Hi! I am Riya Sen and I’m dead. But don’t pity my life as a ghost, because to be honest living as a ghost is much easier than surviving in the intolerable, unjust and patriarchal world of the living. When you live among the dead, you can escape the judgements of others. Did you know that we ghosts too live in hierarchy and divided places? The ones who died by after being raped or molested, live in one place with the people who suicide. The ghosts who died due to medical issues or had a peaceful death in their comfortable beds live in another. While, the ones who can still not let go of the ways of the society, the ones who still think that women are lower to men, the ones who still believe LGBTQ + community is a shame on mankind, live in yet another place. Ironically, even in our world this third group holds the highest position, while we the victims still hold the lowest and the most shameful spot.

But at least, here no one will come at us everyday to make us feel awful.

This is my story and I hope it’ll haunt you till the day you die so that the world can change and make a place for people like us to live too.

I was 21 when I died as a victim of rape. Was I killed by my rapists? No. They simply left me to die in the ditch they raped me in. I laid there helpless for hours, covered in my own blood hoping for someone to come and save me. My prayers were answered and I was saved by a group of farmers who happened to be passing by. After spending three months in the hospital I got back home only to be told that I had lost all my freedom.

“But why mamma?! It wasn’t my fault that I was raped. Why do I stop my life for those bastards? Why am I paying for their crime? I was the victim not them.” I shouted for the umpteenth time that week, trying to regain my lost freedom.

“This is your fault. You don’t know how to censor your words. It was this that led you to be raped.” She replied with equal ferocity.

I turned towards my father for help. The person who I thought loved me more than life itself. Apparently, I was wrong as he too backed up my mother like everyone else in our family and friends.

“This is for your own good. What will you even do by studying anymore? No more will any man ever marry you. Your life is already ruined, so forget everything now. Friends, education EVERYTHING!”

At that time, it did not pain me that I had been raped, rather it was my parent's words that pricked my heart like a thousand needles and killed me from within. Since then, I lived as a caged bird. But I was a bird who wouldn’t sit silent. I would keep chirping till someone would come and give me my freedom.

One day surfing through the internet, I came across a website of an NGO. The homepage said ‘LET THE WORLD HEAR YOUR STORY, FIGHT FOR YOUR JUSTICE’. Under it were many articles written by victims of various heinous crimes.

One wrote about daily sexual harassment in public transport or places, while other wrote how he had been outcasted because of being a dalit. Yet another talked about the struggles of being a gay or a lesbian. There were many who talked about rape too. But they weren’t victims, they were mere activists who wanted it to be stopped.

I being my reckless self and starved for freedom decided to post an article about my experience of getting raped. Thus, I started:

I saw many mentions of my name in the above articles as the recent victim of rape. Yes, I’m Riya Sen a Delhi-ite who had been raped recently. All the articles above talked about rape but none talked about getting raped. I take this platform to be a safe place to tell you the story of the night of August 21, 2019. That day I had stayed extra hours in my college working for an upcoming fest. It was around 8 in the evening when I left the campus to head home. At around 8.30 I was getting off the bus I took, and planned to walk it home for the rest of the journey as it was a simple 15-minute harmless walk. Little did I know, that the harmless path I availed everyday will be the one changing my life forever that night.

Just as I rounded a corner, I was grabbed by a pair of hands from behind me, while another pair tied a cloth around my mouth. All this time I kept wriggling around trying to get out of the tight grasp. Suddenly a stinging pain shot through my left cheek, indicating I had been slapped by yet another man. That still did not stop my will to save myself. I kept fighting as they dragged me to a much quieter place all the while beating me.

“This bitch, she’s asking for it.” Said one man. By then I was absolutely exhausted and covered in bruises. I could no longer take account of my surroundings. Though I still felt the filthy hands of those men on my body hurting me while pleasuring themselves, I did not have the energy to fight anymore. My endless shouts were muffled by the cloth. I don’t know when the men left, nor do I know when the farmers came to save me. All I remember is that I kept hoping for someone to come save me.’

But I should have known that in this world of evils there was no such place as a safe place.

It had been about two weeks since I posted it when people started sending me mails, giving me phone calls and some even sent handwritten letters. One would think these were of sympathy, of accepting the courage to talk about such an issue, but no. I received hate mails, phone calls and letters. People started calling me names and slut shaming me for stating the truth. Some said that I deserved it while others said I was nothing but an attention grabber. If that was not enough, my family turned even more hostile towards me. Abuses were like my daily meals.

One day sitting on the balcony of our 15th floor apartment, I saw the birds flying freely and finally the reality dawned on me. I was a bird who’s only chance at freedom was death. My feet carried themselves to the other side of the railing and slowly left it too. I finally flew, flew to my death and as the thought crossed my mind a smile made its way to my face. All of a sudden all was black and I knew I had finally attained my freedom. I looked at my corpse and saw the smile still etched on its face.

I turned around and walked away to the land of dead and was sorted here. I never once looked back nor had the will to be born again.

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