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Roundabout: Broken words, bruised images

A lone candle is lit on what could be a slice of cake. Or is it the edge of a stone; a stone which is used to kill a little girl?

punjab Updated: Apr 14, 2018 22:11 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Nirupama Dutt
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Roundabout,HT Column,Nirupama Dutt

A lone candle is lit on what could be a slice of cake. Or is it the edge of a stone; a stone which is used to kill a little girl? One is not sure because all perception is lost and words seem to have deserted one. What does one say as she looks at you with her wide guiltless eyes? But something must be said. How can words desert one when needed the most? But those eyes will haunt, stab the heart for all times. Her beauty and her innocence questions the world around her. And I shudder thinking that if this could happen to her, it could well happen to my granddaughter who loves animals just as much as she did.

The animals she tended and brought back from the meadows were gentle creatures. Those who desecrated her in the temple were something else. I lament again: What does one say? So I turn to other voices one knows in the virtual world. All seem tongue-tied and are barely managing to find a few words in expression. Oriya poet Durga Prasad Panda who has lit a candle in memoriam musters a few words that say much: “I am ashamed of being a man (male)?” When someone points out to him that those who desecrated a temple and a little girl were animals, the poet retorts in angry broken phrases: “To equate them with animals will be a gross disrespect to ‘ animals’ ...even animals seem more civilised.. they never do such things as ‘rape’. They court for hours n days to woo the opposite sex...”

My granddaughter loves animals and whenever she goes to her father’s village in the hills she plays with the buffaloes, the cows, the goats, the dogs and the cat. Only the other day she went to the zoo to see other animals. “Nothing to be afraid of, they were all in a jail, a big jail with water, grass and trees”.

This little Heidi from the Gujjar nomadic tribe, so like writer Johanna Sypry’s fictional child in the Swiss Alps, adored animals because she had grown with them. Her foster father says that on the day she disappeared, she had gone back to the jungle to bring home a horse that had strayed. But alas! Our little Heidi unlike the one in the Alps did not have the fortune of meeting a goat boy and growing up to build a love nest. Love is a lost word too. I glance at a post by poet-translator Sukrita Paul and I find more broken words: “Deeply anguished. Sleepless & Helpless. Shamed as a human...” An anxious reply to this post is by an anxious father: “I tossed and turned in my bed last night... I too have 7-year-old twin daughters... Prayed for every girl’s safety”.

If only prayers could help. Why didn’t an idol come alive in the temple? Another voice cries out in anguish , “So much for religion yet neither her God nor the other’s came to her help”. Painter Gogi Saroj Paul in her series of works on Nirbhaya had shown a bare-bodied woman walking with a sickle in hand. These figures are so different from her clement ‘Nayika’ of the seventies and the eighties.

We will light candles, hold marches and twitter for a while and then all will be forgotten. But what about her eyes that are looking at us so earnestly? Well these eyes may become a memory forever in a Mangalesh Dabral poem or an NS Madhavan short story as the shame of a people who worship the Mother Goddess or Gogi will paint an altar for her: Her eyes looking out of a witness box demanding justice.

First Published: Apr 14, 2018 22:11 IST