Updated: Feb 9
A story of a woman surviving all odds in pursuit of happiness and life.
Looking at the watch and reminding herself of the appointment that she needs to attend, Sheetal, is getting restless. She had asked her manager, for permission to leave early at 4:00 PM, so that she can go into this appointment with her husband. This was important to her. This was it. This was the moment, that will either make or break her future. A moment, that she just cannot wait for.
"Come on, you stupid clock. Turn to 4. Turn to 4", she muttered.
Suddenly she realizes that its 4, jumps from her seat, collects her stuff and rushes through the stairs to the ground floor.
"Jiten, where are you?", mutters Sheetal on her phone. Waving at her from the exit, Jiten, her husband, signals her to board the car quickly.
"You are right on time darling." she smiles broadly and gives him a peck. "All the best baby." she exclaims.
"You too mommy", says Jiten in an elated mood, who puts the car in gear and goes past the traffic in a relatively small lane, managing every oncoming traffic with ease. "We have to be there by 4:50. I hope there is not much traffic today".
Meanwhile, Sheetal slides a mirror from the upper pouch attached to the car roof, and starts combing her hair. "You are looking fine darling. Just dont look tensed", says Jiten.
"Oh. Do I look tensed Jitu?", says Sheetal and makes a frowning face. "Oh Yes. You do mam". exclaims Jiten.
"Listen...Sheetal. Everything’s going to be good. Don’t worry.", says Jiten.
"You concentrate on driving. Don’t worry about me...Patidev." says Sheetal in a funny manner.
Managing to zip past through the heavy traffic of Delhi, Jiten finally reaches his destination -
December 31st - 2000.
A very young Sheetal, who had just turned 20, is celebrating new year, with her friends in Goa. Beautiful beach, beautiful music, Sunburn festival delights and lots of alcohol. Wearing a denim shorts, a T shirt, and a woolen pullover with a cowboy hat, Sheetal was having the time of her life along with her friends Mayank, and Neha, who are childhood buddies. Since all the 3 of them have turned 20 this year, they wanted to make this celebration a memorable one. So, they head off to Goa for the new year festivities.
Neha, walks slowly, cutting across the dancing crowd, manages to get to the bar counter. " 2 beers please", she shouts. She quickly pays the money to the bartender, and without bothering to collect the change, she takes the 2 beers and heads off to the dance floor.
Watching Neha come towards them with 2 beers, Mayank and Sheetal welcome her with a "Come to Daddy" dance move. "Now this is the real friend, she's got one for me too", shouts Mayank. "Oye...It’s for me", shouts Sheetal.
"People....let just share this beer and declare a war on this world" shouts Neha.
The music starts to become loud and now the DJ announces that they just have 1 hour for the new year to begin.
"Hey...Sheetal...I think your phone is ringing." shouts Neha.
Realizing that her phone was really ringing, Sheetal removes her phone from her right pocket, checks who is calling and disconnects the call. "What...Who was that?" shouts Neha. "Is it Jiten?". Making a constipated expression, Sheetal shouts, "God, he has been calling me since weeks. He says he wants to take me to dinner. I told him "No, I can’t come", but he is persistent yaar". "Don’t worry. I will handle him after going back. You relax and enjoy this party now." exclaims Mayank.
All the three of them keep boozing and they start dancing and enjoying the party.
About 200 people from all over the country have come to this party and everyone seems to be having a great time. Many tourists are also reveling in the New Year's Eve party in Goa where everything seems to be going great and fun seems to be never ending. The party is happening on a beach, that is covered with black rock formations on left side and an open beach on the right. The entrance to the party is however to the opposite side of the beach and the security guards are placed there. Far off the beach and in the sea, you have firecrackers bursting and you can hear other parties erupting in joy and making merry.
There is, however a medium size fishing boat, that has been sailing on the same spot since hours. A group of people on that boat, are all looking at the party that is happening in front of them. They are all wearing jackets and denims. Shivering due to the cold breeze that is coming from the sea. There is no captain in the boat, nor there is any crew. They do not have any food on the boat, nor they have anything to drink. The group has been starving for days. A big man on the boat, signals one of the men to take the boat to an isolated place, where no one would notice. The boat quietly moves to one side and seems to have disappeared in the darkness. They bring the boat to the side where the black rocks are, and everyone starts to get down tiredly. They are muttering something to themselves. No one is talking to anyone. Looking at the party and its grandeur, all of them seem to be in a daze.
"We just have another half an hour for the New year", shouts Mayank. Agreeing with him, both Neha and Sheetal dance in elation.
