She stared at the girl in front of her. Her face was covered with marks of a severe burn. She had dark hair, a fragile frame and was miserable to look at; except for her eyes, which showed vitality, will; a sign of hope and determination.
Sara walked away from the mirror, after finishing her 10-minute routine. Every day she would stare into it; On some days, the marks would seem less intense, sometimes they would be so prominent. Her image as reflected by the mirror would define her mood for the entire day, sometimes the other way round. After this, she would pray to God, not that she exactly trusted in Him, He had let her down twenty years back. Her entire family had been wiped out in the fire accident that broke out in their colony; she was left alone with pain in her heart and marks on her face. In spite of this she would pray, because she had no one else, she hoped someday her life would be fine, someday there’ll be someone to care, the only hope that kept her going.
She left for work. She was a sweeper for the City Corporation. All day long she cleaned all the areas allotted to her, sincerely. Her duties were fixed. Start sweeping at 6 am near the City garden and follow it up with the four streets branching out from there. She would finish her job around 9. After that she had to clean inside the garden. This was tough. There used to be morning joggers, students studying, mid-housewives talking, kids playing, teenagers exercising etc., but most of these people seemed so insensitive to the presence of dustbins with ‘USE ME’ tags on them. Still, she never lost patience with them because these were the people who kept her grounded to reality, who told her what life could be, for her too, someday.
Really tough situations for her when a playing kid would look at her and scream out for help or start crying to its mom about a ghost it witnessed. She would immediately walk up to the mother and ask for forgiveness. Some mothers would generously tell their kids that it was only sweeper aunty and that she is very friendly. Some would curse the Government for its insensibility in appointing ugly people in a park frequented by kids. These were the moments when she would curse God the most. The other times would be in the late evenings, when she would encounter the drunkards. But this was never as severe, her burn marks would let her escape with just verbal abuse, unlike the physical or sexual ones that other girls would suffer.
And this was how she lived, the life of an untouchable….
Sometimes she wished she could better have been handicapped. People had so much sympathy for them; there were institutions to care for them, Government laws and allowances to protect them. The Government didn’t seem to realise that being ugly was a handicap- a terrible one at that.
For twenty years now, she hadn’t felt the touch of a human on her skin. She had forgotten what it would be like. She yearned for a touch- of some form, of any form- caress, hug, tickle, slap, smack- anything. A touch which would tell her that someone claimed ownership over her, she was someone’s possession. There was someone who would love her, hate her, someone to whom her presence would make a difference. A girl in mid-twenties, she was in full bloom; she feared she would wilt like a flower unvisited by any bee, wasting all the nectar she held in her bosom. Still, she lived on….
It was the monsoon season.
Amidst heavy downpour, she was trying to clear the fountain outlet in the garden where dried leaves clogged the drain hole... (To be Continued)