She remembers the fruit vendor watching in silence, she remembers the women passing by and giving her judgmental looks. She remembers the auto driver who chose to leave her with those ‘wild dogs’.

 By Aayat Tramboo

The voice got louder and started to echo: “Why’re you crying? Don’t be scared, I’m not a creep!”

The man started walking towards her while she was tied in ropes. Just when he was about to grab her arm, Inam screamed with her eyes shut, only to realize that it was a dream, again.

She found herself sweating and gasping for breath. As it got darker outside, the darkness within her heart kept growing.

Inam did not try to forget what had happened to her that day, instead, she played it again and again in her head, trying to figure out different and better possibilities of what could’ve happened, what could’ve been done and what could’ve been avoided.

In an attempt to comprehend her own emotions, she picked up a pen, inked it black and started to write her mind out in middle of the night: “Today, I got to know why people cry at the birth of a girl child. They don’t cry because girls are a burden, they cry because girls are ill-fated, they cry because they know what this world offers women, they cry out of fear that their daughter may have the same fate as thousands of women who are beaten, killed and humiliated every day. I am sure they cry because they know that women in this world are eaten up alive.

It was a bright Monday morning, Inam, a 20-year-old grad student stood at her bus stop waiting for her ride to college. As she waited, she noticed a black Mahindra Scorpio at rest close to her. It felt like the person in the car had come to pick someone up.

She looked at the car for a few seconds and then switched her attention to the tangled earphones in her hands that she inattentively was trying to detangle.

That whole day at college, Inam would talk to her friends about a new romantic movie she had watched. She wouldn’t stop talking about how lovingly the guy in the movie would look at his wife. Her friends would call her a hopeless romantic for believing in a form of love that they thought no longer existed. They said she could talk about love all day without her lips even drying up.

But who would’ve thought that a time would come in her life when the idea of love would scare her and trigger her anxiety.

Later in the afternoon as Inam and her friends left college, she was surprised to see a black Mahindra Scorpio a stone’s throw away from her. She was startled and told her friend about the weird coincidence.

“Do you know how many people in Kashmir own a black Mahindra Scorpio? My late uncle Idrees had one,” her friend jokingly said and they both broke into laughter.

The next morning, as Inam stood at the bus-stop, the black car stopped a few steps away from her. She felt a little nervous and scared like any girl would be. A couple minutes later, two young men came out of the car and stood beside her. She knew something was wrong. They looked harmless but she instinctively stopped an auto rickshaw to leave the situation as soon as she could.

An auto rickshaw stopped at her feet and as she was about to get in, she felt a grip around her wrist. She tried to free herself but the grip was too strong for her to fight. She grew anxious. No man had ever made her feel like she had no power over her own self before.

“None in this world is capable of understanding what it feels like to be humiliated and treated like you have no life. None can understand what it does to a person to have to submit out of fear. No man would ever dare to grab another man by the arm and intimidate him, he’d be missing a tooth before he even knew,” the contents of her midnight letter read.

The man asked the auto driver to rush away and he quietly followed the command. Inam wanted to say something, she wanted to scream but she felt like her voice was stuck in her throat. She looked at the man, trying to convey her displeasure. “My name is Waris,” he said.

Inam was an expressive young girl, always coming up with the wittiest responses but it was for the first time in her life, she didn’t know how to react and what to say.

She decided to escape the situation as safely as possible without angering them. So she hung her head down and waited for them to be tired of her face and leave. Deep inside, the realization of being weak and submitting to a filthy man, tore her apart but she stood still.

Standing there, with her pride being pulverized, Inam recalled every moment of her life when a man had wronged her. She recalled her 13-year-old self being winked at by an undesirable middle-aged man, she recalled her 16-year-old self being touched inappropriately in a public vehicle in broad day light, she recalled her 18-year-old self being locked in her classroom by some boys in her class. She couldn’t help but think about how she crosses creepy glares and undesirable gestures on her way from home to college and back.

The two men started a conversation about what they should do now. “Let’s take her along and sit somewhere calm and quiet,” said one guy to the other.

“No, let’s go to her home and have some tea, I’m sure her mother makes delicious tea,” the other replied.

Inam stood there with her mind flooded and a teardrop hanging from her eye. She thought to herself how she would explain any of this to her family if these men really did what they were saying.

“Why don’t you tell us what you want to do? Let me take you for shopping and buy you some fancy clothes,” one of those guys said.

Inam was frozen in her skin. She couldn’t believe what she was witnessing. After talking about tying her up, taking away her phone, kidnapping her to even stabbing her, these filthy young men said everything they could think of to scare her to the core.

It had been minutes and Inam hadn’t said a word. This was the longest quiet she had ever been.

“It was the hardest for me to stand there and listen to two strangers talking about doing dreadful things to me,” her letter reveals her torment. “Although they didn’t do anything but it still feels like they did deeper damage. Their laughter is still ringing in my ears and I still feel their hands around my wrist. I still feel like they are standing too close to me.”

Inam had kept her strength for too long now, she could feel herself losing patience and before she knew it, she found herself crying and begging them to leave her alone. “Why are you crying? I’m not a creep, I come from a very good family, you’re safe with me,” he said unabashedly.

Inam’s cries began to grow louder. The guys were scared that it may grab attention of the people standing there. They said to her that they would leave at one condition. They promised to let her go if she sang them a song. A part of her mind was thinking of ways to refuse but a part of her mind was thinking of songs to sing.

“You don’t have all day, this deal will be cancelled in ten seconds,” they said.

All Inam wanted was to get rid of those men and reach safety. She agreed to sing. The other guy took his phone out and started to film her. “What will you get by damaging my image? I’ll sing but please put the camera away,” Inam requested them to not record her.

As to see,” she penned down her pain in that letter, “I was just singing, but it felt like I was tearing my pride off my skin and feeding it to them. Badi mamma always says that my mind is my most beautiful feature. How do I tell her now that I have been robbed of my sanity forever? How do I tell her that my most beautiful feature has been taken away from me?”

The boys stood unmoved: “We’ve already given you much concession. This is the least you can do for us.”

Inam knew she had no option left but to sing for the pleasure of two guys she hated the most. She started to sing her favorite song, “Aitebar bhi aa hi jayega, milo to sahi milo to sahi, raasta koi mil hi jayega, chalo to sahi chalo to sahi, aitebaar bhi aa hi jayega”.

Inam remembers every moment of that horrific hour of her life. She remembers the fruit vendor watching in silence, she remembers the women passing by and giving her judgmental looks. She remembers the auto driver who chose to leave her with those ‘wild dogs’. She remembers refreshing her Instagram feed twenty times a day fearing to see her video there.

From a girl who wouldn’t stop talking, Inam transformed to a girl who wouldn’t talk a lot. From a Bollywood enthusiast, those Scorpio-driven scorpions transformed her into a girl who hated every form of happiness and pleasure as if it were a sin to smile, as if it were a sin to laugh.

“I’m sure wherever those filthy boys are, they don’t even remember me, but I don’t remember anything but what they did to me,” said Inam as she wiped her tears with her scarf.

“I want to tell someone what I feel, what happened to me but no one would care, why would they? I was killed, kidnapped or burnt down after all. My misery isn’t a misery because I am alive. This world only cares about bringing justice to the dead.”

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