You unfold the letter and hand it to Isha. Her eyes widen as she reads it, just two lines, again and again before she looks at you with renewed terror. She’s thinking of her husband and children. You’re thinking of your husband, your mother, wondering what your mother would say if she knew. Probably that women are raped every day and this is no different, and it’s nothing to stick your neck out for now, is it?
“What do we do?” she asks. Her voice is shaking. But you think she’s expecting you to say, Take it to the presses. Information stops for no one.
“We can the story,” you say. “It isn’t worth our lives.”
She looks at you a long time before she hands the letter back. “Thank you,” she says, and you think what she’s really saying is Thank you for looking out for me and mine, but what about our paper? Our gender? Our country?
You feel relieved, somewhere; somewhere, you feel sick.
You go home to Subramanyam and reluctantly share the story of your day. Your mother reacts exactly as you predicted. Subramanyam looks at you thoughtfully and squeezes your hand, but the fact that he asks to make love to you later makes you wonder if he really understands the toll this has taken on you, or how it will weigh on you for the rest of your life.
In subsequent days the victim’s family members phone to slander you, or to sob, Why are you doing this to us? You promised to fight for our daughter’s sake. Isha is grateful but, you think, respects you just a little less. Rajiv, who knows no better, resents that the story he helped with didn’t run, and eventually he resigns for a post at The Times of India, which has said nothing about the matter, either. You wish him well. You aren’t resentful. You are merely sad, for your homeland, that you work to promote the free flow of information in a culture of silence that has now silenced you. Though your faith is shaken, you continue to do your part and do it well, but you look the other way now when difficult stories cross your desk, because you cannot again be faced with such a decision and trust you will make the right one, or one that will hurt less than the one you made that day.
But at least you are all alive. And for that you too are grateful.