“Oh… wow… this… receiving this prestigious felicitation is … definitely an amazing moment of my life…I…uh...have never imagined that this will ……” One could sense her nervousness from her voice and from her hands, which are visibly shaking as she held the mike on the podium. Her smile on the other hand , is as vibrant as one can imagine.
She looked at the shawl wrapped around her. A plain maroon cloth with a gold lining all around. The smile suddenly faded away.
She looked at her brothers sitting in the front row, beaming with pride. She looked at the crowd assembled.
She took the shawl off and folded it in front of the crowd. She walked towards the chair she was felicitated and placed the shawl on it. The audience, most of them were waiting for the speech while some are keen to know why she did that.
She returned to the podium.
“I thank the Association for providing me with this honor. For recognizing my efforts in helping women all around. My Mother would be proud of this one.”
She looked at her brothers. Each one clearly happy for her. She kept staring at them. She didn’t speak until the whispers in the crowd started to fill the silence.
“I want to take this opportunity to talk about my mother. We are a family of six. My Father, my mother, three brothers and me. It was a simple family. My father was a daily laborer working for a wage. My mother was a cleaner in the municipality, working on a temporary basis. My eldest brother, sitting in the front row, used to work along with my father while my other two brothers and me attended school. But as you know, simplicity is often on the outside. Our father was an alcoholic who used to spend the daily earned money on gambling and used to get into fights every day. My Mother used to suffer the brunt of it from him and from the society. But she never stopped sending us to school, no matter what the difficulty outside was.”
The crowd was silent. May be because they know the type of story this was going to be.
She didn’t care.
“When we were kids, when I was 7 years old, one night, my father came to house with a knife covered in blood and soon followed police.”
The crowd gasped. They were clearly taken aback.
She didn’t care.
“The next few years did not go as any one of us would have thought. My father was convicted for the murder and he was thrown into a prison. He had no remorse for us. He had no remorse for my mother. He had no remorse for the person he killed. He had no remorse for the family of the person he murdered.”
The elder brother shook his head, afraid of what she was going to say. The second eldest brother looked at him and whispered something in his ears, that most certainly did not help the elder brother’s anxiety, for he kept his head in his hands. The last one, was smiling for he knew what his sister is going utter, for he knew that there is no stopping her.
For he knew she didn’t care.
“Our mother lost her job. The land owner kicked us out. The society stopped talking to her. They went ahead & called her all kinds of words. A lot of people offered her money in return for sex. The people he owed came and took whatever we have left. And before we find a way out of it, my mother and all of us were living on the footpath. We begged people in the traffic for money. She had to go to each and every person’s house seeking a job. Asking for any type of work. Asking for something. Anything. Wherever she had gone, there was only one question people used to ask her. “Your husband killed a man, right?” Wherever my brothers had gone, they were faced by only one statement. “A killer’s son, be careful.”
The youngest brother’s eyes filled with water. The images are clearly not helping him. Not helping any of the brothers as the other two were shocked to have someone tell the story in public, for they knew the judgement that is going to follow.
But, she didn’t care.
“A killer’s son, be careful.”
She paused to look at her brothers who are hiding their tears, anxiety & tension with all their might.
“My mother could not provide us with food for years. Yet she did not bend to the will of the society. She did not commit suicide. She did not resort to prostitution. She did not send our brothers to work forever under the people our father owed. She did not sell me off. She did not yield. All she did was marry a guy who lived in a jail, eating meals three times a day, living in a much better bed than us, under a roof that won’t fly away when the wind picks up. All she did was marry a guy who killed another man, when he was drunk & out of his mind. All she did was beg for a job in order to make sure there are clothes on all of us and we can sleep with proper clothes on in the freezing cold. All she did was try to educate us while cleaning houses.”
She covered the mic with her hand as she wiped away the rolling tears. After a second, she spoke.
“The day my father was convicted, he killed two families. The day justice came and told my father, “he’s done.” it also told something to my mother. It said, F*CK YOU.”
The audience had no answer. Some were stunned by the choice of words. Some were not, but none had a word to whisper. It was, as one would say, a pin drop silence.
She didn’t care for their reaction.
“But my mother responded, I don’t care, Just bring it on. It’s either you or me. And I am not done yet. ”
The youngest brother smiled.
“That shawl, right there, should not be given for people like me. We are merely the people who are inspired. That needs to be given to the people who are brave. Women who fight all the odds to survive. Who see life when death is breathing down their necks. Who fights for justice despite all the injustice that was done to them. Who are the victims of justice!”
Her body started trembling like a leaf.
“I reject the honor bestowed upon me, for this is something that I cannot accept.”
She left the podium. Her brothers stood up and followed her. A few of the audience stood up from their chairs in respect. A lot are perplexed as to what had just happened. But she didn’t care.
She didn’t care.
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