raped by the larger monkeys.
Balram tried to shake off the images. Now that he knew he had escaped, the panic and fear had receded somewhat. He had come to terms with the incident – he had to, or he would lose his mind. And he knew he was hanging by a gossamer thread. If he allowed himself to slip, he would fall into a hysterical state that he might never recover from.
But the chattering haunted him at all times.At night, the sea of monkey faces came back in his dreams, and he woke up drenched in sweat. The screeches mixed with human voices echoed in his ears.
A month passed.
Balram recovered slowly from the physical injuries, and the trauma also abated somewhat.
Out of an urgent financial need, and because he seemed fine now, his wife began pestering him to resume work. She had pushed the whole mishap into the peripheries of her memory and no longer believed her husband was “raped”.
She explained to herself that Balram had tried to do something experimental in sex – he was always telling her to do new things – with some other woman and it had gone wrong. Or perhaps he had merely been unfaithful to her and the mistress had attacked him after some argument – maybe he had tried to break up with her.
It was a comforting explanation. She was upset thinking he might have had an extra-marital affair, but felt better knowing that her husband hadn’t been raped by men and emasculated.That she could not live with.
And so Balram began work, slowly at first, gaining momentum as the days passed.The men around him did not have the slightest inkling of what had really transpired in the ridge, and neither was the police informed. He knew there was no point. People would just call him psychologically disturbed, or worse – chhakka.
And so he kept shut, carrying around the secret, like he carried around the continual dull, throbbing pain in his anus which he did not tell anyone about.
Excerpted with permission from the story “A Metamorphosis On The Northern Ridge” from The Rickshaw Reveries, Ipshita Nath, Simon & Schuster.