It was just another of those several uneventful nights. But, the same can´t be said for the secretive lives people lead and the tragic choices they make. One unfortunate victim of such a tragic choice was a tiny baby, left to wither and putrify naturally to her death, among the trash cans in Mumbai city.
The baby´s no fault – Chromosomes XX? Or was she a bastard child? Or perhaps a kidnapped victim? No one would ever know the truth!
For now, she was yet another trash bin baby left to her own fate. She had to pay a heavy price either ways – Death or Life. In fact, the odds were stacked up more against her if she were to leave unscathed without a brain injury from being flung mercilessly or left disfigured after being gnawed by filthy, ravenous stray dogs, rats or flies.
They say time heals wounds. But some of us remain scarred for life. Physical scars are easily visible,calling for sympathy and compassion. What about the emotional scars that come with being abandoned by your own…..father?… and mother perhaps as well?…..Society? …God?
The next day as afternoon approached Munni, the rag picker, went about her usual business, looking for her day´s treasure at every trash bin she could find en route. She found Society´s trash, peering at her with the most divine and beautiful eyes as she gave out a little gurgle. As she came nearer to have a closer look, the baby held a tight grip on her little finger and something about that touched the deepest core of Munni´s heart.
Indeed, one man´s trash is another´s treasure!
Munni took her little treasure home and spontaneously named her Rosie. For she was of the rosiest pink hue in complexion and soft to touch and cuddle! The next ten years of Rosie´s life were spent in the Mumbai shawls. Munni, however, was as straight-forward as one could be, making it clear to Rosie how she was found among the city´s leftovers.
Rosie was exposed to the dirty secrets of Mumbai´s underbelly. There was nothing unapologetic about her adopted mother, Munni. She earned her money and made her livelihood by working hard and sincerely. Munni was a rag picker by the day and a bar dancer as well as prostitute at night. Every evening, she would come home and get dressed for her business at night, hoping to make a quick moolah by satisfying her customers. She would go dressed in her brightest and shiniest sarees that left nothing to imagination. Her blouses were seductive displaying an ample amount of cleavage and her underskirt rested at the ´lowest of the low´ part of her waist, showing off the maximum area of her midriff and navel. She decorated her hair with jasmine flowers and confidently strutted out in her brightest red pout.
For Rosie, Munni was a huge source of inspiration as she had never met anyone so kind, gregarious and unpretentious. She was aware of Munni´s reputation in the neighbourhood early on. Initially, it disturbed her when they called her mother all sorts of names ranging from ´Randi´ (whore), ´Kutiya´ (bitch) and more. But, seeing Munni indifferent to such cat calls and names slowly made Rosie understand that there was no place for emotions in this world. As for her, she admired Munni for her grit and courage for holding her own in a world filled with big, bad wolves in sheep´s clothing.
´Yes, I am a prostitute! This is my fate. But, it is also my choice as much as it is for some of the men who want me for the night.´
´Then, why are you the only target of hatred and judgement by society? Doesn’t it take two to tango?´, Rosie asked earnestly.
´Hmm! I leave that answer to your own discovery, interpretation and judgment of life as you grow and learn along the way.´, smiled Munni.
At that instance, when Rosie thought she couldn´t love her Mum more, she fell in love a whole lot more with her Munni. She found Munni´s trust and confidence in her to find her own answer to this perplexing question highly reassuring of her own self-worth and value. She realized that sometimes the most wise and evolved minds come from the most unlikely people and places.
But, Rosie´s happiness was short-lived. One day, Munni came up to her with the most shocking news.
Ít is time for you to leave, Rosie!’, said Munni one day, matter-of-factly.
´But Why, Amma? You promised me we would be together always.’
´Well, Rosie! There is no such thing as always. Someday, we have to part. This time, it is sooner than expected.´
´But why? Am I a burden?´
´No, Rosie! You are not anyone´s burden. Let me put it this way – I am no saint and I am way more flawed than you can imagine me to be! I got a very lucrative offer that is hard to deny. I have a choice to keep you with me always and letting you never fly away on your own or to give us both a better life.’
