Chaaya’s kohl smudged eyes sparkled with delight. She admired her reflection and imagined what it would be like to be garlanded by Neel. As the gentle zephyr swayed her hair flirtatiously, she tucked a few untamed tendrils behind her ears. The red sari gifted by Neel, meandered along her curves. Today she would be free. Free from this business that required her to trade her body for money. She wouldn’t be living in the shadows anymore. Neel would come as promised to free her from this living hell.
Six months ago
“How can you love me in spite of knowing who I am? Don’t fill me with false hopes,” said Chaaya to Neel.
“Chaaya! I love you because you are beautiful inside out. You were pushed into this profession and that is not your mistake. I shall soon make you my lawfully wedded wife,” promised Neel.
“I am truly overwhelmed. But don’t you know getting me out of this place requires a huge sum of money? I can’t just walk out with you. I am bound by unwritten laws and rules.”
“I am a daily wager, no doubt. But I will work double shifts, beg, borrow and somehow succeed in getting you out from this place. Once you become my wife, I will ensure a happy life for you. You can forget your bitter past. We can start afresh in a new city. Mark your calendar. I’ll come back in exactly six months from now. I want you to be waiting for me like a bride, wearing this sari,” said Neel, giving Chaaya a red sari that belonged to his mom. He kissed her and left.
Neel toiled really hard, but found it difficult to accumulate the required amount. He asked his employer to lend money but his plea fell on deaf ears. Time was nearing. He did not want to break the promise he had made to Chaaya. He loved her deeply and could not imagine disappointing her.
Finally, when everything appeared bleak, the devil played its plot. Overcome by frustration, he struck his employer with one strong blow and quickly amassed a huge amount of money from his cash box. Neel hoped to run away with Chaaya before the police came looking for him.
Gasping for breath he handed the lump sum amount to Memsaab, the head of the brothel.
Chaaya was excited, oblivious to what had happened. As Neel held her hand trying to exit the brothel, police rounded up the building.
“Chaaya! I’ll come back. Trust me. I love you. I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” said Neel. Tears welled up in his eyes. He threatened the police with a knife to avoid being arrested. As the police retreated, he began running.
A gunshot was heard. BANG!
Neel felt an excruciating pain as a bullet pierced through his chest. His legs buckled and he collapsed on the ground.
Chaaya saw all her woven dreams shattering before her eyes.
Her life reverted to the shadows forever.