I wanted to share with you a short story I recently submitted to a writing contest at The Write Practice. The prompt was "America Is." Instead of a typical piece on fireworks and apple pie, I took another angle.
It's a hard story to read. It was hard to write. The story is fiction but it is based on research I have done on human trafficking in India. Girls, such as the one depicted in my story, are real. The greatest gift we can give them is to look full faced at their suffering and not turn away. To allow their need and our compassion to compel us to action.
Nazeeya sat on her little cot looking at a patch of sky through the small window high above her head. It had been days since she had seen the whole expanse of that blue or smelled fresh air. It had been days since she had seen anything, except the walls of her prison, and men.
She imagined her younger sisters, her mother, her father all sitting under the same blue sky. Did they looking up as they tended the garden in their little village and think of her too? The ache in her chest grew tight, almost too tight to breathe, as she remembered the last day she had seen them.
Her father had brought a strange man to the house. He was at least twice Nazeeya's 15 years. A cold chill had shivered down her spine as he was introduced as her prospective husband. His name was Abhijay. “He will offer a home to you,” her father had said. “You know we have little to feed you with. Women in his village are scarce and he needs a wife.”
Her parents had little choice, and she knew it. There was no reason to argue. Had they known her fate they may have been less willing to part with her, even for the modest payment. Abhijay had taken her hundreds of miles away to a village in the province of Delhi. But a marriage had never taken place. She had lived with him as a wife for several weeks and then he had sold her
at a profit.
The new man had not bought her to be his wife either. She was taken to the outskirts of New Delhi and given into the custody of Avani. The old woman had charge of a house full of girls. They rarely saw one another but she could guess their stories. They were poor, with little hope, and now even less.
She pulled her blue sari around her and swatted away flies. Dressed in azure from head to toe she was the only bright spot in the drab, dirty room. The greyness had crept into her soul until she felt nothing. Except perhaps the faintest glimmer of irrational hope.
Reaching under the thin mattress of her cot she pulled out a magazine. Written in English she understood none of the articles or advertisements. She did understand the pictures. Images of well dressed, well fed people smiled at her. Pretty houses and pretty things, bright colors and unfamiliar landscapes spoke to her of beauty and wonder.
One page in particular captured her attention; a man in a uniform, his arm around a woman, children by their side. There were pictures of him getting off of a plane surrounded by his family all holding little flags. A picture of him
playing with a dog in front of a nice house, the same flag hanging from a pole. Red, white, and blue. She knew what that meant. America.
It was her one hope. Even more than returning home she longed for a new life in America. There was nothing for her here. If she went home would she be sold again? Her parents couldn't afford a dowry, or to keep her, which is why they had sold her in the first place.
She tore out the picture of the family standing happily together, flag waving proudly in the background. Folding it carefully into a square she tucked it into her dress beside her heart. Quickly she slid the magazine back to it's hiding
place. She never knew when the key would grate in the lock or who
Several hours later Nazeeya was awoken by Avani storming into the room. Yelling at her. Hitting her with a heavy stick. She makes out from the woman's shrill screams that she has committed the ultimate sin. She's become pregnant. Apparently a customer has complained about her condition. Angry at the inconvenience and loss of income the old woman takes her anger out on Nazeeya's thin, already bruised body.
It's dusk and Avani's blows drive Nazeeya from the room and into the courtyard where the man waits for her in an dirty black jeep. The old woman throws her into the back and shuts the door. Huddling in the floor Nazeeya glances up at the strong back and bald head of her owner. Trembling she rides in silence as the houses slip away and fields flash by in the twilight.
She knows she will never make it to the land of promise as he roughly drags her from the backseat into the empty field. Fumbling for the page tucked into her clothes as she's dragged along, she reaches for hope even now. Her eyes fall on the smiling faces and bright flag as the man shoves her to the ground, planting her face in the dirt with his boot.
Nazeeya's heart races to the sound of steel as he unsheathes his Gurkha knife. Freedom comes in many forms. She closes her eyes against the harsh world. With a whoosh of his blade her red blood stains the brilliant blue of her sari and splatters her crumpled hope.
Freedom shouldn't be a commodity we posses but a way in which we live. I think it's important, and a gift, to use our freedom for the good of others. If you're interested in responding to the need, here is a website that sells jewelry made by young women rescued from the horrors of human trafficking, offering them dignity and hope, setting them free. http://www.isanctuary.org/home