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So many years have passed and so much blood has been shed yet we women continue to worry about our security. Why haven’t the men been taught to respect our independence?
“Padma, hey Padma! Wake up!” A lilting voice called out to PadmaValli.
PadmaValli, aka Padma, a young college lass got up with a start. What she saw, shook her out of her stupor completely. She saw an ethereal beauty decked up in royal finery, sitting at the edge of her bed.
Padma immediately started chanting all the prayers she knew. The beauty stretched her bejeweled hand out as if to calm the shaking PadmaValli. “Shhh,” She whispered. “We don’t want anyone to disturbed. Don’t be scared! I will not harm you. That’s a Queen’s promise!”
A somewhat braver Padma managed to find her sinking voice. “Who are you? And why are you here?” Padma tried to control her chattering teeth by biting her fingers.
“I’m Rani Padmavati of Chittor! Or you can say I’m the essence of Padmavat. ‘I’ matter!”
“What?? You must be joking! Is it a dare? Has Sam sent you, dressed like this, to see how I would react? I must start keeping my promise to Amma, of not drinking like a horse. I’m getting delusional!” Padma was about to shake Rani Padmavati, just to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating!
Rani Padmavati lifted her slim hand elegantly as if to assure Padma, the young lass. “No one has sent me. You and me, we both share the same first names. I wanted to see how my namesake lives. That is the reason for my unscheduled visit.”
Padma nodded as if to process the incongruity. Two time-separated blooms in conversation!
The Queen gently probed, “How about us going out to see what the world is doing now?”
“At this hour? Absolutely not! This is the hour when the vagabonds roam the roads. Who knows, who will pull us into their cars, defile us and throw us on the roads to rot? Discretion is the better part of valor really!” Padma tried to make Rani Padmavati understand the harsh ground realities, whose radiant glowing face then darkened with worry and distress.
Padma gravely carried on. “The Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi said, the day a woman can walk freely at midnight on the roads, is the day we say India has achieved independence. Forget about the midnight, women cannot move safely during daytime, what with the numbers of assaults against them increasing day by day.” Rani Padmavati stroked the open palm of PadmaValli affectionately.
“So many centuries hence, the marauders still rule the roost.” Rani Padmavati intoned sadly, looking around. “What is that brown pouch with all the decorations, on top?” Rani Padmavati was now curious.
“Oh, that? That is my purse. I take it to my college. Want to see my books?” Padma took her purse and emptied the contents on her bed.
Rani Padmavati took each item, examined the same thoroughly, while Padma explained their usage.
Rani Padmavati learned all about eye-liners, lipsticks, perfumes sprays, pens, erasers, stylus.
Rani Padmavati checked a small spray bottle.
“What is this Padma?” Rani Padmavati asked softly. As she rotated the bottle, she accidentally pressed the nozzle and her eyes started to water profusely.
Padma came in rushing with a tissue to dab at Rani’s eyes. “Dear Queen, why did you press that? It is a pepper spray, given to me by my eternally fearful Amma, for my safety, to be used in emergencies. You see, I travel long distances using the public transportation. In case someone tries to paw me or feel me then..”
Rani Padmavati was brooding now. She looked around.
She then held up a rectangular instrument. “Of what use is this Padma?”
PadmaValli was ecstatic. “That is the latest, state of the art, mobile or a cellphone. Amma can reach out to me, whenever she feels jittery. By talking to me, she is assured that I’m okay. Nothing untoward has happened to me. You see, I travel at all odd hours. So…I tell her not to worry. There are so many ladies who travel to work or study. We Iron-Maidens shrug and march ahead!”
Rani Padmavti was gravely silent. She ruffled PadmaValli’s hair, patted her on the head affectionately.
“Your mother shouldn’t be on tenterhooks, whenever you go out. So many centuries have passed and so much blood has been shed yet we women continue to worry about our security. Why haven’t the men been taught to respect our independence? Why isn’t the well-being of young ladies like you the paramount issue for the powers to be? You should able to soar sky high, breaking those glass ceilings instead of worrying about the wolves around, who hamper your growth. Usually, there should be a no-holds-barred discourse on the same and corrective actions should be taken.
I am the muse for a dream spinner, who cites artistic license when asked to explain his version. This – an unshakable cornerstone of an evolved society – most opine! Agreed!
But the aforesaid inspiration, is it a myth or a deified reality? Opinions stand starkly divided. But you, young Padma, are the unshakable reality. Your welfare and success should be the subject of a healthy debate. The systemic and structural violence needs to cease. That is the normal course to be taken by a civil society. If these discussions continue to be in a time warp, away from the ground realities then normal is overrated.
Take care Padma. Rewrite your own stirring history!”
The bewitching queen then disappeared in front of a dazzled Padma Valli.
Women will not be free from violence until there is equality, and equality cannot be achieved until the violence and threat of violence are eliminated from women’s lives.
Editor’s note: This story had been shortlisted for the January 2018 Muse of the Month, but not among the top 5 winners.