Beefy biceps sunk, the massive shoulders hunched the man sat studying his palms in silence.
Tiny rivulets ran down his cheeks and on reaching his mustache lost their way sprinkling down on to his trimmed beard.
A drop or two fell in to the girls hands. She held the face up ,looked into the eyes and said slowly, this is not because of you.
He nodded and clenched his fists with a self deprecating shrug.
Its not because of you,father, the girl said again. Her feet cut her dress torn,her body wrecked but her spirit intact.
She looked at the silhouette of the man,her father. More than the assault on her body, the crumpled ego of her father pained her.
Its awkward to be discovered the way she was that too by her father. Its even more awkward when her father sits down in a corner and sobs to himself.
She had come to this garden many times before. She had often been to her friends house before for a home work, for a project and they had sat together until late evening to complete it.
Time stretched itself with Bollywood gossip and aunty’s yummy snacks. This time when Rama called her, she took off on her bicycle in no time. She shouted out that she will be back from her friend’s place in an hour.
At Rama’s house, she knocked on the door and uncle opened it. She had always thought that he looked at her strangely. She was careful to stay miles away from him.
Once or twice when she had gone to Rama’s house on Diwali, the man had hugged her, and she had wriggled free out of his arms. But she loved talking to Rama and aunt so much that, she did not give it much thought. She kept visiting them.
That evening, her bag slung on her shoulder, she stepped in happily. She had no idea that Rama had gone out with her mother to meet someone urgently. When the man tried to assault her she fled, pushing him away and fell on the road, tripping on a rock. She lay there bleeding when her father came looking for her.
She hadn’t expected her father to pick up a quarrel or fight the devil but she was shocked at his reaction. After rushing to her hurriedly and helping her to get back on her feet, he stood shaken, sobbing.
Nothing is amiss,Pa.I am alright. Let’s go home.
They walked home in silence.
She narrated the incident to her mother. Angry and outraged her mother picked up the sickle and threatened to cut the old man’s head.
There’s no use, ma. Nobody will believe us.
I will be careful hereafter. I will not go there.Besides, I love Rama. I don’t want her and auntie to feel hurt. Let’s not talk about this again.I am OK. I know to take care of myself.
She glanced at the hunched shoulders of her father and picked up her books. Her fight was hers alone. She sighed.