He regained counciousness admist the cries and screams of people. He woke up and started walking. Without realizing that he was on a stretcher at a BMC hospital, he goes and sits on a empty wheelchair. He shut his eyes and started thinking what actually happened with him. Suddenly a number of images flashed in his mind, Attack.. Fire.. Sweta. He remembered his wife’s last shout, ‘Run..Run really fast from these Demons and take Sweta along with you’. It was her last curse, her stomach was brutally ripped off after that.
‘What are you doing here? ,You are not supposed to leave your bed’, the nurse said in a authoritative tone. For the first time he came back from his oblivion and experienced the pain of his own deep cuts which he got on his back. He was limping because his right leg had a gunshot. But where was his daughter Sweta. He was assured that they escaped the rioters fury and reached to a safe place, but he had no idea about where they were separated.
No place in Mumbai was safe at that time. He knew this fact and he was afraid for her daughter. After sometime he saw four strong men who were the part of a rescue team. As they passed by his bed, he urged them to find his daughter, Sweta. He described his daughter to them. Sweta was a beautiful 17-year old girl who had a mole on her right cheek. The men assured him that if she is alive, they will surely find her.
After a few days, they found a girl in a 4LTD BEST bus. She was very pretty and had a mole on her right cheek. They seemed to have scared the girl. The girl tried to sneak out of the bus after seeing them. Ultimately, they got hold of her. They asked her, ‘Are you Sweta?’, her face turned pale. But when the rescue team told her about the father, she was relieved.
The young men treated her well. They fed her, gave her milk and bread. Her top and jeans were a little torn. She nervously tried to hide her visible parts, particularly her cleavage with her hands. A man was generous enough to give his jacket to her.
Days passed, the father had no clue about where his daughter was. He was dwindling between the state of fear and hope. The rescue team had the same answer , ‘If she is alive, we will find her.’ But he didn’t lose hope, he prayed, literally everytime for Sweta’s safe return.
At the time when he was discharged, there was a chaos in the hospital. The rescue team brought some girls, who were found in a abandoned local train. The father’s anxiety rose. He searched for his daughter amongst those girls. Some were already dead but many of them were in condition which was even worse than dying. He entered a ward which had a dim red light and there she was, his prayers were answered. Sweta was lying on a stretcher. He checked her pulse and shouted with joy, MY DAUGHTER IS ALIVE. A lady doctor came in the ward and asked him to leave the room. He resisted and said, ‘I won’t leave my daughter alone again’ . The doctor assured him and said it was just a routine checkup and he can come after sometime. He left the room with tears of joy. But his joy soon turned into utter dismay , when he got a glimpse of the board which said- RAPE VICTIMS.
Inspired by Manto’s Khol Do.
© Gaurav Bumb