Trigger Warning: Contains descriptions of child sexual abuse
Anamika alighted from the bus and stood at the bus depot for a good five minutes, taking in the view around her. The bus depot wasn’t much crowded, it was still quite early in the morning. There were a couple of tea stalls open near the entrance to the bus depot. She stepped out of the bus depot and walked further looking for transport. The town hadn’t changed much in the last decade and a half. It was still the sleepy town, tucked away in the hills. The town was symbolic of a calm and peaceful existence for everyone but Anamika.
Anamika finally found a cab after walking uphill for a good 10 minutes trudging her luggage along. She could have avoided this unnecessary hassle if only she had informed Mr Mitra about the time of her arrival. But she had chosen to make minimal noise about her arrival.
The taxi turned on the bends and curves and as they were nearing her hotel, she saw a man holding a black umbrella walking with the same gait. Anamika froze, was it him? How did he know she was in town? It had been years but the sight of a black umbrella still sent shivers down her spine. It only brought back memories of him. As the taxi moved ahead, she realised that the man under the umbrella was not him. But she felt an uneasy fear penetrate the air.
Late afternoon Anamika arrived at her estate. The black wrought iron gates still looked the same. Those gates had seen the world for a century now, they weren’t going to change in mere 15 years. But she hesitated to push open the gate. She was in two minds about entering the precincts of the estate. She wanted to retrace her steps. But she knew to move on, she needed to make this encounter with her past.
Anamika pushed the gate and entered an unkempt and overgrown lawn. She remembered the perfectly manicured garden, with the neatly lined flower shrubs and the Jamun and pear trees lining the corners. But all she could see now were overgrown and wild grass and a few wild plants. She sat in the corner on the steps leading to the entrance waiting for Mr Mitra. Though she had the keys, she chose not to enter the house alone. She turned to her right and spotted the garage, further ahead and was taken back to that dreadful day 16 years ago.
Anamika had been born with the proverbial silver spoon. Her grandfather had come to this quaint town and started his livelihood with a small orchard, which had grown to several orchards and coffee plantations by the time her father took over the reins of the business. Hers was a family which prided in its stature and reputation. Anamika was the only child of her parents and was raised in luxury, living the life of an heiress. Well, at least that’s how the rest of the world spoke of Anamika’s life. She couldn’t deny, she had the best of everything, but the standards expected of her were high. Appearing perfectly dressed at all times, speaking at the right time, learning the nuances of the elite society were different ball game the others wouldn’t understand. She had been coping up just fine until that fateful day her parents had decided that she needed to take piano lessons.
Anamika could almost see herself as a 10-year-old, pressing her face to the living room window, looking at a tall man holding the umbrella, entering the gate. That was her first memory of Roger her music teacher. She was told he was a musician of repute, who had retired to the hills to lead a quiet life. Her father told her in no uncertain words, Roger had agreed to teach her as a special request, so she better be serious about her lessons. The first few months had been fine or where they? There was something about the way he looked at her that did not feel comfortable to her 10-year-old self. But she wasn’t sure if she could even complain about that. She had been taught to respect and obey her teachers, how could she find faults with them, wasn’t that disrespectful?
Roger would hold her hands on the pretext of showing her the right keys, slowly he proceeded to caressing her shoulders and fondling her. Anamika did not like the touch. The sneer on his face repulsed her. He had given strict instructions that no one was to enter the room during the classes as it caused a distraction. Anamika started feeling frightened in his company and detested the music classes. She tried every trick in the book to avoid the music classes with Roger. She started demanding that the doors and windows be kept open during the classes, but it did not deter Roger’s wile behaviour in any manner.
“I will tell papa.” She had warned him when he tried to run his hand on her chest.
“You think, he will believe you.” He responded with a smirk.
Though he had moved away, that response from him had only increased Anamika’s fear and helplessness.
A few months later, she had gathered the courage to tell her mother about Roger. She had hoped Roger’s words would be proved untrue and her mother would put an end to her music lessons. But she was shocked by her mother’s reactions. “How shameless can you get, levelling such allegations against a decent man, just to escape music lessons. Where do you get such filthy ideas from?” Her mother lashed out at her. Anamika lost all hope, those words had rendered her alone, she felt abandoned. The next class proved to be her worst nightmare.
Roger attempted to force himself on Anamika, she picked up his umbrella which lay beside her and brought it with all her strength on his head. The wooden handle of the umbrella had hit him hard and he held his bleeding forehead screamed. Anamika stood there shocked, but she noticed the menacing anger in Roger’s eyes. She had shut herself in the garage. It had been late in the evening when her father convinced her to come out. But all he had to tell her was, she had disappointed him, such behaviour was unbecoming of a girl from a good family. Her music lessons had come to an end, but the very next month she was sent to a residential school for girls known for its dictatorial discipline. Nobody bothered to hear her out.
Those had been the worst years of her life. She developed a hatred for her parents. The very people who should have stood by her had only victimised her further. After school, she chose a college in the city and a course which her parents particularly despised. She stopped coming home. The years of pent-up anger had made her a bitter person and she had lost her ability to trust people, hence there weren’t any friends present in her life. She would never let anyone come close to her. Despite all the efforts from her parents, she could cut off ties with them.
The heiress to a multi-million fortune was working a simple job and living an existence far removed from the elite world she had been raised in. Last year she had received a call from Mr Mitra, informing her o her father’s death. Her mother she was told had passed away a few years earlier. She couldn’t deny the grief or the pang of guilt that engulfed her, but the next moment anger overtook the feelings. She was about to disconnect the call when he requested her to come and claim the estate that had been left to her in the will. She had told him; she had no interest in it. But he refused to take any instructions unless she was personally present.
It had taken Anamika a whole year to convince herself to come here. She had been sure of selling it off and donating the proceeds to charity. She wanted nothing to do with this property or this town. “Ms Anamika” the voice broke her reverie. She turned around a middle-aged man stood there smiling at her “I am Madan Mitra, sorry I kept you waiting.” She smiled as she shook his hand. They entered the house. The piano stood at the same place, beside the window and as she looked out, she could see it starting to rain. There couldn’t have been a better sign from nature. “Mr Mitra, I want to convert this place into a counselling centre and a happy shelter for victims of sexual harassment and violence. Can you help with the legal formalities? Anamika enquired. The very place she associated with her scars would help her heal now.
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