Á better life? For whom? Not for me, Amma! I cannot imagine a life without you.´
´See Rosie! I have been honest with you from day one. And, it is because I wanted you to understand that there are no obligations between us. Whatever I did in the past, I did it on my own will and choice. I decided to bring you home and give you the best I could offer at that time. But, the time has come for us to part. At the end of the day, opportunities like these don´t come knocking on our humble doors everyday. It is hard to say no when there is so much money at stake here. But, I leave it to you now to go or stay here with me.’
This came as a rude shock to Rosie. But, it was true that Munni was clear from day one about Rosie´s origin. Whatever said and done, it was Munni who rescued her and gave her a home, some food and a place in her heart. She even took the place of a mother and father in her life. Albeit, for a while! If Munni wanted her to go now, how could Rosie hang around?
´You have rescued a bright gem of a piece, I mean girl, I see.´, gleamed Aunty.
It didn´t take much time for Rosie to figure out that she was in a brothel and that her mother had pimped her for a secure future for herself. While she felt the cores of her stomach churn in disgust and sadness, Rosie mustered the courage to hug Munni one last time and give her flickering peck on her cheek.
´Rosie! You will have a big family now. Another mother in the form of Aunty and many sisters to live with. I understand how you feel betrayed by my decision. And, I hope you do forgive me. Poverty is hard, my child. And we are all victims of our own circumstances. But, I know you will survive like you did as a baby. I know that nothing can break you however bad the situation might be. You will somehow find the light at the end of this dark tunnel. I will keep you in my prayers always.´, said Munni regretfully before the final parting.
As Rosie watched Munni´s silhouette gradually disappear into nothingness, she realized the sad truth that she was all alone in this world again.
However, the shock was nothing compared to what lay in store for her that night. Before she knew it, there was an old burly man in her room, who couldn´t contain his excitement on seeing her.
´This Maal is perfect. I will have her for the night.´, as he informed Aunty of his decision.
´She has just started puberty last month and it is her first night here. This Maal is as fresh as fresh can be, Saheb! He-he!´
The lusty old man couldn´t be any more pleased. By the looks of it, he seemed easily around 65 years at least.
´You better be good and obey his orders. Saheb is a very great and kind man.´ warned Aunty to Rosie on her way out the door.
It was her worst night ever. She had no where to escape and there was no one coming to rescue her from this hellhole. When she tried resisting the old man´s advances, she was pinned down onto the floor even more violently. There was no way she could match the towering six footer. His age belied his manly strength. She gave up after a desperate fight and let him feast on her till his satisfaction. While he snored to glory after having sex with this girl who was younger in age than his own grand-daughter, Rosie didn´t catch a wink of sleep trying to make sense of what just happened to her. She felt violated and wronged. Before she even knew what rape meant in theory, she fell a hapless victim to it.
The next morning, as the old man buttoned up his shirt, he found traces of blood on the bedsheets to his delight.
´Ahhhh! The bliss of making love to a virgin. Here is an extra Rs.500, Sweetie´ Saheb muttered as he tucked a bunch of notes between her budding bosom.
Rosie looked away in disgust as the old man planted one last slurpy wet kiss on her lips. Aunty walked in very pleased to find a handsome amount stashed with Rosie.
´I will give you your share at the end of the month. You are under probation for now. Learn the tricks of the trade as much as you can. It will help you tremendously in the future´
The rape left Rosie in a state of chronic depression over the next couple of months. She attempted suicide not once but several times but each and every time, she was rescued in time. She felt like she was in a bottomless pit where there was no way up. She just kept falling and crumbling emotionally with every sexual encounter with a random stranger.
She felt dead for the longest period of time. Until one day, she decided to gather all the strength that she could muster and face life . However, cruel and lonely it was!
