In Laajpur, a notorious town on the outskirts of Delhi, strange things were happening. The events had baffled everyone. Initially, some had dismissed it as sheer foolhardiness and some as an act of sorcery. But now people were beginning to panic.
It all happened after the arrival of that girl. From where she came, why she was there, where she ate, to whom she belonged, no one had any idea.
The chai wala, tea-seller, at the railway station was the one who spotted her first. Under a peepal tree, the girl was sitting cross-legged and devouring pakoras on a paper plate nonchalantly. She was all alone. No brother, father, uncle or a male friend to escort her at this time of the night.
It had never happened before in Laajpur. Everyone knew how dangerous it was. Families here lived in a permanent state of paranoia to protect their females. Even an eighty-year-old feared venturing out alone after sundown. And for any mother of a daughter, it was a complete nightmare even in a broad daylight, for she dreaded the brave innocence of her daughter and snapped at her fearless laughter. She would cook up a story of some invisible monster who will grab the little girl if she is out of sight, and then the mother would watch with a painful satisfaction as the innocent smile vanishes from the rosy lips and shadow of terror fills the lovely eyes of her daughter. No child flew in this town like a naughty bird or played hide and seek with friends on the street. The Right of carefree childhood was brutally snatched from them at this tender age as they were being punished not for a crime but for being a potential victim of that crime.
It was this lawlessness which had earned the town epithet of rape capital of the country. An NGO had reported last year that this was one of the prime reasons behind the high rate of female foeticide in the region. So was the case with low female literacy rate. Laajpur was a thug town within the heart of this democratic country.
The girl would arrive at the tea stall every night and sit there for hours. Her presence had begun to make the men uneasy. Suddenly there was an alien amongst them. The swearing, loud cackles, impromptu jokes had a nervous edge, not that they were scared of her, but because the sight of a female in a male territory was frustrating, a challenge to their supremacy. They even hurled abuses at her, poked her with their mean eyes but the girl would keep sitting there, eating the potato patties at an unhurried pace. Some tried to chastise her, had she run away from home? Was she lost? But she would not even bat her eyes to acknowledge them as if they were like a transparent sheet of glass. Maybe she is deaf and mute, they concluded. But then she thanked the chai wala sweetly when he brought a cup of tea for her. Later he told others that her name is Rmaa.
‘But how do you know, did she tell you’, a customer asked.
‘It is tattooed on her arm. I saw it when she stretched her hand to take the cup.’
‘What more is tattooed? Did you peek anything else’, the men winked at each other and broke into loud cheering, eyeing the girl like a piece of meat.
Even in her loosely fitted orange blouse and long green skirt, which she wore every day, they could make out that she must not be more than fourteen or fifteen. There was just a hint of curves in her dress, which the men fantasized with an open lust while sipping tea one after another. In a way, the chai wala was glad of her presence because it had made his shop earn a profit like never before. And thus he didn’t mind offering the complimentary tea and snacks to the girl.
This had almost become a ritual, but one night, true to everyone’s premonition, the girl was pulled into a van by a group of boys looking for an adventure. This all happened right in front of everyone, at least fifty people in their full senses. But not one uttered a word of protest or even raised an eyebrow. It was a normal affair to them and in fact, the girl had asked for that. Haven’t they warned her so many times? And besides one of the boys was the son of the Police Chief.
But there was one tiny bit of suspicion that troubled them. Was the girl pulled or she herself moved towards the van?
The suspicion grew into a shock and later into fear when next day they found the girl sitting in her usual spot with the same aloofness as if nothing had happened. In such small towns, this kind of news travels faster than its digital versions.
In the tea stall customers were huddled around a man who had brought the grapevine. The man, a school peon where the four boys who had abducted the girl studied, divulged the details of last night.
‘There is no Vagina!!!’
The group exclaimed and looked at the girl in bewilderment. They broke into excited whispers as they goaded the peon for more details.
‘That much only his mother could gather out of him when she found him hiding in the cupboard,’ the peon said, ‘rest three are also equally scared.’
The story that finally emerged after the gossips and facts were pieced together was beyond anybody’s comprehension. Almost everyone refused to believe it.
She was taken to the fields next to the canal where the boys had planned to rape her and then dump in the canal if she resisted much. But no need arose of that because she, almost obligingly, followed them. Also, there was no need of pulling her hair, bruising her body or tearing her clothes as she herself lifted the skirt when they pushed her on the ground.
At first Mahesh, it was his turn this time to hit the jackpot first, thought that he was hallucinating because of marijuana. He rubbed his eyes with the spit and looked again. A small cry escaped his mouth as he stared at the girl in horror. The other three, who were cheering and gesticulating lustily, also recoiled in disgust.
