Ghosts in red lights

Her face like a twilight sky of bruises
Clad in an old saree, tired of abuses
Her bindhi red like a setting sun in fire
Above two Kohled eyes deep like an ocean.

Her tired face sparkles with relief
When I walk into her room, food in my hand.
The growls of her belly shouting
What her mouth never betrayed.

She feeds on the plain rice and dal
Amidst coughs, tears and smiles.
The camera starts rolling impatiently
Trying to lick money out of each grain served.

Craving to tell the tales of Calcutta streets
I was sent to this victim of rape
As a messenger of help with food and protection,
in exchange of her story.

My job is simple.
Give her food.
Talk to her.
Snap a picture.
Before anybody from other TV channels could.

She is the latest victim, the prey.
She is also the latest sensation.
The newest sister figure
the country wants to mourn for.

Mangalsutra adorning her neck
‌Sindhoor flowing on her forehead like a river of blood.
Sold by the Man who was to be her better half
His name hidden in her mehendi hands.
Her red bangles lay broken on the floor
Lips bitten and kissed for pleasure.

Dressed up with dreams in her eyes
To be a bride, a mother someday…
Caught in the walls of Songachi
Half eaten by the beasts with masked faces.

She talks to me in a low voice
Her words sounding like the pitter-patter of monsoons.
Thanking God for the help sent, though late
Blaming nobody for her Ill fate.

Listening to her story, with a heavy heart
Trying to hide tears with professionalism.
Startled.. suddenly when
Blood starts flowing from between her legs.

Ashamed to be in front of a man in that state
She tries to hide her blood with her saree
Tears like a Niagara of shame and disrespect
Blaming herself for being born as a woman.

A woman lost in a bowl of white rice
Sinking in a puddle of her own warm blood
Trying to hide her femininity
Blaming herself for the scars on her heart.

Back in the comforts of my home in London
I reread the article that shot me to fame
That beautiful face hidden behind a saree
Just one liberated, out of the thousand ghosts still roaming in red lights…

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