Rosie realised that there was no escape from the brothel at least for now and that she had no family other than its inmates. She decided to come face-to-face with reality and soon started forging bonds with other girls caught in a similar situations like hers. She realised that some of them had been through worse situations than her. Some of them were molested by their own uncles even before puberty. Some were physically beaten by own father and made to work as child labourers or beg on the railway platforms. Some of them were sold by their own father and mother to rich old Arabs and ultimately found themselves in this dingy brothel.
It was an unfair and mean world. Sometimes, Rosie wondered if it would have been better off if she was left to die in those trash bins than to face this living horror day in and day out.
But, whenever she felt disillusioned with life, Munni´s parting words always came to the rescue
´But, I know you will survive like you did as a baby. I know that nothing can break you however bad the situation might be. You will somehow find the light at the end of this dark tunnel. ´
And Rosie would immediately realize that she had come this far and she couldn´t lose hope despite her situation. On the brighter side, she had more company than she had ever had. All the girls were her sisters now and they confided all their thoughts and fears with each other.They would all laugh at the various stories that they had to share with each other – from their poverty ridden past to some of their most funniest clients to the monstrous Aunty! They managed to find humour and maintain their sanity even in the most darkest place. There was this beauty of sisterhood and friendship that she had missed out while living with Munni. She felt like a child all over again in their company.
Of course, it was business as usual at night. Her clients ranged from businessmen to lorry drivers to adolescent boys to politicians to cops to lawyers. Everyone wanted a piece of her meat for the night. Very soon, she became the most sought after whore in the red light area. It wasn´t just her physical beauty, immense charm and her flexible moves that made her famous, but also her innate ability to make every man who slept with her, feel loved and most special. For Rosie, all this was not an act but an earnest need to bond, empathise and please even these brutes! She had the natural gifts of empathy and intuition.
In many ways, she saw life in its myriad forms through her male clients and their stories. She listened intently to their fears, conflicting thoughts and masked words.
´Are you crazy? My wife and kids think the world of me. I am their Parmeshwar.’
‘My wife doesn’t need to know. Sex is something that we just don´t discuss.´
´I have no sexual desire at all. Is something wrong with me? Help me.´
Í just like older women.´
Í like younger women.´
Í get bored of the same type. I need some fun and variety in my life.´
Óf what use is money when one cannot enjoy.´
Through them, she learnt about the unbelievable ways of the society. She realized everyone around wore masks to conceal their true thoughts and feelings. Feelings of extreme lust, shame, lies and guilt! What was more unbelievable was the hypocrisy that was ingrained in society and was actively perpetrated to be the absolute norm.
She never understood the hypocrisy that surrounded the whole basic act of sex. Everyone thought about it, desired it, looked for it, indulged in it and yet, talking about it openly was strictly taboo. Uncultured!
The most painful was the fact that women were targeted and judged harshly in any sexual encounter. Be it out of consent or otherwise as in rape! Even in a strictly commercial business transaction like prostitution which is like any other trade, where there is mutual consent, it is she who is perpetually the bad woman whom society looks down and frowns upon.
Yet, they are blind and unashamed of the baby who is discarded as trash or killed in the womb owing to either its gender or being born out of wedlock. They are unashamed if she is raped by her own family or anyone for that matter. They are unashamed if she is sold off to a brothel..she lives or dies. Who gives a damn!
They are highly ashamed and judgemental of her existence though. For them, she is the Randi. The ultimate evil bad woman who corrupts and pollutes the innocent minds of the morally cultured and traditional society. The great ancient moral culture that needs constant policing lusty temptresses like her!
Isn´t it ironic that the men who sleep with her, ranging from politicians to godmen to business tycoons and more are considered to be highly respectable and honourable people by the very same moralistic society. Forget society, the very same men that she sleeps with have scant respect for her even though both of them were involved in the same amorous act.
