Guilty as Charged
I don't remember her face. I don't remember their faces either. But all that I remember is what had happened afterwards.
I was in the twelfth standard and was the Head Girl of the school and as a rule had to patrol the school during the time of the morning assembly and also at the time of mid day assembly post lunch time. One day, I remember that we had our Independence Day celebrations and as a result had a long lunch assembly once. I had gone to the first floor of the main building of our school to check that no student was there to escape the long assembly. There were couple of science labs on that floor. Nobody was there, so I had decided to come back. Then I met this girl in the corridor, going back hurriedly towards the first floor. We had asked what was the problem and she had said that she wanted to tie ribbons on her plaits and come back to the assembly. Me being me, had trusted her and allowed her to go back.
A few days later the our class, being the senior most class was asked to stay back after the morning assembly. We were all very perplexed as to what mischief did we do this time. Then our Vice- Principal had addressed us, with a warning that we should not talk about this. A girl had been raped in the school. I was shocked, but at the same time felt indifferent. I was young, naive, innocent. I didn't know her. Our teachers started the blame game on the boys but mostly the girl. For a very long time, I grappled with the memory of this girl. Who was she? Had I seen her? Who was she with? Who were the boys? Then when the details as to when the incident had happened, I remembered that I had seen this girl and had allowed her to go to the first floor of the school building. The Vice- Principal then told us about the names of the boys who were involved. At that time, my salvation lay in blaming the girl. In my mind, she had invited it.
The girl had stopped coming to school, but the boys were regularly attending the school. Our teachers, the Vice Principal had blamed the girl saying - 'what was the need for her to go to the science lab when the whole school was attending the Independence Day celebrations.' 'She was the girlfriend of one of the boys.' 'Kids these days are so spoilt, not at all responsible, I tell you.' Nobody blamed me, but of course it was my lack of responsibility, alertness that caused this. Everybody considered this as an unfortunate event. I never told anybody, not even my parents till now that I had seen that girl and allowed her to go back. And one day, me being me, had asked one of our teachers (who used to gossip a lot) about what exactly had happened. I was every teacher's pet, plus being the Head Girl was an added advantage so she spilled the beans. Here is what she told me, exactly the way she narrated it to me.
The girl had gone to the physics lab on the first floor of the main school building. There she had met her boyfriend, both of them had a pre-decided plan. So he was hiding in the ante-room which was adjoining the physics lab. Then they had 'galat kaam' which I can now assume to be sex. When they were doing 'galat kaam' two of his friends had come. The boys had busted them. The boyfriend was afraid that they will report to the teachers, so he said that they should share her. At this the girl was obviously scared on how could he just offer her to them. But they had grabbed her, torn open her shirt, ripped her skirt and raped her, holding her down. The boyfriend had helped in the act. When they were done, they were adjusting their clothing, then the Mathematics teacher, also the class teacher, had come to the lab, because she had sensed that four of her students were missing from the Independence Day celebrations. She had found the girl in torn clothes. Grabbed the collar of the boys and asked them to stay there till the time the assembly got over. When the assembly was over, she carefully sent the boys to their class and taken the girl to the Vice-Principal's room. Where the parents of the girl were called. They immediately took her back and since then she had not entered the school premises. Nobody knows what happened to her and the school didn't bother much with her whereabouts or her future.
I still remember the contempt with which the teacher had narrated the whole incident to me. And also the way she took pride in the fact that the girl was not there anymore in the school. The boys of course got to continue their studies. They walked with their head held high, because they had done a girl. They were branded hopeless but still managed to study further and appear for exams etc. Nobody knows till now about the girl and what she made out of her life.
I now empathize with the girl. But still that lack of responsibility nags me. Sometimes I dream about that corridor where I had met her and allowed her to go back. But it is always empty. I cannot redeem and go back to moment when I could have stopped her, but had been casual about it. I have a lot of friends from my school, but nobody refers to the fact that I was once the Head Girl and this incident had happened. Probably they all have forgotten these facts. But I know, it is still there, lurking beneath the surface.