Chapter Seven - Mansi

She could not sleep again; she lay in bed wide awake listening to the sounds of the night. The sounds in the neighbouring room had ceased long ago and now there was not even whispering or laughter. After trying in vain to go back to sleep she got up from the bed and walked out of her room. The chawl was asleep, she loved the silence. She closed the door of her room and decided to take a walk. A couple of cars and a few bikes were parked in the parking area. Without realizing what she was doing she looked around for the cab. It was not there. She walked towards the lamppost in the centre of the small playground that the boys of the chawl had created, separated from rest of the compound with stones and cement blocks picked up from nearby construction sites. She slid down on the ground and sat with her back resting against the lamppost. She was facing east. The sky was dark and grey but she knew it would be any moment now. The sky would change colours. She drifted into thoughts as she stared at the grey sky.
She saw him again one day as she was commuting by train in search of jobs during the earlier days of her life in Mumbai. She had never believed him to be so persistent. She had taken him to be more like a drunken man who merely acted under the influence of alcohol and who would find someone else if she was unavailable. She realized he was more than that. He was a drunken man obsessed with her and the obsession had grown when she had fled from home. She did not know how he had traced her or was it merely her bad luck that he had spotted her in the train. Thankfully she was in a different compartment than he was in. Her fear of man’s touch had made her climb into the ladies compartment even though she was the only person riding in that compartment.
A cruel smile crossed his lips as he saw her and he grinned as he saw the fear in her eyes. It seemed as if he fed on her fear. She started sweating as he moved towards the end of the gents' compartment that was closer to the ladies compartment. He continued staring at her, holding her prisoner with his gaze. She could not move. Not that it would have made any difference. She had boarded the fast train and the next station where the train would stop was going to take a while. She moved back as he stood close to the grill. Her eyes still locked with his. She then turned around and sat on the corner seat near the window, trying to hide from his gaze. As a station came closer, she almost made up her mind to jump out of the train even though it was not going to stop at that station. She closed her eyes and waited for her station to arrive. The moment the train reached the station she jumped out even before the train came to a complete halt, subconsciously aware that her step-father must have done the same thing. She started running, pushing people on her way out. She did not turn back to look for her step-father. She did not know where to go once she was out of the station. She knew she would be lost in an attempt to hide her trail but she did not care. She ran.
Her heartbeats grew louder in her ears blocking all the other sounds; hence she could not hear the footsteps getting closer to her. It was only after a hand pulled her back did she realize that her follower was too close to her. She screamed but all that came out was a muffled voice because by that time her pursuer had placed a hand over her mouth. She looked around, there was hardly anyone on the road. In her blind run she had taken the deserted road so that she would not be blocked by people walking at slow pace. She knew that it made no sense asking for help because from whatever she had heard of big cities, hardly anyone bothered to be involved in someone else’s matters. Her step-father dragged her towards the deserted construction site a few blocks away. She tried to break free of his grip but she could not. He was too strong; it cleared one doubt of hers. He was not drunk. At least not drunk on alcohol, he seemed to be a male high on testosterone. He turned her around, slapped her hard and yanked her towards the ground. All too fast, even before she could balance herself after being turned around. He got to action almost immediately, his tool already prepared for the task. When he placed his mouth on hers and pinned her down on the ground with his strong hands, she realized she could not fight anymore. Her vision blurred and warm tears rolled down her cheeks. He was too strong for her. Had he been drunk she could have somehow managed to escape from his grip. Her thoughts went back to the night she had run from home. Had she waited for him at her house, she could have had at least some chance to overcome his efforts and throw him off-balance and get rid of him. No one would have blamed her for killing the bastard. A muffled scream escaped from her mouth as he penetrated her. She gave in, the muscles of her body tired of the struggle and her step-father raped her and took away her virginity.
When he was done he zipped his trousers and turned around to go. He had walked a few steps farther from her when she used the strength she had saved as he was raping her and managed to get up. Wounds all over her body, she reached out to pick up a shovel kept nearby and putting her entire strength into it, she hit the shovel hard on her step-father’s head. He stumbled and fell on the ground, face down. She hit again and again and again not realizing that he had stopped moving. She hit him for a couple more times and threw away the shovel. She walked towards the nearest drum of water and splashed water on her face. She washed herself clean, at least what she could and then staggered out of the construction site. Just like she had assumed, no one bothered to look at her torn clothes and the wounds peeping out of them. If no one could see her physical wounds how could anyone possibly see her broken heart and wounded soul?

Mansi felt the warmth of the tears as they rolled down on her cheeks and she came back to the present. She did not wipe the tears. Through blurred vision she looked towards the east sky. The colours had changed. While she visited the dark moment of her life, the sun had lit the sky. She missed the moment she wanted to experience. She continued crying. She was tired. Tired of being scared, tired of struggling, tired of running from her past and the nightmares. She wanted to be able to talk to someone, share her fears. She wanted to be comforted. She wanted someone in her life, a person who would take her in his arms and tell her that everything is alright. She wanted someone to tell her that she was not damaged.

Mansi wiped her tears and decided to give herself a chance. She was the one who had blocked everyone out of her life. She was the one to be blamed if she was alone and lonely. She had not allowed herself to trust anyone. She cringed every time some guy touched her, even if it was by mistake. She did not like to be touched. The superficial touch somehow scratched the scars deeply set in her mind thus exposing the wound. It was time, she decided, to get out of it. It was time she allowed herself to heal completely. It was time she started to trust and opened her heart just enough to let the right person in. She was not aware that her display of emotions had an audience. Someone was watching her.

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