It was raining heavy all through the night and I really was not in a mood to go for the morning rounds. After a rain, it is nice and cozy to hide under a blanket and sleep, besides I didn’t fancy walking on the muddy roads in my campus.
“Hey, not going for the rounds?” Aparana asked. She was getting ready to leave. She was posted to the medical wards. I envied her. I wanted to be in the medical wards, after few weeks in the OBG department, there was no excitement. Every patient in the labour room came to give birth! Being a government hospital, patients are encouraged to give birth naturally.(funds are always limitted) If I was really lucky, there would be a forceps delivery.
“Nah, I am going to sleep. Can you do me a favour?”
“what favour?”
“Can you answer my roll call?”
Aparna looked at me and I knew she was thinking if she would get in to trouble for answering my roll call
“Don’t worry Aparna, that fellow(peon) has an IQ of a cockroach. He won’t notice that you have answered twice!, Please Aparna, I will return the favour any time you need.”
“You will answer my roll call for me?”
“Yes I will,which one are you planning to bunk?”
Aparna thought for a while and spoke
“Forensic on friday. Then I don’t have to come back from the hospital after the morning rounds”
“Ok, no problem”
“Promise?” Aparna asked again
“Do you want me to lock the door from outside?”
“Yeah, sure. please give the key to Gangamma, she will open the door at lunch time”
I watched Aparna closing my room door.
I was just about to close my eyes, When I heard Sumi asking Aparna
“Have you seen Nina?”
The next second Sumi was in the room and a smiling Aparna right behind her
“Aha, so this is how you spend your morning eh? skipping the clinical rounds eh? Wait till I let the Princy know, who is hiding behind the locked door!”
Aiyyah. Not like that, You see Sumi, I was reading a lot last night, So I am tired. It is not fair on the patients to have sleepy head examining them, is it? That is why I decided to forego todays rounds”
“What did you study last night?” Sumi asked
“Studied? She studied? Do you want to know what she was reading?” Aparna came closer to me and lifted my pillow and showed the evidence to Sumi
Discourse on the method by Rene Descartes.
“So you were reading story book, not studying!” Sumi spoke
I smiled the sweetest smile
“Nice, very nice” She nodded her head
“I have to go now, otherwise I will miss the bus, See you later Nina, Bye Sumi” Aparna walked off quickly
“Now get up and get ready”
“For what? I am not going for the rounds, Please Sumi, see Aparna left already. Now even if I hurry, I would miss the bus”
“We won’t. Please Nina, Hurry up.I need your help Nina, you are posted in the OBG right? I heard from my classmate Ravi that there is a very interesting Placenta Previa case in your hospital. I have never had a posting in your hospital. So I need you to come with me”
I owed my part 2 exam success to Sumi. She was the only person who stood by me and for her, even if she asked me to bring the moon, I would try. So I got up, quickly changed my clothes. By the time we reached the bus stop, college bus had already gone. So we took an auto.
“So how are you doing Nina? I haven’t had a chance to speak to you for a long time”
“I am doing good Sumi”
“Nina, Can I ask you a question?”
“Who send that letter?”
“I don’t know Sumi” How do I tell my good friend that my maternal uncle is the one who send the letter? I would have loved to tell her the truth, but I knew there is no chance that she would believe me.
“Why would anyone do such a thing? That too the day before your exams?”
“May be they wanted me to fail the exam?”
“What do they gain, if you fail the exam?”
“Don’t know Sumi”
“hmm” She mumbled

