Malati is back on her feet again.
She came to us this evening to ask if she could still be of any help, if not as a cook, in any other matter that needs paid service. Maa asked her about her health, as I had already dreaded before and she told us the somewhat-known-before story, yet again. She had to undergo thirty-six stitches, five of which have not yet healed. The doctor has prescribed an expensive painkiller that she cannot afford everyday. Her two-month old little daughter is being starved to death because she herself is too sore to be able to suckle her and too poor to buy milk. Her elder daughter who incidentally happens to be seven years old is carrying out most of the regular work. She is taking cheap iron capsules but the weakness still persists.
We had no work to offer. Another cook has already been appointed in her place, because frankly speaking, we did not expect her alive again. In fact, it still seems pretty unreal that a 32 year old poor woman would survive violent attacks of two able, armed men, one of them her husband himself and stand before us once again, asking for a job. But we had nothing, nothing but charity to help her, and charity she vehemently refused.
“Haramjada jotoi kop maruk go Boudi, meyegulor mukh cheye amar ei gotorer jor ami thik khatate parbo.”
[“How much ever blows the bastard showers upon me, I will still be able to work thinking about my daughters.”]
Her husband carried the daa (chopper), she said, and the other man one ansh-bonti (knief). She felt very scared, Malati confessed, but she could not allow herself to die if she had to prevent her daughters from being sold. So she resisted. She shouted and fought. One of her breasts was chopped away. With repeated blows, her stomach bled and bled and bled. Later the doctor commented that her spleen had come out and had she not been hospitalized exactly on time by her neighbours, she must’ve died.
She did not cry as she spoke. But yes, she seemed a little tired. I was thankful that it is winter and that the remnants of Malati were wrapped safely behind her sweater and shawl. I felt for her, but not enough to be able to accept her half-torn, ghastly self. It gave me a strange comfort to see her more or less the same, without the scars of survival. I thanked winter, again.
Malati returned disheartened. All her works were gone in this period of two and half months of hospitalization and she was not yet fit enough to work as a daily labourer in case she failed to find domestic appointments. Maa promised her that she would try to find her work, but Malati was hardly convinced. She had been attacked so that she transfers her own little plot-property in the village to her husband which he can spend in drinking and buying sarees for his kept woman. She simply refused to believe that she might need to sell that plot for livelihood. It was for the future of her daughters, she claimed. An employment… a domestic one, is all that can give her crusade a meaning.
She left with an incomplete sigh, miles to go, I guessed, before she sleeps. After all this struggle, she must not lose. She had resisted the attack of two armed men with her dark, thick, bare hands. She had shouted both her lungs out not giving in to death-pain. She had clang on to life in the face of the thirty-six consecutive blows. And finally…
Malati is back on her feet again.
But where will she go now?