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How could a mother do this to her daughter? Kuwoli could not understand. She was supposed to be her guardian angel protecting her from every demon on earth. But there she was trading her own daughter, that too to cover up her own sins. How could she!

As the glowing embers of the sacred fire lit at the centre, leaped and twirled in a fiery dance,she could see her dreams burning in the flames and dissipating like the smoke into the thin air. The chantings of the priest filled the small temple room, creating a void in her heart that could never be filled. She felt like a scapegoat- tied to a pole at the market place, cleaned, fed, readied to be slaughtered, while the customer looked greedily, impatient for her young flesh.

She felt uncomfortable in the newly bought white paat mekhela-chador, specially selected for the wedding. A lot of things were uncomfortable in her life lately. She tried to look with effort, from behind the veil of the chador, towards her father. Creeping in a quiet corner, hiding behind the crowd circled around the mandap, his helpless eyes on his sulking face was avoiding a direct eye contact with her. She tried to speak through her eyes, pleading him for one last time, to come to her rescue before it’s all over. But she failed.  She shifted her look to her mother. She smiled brazenly… not even an iota of guilt in her eyes, excited at getting her plot so elegantly executed. She then looked towards the man seated beside her who was going to be her husband in some time. With his front hair almost gone, he looked weird. At least to a girl, to whom till yesterday young boys of her class were giving love notes.

She thought about the maths class-test that her friends were writing now, while she attended her wedding. At fifteen, studying in class ten in a local private school, it was her age to study and play, to have boyfriends and to fool around. And here she was getting married. Against her will. She thought about Niyor- the boy who loved her. She regretted for pretending not to having any feelings for him… not giving him a chance. She wanted to take it slow…to make it magical. Like in movies. Never did she knew that she didn’t have time. Was he sitting on the last bench of the left row, from where he could always glance at her, she wondered . Or was he crying somewhere, hiding from the world, in some closed dark room, lamenting that his beloved was getting married, that too to a man thirty years older than her.  Or was he coming, riding on a horse along with his mates, like in fairy tales, to liberate her from her misery. She had strayed far away. The sudden cacophonous ringing of the bells by the priest woke her up. Immediately, she shooed her thoughts away and brought herself to reality. Life is not a fairy tale, she knew. Nothing of that sort is going to happen. In some time she would be a married woman, having to look after the daily chores, obliged to keep her husband happy. She’d be violated by the man who had violated many others in the past, including her mother. She will be violated with ‘permit’ and the ‘permit’ was being given by none other than her parents. A barrage of thoughts tormented her head running riots in her mind.

She thought of her father with disgust. That man could not stand for her daughter. At least he could have stood for himself. He was getting her daughter married to the paramour of his wife, even after knowing everything! Isn’t he losing both his wife and his daughter to that man. Who is he saving? His son?…which was not actually his! She wondered whether her brother would still remain her brother or be her son!

Everything started few months after her birth. Her father was posted outside town. He was in the army. Her mother used to stay alone at home with her as a baby. Her father had asked one of his friend to take care of his wife. And he did take good care of him! He started an illicit affair with that lady. The lady too blinded by lust, fell for his lure. They maintained it secretly for years. Until she conceived a child from this man. It was too late for them to abort. They planned to portray the child as her daughter’s and schemed her marriage with that man. Kuwoli with initial resistance, finally submitted to salvage her father’s dignity. That poor man was too weak to do anything. He knew everything but was coerced in allowing plan to be hatched, ‘else that would bring ignominy to the family’. Didn’t the people know? They were not blind to see nothing! Kuwoli was angry at the impotency of her father. He could not do anything. He took to drinking. He’d be high all the time. He lost his health in just a month-frail and seemingly skinny to the bone. Kuwoli had done this for her father, shouldn’t her father have done something for her, she was baffled.

As she took her seven steps around the sacred fire, vowing her loyalty to her ‘husband’, she wondered if her mother kept any of those promises. Did they really mean anything then? Her mother didn’t resist when an outsider touched her for the first time. She didn’t resist when he undressed her for the first time. She didn’t resist when he roamed his hand over her nude body, feeling her curves, reaching to her unreachable parts, the many nights (or days) they slept together. She didn’t resist when he copulated her for the first time.

Kuwoli had read somewhere that ‘there is a good within every single one of us and there is an evil within every single one of us. And each day, there is a constant fight between the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’.’ The evil could be so dominant that it could gulp its own child, she never thought earlier. She had seen now,how low people can stoop to fulfill their selfish interests. At the end of the day it’s only ‘me’ and ‘myself’.

She could trust people no more. The ones whom she trusted the most stabbed her. The people whom she loved the most betrayed her. She will have to find strength to pick up the pieces of her broken dreams. Within moments she could see her life shattered in front of her eyes.

Her ‘husband’ maintained relationship both with her and her mother.

Her father would not be seen for days. He would be lying somewhere, drunk, where from wayfarers would sometimes drop him to to his home. He would not survive long.

Niyor cut his wrist, few months later, for another girl in his class. Nevertheless, he survived to cut it many more time later!

Kuwoli thought of killing herself many times. That would free her from her pain. But she was too weak to take that step. Or maybe too strong to give up hope. She ‘adopted’ the child, taking care of him, trying to impart him some morality and shame.

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