By the time we reached the hospital, students were already doing their morning rounds. I hoped, Aparna answered my roll call. I needed 75% attendence to be allowed to write the theory. I had already skipped quiet a few days!
There was a huge crowd outside the OBG wards
“What is going on?” I asked one of my classmates
“Rape case”
“Oh!, Why is everyone standing outside?”
“Patient won’t talk. She came in last night. She was brought in by her neighbour who said she was raped by her uncle”
A shiver ran down my spine. I looked inside the ward. Bed 1 was a placenta previa patient on observation, and on bed 2 was this child, probably 10 or 11 years old and she was staring at the ceiling. I didn’t have to even guess if she was the rape case. I knew for sure she was the victim.
“Why are you all standing here, instead of taking a case history?” Sumi asked
“Patient won’t talk. Her mother came last night and threatened her. She was asked not to open her mouth.”
“Give me the case file” Sumi asked the nurse.
I looked at the report in Sumi’s hand. Patient’s name was Meenakshi, she was a daughter of immigrant labourers from Tamil Nadu, apparently raped by her own uncle. I looked at the physical signs on the chart. Apart from all the internal injuries, Injuries on her thighs and abdomen, her nipples had been bitten off. I couldn’t even fathom the pain and the trauma this poor child has gone through
“How could any mother do such a thing. we need to talk to her, we have to convince her to talk, so we can file a police report. That guy ought to be puished” Every one of my classmates were visibly angry with the mother of the victim and the attacker. Not one person bothered to think about the girl. She was 11 years old, scarred for the rest of her life and not enough, she would be forced to go back and live in the same household and re live the whole nightmare again and again.
Most immigrant labourers in Bangalore live in small one room houses and often one can find parents, grand parents, uncles and aunties living in the same household.
“Nina, where is the placenta previa case?” Sumi asked me
“Come with me” I walked inside the ward and showed Sumi the patient and explained to her the whole case history. I could see my classmates coming one by one and cajoling Meenakshi to talk. Everyone wanted justice. Evderyone wanted Meenakshi to speak, so they can write a report and file a police complaint. Meenakshi just stared at the ceiling.
I so very badly wanted them to leave her alone. But there was no way anyone would have listened to me. Each person thinks he/she is smarter than the one before him/her. That is the way of life.
“Any other cases?” Sumi asked
“one query missed abortion and 2 eclampsia” I showed Sumi the rest of the cases and together we did the case hsitory again.
“You are pretty thorough Nina” Sumi spoke
I felt happy hearing that from a senior.”Thanks Sumi” I replied
“What time is it?”Sumi asked while checking her watch
” 11.30? Do you think I will have enough to go to the medical ward and see if Aparna has any interesting cases?”
“I think so, medical ward is on the other side” I pointed the direction
“Are you not coming?”
“In a short while. Sumi I need to see the consultant, I don’t know how long it would take. Tell you what, Don’t wait for me, if I missed the bus, I will take an Auto. Will you be ok to go to the medical ward on your own?”
“Sure” I watched Sumi leaving and soon all my classmates too started to leave the wards. Students usually go for a short tea break before going back to the campus.
“Nina are you coming?” One of them asked
“In a short while”
I waited for everyone to leave and then walked to Meenakshi’s bed. She didn’t even bother to look at me. She just stared at the ceiling. There was a tray of uppumavu and a glass of milk +water( more water, less milk) by the side table.
“Hi Meenakshi, my name is Nina” I whispered in Tamil
“Do you know something, I am hungry” I saw her looking at me for a split second and when our eyes met, she quickly went back to looking at the ceiling.
“Do you know what happend to me today?” I waited to see if she would look at me, she didn’t, but I knew she was listening
“I didn’t want to come to the hospital today, so I was in my room sleeping and because of my bad luck, my senior found me and dragged me all the way here. And I didn’t get time to eat my breakfast. Can you imagine my bad luck? I didn’t get break fast, I didn’t get to sleep and now I am speaking to a girl who is staring at the ceiling”
I watched her closing her eyes. We progressed from staring at the ceiling to pretending to sleep. But I couldn’t give up on her. I probably am the only one who would ever understand what she is going through.
My legs were hurting and I wanted to sit, but rule number 1 is never to sit on the patient’s bed. There was no place to sit and I promised myself, I will never wear high heels, during morning rounds.
I so very badly wanted to talk to Meenakshi. The easiest thing to say would be, I know what you are going through, I can understand your pain. But that would make no sense to a child. I had to find some other way to talk to her.
“Do you know who is Meenakshi?”
She didn’t reply
“Oh my goodness, your name is Meenakshi and you don’t know who is Meenakshi? My day is getting worst by the minute. How can you not know who is Meenakshi?”
“I know, Goddess” She finally mumbled.
“Good, phew! Thank you Meenakshi. I thought I am having such a terrible day today”
