Every day we roam around the city and see lots of people. Sometimes it’s just glimpses of strange and unrecognizable faces, other times we meet someone we know. But most of us never stop to think about those people. To us, they are just a blur. We are always too preoccupied with our own problems to even consider that the person we are talking to might be going through a hard time. And I am not judging anyone, I did the same thing. Until I met her.
I study in a university way off the main. To get there, I have to cover an excruciatingly long road. A road filled with all sorts of people. Now, I have a problem. I can never fall asleep in the bus. So to get through the ride, I have to succumb to either listening to my rusty playlist or look outside the window and speculate, or both for that matter. I still remember the day I saw her as clear as if it was just yesterday. It was in the morning, as I was going to university. I started the day as I did every other day, getting ready in a whirl, barely reaching to my stop in time. On our way every day, there is this under construction flyover that may never get constructed to be honest, and because of that all traffic gets gobbled up by it for over forty minutes. It was yet another day we were stuck in that extensive traffic, and I ran my eyes around the people going about their businesses. Ever since I was a little kid, I used to play this game inside my head. I looked out of the car window and as people passed by in a blur, I imagined what their stories might be. Whether they were doctors, whether they had just had a fight, whether they wanted an ice cream right now, and those sort of things. My imagination was totally random and unbiased. I started playing this game, thinking up their lives inside my head, and then I saw her.
Dressed in rags; hair completely messed up and seemingly unwashed for months; feet shoeless and bloodied, several wounds covering them; and a completely impassive face. There were several beggars in this road, approaching our windows every day, approaching passersby for some spare change. But this woman, who seemed to be at most thirty years of age, just sat in the corner not paying any attention to the world around her. Not doing any effort to collect money like the people around us, neither did she have an empty bowl in front of her where people could drop some cash into. She seemed extremely peculiar to me, there was something so captivating about her. I couldn’t read her face at all to imagine what she was like, just as a closed and well-binded coverless book. This bothered me more than I could admit to myself. I kept looking at her to figure out something at least, to soothe my mind but to no avail. I willed myself to just let it go yet my mind seemed to be fixated on her even more. Just then the traffic returned to its course and we left that place.
She was on my mind the whole day, preoccupying my thoughts so that I was unable to pay any attention to my surroundings. Something kept nagging me, something that I had to get rid of myself. The next day, my eyes searched for her again and I saw her. In the same position, in the exact same spot, and with exactly the same expressions or lack thereof. My heart kept egging me on to go and talk to her. Find out for myself what was behind that stony exterior. Unable to take it any longer, in the afternoon I stepped out of my university in the scorching heat and took a bus home. I got off the bus at the spot where I would find her and started searching for her. The heat wasn’t making it any easier on me, but at last after half an hour of extensive finding I spotted the place where she sat at.
Careful not to scare her away, I approached her cautiously. I stood beside her hoping that she would look up in inquisition but she never did. It was as if I wasn’t even there. I bent down in order to get her attention but her eyes never wavered. This shook me to my core. What was wrong with this woman? I sat with her and shook her, nothing. I called out to her, said a few random names but she still pretended I didn’t exist. I tried asking her if she was in some kind of a problem, if somebody had done something to her, but she remained in her stony position, giving out nothing. Just as I was about to give up and leave, an unmistakable tear rolled out of her eye. Relieved to see she was human after all, I tried again. This time she let out a small shivering sob. It felt to me as if she wanted to tell me something but she was scared to. I helped her up and took her to a small hotel nearby. She didn’t protest or try to resist me. Judging by her condition she hadn’t eaten for days, so I ordered her food and to my surprise she smiled. It was the most beautiful smile I had seen. Her smile enhanced her muddied features and I realized she was actually really pretty. She ate ravenously and as soon as she had, her face started to look instantly healthier.
I asked her again what was wrong with her and this time she looked willing to confide me in. She told me her name was Rukhsaar. Her story started from her childhood. She was the only daughter of parents who had seven sons. Her mother died soon after the birth of her youngest brother and the responsibility of taking care of brothers was thrust upon her. Now her father, he wasn’t a very noble man. In fact, he was an absolute monster. Ever since she was nine, he used to come into her room late at night when everyone was asleep and raped her. Not believing any father could be that cruel and forbidding, her words took me by surprise. She continued and told me all the horrible things her father did and how her brothers had no clue that she was subjected to such immense brutality. When she was sixteen, after having exploited her thoroughly, her father sold her to an older man who was more than twice her age. She was ripped apart from the only thing that kept her alive, her brothers. This husband of hers was no better than her father. He hurt her, used to beat her till there was nothing left of her, raped her every night, and there was no one to come to her rescue. Soon she was pregnant with her first child. A child who was to come into this world filled with hard-hearted and ruthless men like its father. Living only with the expectation that the baby would make things better, she withstood every brutality done with her with sealed lips.
When the baby was born, her husband was furious that she didn’t give him a son and instead had given him a burden of raising a daughter. He threatened every day that he would bury the girl alive before she even uttered her first word. Up until this point, Rukhsaar had taken everything in silence not uttering a single word of complain. But she couldn’t bear the thought of any harm coming to her daughter. Her husband got worse over time, he came home drunk every night and took it all out on her. She endured all of it for her daughter until one day her husband came home with a knife in his hand. He was plastered with all the alcohol he consumed and approached the cradle of his infant. As soon as Rukhsaar interpreted what he was about to do, she screamed and ran towards her daughter, trying to protect her from the beast of a father. Her husband picked her up and threw her on the dressing table as if she was a feather. Her vision blacked out and she fell unconscious. When she opened her eyes again, she could see a trail of blood covering her bedroom floor. She frantically ran to her daughter’s cradle only to find out that she was too late. The blood-smeared body of her little angel was resting in the sheets and her daughter looked at her with lifeless eyes. Her world sunk around her. Rukhsaar left the room in shock, left the house, and in a way, left the world. It had been six months since then.
As she finished telling me her story, I realized I had tears in my eyes as well. I wondered how many Rukhsaars were out there going through the same thing. The men in our society boast about their superiority over women, but never have they thought of women as equals. No one ever looks closely at anyone else’s problems, never trying to right what is wrong. The thought of having a daughter should bring joy as it did our ancestors, yet it only brings sorrow and regret with itself. There are billions of people in our country yet the ones whose stories are shared are only the politicians or the celebrities. The world needs to dig deeper and find out more people like Rukhsaar and bring justice to everyone who has wronged them.