There was nothing, no hole between her legs. It was all sealed, like a dead-end. How was that even possible, they wondered aloud while the girl kept lying on the ground with some mock satisfaction on her face. This increased their frustration further and then in a fit of renewed rage Mahesh pressed onto her. But in the very next instant, he jumped off her and yelped in pain. His thing was scalded like it had touched a hot iron. The field, whose isolation had always thrilled the boys during such adventures earlier, was now spooking them with its eerie silence. The laughter of the girl was still reverberating in the night sky when the boys started the van in a hurry and ran away.
The news of the sealed vagina was spreading like wildfire. The tea shop was minting money as more and more customers, even from far-flung areas, were thronging the place to catch a glimpse of the girl.
But the actual turning point came when women started arriving one by one, unescorted. The peepal tree had turned into a sort of a shrine for these women. A cardboard box was put in the roots of the tree in which the visitors left the offerings they had brought for the girl of food, clothes, daily necessity items and money.
The girl sat on the wooden bench and the visitors on the ground below her.
‘Rmaa, help us,’ the tea-seller strained his ear to catch the conversation. Or did he hear Maa?
In a small town like this, it is not difficult to recognize people even if they are covered from head to toe. From the manner they walk, dress up, smell, sneeze or whisper, there is always something to give them away. And thus the tea vendor was astonished to recognize a woman who was brutally raped last year by more than fifty men. The rape was ordered as a punishment by the village council because her brother had eloped with a high caste girl. Soon after the ordeal, the woman had disappeared and believed to be dead, until today. And then there was another one, who bore a striking resemblance to a teenage girl who had disappeared some ten years back after she had stormed media with the allegations against her politician father about incest. There were many more, a mason’s wife, a school teacher, a farmer’s mother, the women who had borne the brunt of Laajpur’s shamelessness. Besides them, there were other women as well, women who were until now hidden behind the veil of rituals.
A customer punched hard on the table when he recognized his wife among the women. Another one lashed out angrily and hurled abuses one after another. But neither of them could muster enough courage to pull their women away.
‘We knew that Devi will hear our anguish,’ the mason’s wife was weeping at the feet of Rmaa.
‘Seal this vagina like you have sealed yours’
‘Help us Maa, salvage us,’ the women whimpered desolately.
The tears of profound sorrow were floating in her eyes as the girl embraced them one by one.
With their wishes granted the women returned to their abode, leaving behind the veils which were now fluttering on the lower branches of the peepal tree. Next day the town witnessed another bizarre episode. The women were swarming its market, fields, streets, and highway. There were no escorts and no fear on their gentle faces rather panic and frustration was written over men, who dared not touch them however they were tempted, not even in a dark alley, not even if the women invitingly exhibited their smooth legs or displayed a carefree smile because they knew that this was the Cult of sealed vagina whose curse had already cost the chief’s son his manhood.
The bigwigs of the town were assembled at the Minister’s residence to discuss this phenomenon. At last, they had realized how big the problem was when their own women joined the Cult.
‘This is disturbing the nature’s balance,’ the mullah chipped in as the memory of last night flashed through his mind when his wife had threatened to join the Cult if he impregnates her again.
‘Yes’, the pundit echoed his sentiments, ‘even the monsoon was a disappointment this season. She is a witch, who is going to annihilate this town.’
The police chief snarled in a seething temper, ‘Kill her in some fake encounter.’ He was looking for an opportunity to punish the girl who had put a question mark over his authority in the town.
The Minister looked glumly around; he knew how severe the problem was. The women politicians, who used to work diligently for the party earlier, were now demanding equal representation in the Cabinet and elsewhere. And then his own daughter had joined the Cult. The girl is indeed a witch; the Minister thought aloud, she should be stoned to death, burnt alive or paraded naked. If he had his way, he would have poured acid between her legs and the hole would have opened itself.
But they all knew that it was now too late to take any such bold action because the popularity of the Cult had crossed even the international border, especially after BBC aired a special segment in its India series.
Seeing the power that the sealed vagina wielded, the women brought their daughters as well who they had left behind earlier fearing that who will marry them if they lose the basic essence of womanhood. But now they knew that the gains were higher than the loss. They were tired of carrying the burden of fertility which had started to consume them only. The gift that nature had bestowed upon them to flourish the mankind had now become their very weakness and thus it was now time to surrender it. ‘Rmaa Rmaa Rmaa,’ the chants grew louder and louder as the girl salvaged them one by one. The Cult was swelling day by day. Women, even from farther parts of the country and from across the international border, were now swarming the peepal shrine. And the aftershocks of this tremor were reaching far and wide. Schools were the first to feel it when the girls walked in fearlessly.