Everyone is enjoying this party and the group of sailors that were far away, is walking towards the crowd on the dance floor. Within minutes, the group gets mixed into the crowd. It is like two groups of ants are getting mixed to form a single group. The bar tender suddenly notices that the crowd that was just occupying 2/3rds of the whole area has now occupied the entire beach. "Oye....How many people are there in attendance?", he asks one of his colleagues. "I thought we had only 200 people, but now we seem to have what 300 to 350.Whats happening here?". His colleague agreeing to this seems to walk away, towards the entrance. He speaks something to guards in the entrance and tells them that something is wrong.
Meanwhile, Mayank, Sheetal and Neha are dancing with their hearts out to the music. All three of them form a small circle, and do the dance.
Neha removes her hand from Sheetal’s shoulders and then puts her hand onto her shoulders. She thinks that Mayank is holding her from behind. As she keeps on dancing, she suddenly realizes, that the hands that were on her shoulders, are now slowly moving towards her back and onto her waist. Thinking this is just one of the pranks by Mayank, she puts those hands back to the shoulders again and goes onto continue the dance. Now the hands are moving slowly towards her neck and then they proceed down towards her chest. As soon as they come towards the chest, she feels a violent rush by the hands to go down and it grabs her by her left breast and pinches her. Shouting in pain, she forcibly removes the hand and moves to hit the person on cheek. Thinking that it was Mayank who was doing this, she sets off to hit him. But as soon as she turns her head, she sees some strange guy, who is wearing a Jacket and a pair of Jeans. He seems to be dazed and tired. Bad odor emanating from him. He was on a boat sometime back. Neha is shocked, and before she can do anything, he slaps her hard and she falls.
January 1st, 2001.
Suddenly opening her eyes, Sheetal feels disoriented and nauseated. She coughs wildly. She doesn't know where she is. She looks around. Its daytime, probably the next day. She is on an isolated place. There is no party, no crowd. She suddenly realizes that she is sitting there naked. She is wearing nothing, and she feels a concentrated pain, near her stomach and she is also bleeding from the lower parts of her body. She shouts in aghast and agony. "What happened? Neha. Mayank", she starts calling out their names loudly. The voice echoes her back, but there is no response. She quickly begins to look around and finds a pair of jeans and a shirt. She begins to move to get the clothes, but she feels a quick stingy pain in her lower parts and cries out because of that pain. Somehow, she manages to shake herself from this pain and then picks herself up. She is unable to stand properly. Her legs are shivering, and the pain is excruciating. She sees a wooden stick that is around, picks the stick and then with the support, she is able to stand. Pain doesn't ease out. It gets more intolerable. With her entire body shivering and paining, she goes to the clothes, and she tries to wear those clothes. While wearing those clothes, she also pays attention to her body, which seems to have bruises all over. There are also some cuts on her upper arm, and a mark near her stomach, which was in a "O" shape. "Someone bit me. But why would someone do that? Where is Neha? Mayank?" she mutters to herself. As she tries to get into a logical explanation, as to why she is in this position, Sheetal also feels a pain on the backside of her head. She puts her hand there and she quickly feels a liquid oozing from her head. She realizes she is also bleeding from the backside of her head, and she removes her hand to find it soaked in blood from the head. She feels giddy, unable to stand, and her legs give up on her. She collapses and faints into darkness.
January 2nd, 2001.
A certain white light engulfs her vision, Sheetal seems to have opened her eyes, but there is only a white light everywhere. She hears distant sounds of men. Men making out a noise, speaking in a different language, that she never heard of. Now she begins to see them. They are all sitting in a circle. Someone is in the middle, and it seems that someone, is a girl, who is naked, surrounded by men. All the men seem to be in a hurry. As she begins to concentrate, on the person that is in the middle, she realizes that she knew that person. She was someone, she was close with. She was Sheetal herself.
"No".... Sheetal cries aloud and wakes up. She finds herself to be on a hospital bed with syringes poked on her hand, for Glucose. She is confused, and she looks around. Her mom comes running to her. She is crying, and she holds her to her heart. Sheetal, unable to make any sense of this situation, just holds her mom and starts weeping. The cries start to grow louder. They both carry on weeping intensely. Sheetal’s father and brother are standing at a distance, watching them, and tears start to flow from their eyes too.
February 1st, 2001.
It’s been a month since the whole disaster of an event that happened in her life. She is aghast, destroyed and completely shattered. She is sitting in the hall of her house, with her parents and brother. Visiting her is, Mrs.Parameshwari Bisht, a government of India representative, and a CBI officer, who has been given this case. She is sympathetic and empathetic towards Sheetal and doesn't judge her immediately. She looks at her in a motherly way.
