It was New Year's eve, 2006. So many years have passed but I still can't erase the memory, the humiliation, and the pain.
Every time I read about a similar incident, it all comes rushing back, and with it, the insane anger that the people who did this to me are somewhere out there, leading normal lives.
I was married for just eight months - happy, and in love. My husband had a small business and we had a great life.
On December 31, we had gone to EDM Mall in Ghaziabad to watch a late-evening movie. Midway, my husband, who found the film boring, wanted us to leave. I did not want to go and we had a minor tiff. I reminded him that we had spent money to buy tickets. He was angry, got up and said he was going home. We lived nearby. I sat through the remaining show thinking that once his anger subsided, he would come back to get me. He did not.
After the show got over, I went out. I could not find my husband. I waited for some time and then decided to take an auto home. Outside the mall, while I was waiting for an auto, a car stopped in front of me. I recognised Amit in the driver's seat. He was a business acquaintance of my husband and used to come to drop by at our home once in a while. He asked me about my husband. I told him we had a tiff and he had left. He offered me a lift. I accepted. It was late.
Inside the car, he offered me a soft drink. I refused at first, but he insisted. I could see a couple of used bottles strewn around. I remember feeling dizzy, everything got blurred. After sometime - I don't remember for how long we had been driving - I found Amit dragging me through the stairs of a building that was under construction. Debris was strewn all around and he had pinned me down on a cold, concrete surface. I screamed as he forced himself on to me. I resisted and fought but he was physically stronger.
To hell and back
I don't know for how long he continued to rape me. He finally dragged me down the stairs again and forced me into the car. The next thing I remember was a house where five or six men, apart from Amit, stood waiting. They took turns to rape me, repeatedly. I passed out.
When I regained consciousness I found myself lying on a pavement near the EDM mall. It was dawn. I somehow got up, managed to flag an auto down and went home. I did not know then how irrevocably my life would change.
The first thing I remember after reaching home was a hard, stinging slap. My husband was furious. He shouted and asked where I'd spent the entire night. I was angry. I cried and slowly told him…
Our ordeal had just begun
We went to the police station. After writing our complaint, the policeman tore it and told my husband, "Why do you want to ruin your honour, your name?"
We protested but in vain. We came back and my husband called somebody he knew in the media. We went to this news channel office in central Delhi where they took up our case. Under pressure, the police finally registered an FIR. The main accused, Amit, was arrested.
Life as I knew it was over
The suffering and humiliation started soon after. Nothing in the 22 years of my life had prepared me for this. My life became hell. My husband found it difficult to cope with. It was hard that an acquaintance had raped me and then called his friends to rape me. He took to drinking and started abusing me. But I knew he still loved me and I kept telling myself that he would not leave me. He did not.
We had to move out of the east Delhi locality. Neighbours, friends and family made our life miserable. Sensitivity was hard to find and I was made to feel guilty, as if I had invited the men to violate me. More than me, my husband found it difficult to face the snide remarks that constantly came our way.
By this time I was also pregnant with my first son. We moved to my husband's family home in a district in Haryana. The insinuations did not stop. It only got worse.
The threats began
I thought of committing suicide many times but stopped because of my son. Who would care for him, I thought and decided to live. I became a mother for the second time but life was far from normal. My husband, who had set up a cable business, had become withdrawn. His drinking bouts worsened.
The court case had begun. Amit had got bail by this time. There were threats and extreme pressure from his family to withdraw the case. I had stopped venturing out of the house. We used to get threatening calls. The parents of some of the accused came to our home pleading for their sons' lives. The case dragged on.
We finally succumbed and agreed to an out-of-court settlement. We were given Rs 1.5 lakh. That was the price of my honour, my sanity.
Picking up the pieces
My husband passed away one-and-half years ago. I was entirely on my own. The only solace was that I had a roof over my head. I decided to work, which was the only way to give my sons a life of dignity and have some semblance of sanity in my life.
In spite of the protests and abuses from my in-laws, I started working. I'm a supervisor in a government office. It's a contractual job. The money is not enough but I manage somehow.
I have come a long way since that night. I'm happy to say that I've become stronger. No man can dare look me in the eye today. I have a job. My sons are going to school. They are my hope and reason to live. I still get nightmares. The pain is slowly ebbing, but the anger refuses to die.
As told to Moushumi Das Gupta
(The name of the 28-year-old rape survivor has been withheld to protect her identity)