Hushed

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Gauri’s visage was ashen; she did not know what to do or think. So much under shock was she that she didn’t hear her mother calling out her name from the kitchen. She dashed past the kitchen, into the bedroom, and bolted the door before anybody else could enter. Once alone, she ran to her bed and burst into tears.

After a few minutes, Gauri heard banging on her door. At first, she was scared to open the door. But as the banging continued, she eventually got up from the bed, whimpering, and opened the door only to find her mother scowling at her. As soon as her eyes fell on her mother’s angry face she started wailing again. Taken aback, her mother asked her what the matter was and she narrated the entire ordeal she had gone through in the toilet––how she’d gone to relieve herself and found stains of blood on her clothes.

On the mention of blood, Gauri’s mother immediately pulled her into the room and bolted the door behind her. Once out of earshot of everybody, she finally told Gauri the truth––that she had finally entered womanhood; that she had now grown up. Gauri stopped sobbing as soon as she heard this; to her, it now seemed as if it was the best day of her life!  

However, what she heard next, left her speechless. She could neither pray nor visit the temple for the next 5–6 days. She could not enter the kitchen or have meals with her family. She could not even sleep with her parents in the bedroom; there was a separate room at the back of the house that was kept for women of the house to stay in during “those” days. Her mother and her aunt stayed in that room whenever they had “those” days and now she had to as well. But the worst of all restrictions was not getting to go to school during these 5–6 days.

After a couple of minutes, as she let all this new information sink in, Gauri asked her mother as to why she had to follow all those rules during those days and if her brother and other men of the family had such “days” during which they also had any such rules to follow. Instead of getting the answers she was hoping for, Gauri was reprimanded by her mother and ordered to get her clothes from her cupboard to take with her to the room. She was also warned to not mention a word of it to any male member of the family. Meanwhile, her mother looked for some rags for Gauri to use to collect the blood and prevent her clothes from getting stained.

Once Gauri had gathered her belongings, her mother directed her to the room at the back of the house that was supposed to be her place of stay for the next 5–6 days. The room was smaller than all the rooms of the house and quite dark too. Adjacent to it was a tiny washing area where, as Gauri’s mother told her, she was supposed to bathe and wash her clothes and rags. Gauri entered the room with her stuff and looked around as she kept it in the corner of the makeshift bed inside. 

Once she was settled, Gauri’s mother left her to herself in the room. Gauri sat on the corner of the bed, wondering what the coming days would bring for her. All of a sudden she heard what seemed to be children laughing. Instinctively, her feet took her to the small window at the back of the room. She sat by the window, her arms and head on the window sill, gazing at the children who were going to school, happy and carefree. Forlorn, Gauri did not want to grow up anymore; she did not want to become a woman. 

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