Falling in love was not an option for women like her. Men only loved her body and nothing more. However, genuine was her love or concern for them, she failed to earn their respect and love simply owing to the profession that she was in or the fact she chose (or did´n´t choose…it did´t matter either ways) to get laid. She was just an object to be used and thrown. Objects were not supposed to have feelings or emotions. This objectification is perfectly convenient for the men and less painful for the women involved.
´Then, why are you the only target of hatred and judgement by Society? Doesn´t it take two to tango?´
´I leave that answer to your own discovery, interpretation and judgment of life itself as you grow and learn along the way.´
She finally found the answer to her question when she became pregnant with one of her well-connected client´s child. He refused to acknowledge it was his baby after all, owing to his social, economical, political and marital status. He offered her an exorbitant fee to abort the baby. Even though, Rosie had undergone abortions earlier in the past, this time her natural urge to be a mother was much stronger than any money proposition. She decided to go ahead and have the baby with or without a father.
After she came out her shower, she looked at her naked reflection in the mirror in deep admiration and gratitude.
´How beautiful nakedness was!,´she thought. We come into the world naked, procreate and bring forth another life in our naked being and we leave this world behind in our nakedness. Yet, we all live in our grandeur naked illusions!
Society would rather appear to be spotlessly clothed with their reputations intact in their illusory virginity of body, mind as soul. Their skewed sense of morality reflected the deep sense of shame and honour that they attached to the naked body. If only they attached honour to the soul and mind instead of the mere body alone….!
In many ways, women like her reminded them of their own weakness that they found hard to resist. The world would rather be comforted with hypocrisy and lies rather than the stark naked truth. The truth was like a bitter pill to them that they did not want to gulp. It reflected the Society´s cowardice to face the naked reality. Women like her reminded them of their own disease of casting and shunning out many innocent lives to die, get raped and prostituted only to uphold their honour and cover their naked shame. Women like her were called all sorts of horrid and unmentionable names only to save them of their own embarrassment and judgement.
As she lovingly caressed her growing baby bump, she smiled wondering how could anyone fall in love even before first sight. Did her own biological mother feel the same way that she did? She was curious but the flashes of her abandonment into the filthy bins came to mind. She shut her eyes tight enough not to let the warm tears escape her lids.
But, she decided to bury her demons once and for all.
No matter, how life treated her in the past, she was glad to have been rescued, being able to live and experience every flavour that Life had. Sweet, bitter, dark, salty!
Rosie had decided that her child would learn her naked truth. Indeed, she was an honest, dignified, brave and a proud woman. Damn the world and their pitiable honour!
This was her opportunity to change over a new leaf. To make new beginnings and to let go off her past. At last, she was going to have her own family. She would be the mother that she never had. While she would not dictate or impose her values on her child, she would teach one important lesson on leading the most authentic life. To always have the courage to walk in the path of Truth and Truth alone! Even if it meant standing up lone against the whole world!
The doctor walked in and smiled at the new-born nestled cozily in his mother´s arms.
´Congratulations, Rosie! We need to take your baby´s name for the record. So, take some time and think of a nice name.´
´Thank You, Doctor! I have already thought about it. Please note my son´s name. First Name – Rajan. Surname – Rosie. His name is Rajan Rosie.´
´That´s an unusual but nonetheless a lovely name. You will make the most wonderful mother..and father…and grandparents, indeed!´,the doctor smiled.
It surely was an eventful day when one immensely brave and revolutionary woman decided to make a conscious choice and own up to its responsibility despite the fact, that all the odds were stacked up against her. But, again when were the odds ever in her favour.
It did´t matter.
Rosie was beyond the shackles of society´s naked illusions, cowardice and masked lies.She was not afraid hiding anymore from the world because she had the powerful weapon of the naked truth on her side.
Oh Yes! She was more than prepared to face and take on the world singlehandedly and RISE from her past ashes!