Mani — The Woman Of Courage

By Sesh Damerla

Extract from “Mani”, part of a America's Finest Short Fiction anthology

Mani understood little. She couldn’t figure out why people spoke in hushed tones when she was in the room. She also didn’t understand why she never visited another city until many years passed.

“It must’ve been a totally shattering experience,” Kala remarked.
“Did Mani have any clue what her life would be or about what happened?” Tanu asked.
“Even if she didn’t have emotional ties with Raghu, she must’ve had some idea what was happening in the house,” Kala said. “There would’ve been no laughter but a lot of crying when people visited.”
“Yes, you’re right, Kala,” Prabha replied. “Mani was blessed in many ways. Her father was like the Rock of Gibraltar. He spared her some of the shame, misery, and indignity. She was blessed.”

On the tenth-day afternoon, Mani had to wear a long, white skirt, long blouse, and long scarf, locally called voni. It was a half-sari and soon became outdated, but it was very much in vogue during the early twentieth century for teenage girls. She didn’t notice anything amiss.

Then a barber came with scissors and knife to tonsure her head. That was done in the belief that it made a girl or woman look unattractive to men without her hair. He was interested in nothing but his payment. Two strong women caught Mani.

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