We came to Delhi earlier this year. Mumma says we shifted because my father expanded his business. Bhaiya and Didi were happy. They are closer to their college now. Dadi does not like living here, says that things are too different.
Two weeks back, Didi came back crying from college. Bhaiya was shouting at her. I heard him say, “You are a girl! You travel in the metro and insist on wearing that! Whatever else did you expect to happen?” I asked Mumma why being a girl was a problem and she told me to go out of the room. Minutes later, Bhaiya slammed the door and left the house. Later, at night, when Papa was tucking me in, I asked him what had happened. I told him I liked wearing my green shorts. They were comfortable when the air was sticky. He smiled and said, “Grow up first, my princess. You will soon know how this city is full of dogs.” Why did Papa say that? Dogs are sweet. There is a black dog that roams in our street. I feed him roti everyday.
Last Monday, I was coming back home in the school bus. There was a traffic jam. My bus buddy was at home with a fever. I had nothing to do and my tiffin was already empty. I was looking out of the window when I noticed that a man in the car alongside the bus was smiling at me. He was trying to tell me something with his hands. I thought he was having car trouble, so I pointed at the policeman who was standing nearby and looking at us. The man in the car laughed and made the gesture again. I asked the teacher in the front seat to help the man. She looked out at him, drew the curtain across the window and made me sit next to her. Since then, I go to school in Papa’s car. Why did the policeman not help the man? Why am I not allowed to go to school in the bus, with my friends, anymore?
On Sunday, we were having dinner, when Papa switched on the news. They were talking about a girl who had gone to a chemist shop late at night. The news lady kept using a word I did not understand. When I asked father what rape was, he ignored my question. Didi has taught me how to use Google so that I can search for meanings. I Googled ‘rape’ too, but I cannot understand what it is. I could also not understand why Dadi made that noise she makes with her tongue and said, “Why would she go out at night alone?” I asked her what she meant, but she just ran her hand over my head and said that I would be a good girl when I grow up. I love my grandmother. She is very generous. She gives money to my brother when he goes out at night.
Yesterday, Sinha Aunty, our neighbour, came to the house to see Mumma. They were sitting in the drawing room having tea. I was in the kitchen, eating cookies, when I heard Aunty talk about Didi. She was telling Mumma about how Didi talks on the phone in the balcony at night. After that, Mumma got very upset. I do not understand why. Bhaiya also talks in the balcony. He says the signal reception is better there. That night, Didi did not go to the play she wanted to see. I was disappointed, as I had hoped I would get to use the music player in her absence. I asked her why she did not go. Didi was angry. She told me to leave the room. I heard her muttering, “Ask Sheila Dikshit. Ask the Delhi Police Commissioner. Ask the men of this city.”
I do not know who the Police Commissioner is. I do not know which ‘men’ Didi was referring to. But I do know you. I have seen you in the news. You look very nice, like my Dadi. So I am writing this letter to you. Why did Didi say I should ask you? Can you answer my questions?
A little girl.
(Neha is interning in NTMN’s Summer Internship Program.)