“What did you have for breakfast?” I asked her, then I looked at the side table
“You also didn’t eat your breakfast like me? And you got uppumavu and you didn’t eat! What is this Meenakshi? Come on, get up, eat something. The nurses tell me that they make the best uppumavu here”
“I don’t want. I am not hungry”
“Tell you what, I will tell you a story, if you eat” I thought I sounded very much like my Ammachi. She used to tell me stories to make me eat.
“Why are you not scolding me like all the others?”
“Do you want me to?” I asked her
She shook her head
“If you want me to I can.” I removed my spectacles and did the best of what I can to imitate Rajanikanth and twirled my spectacles on my finger
ennadi Meenakshi, Cholledi Meenakshi” Before I could continue any further, my spectacles dropped with a mighty thud on to the floor. I missed a heart beat. I didn’t have any money to buy a new set of spectacles. Both of us looked at the spectacles on the floor and I bend down and picked it up. Fortunately it didn’t crack
“I think my luck is changing. See? My spectacles didn’t break!” I showed her.
She smiled.
I picked up her plate and gave it to her
“Eat your food”
She was looking at me. “What?” I asked her
“Oh ok. Do you know the story of Kannagi( Silapathikaram)?”
She shook her head.
“Kannagi was a very pretty daughter of a very rich business man. She got married to a very rich guy named Kovalan. They lived happily in a town called Kaverippatinam.
Then one day at a festival Kovalan met Madavi. Madavi was a very beautiful dancer and Kovan fell in love with her. He started to buy gifts for her and follow her, where ever she went to dance. He completely forgot about his wife Kannagi. Eventually Kovalan lost all his money and came back to Kannagi. She took him back.
But now She only had a pair of anklets, because Kovalan had already sold everything they owned. Kannagi gave one of the anklets to her husband and together they went to Madurai, so Kovan can sell the anklet and they can use the money to start a new business.
Kannagi stayed back in a cottage and Kovalan went to the market to sell the anklet. Meanwhile there was an announcement that someone stole the queen’s Anklet and when the merchant saw the anklet in Kovalan’s hand, he called the royal guards and Kovalan was brought to the king, who ordered him to be killed.
Neither the king, nor the queen bothered to check the anklet in Kovalan’s hands. Queen’s anklet was similar, but it was studded with pearls, while Kannagi’s was studded with Rubies. Soon Kannagi heard about what happend to her husband and she rushed to the Royal Palace with the other half of her anklet and showed everyone how wrong they were. Kannagi cursed everyone for killing an innocent man and soon Madurai was on fire. Everything burned, houses, the palace, the temples..everything.
People started praying to Meenakshi, goddess of Madurai and she came to Kannagi and begged her to save the people of Madurai. Eventually Kannagi agreed to take back the curse.”
I was just about to tell her about how Kannagi died and then I remembered that, her breasts too were injured. So I didn’t tell her about that part of the story.
“Then what happend?” Meenakshi asked
“Kannagi went to a hill near Madurai and died. She joined Kovalan in Heaven and people who heard story about Kannagi started to build temples for her.”
“Did you like the story?” I asked her
“hmm” She mumbled
They were already serving lunch at the wards and soon the visitors would be allowed to come in the hospital. I knew Meenakshi would get in to trouble if her mother saw her talking to me.
“Meenakshi, I will have to go now, otherwise my professor will scold me and my day will go bad” I moved my hand and showed her how my professor would yakety yak and scold me.
“Will you come again?” She asked me
“I will come tomorrow morning.ok?”
I walked off quickly because visitors were already coming in to the wards, even though there were things I needed to tell Meenakshi.
I wanted her to know whatever happened wasn’t because of her fault. I wanted to teach her how she can protect herself from geting hurt again.. There was so much I need to tell her.
I also wanted to speak to the nuns at the mother Theresa’s orphange if there is any facility where an abused child can find shelter.

The laws in India doesn’t protect children like Meenakshi. There are no provisions to take them away from their homes, where they are at risk of being abused again. There are no foster parenting services for Children like her and most importantly the perpetrator never gets arrested because the victim is never allowed to lodge a complaint

Silapathikaram By Prof.Arthur Llewellyn Basham

4 thoughts on “Meenakshi

  1. Sarah,

    I have been reading your blog for some time now, but have never commented. I must say that you write really well- there is something about your writing that makes the reader experience the emotions that you went through.

    Meenakshi’s story brought tears to my eyes. We read and hear about hundreds of such stories in India and have reached a point where we are insensitive to it. And the point that you made is SO SO VERY RELEVANT – not many people spare a thought for what the poor child goes through, how her emotions have been scarred, probably for life, how she will have nightmares for many years since and how she may end up punishing herself for what is no fault of hers.

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