Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Item Girl by Richa Lakhera


 ‘The attacker banged KD’s head against the wall, provoking injuries to the back of his head and then attempted to strangle him with a piece of lingerie. In a bid to cause maximum pain, almost half the scalp was left badly bruised and huge chunks of hair were pulled out from the roots in bunches.’ In the court a blow-by-blow recreation of KD’s murder was being created.
Sunny stared unaffected by the tumult of the press around her earlier or the surreal drama being enacted in the suffocating heat of the courtroom now. Confined behind a firm wall of separation between her and the world, Sunny felt like a tourist watching the chaos of her life from a distance. She could not resist the impulse to stare at her step-mother in her favourite crispy tussars, ballooning around her like a tent, her stiff petticoat grating behind her. Kala’s face had twisted with a mean expression of implacable hostility.
On behalf of Sunny, P.K. Dang made a formal complaint against the fact that KD’s pictures which were being heavily used in the appeals process had been released by the victim’s sister to the media in a bid to bias public opinion against Sunny. He accused the prosecution of sinking to make a despicable personal attack on his client’s character by labelling her a ‘she- devil’. The defence argued that things had gotten out of control between Sunny and KD when she was molested at the party to which KD had sent her, crammed full of drugs.
‘Fear was his power over her and her weakness. This is not a fear which can be explained as a peddler has over a user, but a much deeper fear—built over the years of living with him, if you can call the beatings, the abuse, being stuffed with drugs, as living. Sunny’s uncle KD held such power over her that she had turned against her own family, her sister, her father. I want the court to just imagine a relationship so vicious and vile, where an uncle gets his own niece hooked to drugs of all sorts—for which the accused has already paid the price—she stands ruined in society’s eyes—and has memories so terrible it will probably take her the rest of her life to get rid of them—’
Many present in the court stared at the fragile girl in the dock. Shorn of makeup, she looked too young to be out unescorted, let alone face the charge of a murder.
‘Please imagine—from the age of ten the victim had been welcomed into her house by her father to look after the accused and her sister but what happened is cruel beyond imagination—’ For the hundredth time since entering the courtroom that morning, Sunny found Kala staring at her. Eye studying her intently, as a predator would look at its prey, her gaze seemed to bore into Sunny’s flesh.
‘Sunny—has seen brutality and cruelty beyond measure—she was in a physical state where she could be relieved of her sanity with just one piercing, invasive look—hate can drive you insane, but there is always reason in madness, just as love is madness in emotion.’ The sunlight streamed in through a high window, illuminated the polished patina of the elegant wooden panels around him. It glanced off the bald head of the judge. This was the third time in far too many weeks that the prosecutor and P.K. Dang had locked horns on the latter’s attempt to declare the suspect insane, and therefore unable to serve their time in prison.
‘She was also far too intelligent, and worse yet, crafty for her own good. She is not insane—however badly Mr. Dang wants us to believe…’
Unperturbed by the comments, Dang, with a flair for the dramatic, walked on determinedly to the prosecutor’s side, his coat slung over his arm.
‘In my opinion, Sunheri Kashyap or Sunny is as much a danger to herself as to others and prison is probably not the best environment for her rehabilitation—’ he smoothly rattled off, feeling a rush of self-satisfaction at the slowly forming acquiescent look in the judge’s eye, and the suspicion he could see, unhidden, in the prosecutor’s eyes. The latter proceeded derisively, ‘Do you really think a girl who butchers a man doesn’t belong in jail?’ he challenged, eyes fixed on the jury’s face searchingly.
‘I would hardly have testified to that otherwise, would I, but that’s not true.’ Dang’s voice was challenging and arrogantly dismissive, as the prosecutor stepped in front of him, blocking his path.
‘You have a habit of declaring your clients insane and moving into your asylum,’ he said softly, his voice dripping sarcasm.
‘I have a habit of siding with truth,’ retorted Dang.
‘Are we going to allow this sham to go on? To let the accused make a mockery of the legal system? The case is going against the defendant when suddenly, Mr. Dang, a creature of habit, starts making penguin noises, pulling vegetables out from under the defendant’s chair calling the witness’s pet parrot to the stand to testify. Perhaps he’s stalling for time while an associate tries to find the evidence to show the accused in good light or maybe he’s finally just flipped under the strain of the case.’ The court erupted and so did the defence attorney and the judge. In the complete commotion which followed, the judge’s voice could be barely heard—
‘To say—to say nothing of the high chance that you would be severely disciplined if not disbarred as soon as the nearest Bar Association ethics panel heard about it—’
‘Stop smiling YOU WHORE!’ There was complete silence in the court as Kala’s shriek interrupted the proceedings. A soft voice broke the chaos, Sunny was smiling as she spoke.
‘—When she embraces, your heart turns to stone, she comes at night when you are all alone. And when she whispers, your blood shall run cold, you better hide before she finds you.’ In a chilling voice Sunny taunted Kala.
Now there was complete commotion.
‘You cannot talk like this—in the court!’ The judge was apoplexic.
‘Just look at the devil’s daughter—jusssst lookkkk at herrr—she is that witch Tabbbuuuu—’ Kala yelled, madness dribbling off her eyes, her face split by a thin red gash for a mouth. The court orderlies moved towards Kala but the crazed woman’s reflexes proved too fast. She ran from them and lunged towards Sunny, knelt across before anyone could stop her and slapped her on her cheek. The noise of the slap ricocheted across the court corridor. Sunny’s face froze at the dark purple welt spread across her face. A shrill unearthly scream rang out in the room and for a second everyone stood still staring at Kala.
Something had snapped inside her.

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