Dear Inspector Sahab,
Namaste! My name is Gulab Kiko. I,stay in a small village of ” Gulabi Pahadi”. I’m about 19 years old & im to be married to a man named “Gulab Rishwa”. He’s a good man. At least I would like to presume so. But my story isn’t about me & my non existent love story with G.Rishwa,it’s about the Pink Forest.
All of us,who live in this village have names starting with Gulab. Gulab means a rose in Hindi and Gulabi means the colour pink. Gulabi Pahadi would thereby mean ” The Pink Hill”. It’s our homage to the pink forest. A secret that mustn’t be shared with any outsider. This secret has to be kept closely guarded by each resident of “Gulabi Pahadi”. People from the outside world, find it rather strange that we have a common name. But really it’s a pact which we all have entered into. We marry only within the “Gulab” clan. We can’t and don’t want to risk the secret.
Our village is anything but pink visually. It’s a mess. Ruins,dilapidated buildings,dung filled roads,cattle grazing,tumbleweeds,barren trees,scorching sun. There’s nothing green here,let alone pink. The only colour that we love is of the cerulean sky.
We don’t get any tourists,the people who do come here are the ones who have lost their way or people who stop for some water while travelling. Our doors are bolted at the strike of 8 in the night. The whole village lights up like those fireflies. Little lanterns aglow within mud houses. We don’t have electricity yet here,that seems like a distant dream. We do come across as rude but we aren’t. All of this is just a facade,we need to safeguard the secret. We are the guardians of the “Pink Forest”.
Why am I telling you my secret? The forest told me so. It says it has had enough of being hidden. I did tell Ammaji & Babaji about it,but they are against what I said. But I must fulfill the wish. Listen to me carefully now…
Gulabi Pahadi is a baptised name of our village. What it was called before,I never questioned my parents.The Pink forest lies a few kilometres from our village. You will see that,it’s just a vast expanse of huge green trees with almost a certain kind of darkness to it. It’s horrific even at noon. I’ve always wondered why they called this “The Pink Forest”. Anyways,the forest is neglected except for the days when we hear that slow yet shrill cry. It’s a siren of sorts.
All the elderly men & women wrap themselves up in thick shawls,don on black clothing and cast away their accessories. All of them leave us behind. You need to be over 45 years to join the temporary diaspora. I don’t understand why I thought it was a good idea to go against my clan and go towards the Pink Forest. I sneaked in. My Folly!! Why did I go? I wish I would’ve just ignored it & slept like every time.
Now the burden eats me and gnaws my heart. I need to start my new life with this burden off my chest.
I left the lantern burning,wrapped a warm black rug and sneaked out of the village. Everyone was much ahead of me. I ran as fast as I could,I could see lanterns ahead. All of them were inside the forest. It looked like a huge firefly gathering,so ethereal,so fairy like.
Just then, I heard something. Something like a hum. But they say,I mustn’t look back in the dark. They say it’s the devil who calls you and if you turn back,he slaps you or possesses you. So I didn’t turn back.
The hum kept on growing louder,I was terribly scared. This must be a big devil. I started my prayer chants. I could see a big tree,I climbed it and covered my rug over my head. I closed my eyes shut. Praying and calling out to God to save me from the devil. If I ran towards the gathering I would be reprimanded & I don’t know what the consequences would be. If I stayed here,I don’t know if the devil would spare me.
Suddenly,I heard nothing. God had heard my prayers,like always. I must peek from the rug atleast. I lifted my rug. In front of me I saw 2 huge jeeps. Jeeps? What are Jeeps here for? These were the Devils?
“Kiko,you really are crazy. These are just jeeps.” I thought.
A bunch of raucous men got out of the jeeps. Shouting & kicking stones. They kept singing “Munni badnaam hui” **
Poor Munni,she would be in tatters if she knew how these bad men are character assassinating her. Wonder what she did or who she is. I wish her peace.
And then,from the jeeps came bundles.
“Bundles of what?”I thought.
They were long and almost man like bundles. I could count 5 of those bundles.
The head of our village came out of the forest. Touched the bundles and kissed them. He was crying.
The raucous guys told him,that he knew what should be done and he better do it. With that,they left.
The village elders came,lifted the bundles & went inside. I had to see what was going on. The confusion was killing me.
There were holes in the ground. Wait! Those were graves. Graves? There were pyres too. What’s going on?
The bundles were unwrapped. What I saw,killed me that day. There were bodies. Bodies of people. What’s happening. Why isn’t anyone against this? Who are these bodies of?
They burned them and then buried them in those graves. A big bag was taken out and in them were 100’s of pink roses. These people had the audacity to put pink roses on those graves. This was why it’s called The Pink Forest?
“Help us Kiko! Don’t leave us,tell what they did to us.”shouted voices I’ve never known my life.
Everything was spinning around me. The smell of death was evident. Next thing I see is I’m on my bed.
It was a dream. But when the bruises from the previous night revealed themselves during my bath,I was in for a rude awakening. I ran to Ammaji my mother. Asked her what the hell was happening.
After much reluctance,she gave in. Our Gulabi Pahadi was a huge part of an organ scandal. Given the clandestine nature of our community,the organ dealers got us in their grasp from the past 20 years or so. We were doing all their dirty work. We weren’t killing anyone,but we were certainly killing their identity. Why? Because they promised us money and that everyone would be taken care of.
Was there not one who objected? Ammaji said no. We’ve been close knit from centuries and we were being benefitted by just burying those bodies. She thought this as a noble deed.
She said,”we could never stop them from doing it,they in fact threatened us,if we revealed even as much as an A to the police. That’s why our village has been renamed. It’s our secret,the nearby villages look up to to us. They see how flourishing we are. Our status symbol is elevated because of this. If you can wear good clothes & eat good food,it’s because of them. If you can drink clean water,it’s because of them. They have helped us. We are just helping those poor souls gain nirvana. They have been used for a noble cause. Their bodies are giving life to others. How can you not see that Kiko?”
She said she was Giving them salvation. Giving them a goodbye they deserved.
I cried and hated my life. My parents were brainwashed. They were repulsive to me now. Those brutes were murdering innocent people and this wasn’t seen as anything wrong? How is a poor mans life any less worthy than a rich mans?
I didn’t want to be a “Gulab” anymore. I cried for days together. Nobody heard me. And in such places,nobody will.
Emotions and feelings are just commodities. We sell them for money here. Those voices haunt me everyday. My friend here,writes as I tell my narrative. She’s a journalist. Someone who says the truth I believe. She will give you my letter,she’s been sent by The Pink Forest.
Today,I’m a bride. I’m wearing Pink,I’ve always wanted to wear red but my people are scared of the colour Red. They have seen too much of it.
Please save me and my people.
** Munni badnaam hui is a famous Bollywood song.
P.s: This work of fiction is Dedicated to the victims of organ trafficking.