Wednesday, June 11, 2008

First Person: Born Again

“He was coming for me, angry that I could dare to run away from him. I was trembling….afraid, I would be caught. I have tried to run away so many times, but he got me every time. He would this time too.

I could hear him on the streets, screaming – You f**king bast**ds! I know she is there. And if you don’t let her out now, I will break every bone in your body….

I was petrified. I saw it happen many times. I was scared for the people who had sheltered me. I pleaded, let me go. They did not listen to me. Maria held me back even as I ran to the door to flee back to hell. I could not fight their combined strength. I gave up….I cried……helplessly!

Slowly, the sounds died down. He had left. He had lost me. Forever.

Seven years with a man who had come to India to study but had stayed on for more than ten. Deep in drugs, he did not have any income to feed us. I was his Bank. His supplier of food and drugs. Yes, I! For if I did not, then the rain of batons on my back would keep me at home for over a week. This meant that the School I went to teach, cycling twenty kilometers to and fro everyday would cut my salary and we would be left with little or nothing to run the rest of the month. So we would have to borrow from the perennial crowd of men who came to our small house, uninvited, to spend time with him, do drugs and do women. To keep them out and also to save my skin from battering I gave in to his demand of drugs.

Then one day, a couple from Europe came to stay in the room next to ours. They were from an organization called Children of God. A very quiet couple but occasionally I heard them singing some lovely songs, not hymns but music with meaning, sounds that enticed my ears. One day, the lady and I both met at the common water collection area where there was a tube well. I smiled – You sing beautifully, I said. Thank you, she said simply. My name is Maria. I am Neelam, I introduced myself.

And from that day onwards, I began to visit their room regularly and taking part in their music. Maria’s partner, John, was a guitarist. Maria sang from her heart and most often than not, I simply cried right through the singing. It touched my heart so deeply.

As the tears flowed, I realized I was feeling lighter and better. It was as if I was being cleansed so thoroughly. A very heavy weight was being lifted from my shoulders.

In the days that went by, I became more and more disinterested in my own life with my partner. I felt I was de-linked with him. He sensed it and somewhere he knew it was because of my visits to the room where Maria lived with John. He put an end to that.

You will not mix around with those guys. They are evil. But, my voice which had gone muffled before, rose from its aches again – I will, I heard myself saying, surprised at my own self. I had forgotten the strength of my voice. Or was it someone else who was speaking through me? I will visit them again; you cannot stop me, I said emphatically.

A sharp slap landed me on the floor. My ears thundered. But, the day of my escape from captivity had dawned.

It was only two or three days before I was whisked away from my jailed condition, by my friends to a place, in the nearby hill station. The struggle for my independence had begun from within me. Too many years in the hands of a powerful depot, had made me powerless myself. I could not find my feet to stand up again. My knees gave way. Nobody could understand why I lived with this pathological man. Not even my family. Until, He gave me strength, slowly, one day at a time, to rise again. I was a new born child, cradling in his arms, my friends Maria and John always with me.

Who am I, I asked myself one day. And a voice from within said to me –

“You are born again. You are a child of God.”

The hour was early morning. I could hear the ringing sound of the milk bottles as the milkmen carried them from house to house. I was lying on the floor, my college friend on her bed. There was nothing more to say. We had been talking the whole night, lying in exactly the same position, the lights off and the ceiling fan going round and around, whirling the air above and around us. I had heard the story of her conversion to Christianity, but until now, I did not know why and what caused her to do so.

We, Bathsheba, as she was called now and I had met after almost fifteen years. We were very close to each other because there was a common bond of loss we both carried in our hearts from our childhood, a pain we had concealed from the world so cleverly. Yet, whenever, we met anyone in our lives who shared the same pain, we were instantly bonded.

And it is the same pain that became her balm as well. A journey made from childhood to reach her destiny - her life with a living God.
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