“Durgaaa!” Sushma’s scream jolted Raju up from his afternoon slumber. 

“Was that in my dream?” He wondered as he got up to shift his cot further in the shade. It was precisely then that he heard a loud splash followed by a cacophony of harsh sounds. The buffaloes bellowed, the boys shouted, and the birds flew shrieking from the trees. “It is happening. Time to call girls.” He ran.

Raju was panting profusely when he finally reached the pond. Durga’s akimbo stance on the edge of the pond looked quite impressive. A wooden log rested near her feet. Raju followed Durga’s fiery eyeswatching Kishore struggling to wade through the muddy water. Three other boys from Kishore’s rowdygang were surprisingly huddled together like frightened chickens gawking helplessly at Kishore. Durga’sconstricted pupils were transfixed on him. “Why don’t you help him now?” Her thunderous voice challenged them. Raju smiled with pride at Durga’s new found strength.

“Raju bhayia, please help,” Sushma was predictably panic-stricken. “I’ll-stricken. “Durga must be stopped. She has forgotten that she is a girl. She has gone too far.” She nervously blabbered, tears streaming down her eyes.

“To tell you honestly, Sushma, the boy deserves Durga’s retaliation and she is not alone, today. Raju smiled.

Sushma turned her head and saw them rushing like one huge wave.  “So many girls? How do they know?” Sushma whispered. 

The boys too saw them approaching as the girls ran forward, yelling at them. They panicked. The buffaloes bellowed even louder this time when Kishore’s friends unceremoniously dived into the water. The afternoon sun glared harshly, blinding Kishore and his pals, forcing them to lower their eyes. Durga met Raju’s gaze and he nodded assuredly.

Raju and Sushma knew it wouldn’t be long before the boys’ parents and others joined them.  The aftermath was evident.

The boys came out of the pond soiled and smeared in mud. Many tongues clicked in sympathy. “Look at the shameless girl. She is instigating others too.” Angry voices hurled abuses at Durga who stood with a strange peaceful expression on her face.

 “Durga, apologize for your misconduct.” Sushma pleaded with her daughter.

“No, ma, I will not and neither will any of these girls who have been tormented and teased every day by these ruffians. All I know is that they deserve to be punished.” Durga spoke calmly. “Did you or any other parents listen to our complaints? Didn’t  you advise me to ignore when I told you that Kishore blocked my way and passed lewd comments? Their voyeurism left us ashamed but we still kept quiet. That emboldened them. Today, Kishore dared to touch me. Should we have ignored this too? No, not anymore. We have ignited our inner power to confront and combat any transgression.”

Accusations from the crowd had stopped. Suddenly loud cheering from the girls broke the silence. They were clapping jubilantly. The message sent across was loud and clear.

Raju delightfully watched from a distance, Durga’s  new, bold avatar.
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