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Onaatah of the Earth
by Paulami Duttagupta (Book Preview) | Published On:

This story is about Onaatah, a young victim of sexual assault, who is shattered from inside. Shunned and shamed by the society, including the man she loved, she sees a very long and hopeless road ahead of her. When almost on the brink of giving up, she makes a journey, in search of hope, to discover her purpose in life. Along the way, she explores diversity of relationships and realises love has a vast and varied meaning.

In this chapter, her emotional turmoil is shown as she limps back to normalcy

Chapter 8 

At the hospital things were easier than Onaatah had expected. There was a shortage of staff almost always and they preferred to get on with their work rather than talk about what had happened in each other’s personal lives. Apart from the occasional look of sympathy or the quiet enquiry about the court case, no one bothered her much. But what bothered her was the special treatment she was being meted out—her colleagues offering her to drop her home after work, her seniors trying to tell her to leave before dusk, or their pretending that nothing had happened at all. That bothered her. On the surface everything was okay. But Onaatah felt people looked at her differently. Even the aged doctor had begun to request her to take lesser work and go home earlier than her usual hour. That bothered her. Even people that were close to her were treating her differently.

Someone or the other left flowers for her for the first week and Onaatah requested them to stop doing so. She didn’t want to be reminded of her pain. She did not want sympathy. All she wanted was to immerse herself in work and forget all about that night. She had continued to talk to the counsellor and tried to make herself believe that the conversations were working. After work she was grateful to go for the counselling sessions. Maybe she needed to hear the same words again and again. They would give her a sense of empowerment, even though it was almost short-lived.

‘You need to realise that this was not about sex, Onaatah. This is about subjugation. And by giving up your life aren’t you doing just what they want? You are giving into the hollow standards this society has. You are not broken. You are as strong and pretty as you always were,’ her counsellor said gently.

‘I am trying. I am. . . ’ Onaatah said, but her own voice was a little strange to her. ‘I am sleeping better though. And I am trying to scribble my thoughts when it is becoming too much.’

‘This restlessness will gently pass. No scars are permanent, Onaatah. And trust me I have been through it myself. I know you can heal yourself if you want to. You have everything to be proud of. You just need to take time off a bit. Love yourself a little. Take pride in yourself.’ These sessions did give her a sense of empowerment. But that did not translate into real change. At least not yet.

That Tuesday completed two weeks since she had resumed working. There was an unknown fever that had gripped the city and more and more patients were being admitted to the hospital. Even little babies, some of them just a few months old, were falling sick. Onaatah had offered to work in the night shifts. She felt safer to work at night rather than trying to sleep. It was easy to go back home in the morning, exhausted and crash on her bed.

That morning, however, she was deprived of sleep. Peter’s mother had come and the conversation hadn’t gone well. The bile and hatred the lady had for Onaatah had shocked her. And her interview in the papers last week hadn’t gone down well with the lady. She had come to tell Onaatah how inappropriate she was for her son and had blamed her for the assault she had gone through. Onaatah had however been composed, and tried to not offend the lady in any way. But when the woman had said that she doubted that Onaatah had had an affair with Joe and had tricked him into intimacy, Onaatah had lost her calm. She had asked the woman to leave their house and had promised to break her engagement with Peter.

As she bathed the little baby in the hospital, her thoughts kept going back to the confrontation she had in the morning. Wiping him dry and getting him into a fresh nappy, Onaatah thought she was done for the day. The baby was recovering well and putting him to sleep wouldn’t be an issue. She would feed him once and then a lullaby would do the trick. Looking at the baby her mind was unwillingly dragged to a query Peter’s mother had made. She wondered if Onaatah might be pregnant with someone else’s baby and Peter would be saddled with an unwanted child for the rest of his life.

A distressed cry broke Onaatah’s chain of thoughts. She had almost dropped the three-month-old infant. The baby’s face was blotched with tears, reddened with exertion and fear. She held on to him, cooing, soothing and apologising for her fault. The baby had stopped crying a little later but looked distressed.

‘Onaatah, is everything okay?’ a senior nurse walked into the room and asked.

‘Can you, can you take care of him? I. . . I am. . . I am not very well,’ Onaatah said, as the nurse reached for the baby.

‘You better take care of yourself. This fever is infectious. And look at this poor little thing. He looks so distressed. Come my dear,’ the nurse held the baby and started singing a lullaby softly. Onaatah rushed out of the room. She had almost taken a life. The baby would have been fatally injured had he hit the concrete floor.

Onaatah continued to splash water on her face. Someone had tried to snatch her life from her. But that did not give her an excuse to do the same to anybody. Today, she had almost dropped an infant. The baby had clung to her, because he had trusted her. Tomorrow, she could register a wrong injection or drug to another helpless patient. This was not her place. She needed more time. Or maybe she needed to walk away from there. She couldn’t let anybody suffer because of her. Resolutely, she wiped her face and walked out of the washroom.

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Paulami Duttagupta

Paulami Duttagupta

Written: 6 Stories

Member Since: 21-Mar-2017

Country: India