It was 10’0 clock at night. Paro was not sleepy. She sat in her bed and was turning the pages of a photo album lying on the table, near the bed. A lady entered the room and said, “Ma’m, Do you want some thing? Why are you still awake? It is midnight. Switch off the light and go to sleep.” The lady left the room. Paro tried to sleep but.....
Her thoughts took her to her brother’s house in Balia. Her brother and Bhabi treated her not more than a menial. Her mother died when she was three years old. She was a pet of her father. “My darling daughter will be a queen one day.” She was the only sister of five brothers. Her father had married twice. From his first wife there were four sons. His second wife bore a son and a daughter. She died while in delivery. The child survived. She was named Parvati but was called Paro. Her brothers went to school. She was the only one who was not aware what went on inside the four walls of a classroom. When she was ten years old, her father had a massive heart attack. Her father was only concerned for her. He called his eldest son, Hemant and told him after his death, he should look after his sister. He gave his son a sum of thirty thousand rupees and told him to marry off his sister in a decent family. Her father passed away after a year. Her brother took her to his house.
She was treated like a maid in her brother’s house. The whole day she was made to do menial jobs. One day after dinner, she was asked to wash utensils. The kitchen was full. Paro emptied the bowls, arranged the left overs in the refrigerator, when her bhabi, Mrs. Gupta came and scolded her for not finishing the work. Paro suppressed her tears, but did not say anything. Mrs. Gupta left the kitchen, murmuring. Paro completed the rest of the utensils and went to her room. It was only an apology for a room. There was no ventilation. Even one bed could not be spread in it. She sat on her bed. It was so hard that her back felt very painful. Sleep was far from her. In her brother’s house, she had no facilities. After whole day’s work, her bhabi used to tell her to press her legs. Some time, if sleep overpowered her, her bhabi would push her with her leg, using choicest of abusive words. Her brother was so much under the influence of his wife that he did not have the guts to oppose her. The brother’s house was very big but she was housed in the servant room. She was provided one soap for a month. She had been staying there for one year, but not a single dress was provided. So miserable was her condition that she had no means to protect herself during her monthly periods. A few old blankets, perhaps used by the previous servants, served the purpose of sanitary napkins for her. There was no one to whom she could tell her pain.One day her bhabi gave her a new dress and told her to come to the living room. She wondered how this change had overtaken her bhabi. Before she stepped inside she heard her bhabi uttering her name. She stood there and heard the whole conversation. She understood that they were planning to sell her to that man. They were bargaining the amount. She was shocked. Oh god! How could they do so!! Tears started dripping. Without caring for consequences, she turned back and came out of the house.
She did not know where to go. Poor Paro! She did not know how far she walked. She knew that she sat on a bench in a park. She was tired mentally and physically. Perhaps she slept on the bench. Suddenly she realised that she was not in the park but in a bed in a big room.. The first thought that came to her mind was that her brother had found her and she was in the house of the old man. No, she was wrong. She was in some new place. She looked around. No one was to be seen . She again drooped into sleep. (to be continued)