It had not taken long for the strong-willed Geeta to burrow her way into our hearts. As it was, the gateways to our hearts were so wide-open back then that anyone could just about set foot inside and take over. White satin cloth had been purchased on Eid to make new clothes. Geeta had come and promptly taken the roll of cloth away, informing us that she would make the new garments for us since she had a good hand at stitching, etc.
Thus had begun her visits, twice daily, to take measurements with a giant tape. She had taken thirteen days to deliver the garments instead of the promised three; we received them on Eid morning. When I had put mine on, I had found to my dismay that not only was the bust of the robe so tight that it was threatening to split at the seams, the length too was such that it resembled the diaphanous robes they wore in the Pir’s house. Never had I seen such an odd garment and I remember the incident firmly spoiling my Eid.
On the morning of Eid she had come to the house and made me put my new dress on. Clapping with glee, she had flashed me a rodent-like toothy smile and said, “Oh, how pretty you are in that dress! Excellent! Come, let me take you to a wonderful place.” I could scarcely wait to see this wonderful new place and in no time Geeta and I had set off on a rickshaw and eventually landed up in a judge’s house in Saheb Quarter, a decidedly affluent household where Geeta’s friend Ruhi lived.
Geeta was supposed to be going somewhere with Ruhi and the latter, a very fair and flat-looking girl, had set about convincing her mother to let her go out. The longer it had taken to convince the mother, the more time the two girls had spent whispering, leaving me stationed there on the sofa like a toy. Around two hours later, when the mother could finally be convinced, Ruhi had slapped on some rouge and kajal and the three of us had finally set off on a rickshaw towards the fantastic place I had been promised.
I did not know anything about this place so while the girls had giggled between themselves I had had no choice but to stay put on Geeta’s lap like a little wooden pony.
The rickshaw had eventually stopped at a house in Gulkibari; a man with a fox-like face, a stranger I had never seen before, had emerged from therein, led us inside and locked the main gate behind us.
It was a desolate house, the property also comprising a large lawn. I had entered the house and realised there was no one about except the fox-faced man. There were two adjacent rooms and the man had taken Ruhi by the hand and led her to the bedroom inside. I had stayed put on the sofa in the first room, like a toy or something, transfixed, watching Ruhi sitting rather close to the man on the bed, so close that I could barely blink, the man falling back on the bed and dragging Ruhi down on his chest.
Suddenly he had pushed her aside, sprang up from the bed and walked to where we were. He had pushed a bottle of Fanta into my hand, told Geeta to go sit in the lawn and then walked back to the bedroom, closing the door behind him.
Out in the lawn, I had asked Geeta in a trembling voice, “Who is that man?”
“Khurrambhai,” Geeta had smirked, “Very rich. Has a car!”
“He’s shut himself in with Ruhi,” I had gulped nervously. “What if something happens now? I’m scared. Let’s go home.” A luminous smile had lit up Geeta’s dark face. “Sit for a while! Why do you want to go back so soon?”
Hours had passed with me continuously asking to be taken home, writhing in extreme discomfort, until it was finally afternoon. The fox-faced man had continued to bring a steady supply of Fanta throughout but I was no longer satisfied with the drink; I was famished. Edging closer to the gate I had asked in a weepy voice to be let out so I could go back home. Geeta’s face too had begun to seem dry by then and she had finally stood up and knocked on the bedroom door –
“Khurrambhai, the little girl doesn’t want to stay any more. I think we should leave.”
The fox-faced man had re-emerged, a thick bushy moustache over his lips, shirtless and barefoot.
“Geeta, take a few photos. Come in,” he had said and taken her inside, leaving me waiting at the door.
I had peeked inside and seen Ruhi sitting in the middle of the bed, her head bowed. Her hair, tied previously in a ponytail, was untied and dishevelled. Her lipstick had rubbed off and the kohl in her eyes had begun to run. The entire scene had made me feel terribly sorry for the girl.
Had the man taken off her clothes? Had she agreed or had he forced her? Had he threatened her and coerced her? What it was I had not been able to figure out. The man had passed a camera to Geeta and then dragged Ruhi into his arms. Geeta had smiled and clicked, doing it again when he had put his head on Ruhi’s lap, and then again when he had pulled her close and put his cheek against hers.
By the time we had left the house that day it was past evening. Geeta had first dropped Ruhi home and then dropped me, explicitly asking me not to tell anyone where I had been. My parents, their Eid spoilt due to worrying over a daughter who had been missing for most of the day, had been livid and I had stood in front of them with a dejected expression and accepted my due punishment.
This mysterious Geeta, who had given me such a stupendous day as gift on Eid, was now my Chotda’s wife.
Chotda was a fairly well-known guitarist in the city. His guitar and the song “O amar desher mati...” (“O my country’s earth, I bow to thee...”) were what Geeta had danced to in college, where it had all begun for them. The same Geeta Mitra who had called Baby a horrible person, who she had asked me to steer clear of. Geeta too had disliked Baby, had insisted Baby not come over to our house any more.
Father was fuming. “I will disinherit him! He will feed off me, live off me and still stab me in the back ultimately?”
Mother had stopped sobbing and joined in the fray, her voice rising as well.
“He found no one other than that shameless hussy? Her father supplies wood for fuel! That Hindu wood merchant will now become an MBBS doctor’s son’s father-in-law? The women of that house go to the pond to bathe! They are lower-class people, turtle-eaters, Malauns! We will not be able to show our face in society any longer, our honour and pride are in a shambles. He’s blackened the face of the entire family. He’s married a dancer, such a shame! Why did I give birth to such a son!”
Excerpted with permission from My Girlhood, Taslima Nasrin, translated from the Bengali by Maharghya Chakraborty.
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