just another evening chore
collecting animal fodder by the ripening rice fields,
the woodsmoke from the distant dwellings winds its way up;
the sky darkened, the shadows lengthened, her steps quickened
while her plain cotton dupatta gathered the evening breeze.
The same evening.
just another evening out
for these four men, gelled and jeans-clad,
mounted on their diesel chariot, their eyes roved right and left,
settling on the girl whose head was heaped with hay;
just the tonic they needed, quite a prized quarry.
This gang of neighbourhood louts,
savages or beasts, call them what you will,
they circled, they hooted, and dragging her further afield,
they looted, soiled and ravaged her clothes, her flesh, her innards.
The more she bit, the more she screamed, the more she dug
her nails into their muscled forearms, the more they squealed,
with deep grunts, guffaws and name-calling, they finished,
not forgetting to twist the dupatta around her neck;
their feudal swagger was heightened to bursting point,
after all, a vital lesson’s been taught to the girl and her kin.
Rag doll-like, her flailing limbs fell silent, bit by bit;
the rice stalks, crushed and dehusked,
lay waste beside her but the liquid, viscous red,
trickled and seeped into the soil in preparation for
the rabi crop – will it feed and breed yet another crop of savage beasts?
Just another incident.
It happens. Not only in India.
Zarin Virji is a school leader, teacher trainer and writer.