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  1. [Laccho, a young girl plucked from her home in Dharza Gurwa, a small town near Gorakhpur in India, is being groomed as a future wife to the Crown Prince of Nepal.  Crown Prince Surendra, a petulant, vicious, mentally unstable young man physically tortures everyone in the Nepal Darbar, Laccho included. Ajima, an aged menial, has been assigned as Laccho’s caretaker. She is Laccho’s one source of solace in an otherwise hostile, foreign environment. In this episode, three months after Laccho’s introduction to the Darbar, Ajima walks a fine line as she tries to determine exactly what has happened to Laccho, while being careful not to expose Laccho prematurely to the inevitable grim realities of a young girl’s life at the Darbar.]
  2.  
  3. August 10, 1840
  4.  
  5. Hanumandhoka Royal Palace
  6.  
  7. Ajima Ajima Ajima….
  8.  
  9. Laccho came screaming towards Ajima. Ajima cupped Laccho’s little face on her palms, looked into her eyes, said tenderly:
  10.  
  11. Yes, Maicha? What happened?
  12.  
  13. Laccho’s face was full of fear. Her pupils darted back and forth. They failed to make meaningful contact with Ajima’s eyes.
  14.  
  15. Yes, my love?
  16.  
  17. Th…there was blood…
  18.  
  19. Where? Show me quick…show me!
  20.  
  21. Ajima suddenly turned serious… a frown had developed on her usually kind face.
  22.  
  23. D….down….there.
  24.  
  25. Where? Where?
  26.  
  27. Ajima was frantic.
  28.  
  29. There.
  30.  
  31. There?
  32.  
  33. Yes.
  34.  
  35. Maicha, how much blood was there?
  36.  
  37. Laccho looked up. Hints of tears appeared around her eyes.
  38.  
  39. I don’t know… Maybe this much?
  40.  
  41. Laccho made a little O with her fingers.
  42.  
  43. Show me!
  44.  
  45. I threw it away!
  46.  
  47. Laccho realized that throwing it away could have been a mistake. Perhaps Ajima would not be able to help her at all without looking at it.
  48.  
  49. Deep sobs swelled within her and escaped in wailing bursts that wracked her body.
  50.  
  51. It’s OK, Maicha. Of course, you had to throw it away… And did you…did he…I mean did the Yuwarajdhiraj… was the Yuwarajdhiraj with you last night?
  52.  
  53. Yes.
  54.  
  55. Did he… touch you?
  56.  
  57. Ajima was now downright stern. Laccho wished she would change back to the usual kind Ajima she knew. She whimpered hesitantly, full of fear of having definitely done something wrong.
  58.  
  59. I don’t remember! Maybe… yes. He was screaming like a madman as usual.
  60.  
  61. Maicha, think carefully and answer me… did he touch you?
  62.  
  63. Through her sobs and tears,  Laccho thought hard for some time.
  64.  
  65. Yes.
  66.  
  67. Show me where, exactly!
  68.  
  69. Laccho had given up all hope. She knew instinctively that this was all very bad, and that it was all her fault. Slowly, she touched her wrists, her left shoulder, and finally the right side of her face:
  70.  
  71. Here, here, and then he hit me here.
  72.  
  73. That’s it? …… Where else?
  74.  
  75. Laccho did not understand why Ajima continued to be so harsh. Timidly she said:
  76.  
  77. Nowhere else.
  78.  
  79. So he did not… You and…
  80.  
  81. Ajima struggled to complete her sentence.
  82.  
  83. What? Ajima… I don’t know what you are trying to ask!
  84.  
  85. Laccho burst out into another bout of crying. She wanted to answer Ajima’s questions. She knew Ajima was trying to help. But her fear of not knowing what was wrong added to her frustration with Ajima’s questions, and she sank into a deep state of helplessness.
  86.  
  87. Why is all this happening to me?
  88.  
  89. Suddenly, for some reason, Ajima’s face softened. Her eyes resumed their usual kind gaze. She caressed Laccho’s cheeks. Tears welled up in her eyes, and fell freely down her wrinkled face. Softly she asked:
  90.  
  91. Is this the first time you have found blood, there?
  92.  
  93. Yes.
  94.  
  95. Laccho still did not understand. She did not want to understand. She just wanted to cuddle within the manyfolds of Ajima’s bosom and be enveloped by her eternal smell of sweat mustard hay oil baby-vomit chiura smoke and yesterday’s garlic. Sniffing, Laccho wiped her nose like any other eight-year old would, and settled deeper into Ajima’s bosom.
  96.  
  97. Ajima curled herself around Laccho. She made a warm cocoon for this precious child, her dark-skinned child from far away. She smelled Laccho’s hair. She rested her cheeks on the curve of Laccho’s forehead.
  98.  
  99.  
  100.  
  101. Ajima cried for Laccho’s impending burden of womanhood. Her tears fell in slow solitary drops, made Laccho’s hair wet. Laccho did not mind.
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