Mona was a live-in maid at my friend A’s house. She was around 12 years when she started working at their house. A’s mom had two sons and always craved for a daughter. While on a trip to her native village she found Mona in abject poverty. Mona had a stepmother and 13 siblings. There was never enough food for her in the house. A’s mom took an instant liking for the girl and decided to bring her along with her. Mona’s dad and stepmom were more than happy to get rid of a mouth and also some extra income.
When Mona came to A’s house she resembled a stick. However, in the care of A’s mom she gradually started gaining weight and started looking pretty. A’s mom never treated her like a maid and started sending her to a nearby school. At home also Mona was never burdened with too much work. She was like a daughter to A’s parents and a younger sister to A and his elder brother. She also had a room for herself. A’s mom used to buy her nice clothes and accessories whenever she went shopping.
I used to go to A’s house for chemistry tuitions and Mona used to be fond of me. She used to call me ‘Chordi (younger sister)’. She used to call A ‘Chorda(younger brother)’ and as I was A’s classmate she probably preferred calling me that. We developed a friendship. Whenever I went to their house A’s mom used to serve me tea and always some special dish. A’s mom, myself and Mona used to sit together and chat over tea and biscuit till chemistry teacher came.
After my class 12th exam I stopped going for tuitions. Even though A remained my friend I stopped going to his house frequently. Gradually I forgot about Mona. A few years later, I joined an NGO to do my M.Phil internship. The NGO used to work with trafficked women. In that center, I met a girl who used to stare at me relentlessly. I never recognised that girl though.
One day, when I was alone the girl came and sat next to me. She looked at me with wide eyes and said ‘Chordi, you forgot me.’ The word Chordi ran like an electric shock through my veins. I had never expected a beautiful girl like Mona to land up in this place. I wanted to ask her but she left in a hurry. I immediately called A and asked him if he knew about the whereabouts of Mona. He said that two years back Mona’s father came and took away Mona from their house to marry her off. She got married within a month and her husband took her to Mumbai. A never heard anything from her after that.
Next day, in the centre I searched for Mona but she was nowhere to be seen. I asked the centre head about her. She said that Mona alias Laxmi was rescued from a brothel in Mumbai. Her husband sold her after taking the dowry amount and jewelry from her. She stayed in the brothel for almost a year and then was rescued.
Next day, I met Mona in the corridor. She held my hand and asked ‘Are you still in touch with Chorda?’ I nodded. With a desperation in her eyes, she said ‘Please don’t tell them anything about me.’ Tears started rolling down her cheeks.