The irritating noise of a key scraping against the large metal lock snapped her awake from her sleep . Every shred of her sleep paralysed muscles urged her to drift back to that blissful state one time more . To her surprise , she realised that the nightmare which usually haunted her in her sleep never bothered her last night . It was the slight motion of her friend Rekha folding her shuffled bedspread onto a neat shack , that revived her thoughts back to the present . As if in a trance , Seema , jolted up from her cot and having hurried through her bedspread ,almost scampered herself down the stairs to take a bath . Held firmly in her arms was a saffron coloured saree which she had kept apart yearningly for this day.
Returning back to her room , Seema , brushed back her locks without checking herself on the mirror . Collecting her things , she slowed down her steps and stood silenty facing her friend .
“ You are brave and you will always be I know “ , Rekha muttered in her breath while they shared a strong friendly hug .
As Seema walked down the corridor , its floor ice cold , she grazed her warm brown eyes over the small charming patch of garden packed with bright yellow blossoms , now swaying gracefully in the morning breeze . All the peaceful hours in her past two years, she spent nursing these flowers , and looking with admiration at her garden that day , she felt as though her favorite flowers too were bidding her farewell in their own simple way .
Reaching the office room functioning in the next building , she scribbled her signature on the ledger as instructed .
“ I have never seen you this pleasant Seema . Be smiling the rest of your life too ok “ , the lady at the desk showered her share of blessings too .
Making sure she had no official procedures left , Seema started walking in small rapid steps to the gate . The loud alarming shrill by which the gate opened used to send a ruffle of emotions inside her . On the contrary , this time , she found herself trying hard to suppress her urge to yank open the gate in all its fervour for she knew that no amount of shrillness can disturb the state of mind she was in this day .
A glint of joy started playing at the corners of her mouth as she stepped out into the sunny air . Her apprehensive gaze , in swift motions started scanning the surrounding .
“ Seema “
She glanced back in the opposite direction and her eyes fell on a familiar figure clad in a plain green cotton saree, a face she had been seeing every month for the past two years .
“ Where is she ? Didn’t you promise me that you would let me see her when I was released from prison ? “
“ Don’t feel sad Seema . She was not in her right mood it seems . Come , let me take you to her “ .
The journey by car to see her seemed the longest she had travelled in her whole life . As if to sketch to life the cocktail of emotions gurgling inside her depth , the sky started transforming into an inky shade . Fresh drops of rain settled on her cheek to dissolve into a wet stain . It took little effort for her mind to slid back into that black hole of dark memories once again .
Two years back , one rainy day Seema as usual was immersed neck deep in her chores at her house . Worried and dismayed was she pondering on a means to buy text books for her sister for the 12th standard classes commencing the coming week . Little apprehension , if at all any , fleeted through her mind , when her husband called out her from inside requesting a glass of water . Caught in the middle of chopping down the logs , she had asked her little sister to carry the glass to him . After around half an hour of seeing no sign of her sister , she had rushed inside frantically only to be welcomed by the gory sight of her drunk husband trampling her half naked barely conscious sister . Before she could encourage a second thought , before she could come back to her normal sense , she had chopped her husband to pieces with her axe .
Cringing her eyes as the torturing events that followed flashed across her eyes , she sank back on her seat . People did stand by her at the start of the trial , but as the procedure started heading the much feared way her neighbours too started shunning her . And then there were none , not even the law to prove her right .Her relentless pleas that her husband used to assault her as well during their married years fell on deaf years .
For months she had been bogged down by a drilling question as to whether her killing her husband should have been averted . Didnt her sister’s agony deserve justice ? The man would even have strangled her sister to death in his barbarious act if she hadnt stumbled upon them .During those hours of crying softly at night in the darkness of the dingy cell , there wasnt a moment when she hadnt cursed herself for pushing her sister’s life down a horrifying abyss . If it wasnt for the kind representatives of a Mahila Mandir who promised to take care of her sister while she was in prison , she would have been left in an even melancholious situation wondering what would become of her sister during her punishment years .
As the car came to a halt , the lady guided Seema inside the Mahila Mandir to a room at the far end of the corridor . Seema noticed that place housed an alarming number of women who , unfortunately must have ended up being homeless , maybe due to no fault of their own . A girl , around 10 years sat studying at a chair facing the window while another girl , older by a few years was engaged in cleaning small bits of cobwebs from the window pane . The place seemed to throw at her a vibe of peace and contentment.
Seema focused her gaze on a lady walking slowly towards her from a distance . Looking intently, she realised that the lady wasnt alone . Her wide opened eyes welled up in tears as Seema watched the lady bringing along with her , the one person whom she had been yearning to see for the past one year . Folding her arms, now trembling ,Seema slowly accepted her sister’s baby onto her arms and snuggled her close to her.
The loss of her sister in child birth one year back had devastated her already shattered life . But now , looking at the months old little bundle , the fruit of her husband’s mindless act , resting peacefully in her arms she felt a surge of hope tugging at her heartstrings .
” I will keep her safe , no matter what . ” A determined decision took form in her mind .
But the very next second , she felt the dark silhouette of a fear over shadowing her hopes while a harrowing thought passed through her mind –
‘ I cannot keep her safe , never when this world is cruel . ‘
The rapturous chuckle of the baby brought her back to the present . She kissed the baby on her cheek and offered a silent prayer to the Almighty .
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