“Arey, Shanti ki amma, isse acha aur rishta nahi milega, Ladka sheher main rehta hai, badi nuakri hai, bada ghar bhi hai, Shanti ki to lottery lag gayi hai”…
Shanti, was against the thought, of getting married and having to get settled in the “city”.Bada shahar hain, main kaise waha rahoongi, waha ke tareeke kaafi alag hai, main kaise , she thought aloud to herself
“Beti, Ghar pe lakshmi aayi hai, tu kyun usse thukra rahi hai, to kya hua agar who sheher main rehta hai, who to sirf tumse shaadi katrna chahta hai,samjhi?”
So finally it was fixed, Shanti was to wed the “babu” from the city, she never saw his picture!!... “tumhe dekhne ki kya zarurat hai, maine kaha tumhare babuji ka photo dekha tha?”.
It was the big day, she still couldn’t see his face as it was hid behing a “Sehra”. She blushed at the thought, of the moment when she’d get to see him, color filled her cheeks.
“Aey chal, jaldi tayar ho ja, Customer aate hi honge, aaj koi maal waala mil jaaye”
“Aapko Blood test lena hoga, aur phir ek hafte baad report lene aa jana”
“Arey , Shalakha, Tayar ho ja, jaldi kar, hum late ho rahe hain” … the woman went on,with a tune on her lips. Shalakha started her routine… She didn’t care to shower, she’d have to after the day”s job was done.. she draped a bottle green sari around her feminine frame, while turning around she adjusted her yellow blouse, she put on matching bangles, she pasted a bindi on her forehead, and smiled at her reflection, she applied Kohl on those large eyes which were vacant and lifeless.She scraped of lipstick to paint her lips. She completed her look, by placing a lifeless flower on her long black tresses…She was ready…
“Shalakha, tera regular waala aa gaya, dekh kaise sharma raha hai.. Pyaar ho gaya bechare ko, ab iska kya hoga”… she laughed a throaty laugh, and winked at shalakha..
“Kya saab aaj bhi yaha aaye ho, bas paisa dekar jayega, ya kuch karega bhi, huh?, bahut din se kuch kiya nahi”… Her saab just looked at her and smiled…”chal, aaj bi baat karte hain, teri kahani sunne aaya hoon”
“Fillum banayega kya"…she laughed, "chal theeke, aaja…”
Shanti held all the apprehensions of a Newly –wed. She could feel the goosebumps on her arms, when her husband entered the room. He shut the door behind her, switched off the lights, and asked her to get up early the next day, as they had to leave for Mumbai
She undressed quietly and went off to sleep, waiting for a new day.
She woke up at 6am, to find the bed empty. She checked in the bathroom – Empty. She stepped outside , she was greeted by her in-law, who handed her a letter. She opened it, to find a railway ticket, Jaunpur to Cst – dated 14/07/2008, which was 3days later. She searched the envelope for a letter, but found none.
It was chaotic on the 13th of july…Shanti’s family gathered at her place, all packing various things for her, “yeh aam ka aachar kaha tumhe bade sheher main milega?”, “Didi, main bhi sheher main aaoongi”, “shanti, agli baar jab aaoge, to mujhe who malam le aana”…. She tried remembering all of the demands, with as smile on her face, somehow, something bothered her, how was she to know whom to meet at the station? She had never seen her husband, she rubbished her apprehensions, and ignored the Fear that kept creeping up in her mind.
Mumbai Chatrapti shivaji terminus main aapka swagat hain, platform number..... chai chai.....aapka saaman loon kya… kaha jaana hai….the crowd, the noise, scared her, she kept looking around, not knowing whom to be looking for. Amid all that chaos… came a Man , in his late 20’s… “shanti bhabhi, namste, main Amar, Mahesh ka dost, woh office main busy hain, isliye mujhe aapko Ghar chodne ko kaha hai, aayiye… aapka safar kaisa raha?” .
The conversation went on.. Amar made her feel comfortable, he spread a brotherly care and warmth around her. She was engrossed in the sights the city had to offer, along with Amar’s conversation.. After almost an hour and half, the cab stopped, she looked outside, and was greeted by a Woman, probably in her early 40’s.
