Heena was anxious. She woke up late today, thus now she had very less time to approach the well and fill the utensils before the ladies from the big houses show up. “Don't worry too much, we have enough water for the both of us to survive today”, said Heena's mother Shilpi.
Shilpi was a short woman with pale skin and black hair. Her facial bone structure was immaculate, but her skin was saggy due to malnourishment. She didn't have the strength to bring herself to her feet, much rather help Heena. Shilpi's husband died in an accident when Heena was just a newly born child. Shilpi held herself and brought up the child as a single mother. Although Shilpi's family was a lower caste whom they wouldn't even like to see, because Shilpi was still in her youth and a rather beautiful lady, the upper-classmen offered to help her with finances in exchange for sexual benefits. But Shilpi valued her sanctity more than anything else. If not for that, any woman might have given in to the offers as what Shilpi dealt with was not just mere physical hardship but also mental humiliation and to top it all a social bias. Although Shilpi never accepted any offer of help, the village men didn't believe that was the case. They refused to accept the fact that Shilpi was able to raise her child without any help. Therefore, Shilpi was exiled from the village and was forced to live in the outskirts for committing adultery and reasoning that it is putting a bad influence on the village youth.
Shilpi was barred from using the only source of clean water in the village in the presence of any villager, she was forbidden from entering the temple and threatened to be stoned to death if seen by the villagers. Shilpi's cottage wasn't even relocated as she was cast away, so she had to live in an old abandoned shack made of straw and bamboo.
Even her husband's kin refused to take her in or help her relocate, as she was considered a cursed woman.
Shilpi endured everything that was thrown at her. She never complained to anyone about the injustice she was facing, nor did she ever ask anyone for help. She would rather die than ask anyone unwilling to help. It wasn't just her self-esteem that stopped her, Shilpi didn't want to sully her husband's name and respect.
Shilpi laboured all day just to get enough money to feed her daughter and maybe get some for herself. As Heena grew up, she started helping her mother out. Heena was a patient child, and somehow she had so much more matured mentality than many elders. In looks, she paled in comparison to her mother, but still as compared to most girls she could be considered a rare beauty. Her skin had a light brown tone and she had dark black hair. Her eyes similar to her mother were dark brown. She had a lean figure and her bones were better nourished than her mother's. Her facial structure was however almost identical to her mother's.
Heena never acted stubborn or obstinate with her mother. Whenever Heena saw other children in the village playing with toys, she used to completely ignore them. Although Heena never said it or asked for it, Shilpi understood that she too wanted some toys but couldn't ask her mother to buy one since she knew what Shilpi was going through. They could barely eat a two-course meal, but still, Shilpi didn't want her child to suffer and grow up with only bad memories.
One day, Shilpi kept up all night and sewed a rag doll out of a straw pillow that she used to sleep on. The next day, Shilpi went out to work after lunch and told Heena to keep watch of the house. Shilpi also instructed Heena to not cook food for the night, as she would do it herself. Shilpi returned in the evening with some stuff that she hid in her bag. She immediately told Heena to move out and not return until she calls for her. Heena was confused, but still, she moved out and waited for her call. Half an hour later, Shilpi called for Heena in a loud but elegant voice, “Heena, come in.” Heena replied with an affirmative and went inside.
As soon as Heena entered, Shilpi embraced her tightly, “Happy Birthday, my little moonlight.” Heena didn't know it was her twelfth birthday. Her joy knew no bounds, but the only reaction that could come out of her was water from her eyes. Heena cried hard as she reciprocated her mother's hug. Shilpi then presented Heena with what she had made last night. “A doll! It's so beautiful. Did you make it?”, Heena asked in a joyful tone. Shilpi nodded with the satisfaction that her daughter's happiness gave her.
Following the eventful exchange of love and hugs, the duo sat down, as for the first time they were going to have vegetables for dinner. This was the most beautiful night Heena ever had till now.
The night lasted a decade for them as Heena grew up into a youthful yet graceful woman.
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