It was not green. It was in the shade of chartreuse, when Meena looked at them. A perfect blend of green and yellow. The mango looked delicious even while it was hanging from the tree. The sun was probably preparing itself to go down the horizon and had softened its glaze. The subtle ombre colored hues gave it the perfect blend of a summer afternoon. Meena loved this time of the year. She considered herself lucky to visit her grandparents every summer vacation, where she could run around in the mango orchard that they owned and could freely chase the butterflies in their front yard which had a beautiful garden with all possible flowers in it. This was not possible in their two BHK apartment where her father was posted.
Twelve rounds around the sun and Meena seemed beautiful and bubbly with each passing year. She was a pampered kid and the only child of her parents, who had conceived Meena after a lot of difficulties. Meena was the answer to all their prayers and the end to their periodic visits to the IVF experts. She was welcomed amidst much celebration and was the apple of the eye of her parents, who were elated after being able to procreate rather than paying attention to the fact that they did not have a male child as everyone in their family had desired. Meena, with pink shades on her cheeks and a soulful smile with her dimples looked gorgeous and was like a living doll . She was her father’s princess, and was unaware about any difficulties of life as she had been insulated from it with parental layers of protection.
“Then what happened Maa?”asked Riya, a 11th grader sitting beside her Maa in the kitchen and helping her mom peel groundnuts so that they could be used readily.
“Patience my child, I could never tell all this to you while you were younger but now you should know everything so that you understand how to deal with people.” She then continued telling the narrative to her daughter.
After a lot of trial , Meena managed to aim rightly and the mango fell on the ground after the stone hit the target . Elated with her achievement, she took the mango in her hands and ran towards the watchman. Ramu, a man in his late fifties was the one who took care of all the farming activities of the family. He had been with the family for over 30 years now and was like a family member.
“Uncle, see what I got! See, I threw the stone at it many times and I failed. But my teacher in the class had said. Try and if you fail, try harder. So I tried again. See what I got! I am going to show this to Papa. He will give me a present instead of scolding him.” Meena said all this with a big smile.
Ramu was looking at Meena with complete attention scanning her and imagining what a beautiful woman she would grow into when she attains full maturity. He slowly pinched her plump cheeks while staring lustfully at the slightest hint of elevation on Meenas’s bust, the first sign of her hitting puberty any time soon.
“Scold you ? Why?” asked Ramu.
“Arey, Ramu Uncle I came without telling anyone na ! They were all taking afternoon naps after lunch and I just sneaked out. I had to get the mango at any cost.”
“Ohh Meena , very good ! You are so beautiful and see what you have done . You are just like this mango, about to ripe but just not yet and that makes you perfect. You are delicious just like this mango . You are so good.”
Meena was smiling with her innocence filled eyes that sparkled with purity unaware of the darkness this world carries and the corrosive effect of sinful gestures that make the society hollow. She felt victorious hearing words of appreciation from him, whom she had always considered as a part of their family. She clapped her hands and jumped with happiness, a happiness that is unconditional and probably is in the most refined form , thanks to the purity of childhood.
In no time, her expression changed . Her smile vanished and she did not know how to react. She felt scared a little puzzled , and feelings she did not understand.
The guard had by then flashed his manhood in front of the little soul , an act that only showcased the irrationality of a psychopaths’ way of thinking.
” See this is your prize! You like it no ?”, He asked her with with his wicked smile on.
Meena stood there still like a rock , frozen in time. She had already dropped her mango on the ground and had no knowledge about it.
“See , if you tell anyone about this, I am going to report that you regularly come to the orchards escaping your nap times. Will you say this to anyone? “He again pinched her cheeks, and this time it hurt Meena and she let out a cry. Without any delay, she ran towards the house. It seemed that the distance would never end. She had no courage to look backwards. She went straight into her room and went under the bed. She held her knees close to her body and put both her hands on face and then burried her face deep into her knees. Tears started flowing from her eyes but she did not make any sound.
Her mom busy talking to other relatives of the house, a rare chance that she gets to have once in a year , did notice her daughter run to her room.
“Meena, what happened, Beta? Where did you go during your nap time? I have told you not to wander around without telling me , right? Now where have you gone hiding? See, Mumma will tell papa about all this. Come out now my dearie!
There was no noise, which was very unlike for the chirpy little Meena.
Her Mom, finally bent down to discover her and pulled her out the bed.
“What happened baby? Why are you crying? Tell me everything.”
Meena hugged her mother and continued to cry . She could only say “Margo orchard… Mumma… Mango orchard…. and then …. Mumma !!” and continued sobbing.
