Author’s Note: Thank you to all those women who wanted to read something more life-affirming and stronger. In my first story, I tried to depict the stark reality of today. I now attempt to write an alternate version that speaks of hope and victory of good over evil, the very cornerstone that the festival of Navratri is built on.
She quickened her pace, joyfully looking forward to the evening, her friends enthusiastically rushing along with her for an evening of reaffirming what it meant to be a woman.
The evening Aarti for Ma Durga could be heard along with the drums and cymbals. Fragrant smoke filled the air from the incense burning in clay pots with which the devotees danced in circles, spreading the incense far and wide with each movement, lost in the rhythm and the devotions. After all, Ma Durga was on Earth for four special days, when she left her husband Shiva in Heaven and visited her maternal home with her children on Earth. She deserved to be pampered and loved just like every woman who visited her mother’s home.
The Goddess herself was resplendent, beautiful and ferocious all at once. Her many hands rose from her body, each armed with a different weapon. Her stance was one of confidence, that filled her devotees with an energy that coursed through their veins.
The girl felt goosebumps as she heard the first sounds of the Aarti beggining. She began to chat with her beloved Ma Durga, something that she did very often. It gave her a lot of peace and strength to do so. In her mind she said.. Ma can you feel me? Can you see me? Do you recall the day I was named Ma? My parents consulted all the stars in the universe and consulted spiritual guides and elders to ensure I was given a powerful name that I could carry with pride all my life.
The first whisper I heard in my life was my name. I carry one of your many names Mother… I was named Jyotsna – my parents wished me to be radiant, to spread light, joy and strength wherever I went. You live inside me like a radiant light Mother.
As she walked down the path to the Durga Pooja venue, she could see the playground transformed to perform the Garba dance. Yet another form of Durga, the gentle Ma Amba, was consecrated at the centre of the ground. Men and women dressed up in traditional, bright clothes and jewels were dancing to the beat of garba songs that went back a few generations. The Garba lamp, a beautiful clay pot decorated with bright mirrors and colours on the outside was placed near the Goddess. It represented the womb, fertility and the miracle of birth.
The devotees circled around the Garba and the Goddess, their ornate clothes swishing around with the speed of their movement. They all danced as one, lost in devotion, the beats just guiding them with no deliberate thought.
Jyotsna had just turned eighteen last month and was well on her way to lighting up the world with her brilliance. She studied hard, helped her parents with house chores, supported her siblings and motivated them to work hard. She led by example, wise beyond years and the pride of her family. True to her name, everyone felt illuminated after interacting with her.
She was dressed up today in a beautiful bright ghagra-choli that danced around her like flames. She wore ornate jewellery and plaited her hair to complete the traditional look.
Four of her friends walked with her, everyone excited to take blessings from Ma Durga and then dance at the Garba grounds and enjoy the evening.
Suddenly Jyotsna felt a sharp tug and someone attempting to put a wet cloth over her face. All her senses were on full alert immediately. Her first instinct was to avoid the wet cloth, she suspected it was something to make her lose consciousness. Her second instinct was to scream bloody murder.
In an instant her friends had stopped walking and ran back to her aid, all screaming at the top of their voices. Jyotsna carried chilli powder in her purse that she flung at her attacker who caught a good dose of the spice straight between his eyes. Her friends each held something or the other high in their hands, ready to use any means to subdue their attacker. All of them together looked like Ma Durga incarnate.
The man was too busy trying to clean the chilli powder from his eyes to be of much further use. Akila, Jyotsna’s friend took out a heavy iron pan from her bag and hit him at the back of his head. He crumpled into a heap.
Without having to be told twice, all five girls dragged the man into the trees on their right. Clearly this was where he meant to take Jyotsna. As soon as they were out of sight from the road, they tied up the man using his own dhoti and kurta.
Then they paused.
Jyotsna spoke in a whisper, “We all know pigs like this don’t operate alone. I suspect there are more further into those trees, waiting for him to come back with the prize. That is me…”
Akila nodded, determination bright on her face, “Jyotsna, we have to finish this. No other girl should be attacked this Navratri. Ma Durga will be enraged that we couldn’t even protect ourselves when she fought nine days and nine nights to slay the demon Mahishasura. How will we live with ourselves if we do not see this through?”
Ambika, Latha and Kamini, the other three girls nodded. Not one of them looked afraid. Chilli powder and an iron pan was just the beginning of the capabilities of these smart young women. After hearing and reading news item after news item about rape in their area, all five girls had enrolled themselves in self-defense classes. And then had applied those lessons and gotten even more creative with their own means of defending themselves. They had always been close as friends. The lessons made them into a crack team.
Jyotsna took on the role of the leader, orchestrating the attack.
“Ok girls, let’s leave this excuse for a man right here. Take off your bangles and anything that can make noise and give us away. Tuck your lehengas so you don’t trip.
Akila – your iron pan should be ready for attack at all times, wait for my signal
Ambika – pepper powder, as soon as I tell you it’s your turn
Latha – we need you to be bait. Get a little disheveled like there was a scuffle between you and the guy. Then we will tie you to the tree closest to where we find the other losers.
Kamini – we both will be responsible for disarming each one as we overpower them.
The girls obeyed without question, there was no flaw in the plan they could see. Enough was enough. These men needed a lesson they wouldn’t forget in a hurry.
Illustrated By: Dr Anisha Kumar (Visit http://ignitingmypassion.wordpress.com)