Everybody’s whore. No one’s wife.

As she lay ravaged yet again, it was only natural that she felt cheated. Yet again. Where were the village elders who had promised her protection? Where were her sentries who had vowed never to let it happen again? Most of all, though, she worried for her children. Were they okay? How much had they suffered? She knew they would overcome this too. For they had before.

Despite her state, there was a strange sense of pride in her about her situation. She had been through this previously – no less than thrice. And each time she had known herself to be strong enough to get up and get a move on. This time would be no different, she told herself. But the one question that kept haunting her refused to die down. “Why me?”

It had already been an hour and there was a fair bit of activity around her. The sentries were running around hoping to get a hold of the offenders. The elders were in discussion yet again. And the village Heralds had awoken to their latest prey like vultures circling a carcass. She didn’t care about any of this any more.

As her pride subsided and the pain of the moment took over, she returned to her haunting question. What hadn’t she done for her children? Somewhere in her heart, she knew that one of her children was responsible for her present situation. And yet, she couldn’t bring herself to blame him. “He must be misled,” she thought.

But even if he was misled, she wondered how he had brought himself to do the deed. Didn’t he care for her even a bit? Was there no affection at all? After all, she had given him everything he had. And would continue to do so. Or had she offended him in some way? But how? She only knew how to give. Her children fought amongst themselves, but she ensured they all had the same opportunity at life. Hadn’t she loved them all equally?

Yes, there were occasions when she had to be strict with one of her children. But which mother doesn’t? It was for their own good. Yes, there were times when she had to be unfair to them. But that was to teach them the ways of life. Surely they didn’t hold that against her…

She will forgive them, she decided. “But what is to become of these fatherless children? Who will take their responsibility,” she wondered. She knew she was going to be around for a long time yet, but each of these indiscretions and offences would take its toll. Until she was no more. “Who will be the father to these children,” she thought again.

“And who will love me now?” This was a question she had no answer to. The village performers – like the heralds and the elders and sentries – always spoke highly of her. She was their muse, their ruse, their inspiration, their desperation. Their friend, their guide, their wife. Or was she?

With every indiscretion against her, she had started questioning the love of her children. And now, her own lovers were no longer enough to protect her. “Am I anyone’s wife?” She was now sure that she wasn’t loved by any. Everyone needed her, but no one loved her. Yes, that she was sure of now.

Her latest realisation threw up another uneasy thought. That she was indeed nobody’s wife. But everyone wanted her. And used her. She was a whore. Everyone’s.

As she lay nursing her wounds – alone again – there was almost a simultaneous realisation among her children. Wherever they were. That indeed they did love her. And that they couldn’t bear to see her suffer so over and over. Wasn’t there something they could do? What can they do?

Whether or not they could do something, they had to find a way to show her that they loved her. They had to let her know.

Just say the words, “We love you Mumbai, we do.”

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