She is 21 and unmarried, a rare status in a western Uttar Pradesh village where girls are married off early in their teens.
She is quiet. Anybody in her situation would be. Her brother is juvenile convict number 6 of the December 16 gangrape and murder in Delhi. The most violent of the six rapists, he escaped the gallows because of his age and is set to walk free in a month.
With her brother, now 20, locked inside a correctional home more than 240km away in Delhi, the elder sister single-handedly fends for the family of six — ailing mother, younger siblings and bedridden father who is of unsound mind.
She earns around `50 a day as a farmhand for wealthy farmers and working in factories near her village, barely making enough to feed the family.
Their mother, herself married off at 13, came to know of her son’s impending release from fellow villagers. She has been pinning her hopes on him. That he will return and bring freedom to the family from its daily struggle for survival.
“Before his arrest, he used to send us money and that kept us going. My daughter, unmarried at 21, is a shame here. He should come back and arrange money for her wedding,” she said on Wednesday.
The mother has forgiven her son. “The villagers said my son is being released but no one has contacted us. We do not have money to go to Delhi so I have not met him,” she said.
She refused to believe that her son has been radicalised by a fellow juvenile terror convict at the correctional home. “I don’t think he has become a terrorist.”
The convict’s four younger siblings hardly remember how he looks. He was 11 when he fled home. His youngest brother was only two then. Six years later, on the night of December 18, 2012, the family heard about his arrest.
“I dropped out after class 5 last year because we could not afford school. We heard my brother is also educated now. He should come back and take care of us,” said his 10-year-old brother.
The villagers are in a fix. Will he return? Should he return? Should they forgive him? Will he take care of his family? Should he be allowed to work in their fields?
Not everyone is willing to forget the past. Village headman and retired schoolteacher Nathu Master said the boy brought disrepute to his native place.
“We haven’t forgiven him but then we won’t stop him from returning either,” said the man who helped the family secure a pucca house from the UP government two months ago. Until then, the family was living inside a tin shed with a tarp roof.
The homecoming won’t be easy. Villagers said he would be under constant watch. “Dare he try anything with the women here? This is not Delhi. He will be lynched and his case will be decided right here,” Nathu Master echoed the mood in the village.