Kanchhi

By Sanju Baral (Originally posted on Drishtanta)

We are the advocates of equality. Freedom is our mantra. We believe that we are free to choose our own paths, priorities and way of living. We are proud of our discovery of democracy, that says all people are created equal and all have equal rights to lead any kind of life they want. But, this song of democracy is still unheard in many places of world. One of them is my country, Nepal. The story I am about to tell is of Kanchhi, a real female character who still walks in a Nepali galli and still doesn’t know what ‘democracy’ is.

Her story, unlike ours, started before her birth. Before she was born, the Soothsayer had prophesied ladders of conspiracy lay waiting to rip off her freedom at birth. Her story vaguely started the day her mother discovered a daughter growing inside her body. And behind the veil, her life took a turning, an irrevocable turning, which twisted her fate into a vulnerable piece of character whose existence mattered only because of space it occupied.

Usually the arrival of a new member in a family is that of celebration. But in this case, her stumbling into the world brought horror and disgust. Her parents said nothing to their community. They hated her from the beginning, not just because she was a girl, but also because her face was crooked like her fate. You might wonder how, but I tell you the truth of how her mother, knowing her child will be daughter, secretly took abortion tablets, which, to Kanchhi’s misfortune, were expired.

The tablets did not abort Kanchhi, but they aborted her rights to speak and walk the air of freedom. She was born handicapped, abnormal as they call it. Ever since she took her space into the world, she was named variously ‘monster’, ‘devil girl’, ‘crooked nose’, ‘big head’ and very often, The Unfortunate. While her brothers went to school, she did dishes at home. Sometimes, she came out to serve tea to the visitors only to see her parents shrink with disgust. They usually signaled her to get lost from public appearance and gatherings.

She hardly knew anything about the reason she was hated and shunned by all. But, as she grew, the question aroused within her, whose answers she feared to seek. Though branded abnormal from outside, she developed the same heart as that of a normal girl. She started to feel her surroundings more than ever and the desire to be close with someone grew even deeper. Days passed like years as she walked into her teenage years. The changes inside the body added more to her struggles. During her first menstrual week, she saw not just evil, but the wicked side of her parents. They took her to a dejected hut and locked her inside the cold, fractured room. She was already scared due to the changes in her body that no one told her about. When she had found the stains of blood in her worn out pajamas, she was engrossed with feeling of injury which she thought would finally kill her. Her mothers’ reaction was of horror and fear when she found the same drops in kitchen.

The hut where she was locked in had a thin mattress and a bottle of water. A drain went outside through a hole, which she was told to use as toilet. Her mother came twice a day with some food and clothes. She also passed along a number of strange advice on what Kanchhi was supposed and not supposed to do. She said not to look at the sun, not to touch father or any man, not to enter kitchen and eat with other people. All these bits of information were summarized with, “Stay in this room!” Kanchhi slowly began to understand that she was to come to the hut every month from now on. In spite of being tortured by her parents, she had not left them until that moment. A thirteen year old girl found herself alone in a cold, secluded hut. It was more horrifying at nights. But, she could see no other choice and no door that could lead her to help.

Her teenage years passed, but nobody noticed that she was growing into a woman. Her ugly face disguised her developing feminine qualities until she matured into a full grown woman. Though she went unnoticed previously, now her body was closely observed by those around her. Her parents grew cautious, knowing that no body was going to marry her. They even feared for her virginity, which they believed was linked with their social image. So as the days passed, she was restricted to only going into the kitchen.

One day, however, the family organized a puja, a social gathering were all the villagers were invited. Kanchhi was busy with dishes that kept on rolling in. She sat beneath the mango tree, at the corner of ground with dishes from early morning to late night. As the night advanced, the dishes would come again and there would be no escape.

The puja was to be held for two weeks and Kanchhi had loads to do each day. By and by, three days passed. On the fourth day, she did the dishes for the whole day again. At twilight, when she was about to start the next washing round, a man, who seemed to be in his forties, came running towards her. He said that her mother has asked her to go to the menstrual hut and bring shovels from there. Innocent Kanchhi went running to the hut. The hut stood open and empty expect for that man who stood at the door. As she entered the room, searching for the shovels, he closed the door in an instant. He started approaching her, she had no idea of what was about to happen. He grabbed her from behind. She opened her mouth to scream, he picked handful of mud from the floor and forced it into her mouth. And then, he seized her and satisfied his lust until she lost all her senses.

After some time, which seemed like years, Kanchhi felt pain in her lower body. The man was putting on his pants when some foot steps were heard outside. A boy, after hearing a strange sound coming from the hut, had called people, who by now had gathered outside. When they kicked the door, it opened to reveal Kanchi, raped from head to toe and the man who was struck with horror. He has tried escaping from the permanently shut window, but people surrounded him from all around. Women were spitting on his face, while the men were grabbing, punching and kicking him all over his body. The scene was crowded with all villagers, who joined once again in cursing the man. The man was sent to jail for years, whereas Kanchi lived the same old life. She went to the same hut every month, returned back home and washed dishes over and over until she died one day. She died, before her parents, quietly and easily. But when she died, her parents said nothing to the others, same like the time when she was born. She had not died, instead she had killed herself.

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