"How are you Sheetal? You are feeling alright?" she asks her. The tone being calm.
"I am good.... ya...Thanks for asking", Sheetal exclaims.
Bisht now clears her throat and starts to talk in a more clear and authoritative voice. "I am here, not only to find out how you are, but I am also here to tell you what happened that night. You have the right to know. As you are already aware that you have been sexually assaulted that night and many people have faced this trauma."
"Not sexually assaulted", cries Sheetal. "Raped. Multiple times and by multiple people. There is a difference. You of all the people should know."
"Sheetal, beta.... calm down, she is here to help you.", whispers Sheetal's dad. His voice of concern and care, calms her down.
"I am sorry Sheetal. Yes. You have been raped. It happened because a group of people, who have been evacuating their war-torn country, decided to illegally immigrate. At least 70 boats were seized that day. We have multiple reported incidents of sexual assaults, molestations, murders and rape, across all of Goa. We have never seen such a thing happen before. Whole of last year’s crime rate, is nothing compared to that single day. It was hell. For you, and for all the people who were there. It was also hell for people who lost their loved ones. For someone like me. I had lost my one and only son, who was partying in Goa, along with his fiancé. He was stabbed multiple times and we are still not able to locate his fiancé. It was a national tragedy. Unfortunate. And we are determined to do the correct thing and see to it that justice is done. We have begun identifying people and we are taking every action under the law, that is possible. No one is going to be spared. No one.", says Bisht, and takes a glass of water to drink it.
"As far as your friends are concerned, I am sorry to tell you that both couldn't survive that incident. Our team had picked you up from a location that was nearby the party which you had gone to and we found both of your friend’s bodies floating nearby on the shore. It is assumed that they were taken back to a boat, assaulted and then thrown off the boat. Do not single yourself out and think why such disastrous thing happened to you. Your parents are lucky to have you with them right now.”
Sheetal begins to shiver, her feet cold, and her eyes rolling. Unable to digest the information she faints in her father’s lap. Her father signals Bisht, to stop, slowly picks her up and takes her to the bedroom. Comes back to the hall and tells Bisht to leave.
"We thought she might have recovered. I am truly sorry for this inconvenience." says Bisht.
"I have nothing to say", says Sheetal's father with tears rolling down his eyes. He quickly takes a kerchief from his pocket and wipes them.
January 15, 2002.
It’s been a year, since this ghastly incident happened in Sheetal's life. She had lost her two best friends. She is slowly going back into her life now. Somehow, she has managed to put aside the past and starts to build up a career in architecture. She is working as a consultant for an architectural firm. She is on the path of recovery and her parents are happy that she is living out her life. Ever since the last year's gruesome incident, she had found solace in one person, who has been with her all through her travails. It was Jiten. They were in a close-knit relationship and decided to get married next year. But she was apprehensive about something. Not about the relationship, not about Jiten, but about herself. Last year, after the incident, she had her medical reports come in and it was bad for her. They were speaking about internal injuries and damage to her organs. Nothing fatal, but she was in a doubt, as to how she could go on to become a mom and how it would affect her future born. She had decided to take a detailed examination for her reproductive system and was expecting the results anytime soon. She kept her laptop computer, running gmail, open and ready to receive the mail.
She received an email notification alert on her computer. It was from the lab sharing her reports. She stared at the email message on her computer, her mind racing so fast that the words blurred together and no longer made any sense. Just three lines, but enough to make her life--the life she’d worked so hard and sacrificed so much to build--begin to crumble around her.
Walking back to their car from the orphanage, Jiten and Sheetal are excited and happy. Their petition to adopt a baby has been approved and they will soon get the custody of a new born baby girl.
Sheetal suddenly has some flashes of the past. About Mayank, Neha and how they enjoyed their life. Their adventures and their mischiefs. And their tragedy.
She collapses on the ground onto her knees and begins weeping. Inconsolably.
“Thank You. Thank You my love. I will always be in your debt and in your gratitude. You have showered me with the most valuable gift, that is your love. I cannot ask god for more. I have seen extreme hate and I thank god that he has given me you, to balance it with extreme love. I love you Jitu. I love you so much”, a weeping Sheetal cries out, with her heart felt words.
“You deserve much more Sheetal. You deserve all the great things in life.”, says Jiten and takes out the custody papers and shows it to her. “It doesn’t matter if you can’t give birth to our child, but it will matter to me if we cannot together have the joy of being parents. I don’t want you to miss that experience. This paper gives us that happiness baby. We are going to become parents, and good shall we become.”
LIFE FINDS A WAY.........INDEED!!!