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Sex & Violence
  Vol II : issue 1

  Amrita Pritam
  Mrinal Pande
  Evelyne Accad
  Gagan Gill
  Selina Hossain
  Only in Print

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Bronze, cast 1957, by ALBERTO GIACOMETTI

Mrinal Pande

There is this story in the newspaper about a four-year-old girl who was married to a dog to ward off the evil eye from her family...

In comes Gauri, the matronly Bengali cleaning woman, two brooms in one hand and a can in the other. She lives in an unauthorised cluster of jhuggis and has been abandoned by her husband Haran, the father of her four children. She works for me not because she needs more work, but because of her daughter Sumitra, who used to be our cleaning woman, who has abandoned her husband and gone off to live with one Pontu, in another unauthorised shanty-town across the Yamuna river. Before she went away, Gauri tells me, Sumitra told her to take over her job in the “TV Memsahib’s” house, because she does not follow you from room to room or inspect the plastic bag that you carry.

“Move,” Gauri commands me, and I put my feet up on the sofa. She sets to work with the bamboo broom. “Come here first,” I say, and point out the picture of the little bitch in the newspaper. “See, she is from your part of the country. She is only four and her parents have married her to — a dog!’ I add after a dramatic pause.

“Oho,” Gauri says, resuming her work. “So? She is their daughter. They can marry her to anyone they like.”

“But don’t you see it is illegal? The police —”
“What police?”
“The local police.”
“No, no, why should the police bother?”
“Because you can’t marry off a girl before she’s eighteen. It’s the law.”
“So? She’s not married to a man.”
“Gauri, don’t you see? Her parents could still go to jail for this.”
“Who will speak against them? The dog?” Gauri collapses in laughter.
“It is no laughing matter,” I say. But I, too, am laughing.
“Oh Ma, at least he won’t come home drunk and beat her. Or arm-twist her family for a wrist-watch or a bicycle, or get her pregnant as soon as he can, and then run off with another woman. A son of a bitch is better any day, Ma, any day, than the son of man.”
“But the girl...”
“What about the girl? She looks happy. She must have eaten her fill of sweets, been dressed in new clothes. What more can a girl want?”
“But why should she be married to a dog before she knows what marriage is all about?”

Gauri takes a deep breath and speaks in chromatic and halting sentences:

“Last year I had this neighbour next door... She is an evil person with a real black tongue... My children, they were playing outside and she began to scream curses at them for no reason... ‘May the pox strike you... may you rot and turn blue ...!’ she does not have a husband or anything but does black magic for a fee... she can give you magic potions to attract a man or a woman beyond their good judgment... how else do you think I lost my husband to that daughter of a jackal in Seemapuri? How did that good-for-nothing Pontu get my daughter to elope with him? My younger son falls sick at night, vomiting his bowels out till there is nothing inside, and a raging fever... then I go to the other woman in the Patpargunj Mother Dairy jhuggi...”

“But we were talking abut the girl married to a dog...”
“So I knock on her door and I say this is what has happened... She asks me for a bottle of country liquor and one chicken and a hundred rupees... I beat her down to fifty because that is all I have... I come home and I find my son playing with his sisters. And the evil one, she falls sick next week ... from trying for a bad abortion, they say ... and disappears...”

p. 1 p. 2 

Mrinal Pande, television personality, journalist and author, wrote this for TLM in English. However, she continues to write fiction in Hindi, her first love. She lives in New Delhi