“If it weren’t for adversities I would have never sent my fourteen-year-old daughter away.” Rukmini wiped her tears as Shalu prepared to leave with Shelar maama. That is how she addressed her neighbour. He was a regular visitor to their house and had been of great assistance.
Rukmini was left to fend for herself and her three children after her husband passed away in an accident in the factory he worked. Shelar too had got injured in the same mishap and was left with a scar on his cheek and a permanent limp. No girl was willing to marry him. He was a lonely man of thirty-five.
Seeing Rukmini struggling to make both ends meet Shelar brought forth this proposal. The zamindar of the neighbouring village was looking out for a young girl to assist their maidservant.
“Tai* don’t get upset. The zamindar and his wife are known for their kindness and generosity.” Shelar assured Rukmini.
Rukmini handed over two rotis rolled in a leaf to her daughter while leaving.
Shelar guffawed, “By crossing the field and a patch of forest, we will reach the zamindar’s house. The zamindar feeds several hungry mouths every day. Your daughter will never feel the pangs of hunger.”
Though it all sounded good, Rukmini’s heart choked as she bid goodbye to Shalu. The girl kept turning behind till her hut disappeared from her sight.
As they passed the fields, Shalu spotted Kishore and his brother, Nandu tending their buffaloes. Kishore was a silent wooer of Shalu. Even Shalu inwardly admired him. But no words were ever spoken between the two.
There was yet another silent admirer of Shalu in the village who had this nefarious intentions of attaining her by hook or crook. He was awaiting an apt opportunity to satiate his dripping lust for the teenaged girl.
Kishore was keen on finding out where Shalu was headed with a bag, but his timid nature deterred him from making any queries.
The boys watched as the two entered the forest.
After a while, fluttering of birds was heard. As if it was a premonition the buffaloes started shaking their heads vigorously. Suddenly an agonizing shriek of a girl pierced the air. The buffaloes bellowed, the boys shouted, and the birds flew shrieking from the trees.
The brothers ran towards the forest and were aghast to see the naked dead body of Shalu with bruises all over.
It did not take much time for Kishore to realise what had happened. Some savage had made Shalu the victim of his lust.
Shelar was nowhere to be seen.
“Looks like Shelar bhau* has been overpowered. Poor bhau there is little he could have done with his injured leg to save Shalu.” Kishore’s heart cried.
The two boys ran towards the village to report the matter.
Around the same time the lustful admirer of Shalu came out from behind the huge banyan tree and limped in the opposite direction. The scar on his cheek oozed with blood.
Tai —- Elder sister. A term generally used to address an older lady.
Bhau—–A term used to address elder men.
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