The work below is a piece of fiction inspired by true life's circumstances. I rarely post short stories on this blog but has always been fascinated by them. This is one of my few attempts to bring light to some issues tormenting girls. Feedbacks, comments and constructive criticisms are most welcome!
It was summer 1999. I would never have thought life could ever be like this. A slave like me could never want something more from life. Besides, I was never truly alive. I was a tool to be used and confiscated when all was said and done. I should never question what I was born to be for it was all laid out for me. I was bought by a price. If anyone who should remain silent for the rest of her life, it should be me. Whatever happened must be a stroke of luck or some mighty invisible hands at work.
In the cold winter’s night of 1987, a Chinese baby girl with lovely shining eyes was born. Her cries filled a small corner of a city in the province of Anhui. She was a pretty sight to behold. Unfortunately, her mother looked at her with terror in her eyes and refused to hold this baby that was born of her flesh. Her father came in, saw the baby and quickly tucked her in his arms and fled the room. It was too much a risk to keep the baby. The one child policy meant they could only have one kid and it would have to be a boy. The boy could help in his laborious business and would be able to carry the surname of the family. A girl would be of no use to them. The father passed this crying baby bundled in rags to a red-haired foreigner waiting near the dock and she was never to be seen again in China. That poor little baby was me.
I grew up not knowing who my parents were. I always thought Master was my father but at age six, it finally dawned on me that my siblings were all tanned. I was the only fair child. At first I thought I was special and then realised the colour of my skin was a curse. They would all make fun of me and said Master picked me from the rubbish bin and bleached me till I was pale yellow because the stench on me was too horrible that no one could bear to be near me. I ran to Master asking him who my parents were and how did I end up in a land where no one else looked like me and was reprimanded with six harsh beatings from a rattan rod. From that day onwards, I never questioned Master again. Nor would I ask anyone where I came from.
It was never easy to please my Master. I tried singing but ended up sounding like a grasshopper creaking in the woods. I practiced dancing again and again but my clumsy feet prevented me from swinging graceful hips that I never had. I never excelled at any performances that my siblings could do so easily. They all seemed like a chore to me and I wondered why I did not possess any talents worth pursuing. How was I going to help Master make money? Would he throw me out because I could not contribute anything to make a living? All I could do was sit and beg but that was not helping much.
One day while I was begging, a beautiful lady with long blond hair and clear blue eyes came to me. She gave me a chapatti with some hot dhal. She told me I was pretty. My heart almost stopped in disbelief. I wondered whether she was telling the truth or she was just giving compliments out of pity for my kind who had to sit and beg. I smiled graciously at her and she patted my head gently. No one had ever touched me like that before. I did not know whether to cry, to run or to laugh. Instead, I stared at her blankly till she left. That night, I could not sleep at all thinking of the gorgeous maiden sent from heaven and her soft hands.
The next day, I saw her again. She was passing the dusty streets of Pink City. Clad in a blue kurta and jeans, she came over and handed me a McDonald’s vegetarian burger. I was too stunned to speak. I had always seen teenagers and family enjoying Happy Meals in the yellow, red and white restaurant and could only dream that one day, some angel would bring the burgers to me. My angel arrived in the form of a fine lady with sparkling eyes that spoke of love when she gazed into mine. This time, I thanked her in English. I knew a few words of English from my older siblings who had picked it up in the streets from the foreigners who had come to visit Jaipur. From that day onwards, I saw my angel every day without fail. She would bring me food to eat and thanks to her, I learnt a lot more English although our conversations were always brief. I looked forward to our meetings everyday and for the first time in my life, I felt happy. I loved her so much and I swore I would die for her if anything threatened her life.
This angel of mine gave me a present. It had attractive women with long flowing dresses stuck on papers. Each paper had different pictures that were delicately drawn with meticulous details. There were some words at the bottom of each piece. My angel told me my present was a book. I was mesmerized by it. I started looking at my book every night and imagined that I would be one of those graceful ladies wearing striking gowns. It was a consoling dream every night where I could escape from my harsh life. Sad to say, Master saw me one night clutching my book and took it away from me. He tore the pages right in front of me as I choked back tears of grief. He made me promise never to touch a book again for it would spoil my pure mind. I nodded quietly.
One cloudy day, this angel of mine stopped coming. I waited till sunset and she still did not come. I was heartbroken. I asked around the shopkeepers and stall owners who might have known her. One of them told me that she flew back to the United States. My heart was torn. My angel left and betrayed me. My only source of joy had to be taken away. She did not even say goodbye. I was left all alone again in the slums where I did not even belong. I realised I was from a different planet and it hurt so badly. I could not cry for crying was forbidden. Master would strike us with a stick so hard we would be bruised till we could not walk for days. I sucked all the pain into my soul and I grew quiet. I vowed never to smile again unless it was to seduce and tempt, never to let anyone into my heart again. I became silent and only spoke when it was absolutely necessary.
