It was 5am on the fifth day of July. There was something different about that rainy morning. Instead of Piyali getting dressed for school, her mother was dressing up to leave the house. The bags were packed. Shraddha checked her handbag to ensure that she had her phone charger and glasses in it. Arun was waiting in the living room. He looked absolutely calm and at ease.
Shraddha was promoted as the senior manager in her company. She had to go to Bangalore for a 3-month training program. She was working very hard for this opportunity and did not give a second thought before accepting it. It was time to leave Kolkata, her husband and their 11-year old daughter for a few months and go to Bangalore.
After much research, a nanny was hired from a reputed agency. The maid was instructed to cook whatever Piyali asked for. Arun requested Piyali’s class teacher to reach out to him about her scores in her mother’s absence. Shraddha explained to her daughter that she was going for some important work and will be back after three months. She downloaded a video calling app on Piyali’s tablet so they would see each other every day.
It was not easy for the child to absorb everything going on around her. The only thing she knew was, her mother was leaving her alone. Piyali had been a quiet and introvert child. She did not have many friends. Her only companion and confidante was her mother. Arun had always been a busy man. He never had time for his family. He aimed for a life of luxuries and anything that came in the way of his ambition was a waste of time for him.
The cab arrived at Banerjee residence. Shraddha kissed her daughter for the last time before she left for the airport. “Bye Piyu. Be a good girl. We will meet very soon.” She said lovingly and got into the cab. Piyali’s heart sank as she saw the cab getting fainter and fainter down the road.
The doorbell rang after an hour. The new nanny was introduced to Piyali. “I am your new nanny. My name is Deepa,” said the young woman with a plastic smile.
Arun failed to notice the sadness in his daughter’s eyes. He asked Deepa to dress up Piyali for school. Piyali had silky long hair touching her waist. It took an hour for Deepa to plait her hair. Arun dropped her to school in the car.
More than a month passed. Deepa was doing the bare minimum of her duty. Piyali became quieter than before. She went to school every day, ate anything that the maid cooked and completed her homework on time. Talking to her mother before bed was her favourite time. She shared every little detail of her day with Shraddha. At times, she buried her face in the pillow and cried when she missed her mother. Piyali was counting days. She wanted to hug her mother once again.
Arun never came home early, in spite of knowing that Piyali was alone and Deepa left in the evening. The father and daughter hardly talked.
The maid was on leave for a day. When Piyali returned home in the afternoon, Deepa was fast asleep. Piyali was unable to stand due to a terrible stomach ache. Her body was behaving weird that day. She ran to the washroom and saw blood stains on her skirt. She changed her clothes but the suffering did not end there. Her clothes were stained with blood once again. She remembered her mother educating her about menstruation. All the pubic hair and acne started making sense immediately. It was not difficult for her to realize that she has got her first periods. She called up Shraddha to inform. There was nobody other than her mother to guide her on how to deal with this change.
Anxiety crept into Piyali’s mind. She lay still on her bed watching the raindrops making sad patterns on the outer side of the glass window. She did not want to do anything. It was getting extremely difficult for her to hold her emotions. She felt a lump in her throat and burst into tears. She wanted to shout and scream and vent out her anger. As the sky turned grey and darkness was empowered by the bright city lights, that 11-year old could see her world crashing down. Images of that devilish doctor flashed in front of her eyes. He would touch her inappropriately whenever her mother took her to his clinic for a check-up. Each time she tried to tell her parents about him, she ran short of words.
Deepa kept food for her on the table and left for the day. As usual, Piyali slept before Arun returned home.
It was raining heavily the next morning. Deepa rang Arun to inform that she will not be able to make it to work. Arun asked Piyali to get ready for school by herself. She wore her school uniform, packed some biscuits for lunch and arranged the books in her bag. “Baba, I cannot do my hair. Can you do it for me?” she asked in a low voice.
“No, Piyu. I don’t know it too. Let it be. Leave your hair the way it is.”, he said.
Piyali knew she cannot go to school with messy hair. Her teacher had asked all the girls to comb and plait their hair neatly. Before she could say anything further, her father yelled, “Hurry up. We are running late. I have to go to office after dropping you.”
After the assembly, all the students were asked to go to their respective classrooms. Piyali was last in the queue.
“What is wrong with your hair?” the headmistress of the school frowned. A shiver ran down Piyali’s spine.
The headmistress called her class teacher. “Ask this girl to stand outside the class for the first period,” she ordered. “Students must be disciplined. This is not expected from them.” She added.
Piyali stood outside the class while her classmates poked fun at her. She wanted to fight with her mother for leaving her. She wanted to tell her father how much she disliked him. She wanted to stab that wicked doctor for molesting her. There were a thousand things she wanted to do that moment. She went to the girl’s washroom and cried bitterly. Her sobs were unstoppable.
She felt aching pangs of loneliness after she returned from school. Period cramps and hunger worsened her condition. She was numb. After sometime, something struck her like lightning.
It was 9pm. Arun opened the front door. There was a deafening silence in the house that evening. Piyali was not there in her room. “Piyuuu,” he called her. He received no response. He went to the kitchen and then to the balcony. Piyali was to be found nowhere. He searched for her in the neighbourhood. Suddenly, he heard some sound from the attic.
A thousand thoughts ran through Arun’s mind. He rushed to the attic and saw Piyali sitting on the floor. She was no longer a timid little girl. Her body language was a strange mix of a troubled teenager and a provoked woman. She looked terrifyingly with a pair of scissors in her hand. There were blood stains on her frock. Her face had no expressions, her eyes had no tears. The floor was covered with brown locks. Piyali had cut all her hair. She hardly had any left on her scalp.