Trigger warning: This story contains graphic representation of sexual assault. Reader's discretion advised.
She never feared the 500-metre stretch from the bus stop to her home. She had walked it for as long as she remembered. She got on her school bus from there, and walked back every afternoon after the school bus dropped her. Mom waited for her then. Or the help, when her mom was busy or had gone shopping.
At times, she would walk alone. Especially on days when the bus would reach her colony earlier than usual. Then college happened, followed by a new job. She would come back at 9-10pm, and sometimes around midnight. In her small, sleepy town, people would be off to bed by 9pm. Middle class mohalla timings. End of the nightly news on DD meant lights out. Often, the streetlights would be off for load shedding or some fault in the lines. These things hardly mattered. She could walk blindfolded to her home. She knew every inch of that road. Every inch.
Last night was like any other night. She finished work by 9pm, and was at the colony bus stop at 9.30pm. She had hardly walked a 100 metre when a motorbike screeched to a stop on her right. The pillion rider grabbed her with one hand and put the other on her mouth. The other man parked the bike and joined him to drag her across the bushes to the colony park wall. She had her back against the wall; with the two men, the burly one now clasping her face and the other holding her by her waist. She was 5-foot-2 and fit to boot. But the sheer helplessness of that moment told her that this was it. The headline had come visiting. Rape!
Her tormentors left her top alone; and unbuttoned her jeans. She had given up. She had hit her head against the wall. She could feel the bump without touching it. She couldn’t. Her hands were in chained by unknown, more powerful, monsters of hands. A cramp rose from her left tendon and started creeping up. The struggle wasn’t helping. She stopped.
Her tormentors didn’t. They were struggling with a lifeless piece of clothing. The pair of tight-fit mild-tapered jeans wouldn’t come off. A hand made its way through the back as the burly one tried to tear it off. The fabric stood relentless like a wall. It felt like forever. Then the rattle of a diesel engine in the distance forced the men to put all the pressure on her mouth and legs. She couldn't make a sound. A jeep just passed by.
One of the men asked the other to get the bike off the road. Afraid the bike parked in a secluded area was just conspicuous. They couldn’t leave the girl. The two of them doubled their efforts in a fierce battle against the denim, and managed to draw the low-waist jeans just below the waist. This violation meant nothing to her. She had spent all her energy by now. The men were getting bolder, yet whispering to each other in a coarse local dialect that she didn’t understand. And then the big guy lifted his hand off her mouth. And slapped her. Her lips got smashed between his rough, cold hand and her teeth. They walked away.
She sat down; rather let her back slide down the wall. The bike’s engine came to life; the lanky pillion rider took his seat and then got off again. All of a sudden. In three hops, he reached her and kicked her in the leg and spat, “behnchod” before jumping back on the bike. She heard the word once more, faint under the distinct growl of the Yamaha R15: “Behnchod jeans”. As the motorcycle’s sound faded into the night, she wanted to run home to her mom. She kept sitting there. For what felt like forever.
A motorbike with a familiar sound came from nowhere and sped away, when she got out of her fear-induced slumber. Her heart was pounding out of her chest. She stood up with a jerk and found her bag. She grabbed it close to her chest as if the bag was lost and found. She began walking, taking her first few steps gingerly. By the time she reached the gate of her home, she had her usual end-of-a-long-day yet confident gait.
Dad and mom both were sitting on the veranda. Like every other day, they just said, "Aa gaye beta.” She walked in without acknowledging them. Into her room, she threw her purse on the bed, tossed her flats before heading to the bathroom. A twist of the tap and she was in a fit. She kept splashing her face with the cold October water. She wasn’t sure if she was crying. She felt like it but one couldn’t make out whether she was. She didn’t remember when she began crying or if it was just the water that she continued splashing, when she heard a knock on the bathroom door.
“Are you okay, beta?”
She realised she had taken a bath with her clothes on. She took off her top, her bra. Threw them on the floor. Like everyday. The first thing after coming home. She hadn’t discovered the bruises, the cuts, the swollen back of her head yet. She was half-aware of the pain, but not at all worried about it. She discovered that her jeans was already unbuttoned, unzipped. She sat on the bathroom floor and started working on the jeans from the bottom. The wet jeans just wouldn’t come off. As if it was glued to her skin. Tight-fitting, mild-tapered. “Fuck! Damn! Grrrrr...” she mumbled as she put all her energy together to draw the damn thing away. She would stop. Then start again. God knows for how long this went on. The grimace morphed into a smile and she said: “Behnchod jeans!”