My name is Ton. That’s right. Even I have always thought, “What did I do to deserve a dumb-ass name like that?” But I could do nothing about it, really. That was my name and I had to live my life with it. I was born into a big family with a lot of siblings. Our house was always full of people. Happy people. Whoever saw us, their faces lit up, much like our own.
I don’t remember the day I was born; but I distinctly remember the day my brothers and I were shoved by unknown men into a dark room that was surrounded by strange noises. It was suffocating in there. All of us were young and adventurous, and fear was not something we were familiar with. But we couldn’t wait to get outside and play.
In the dark, we couldn’t see each other’s faces. But we could all feel each other’s strength. That kept us alive and sane. We held each other when we felt low. No matter what happened, we all had each other for company, after all.
Then one day, as if by magic, a small ray of light entered the room and a few of my brothers were freed from the darkness. We were hoping that they would return to free us and describe to us what the outside world looked like, if it was really as brilliant as we had heard in stories that our parents used to tell us. But they never returned. Although most of us were worried sick about what the world would have done to them, I was plain furious.
How could our brothers leave us in distress and enjoy outside? Bloody traitors. They ought to have come back to free the rest of us.
My mood was as dark as the room itself.
Suddenly, there was some noise from outside the room. We heard men talking.
“I spoke to her all night, machi”, one was saying.
“You only spoke all night, no? Let me guess; you called her, right? If she had called the call would have been over in a matter of minutes”, said the other.
“Minutes-ah? Machi, she gives only missed call da. He only calls her back”, said another and they started laughing.
And here we were thinking that these guys could save our lives. We tried to get heard. “Help! Help!”, we shouted. And again, magic happened.
The door of the room opened ever so slightly. My sister Pinky and I were taken outside the room, as if on a joy ride. Amidst all the happiness and excitement of actually getting to the outside world, I turned to her and told, “We should come back to free our brothers. We will NOT become traitors.” And she nodded.
But as luck would have it, the man who had rescued us almost immediately turned me over to another one. Pinky and I were separated. I was worried; more about her than about myself. I was petrified; I was alone with nobody to hold on to, nobody to share a laugh with. I wanted to cry. But I had to be strong. I had to put up a fight. Even if I went down, I’d go down fighting. I won’t let these men get away with what has been done to my brothers and me.
As much as I hated to admit it, the new guy who had me was my “master”. My new master owned a small wine shop outside the city. He was a stinking pig of a man. He sweated a lot. His teeth were yellow with red stains from years of smoking and chewing tobacco, I think. His breath always smelt of cigarettes. It was a smell I can never forget for as long as I shall live because, he kissed me now and then. Every time he did that, I felt like vomiting my gut out. I felt humiliated, molested. And because I was so small, I couldn’t fight back. I wanted to spit in the idiot’s face, but I was too afraid that he might hurt me, to do so. Every time he would see me, I saw pure lust in his eyes. His lips turned up in a sadistic smirk, he would look at me as if he wanted to eat me up.
I had a lot of free time and my thoughts went back to my brothers who I despised and called “traitors”. Now I don’t hate them anymore. Who knows what they have been through, what kind of masters they have had! And to think that at a point in time, I had wanted nothing more than to escape the darkness of that little room we were all together in! What would I not give to go back there now!!
The stinking pig finally gave me away to a pretty girl – a girl who welcomed me with the brightest smile I had ever seen. Maybe it was her braces that shone in the sunlight.
Had I finally gotten into good hands? Maybe she will listen to my story and help me rescue my brothers from captivity.
She seemed genuinely happy to see me, but never tried to kiss me or anything. I felt safe with her. I could not believe that such a nice girl would have anything to do with that demon.
The girl took me with her wherever she went. On that fateful day, she took me with her to a park. A young man came to meet her there. I hated him from the moment I set my eyes on him. There was something about him that I thought was cheap.
He came close to her and promptly planted a kiss on her forehead.
“How was the day?”, she asked.
“It was alright. How have you been?”, he asked. But there was something missing in his voice.
“It was ok. Have you thought about the weekend?”
“Not yet. By the way, have you brought what I wanted?”
She turned me to him and said, “Here you go.”
What the hell! She is giving me away to him? And this would be my new master? “Woman, what are you doing?”
I thought maybe he was a good man. After all, he was her boyfriend. And then, I saw him smile the biggest smile I had ever seen in my life. Never had I seen someone’s eyes getting any wider. Ever. His mouth was now running from ear to ear.
“You know this is not enough.”
“But that is all I have.”
“You and I both know that is not true.”
“That is the truth. I am sick of having to pay you. It is as if I am paying you for using your services. I feel as if I am paying a gigolo.”
Ouch. That should have hurt. I had to control my giggles.
The guy got so angry that he squeezed me hard and threw me to the ground. He stamped me, looked at her intensely and told, “I am not your boy-toy. I don’t need the money you give me. Fuck you!”
He turned around and went away.
She bent down, picked me up and looked me closely. Then she frowned, said “tsk tsk” and threw me back to the ground. “What a waste!”, she said and walked away, leaving me there alone, battered and bruised.
I was still confident that someone would help me. After all, people were always happy to see me and have me. But as time went by and it became dark, my hopes of being helped diminished. I had to fight to keep my eyes open; I was too tired to yell for help. But I also knew that no amount of shouting will fall into the deaf ears of the world around me.
They need me only when I am intact. When I am torn and dying, nobody was going to help me simply because I am of no use to them torn. I am a thousand rupee note, after all.