Amar walked over to the woman, and handed over Shanti’s luggage. “Ekdam nayi hai khalla jaan, Jitna diya hai, usse jyaada le aayegi”.Shanti looked at Amar, not able to comprehend anything, she looked at khalla jaan and smiled. “inka samaan andar rakhwaado, Amar”..
“Tumhara naam kya hai?”,Ji, mera naam shanti hai”… Khaala looked at shanti, “Shanti , to nahi chalega beti, kuch aur sochenge” Before shanti could answer, Amar came over. He opened the door to enter the cab, “Amar bhaiyya, who kab aayenge?” , Amar looked at Khaala and laughed, “Bhabhiji. Who to har din aayenge”.. “chalta hoon Khaala jaan”
“khaala jaan, main kuch samjhi nahin”, “jitna kam samjho utna tumhare liye acha hai, jao, shaam ke liye tayaar ho jao, main naye kapde bhijwa deti hoon”. “arey nahin khaala jaan, mere paas kapde hai”, “yaha, tumhare kapde nahin chalenge, jao, jaise kaha hai, waise karo”
Shanti did not like what was given to her, however, she did not say anything, and just so that she could please khaala jaan, she wore what was given. At around 7pm, there was a knock on her door, she glanced at herself in the mirror, before running towards the door, she took a deep breath before opening the door. She smiled and welcomed the stranger into her room.
She was taken aback when he grabbed her, she hesitated, and then gave in to his hunger. After he was done , he grabbed his wallet, and took out 6000, and gave her,"Yeh tere liye, jyaada hain, rakh le”.. she looked at the money thrown on the bed and back at her “husband” who was dressing up, “aap kaha ja rahe ho?”.. He looked at her and laughed,”itna acha laga kya main tujhe, Ghar jaa raha hoon, agle hafte aaonga”. Shanti could not comprehend anything, she looked at him dazed and confused, wondering what to say next.. “aap yaha nahi rehte?”… he laughed uncontrollably, “ main yahan kyun rahoon, janeman, randi ghar main paise lagte hain, har din to nahin aa sakoonga, har hafte aaonga, teri pyaas bhujaane” She sat staring at him, as he left.
She was startled with another knock at 8:30, she walked over to open it, expecting her husband to be back, she was met by another stranger who glanced at her from top to bottom, and smiled, calling out to khaala jaan and saying that she was worth the money, He forced himself inside the room, and closed the door. He loved the timid look in her eyes.
Her screams filled the house, Khaala jaan had an annoyed look on her face. She hated the screams.
At around 10:00, there was another knock….. and then it continued.
Shanti became Shalakha, not knowing who her husband was.. she never bothered. She saw Amar , briging in another girl. Her blood was boiling.. she looked at Amar from the balcony, and cornered him while he was keeping the luggage.
“ Bahut kaam kar liye, mere kamre main aake aaram karlo”, she said toAmar. He was startled at the invitation, and couldn’t resist it …
She went to collect her blood report..She was diagnosed with HIV, a disease common among Sex Workers. Shanti aka shalakha wasnot bothered by that fact.
Amar stepped out of her room, with a satisfied expression, he glanced behind and saw a smile on her lips, that smile reached her eyes. He left, not knowing the reason behind her smile…
Shalakha found solace in Nitin, a documentary filmmaker, who spent hours with her, talking. She felt like a human in his presence not like a piece of meat that she was often treated as…”Nitin, meri kahani to khatam hui, Abhi aap aapki film banao.. mujhe dikhana zaroor". He nodded and left.
Nitin came back after 2 years, he wanted Shalakha to see the movie, and even tell her about the awards it got him.
“tu kaha tha re chikne, Shalakha gayi to kya hua, main to hoon”…. “shalakha, kidhar gayi?”..” arey wo to mar gayi re, ekdam, 6 mahine ho gaye, tu aaja, main hoon an idhar”… Nitin walked away from there…
Special thanks to,
Mr, ramesh das – for his support
Ms Shalakha - For pouring her heart out…
"MERI KAHANI, KISI AUR KE SHABD"
and the credits went on ….
Story : Shalakha
Directed by :Nitin Verma