More than half of the workload of the police was cut down as the crime rate drastically dropped. Women no longer fought for ‘ladies’ seats in local transport. Almost every profession had now female majority as they are naturally flexible and hardworking, thus they didn’t need to make any excuses to escape long night shifts, field trips or any vulnerable position. Be it military or a cab driver’s profession, women were everywhere.
For the first time in the history of the country, almost every social-planning target was achieved. And within one financial year, India ranked among top economies of the world, owing to surplus workforce. Economists named it — the second Industrial Revolution of the East.
However, this success was making many people restless. The rivals were worried about the consequences if the country becomes a superpower. And more than that they (the men) were worried about the consequences if the Cult becomes a superpower. So frustrating it was for them to watch those skirts which fluttered with the wind or the sensual body under a six-meter drape. They could not dare to touch even their own wives, daughters, sisters.
They had never even imagined that a single biological anomaly will one day break the myth of male supremacy.
And that it will one day threaten their jobs, the patriarchy, the ecosystem, and the political structure. Already, the workers were holding strikes for equal wages. Next, they will demand more seats in the Army, the Space programme and every foundation programme of the nation. Next, the Parliament will be taken over. They could not repeat the folly of having a woman Prime Minister again; the bitter memories of the first one were still fresh. The international pressure was also mounting to find a solution to this problem ASAP.
Even the religion was on the brink of extinction. The priests at the Shakti Peeth temple were vexed to see that the goddess had stopped menstruating as the water of Brahmaputra was no longer turning red. The vagina of the deity was sealed and so did of other female deities worldwide. The mankind itself was at the brink of extinction. Who will carry forward their lineage, the men worldwide wondered.
A high-level meeting, comprising of important religious heads, scientists, economists and representatives from the international community was called to discuss this disruption in the laws of nature.
Open the Hole—the conference concluded unanimously.
Cabinet passed a law overnight and National Emergency was invoked. Holding marches, tea gatherings, even debates became a punishable offence. A curfew like situation was imposed in the country. The peepal tree vanished without a trace. Even the roots were pulled out from the earth, leaving behind a gaping hole which was filled with cement and over it a marble bust of Father of Nation was installed overnight.
An expert team of doctors arrived in Laajpur. And as the commandos guarded the high-security cell where the girl was held unconstitutionally, the Cult surrounded it from all sides irrespective of the fact that the loudspeakers were blaring the warning of Shoot At Sight.
The medics began the preparation for the procedure. The girl was lying on a makeshift operating table under the effect of anesthesia. The surgeon moved towards her with a scalpel glinting in his gloved hand. A loud gasp escaped his lips and the tool slipped from his hand as the surgeon looked there. He had never seen such a thing. There was absolutely nothing, not even the mark of a stitch or any conjurer trick. The girl had no hole between her legs. It was not a myth, after all, the surgeon and every medic present in the room thought aloud. Fear was clearly written over their tensed face.
‘Rmaa Rmaa Rmaa Rmaa Rmaa Rmaa’
‘Maa Maa Maa Maa Maa Maa Maa’
The chants in the background were getting louder and louder.
The surgeon picked up the tool and tried to concentrate on what he was ordered to do. Open the damn hole, the supervisor barked into his confused head. With a shaking hand, he lowered the scalpel to make an incision. But the moment it touched her there, the steel melted in his hand and evaporated. And one by the one, the tools, cot, flesh, weapons, everything present in the room began to melt.
The chants were still piercing the gloomy air when the earth began to shake violently. The men were unsure whether their dying brain was playing tricks on them or they actually witnessed a mythical legend when two giant hands emerged from the hole that had formed in the earth and carried the girl back.
Laajpur, with its over one million inhabitants and the girl, had vanished, wiped out from the face of the earth.
It was a sinkhole, the investigators concluded. But not even a single grass of blade ever bloomed on that soil ever again. It was barren.
That was just the beginning.
First, the rains changed its pattern, and then the crops began to fail one by one, the land turned infertile. Sinkholes were reported all over the globe, swallowing cities without any trace. Delhi, Lahore, Mosul, Gaza, New Orleans, Istanbul disappeared one by one.
The Earth is sealing its vagina, environmentalists reported the incredulous phenomenon.
The apocalypse had begun.
Peepal Tree – MOHIT RAJ YADAV [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D