The dingy room stank heavily of nauseating bodily odour and semen. The lack of circulation made the space hot, sultry, humid and heavy. Paan spits patterned the walls of this minuscule chamber with their own abstract designs. Upon the rocking, stench-filled cot laid Ganga on her back, scantily clad; exposing her curvaceous body in a laced brassiere and panty. Yet another stranger— sensuously satiated, opened the door to leave and let in a hint of cool breeze, offering a sense of minimal respite to the otherwise stuffed cabin. 

Ganga’s body revealed bruise marks from the many severely forced sexual encounters. Over the years, her tears had dried and her once deep, attractive eyes now simply wore a pensive, foreboding look. Ganga’s eyes bored deeply through the ceiling into infinity without a trace of emotion. 

Just then, her twelve year old daughter— Pavitra, born illegitimately, rushed in to see her mother and cried, “Ma, you had promised to take me to the mela. Why are you still lying lifeless? Maaa… Come, get ready.”

Just as she had uttered those words, the old keeper of the place came in and informed, “Rani Ma is calling you. She wants a quick word,” and left.

“Oh! Ma… not again.”

“Pavi, let me see what Rani ma has to say. We will go to the mela thereafter,” she promised her daughter, as she quickly began clothing herself.

Rani ma was seated in the open courtyard of the dilapidated mansion, upon a royal looking mattress, smoking a chillam. 

As soon as she saw Ganga, she nodded to beckon her.

Rani Ma carefully chose her words, “Ganga, the MLA of the ruling party is visiting today with a few important guests. While we are all here to offer our best services, I feel that… it’s time to introduce Pavi to the tribe. She’s young…”

“Stop! Rani Ma, I’ve accepted and followed every order coming from you. BUT THIS! Is unacceptable. Anything, but Pavi…” a fiery rage filled Ganga’s lifeless eyes and her body heaved in a state of disharmony. She simply stormed out without turning back.

Ganga reached out to Pavitra, “It’s time to pack up my child. Let’s go,” and quickly stuffed her thin cotton fabric with the minimal belongings and stepped out of the brothel, tugging Pavitra to follow.


The moon less night skies sparkled in a gentle gleam of this newfound freedom. 

They boarded the bus from Chandni Chowk towards Rishikesh. The long night dawned into the brightest day upon the skies presenting itself in myriad hues against the cobalt blue canvas.

The ashram doors heartily welcomed Ganga and Pavitra along with the mob of weary passer byes. A dip in the holy Ganges left Ganga feeling pure and chaste. She entered into the allotted room and changed. The door opened and she stepped out — barely recognisable in her new avatar.

Ganga stood in saffron garbs ready to embrace a new life and purpose for both Pavitra and herself — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually…

Mela- A fair
Chillam- Smoking pipe


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Lakshmi Ajoy
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