[I wrote this story almost four years ago! I am posting the story as it was, four years ago. Please forgive me for any errors that might have crept in. Hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.]

She placed the needle carefully on her tongue and bent over until her entire skinny body formed a near perfect arch. Then, like someone who knows what she’s doing, she took two more needles and carefully placed them between her eyelashes. She stood up and kept her feet on an elevated stand decorated with long needles and started dancing the Rajasthani folk dance in front of the goggle-eyed, jaw dropped guests.

Bhagyashree was born in the semi-arid deserts of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. As a teenager, she did odd jobs to sustain herself and her ever ailing mother. But recently, she got a job at the tourist tents where she performed tricks by the campfire to entertain guests.

Even her name defied her fate. Bhagyashree meant the goddess of wealth; Lakshmi herself in her pure form, Bhagyashree sometimes merely laughed at her state and cried at the same time. Her mother used to say, “Roo mat bitiya, sab thik ho jaawe” (“Do not shed tears, darling, everything will be fine)… But in her mind, she knew nothing could be done to elevate the status she held in her society, and nothing would change for her. She will remain performing these dangerous life-negating tricks forever. But tonight was different, for tonight, she was approached by Pamela, who was a tourist herself. In addition, she came as a boon for Bhagyashree.

“You’ll be in a far better state than now, your mother will live, come with me”, but Bhagyashree could not think of what to speak. She thought of all the possibilities, opportunities and money! But again, men, as well as women, detest change, and Bhagyashree did not want to change her present situation and condition. “But look at you! Nothing worse can happen in your life!” asked Pam with a certain mix of anger and inquisition, as if nobody dared defied her before.

“No”, was all she could reply. She could not think of anything else than this, dancing to the folklore has been her passion and everything in her life till this date meant this thing. Be it risky as it was, but she was clearly against transition. For her, the nascent had no meaning. Bhagyashree therefore knowingly kicked the opportunity away. In addition, who would look after her mother when she was gone?

The next day, as she set out for her daily destination, she heard muffled cries. Following them, she was led to Annapurna’s mother who was sobbing uncontrollably, almost choking on her own tears. When she asked what the matter was, she was shocked and almost fainted. Pamela lured girls like her to Jaipur where they were coerced into the flesh business, and now her acquaintance and co-worker Annapurna got involved. She suddenly sat on the ground with a loud thump and the focus of all the people giving condolences to Anna’s mother suddenly shifted their focus on her. “It could have been me” was all Bhagyashree could muster under her breath.

© Biswadeep

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