Her mother thought probably her daughter was unable to fetch a mango and was disappointed . This made her laugh really hard at her daughter’s silliness.’ Don’t you worry, I will make your favorite mango ice creams from your favorite mangoes from the orchard. It’s ok if you failed to fetch a mango.” She held her daughter in a tight embrace while planting a kiss on her forehead.
That night, Meena slept hugging her mumma and not her father which she usually does. Thinking this being natural, as their daughter was now in growing years, the parents took it as a sign of hormonal changes and did not bother much.
Meena had stopped going to the orchard and had suddenly become quieter over the next few days . She ate less and did not go out playing. Whenever, she came across Ramu, the guard, who smiled at her mischievously, she would be petrified and looked down and would run away to hide under the bed . At night, she would wake up suddenly after getting nightmares. Her parents were tensed but did not understand the reason behind all this .
“Mumma, when are we going to our place? I am getting bored here. Let’s pack our bags soon.”
“Ohh ho ….Meena, you were the one, who wanted to visit your grandparent’s house so badly and now you want to go back so soon !Our tickets are pre booked . We will leave only after ten days now. Grandmas was searching for you, go inside the pooja room. She is probably there. “Meena obliged and slowly went inside Pooja room.
“What happened to our Meena’s smile? Where has it vanished?”, asked her granny fondly. Meena did not say anything. She quietly helped her grandma prepare garlands from the flowers and seemed dull.
The next day, one of the distant uncles of Meena had arrived. Meena had somehow never liked him. He would always tightly squeeze Meena whenever he saw her, and she did not like it at all. But she could never express what she underwent to anyone. She had however ,with much difficulty expressed her displeasure with her Mom that day. But she dismissed her saying ,” Meena he just adores you . He loves you Beta, don’t sulk like this. Go be a sport now. If he did not love you , why would he get those expensive box of chocolates for you? Go now, don’t be a cry baby just go with your uncle to the market. He wants to buy a new dress for you. He will take you in his new car. Just go with him.”
“Maa, then what happened?”, Rina again enquired . Her mother paused and started narrating again.
“Meena, came home that day as a different person after that fateful day . Despite many interrogations all she did was keep absolute silence. Her smile had been lost, as if for ever . She felt uncomfortable in presence of people and especially men. His father became just another man for her and no one could ever understand what had gone wrong with this brilliant little child. Some blamed it as a result of excessive pampering, some termed it as side effects of approaching puberty, some even said she is just developing an attitude and she being a girl must be controlled from now on.
Her parents were clueless about how to handle the situation. Her grades constantly degraded and soon she developed anxiety disorders where she was advised my medical experts for taking a year off from school and seek expert help.
Meena , was diagnosed with acute depression and anxiety. Her parents wondered if such a thing was possible for a child to suffer. They did not understand how in spite of giving all their love and attention, their only child suffered such miseries.
Meena was now reclusive and withdrew herself into a cocoon. She was now only close to her mother and talked with no one else. After about eight months of medication and being kept under constant observation, one evening Meena handed over a letter to her mother describing everything. She had described how her innocence was murdered in the backseat of the car, how she understood that the touch was wrong in the mango orchard, how she was molested like a flower being crushed because of its purity and beauty, how she had started fearing all men and how she wanted to run away to some distant land where nothing of this kind ever happened and how within a span of fifteen days made her see things differently. She apologized that she could now never love her father like before because he too ,was a man.
In tears and without being able to find a single suitable word to console her daughter, her mother just took her in her arms and cried out loud in the hospital ward.
“Maa, so finally how did Aunty get her Doctorate after getting through all this? asked Riya , interrupting the flow of the narration.
“Well, she recovered from the trauma eventually. It took a few years for her to function normally and with her sheer will power and the determination of her parents she completed her education and got a job too. But anything that was broken forever was her belief in love, in accepting that men can also be nice, in seeing the beauty of companionship. She never agreed to marry and probably because of her lonely life she has turned sour. Therefore, I want you to be respectful to her even if she scolds you next time, now that you know the entire truth.
Riya, nodded in agreement while still finding it hard to believe.
Meena Aunty was the distant cousin of Riya’s father. Riya was listening to Meena Aunty’s life happenings from her mother. Meena , now a 76 years old lady, rocked in her arm chair in the veranda with a book in her hand. She still looked beautiful with those set of wrinkles with a pair of glasses on the bridge of her tiny little nose.
Depression is often gender & age neutral. It is a monster that hides under the veil of normal behavior and even children suffer from it owing to child sexual abuse .
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