My heart cried till it cries no more. I was turning twelve and Master was preparing me for something huge. I was no longer allowed to go and beg. I was to take care of my skin and made sure I would not do anything to hurt myself physically. There were no more beatings or slapping. I was to make sure I knew how to walk properly. I had to take dancing lessons everyday although it was difficult as I was never cut out to be a dancer. Master told me someone would visit me and make me a woman. That person is of great honour and he would bring great wealth to our home. He told me that I would never be the same childish and foolish person like I was before. I was to become a mature, wise and refined lady once this honourable person paid his visit and made me one. I was delighted and did all my preparations with care. I would finally bring admiration and riches to Master. I would be the best slave anyone could ever have. I was born to be that.
The day finally came when that honourable person arrived. He wore a bright orange turban and he had such a long beard that you could weave them into braids. He introduced himself as Mr. Jee. After performing a dance, Master took me and him into a room filled with all things shiny and gold. The bed was covered in red silky sheets with golden embroideries. I would never dream of sleeping in a bed as heavenly as this. Although everything looked like dreamland, I felt strange at the thought of a bed in a meeting place. Mr. Jee looked at me intensely and switched off the lights. I was afraid of the dark and wanted to say something but I kept my mouth shut. Within seconds and swift like the lightning, his fat hairy hands reached for my golden saree and tore all my clothes off. He started touching me all over but something inside my heart told me this was not right. How could such horror make me a woman? I panicked and kicked him with all my strength, I fled the room and for fear of Master’s disappointment, I ran with all my might away from my Master’s home. I ran till I could run no more and slept in the corner of a street. I was only covered in my torn saree cloth that I managed to grab with me.
I woke up in the broad daylight with noisy kids roaming around the sandy alleys. No one seemed to have noticed me. Everyone was engaged in their own daily routines. There were a few camels strutting slowly across me. I was hungry, thirsty and scared. What if Master did send his troop to look for me? The last time someone tried to run away, Master found him and chopped his arms off. This armless boy grew into a man who would beg for the rest of his life with a paper cup as his companion. I feared that would happen to me. I quickly gathered my saree and wrapped myself properly with it and started to move. I walked till my feet bled and toes blistered for I was without shoes when I left that shameful chamber. It was soon midnight. There was not one single soul to be seen along the highways of the desert. I took my slumber on the roadside till I heard the honking of cars. It was still dark but fear took hold of me again and pushed me to get up and walk.
On the fourth day, I was drained of all my energy under the terrible scorching heat of the desert. My head was spinning and my steps became slower and slower. I was dying for water. I did not dare ask anyone for fear of them recognizing me as Master’s slave. I continued to trudge on the rough roads dragging my painful feet. Alas, I could take it no more. I slumped against a tractor like a huge rock thrown at a wall and slept. I passed out for hours. Not even the sound of honking trucks could wake me up. I lay at the roadside like a dead log.
I was awakened by some foreign music that was new to my ears. I opened my eyes and sat up. I felt like I was in a room of another planet. There were no glitzy decorations so loved by the Indians. The blanket covering me was filled with some puffy cotton and it was satin white. In fact, the whole room was white in colour leaving only chairs and tables in mahogany. Even the wardrobe was white. It was peculiar but very clean. Nothing like the home I slept in. I jumped out of bed and ran out of the room. I saw an old man and a young woman looking at me. I stared at them for I was startled to see people of different colours than I would normally see. The young woman had similar features like mine. She had long straight silky black hair and she also had pale yellow skin. She began to explain to me that she saw me on the roadside when they were passing by as tourists in Jaipur on the way back to Delhi. She thought it was a rare sight to see a fellow Chinese sleeping on the streets and so she saved me.
I finally found out one piece of information about myself. I am Chinese. How odd. I never heard of that word. Whatever it meant, I must be part of it or it was part of me. I started to sob and tears flowed out like rivers of water penned up in my silence all these years. I told them in my broken English about what happened and the young woman held me like a baby in her arms. She assured me she would help me in whatever ways she could.
The air was clean and there were different types of big trees lining up the tar roads. There were no honking from the cars that passed by us and no beggars were in sight. We reached a huge mansion with brown window panes surrounded by a blooming garden with magical flowers that I had never seen before. The young lady grasped my hand, walked me into the house and led me up the stairs into my room. I could hardly breathe when she told me the room belonged to me. It was magnificent and fit for a princess.
Painted in pink, I had a queen size bed with quilted covers all to myself. There was a desk next to it with a table lamp so exquisite I could only imagine ever to see in a palace. I leapt for joy as I looked at the shelves and beamed at the hundreds of books waiting for me to be read. I could escape into different imaginations anytime. I reached out for a book and flipped the pages. I saw weird organic shapes with words all over them and there were lines in each shape. I wished I could read them.
The young lady pointed at the shapes and told me those were the maps of the world. She explained we were all living on this planet named Earth and it consisted of various countries. It took her and her husband one year to sort out paperwork to get me from India to the United States. She even went on a search to discover how I reached India. She finally pointed to a huge part of a shape and told me, “That’s China. That was where you were born.”
My eyes moistened with tears as I finally understood the meaning of my name. I am China.