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“My husband has not abused me physically but his sense of control and command over my daughter’s and my life had become like chains tied around our feet.”
Sarayu looked back twice to see that no one was following her. The familiar roads leading to their house wore a deserted look. She walked briskly towards the banyan tree about ten yards from the biggest house of the village. It was 3.25 a.m. Susheela had sent her a note through one of the trust worthy servants of the house to meet her near banyan tree at about 3.30 am.
After the showdown she had had with the Sardar around a week back his wife Susheela had tried to contact her twice in vain, and then finally sent a note two days ago. Sarayu had been surprised but after reading the note she clearly understood and also appreciated the progressive thinking of a lady who might have rarely if ever stepped outside this village in her entire life.
The mother had finally taken a stand and Sarayu wondered that maybe having a daughter as bright as Akansha had been a boon for this obedient wife and daughter-in-law, to finally step outside the strict boundaries of her existence and exercise her own will. Whatever had made the lady take this decision, it would benefit her daughter immensely thought Sarayu.
As these thoughts kept her busy she saw her watch. 3:40am. The train to Mysore would leave at 4:30 am and the railway station was a good 10 min walk from there. There was no sign of anyone arriving from the other side. A tiny thought of doubt crossed through her mind. Was it some kind of a trap by the Sardar? Should she have been a little more cautious? Whatever the risk was, it was worth a try, she thought. This young girl’s entire life was at stake and she was willing to try anything, even if it was risking the wrath of the most powerful men in the village…
Another 10 min passed before she could make out faint silhouettes of a mother and daughter walking from the backyard of the house with two bags in their hand. As they came closer Sarayu could make out that Susheela was holding her sleepy but cheerful daughter close to her and walking with steely determination. The moment they saw Sarayu, Susheela ran and hugged her. Then she whispered in her ears, “Let us go and catch the train first, I have a lot to talk with you in the train, Akka…”
All three of them covered themselves with thick shawls, put their heads down and briskly walked towards the railway station, making as little noise as possible. They passed narrow lanes, with Sarayu in the front and Susheela shielding Akansha from the back. It was still dark and the ground was damp due to light rain. They carefully avoided the puddles and the slippery rocks, holding each other’s hands once in a while. Finally when they reached the railway station, the large clock at the entrance showed the time. 4:20 am. They covered their faces and gestured to each other to keep calm and get into the train without speaking or drawing any attention.
Susheela glanced back nervously for one last time. No one. Then she finally helped Akansha climb into the compartment and got into the train. She was followed closely by Sarayu.
As the train slowly chugged its way out of the station, tears had welled up in Susheela’s eyes. Sarayu waited patiently for Akansha to go back to sleep. Ten minutes of awkward silence followed. After making sure that the girl was fast asleep, Sarayu held the woman’s hands and spoke to her slowly, “Don’t worry Susheela, you have taken the correct decision.”
Tears flowed unhindered from her eyes but she appeared remarkably unfazed as she spoke. “Thank you Akka. I owe you a lot,” she said, looking into Sarayu’s eyes.
“You don’t owe me anything Susheela, but by the decision you have taken today your daughter will be indebted to you for her entire life,” Sarayu said.
“You gave me courage Akka. Whenever I saw you, I wanted my daughter to be like you. Strong, independent and hard-working; a person who is in complete control of her own life, unlike me who is dependent in every way on her husband and family” her voice trailed off..
Sarayu kept her eyes on Susheela as she spoke. “What made you take this decision of leaving your family? Is it that you too were against the marriage of your minor daughter? If so why didn’t you speak against it when I was talking to the Sardar that day in your house? Are you scared of him? Does he abuse you in any way?”
“Akka, I never wanted my daughter to get married so early. But my mother-in-law and husband never gave any importance to my views or even Akansha’s. My poor girl begged her father to postpone her marriage until her studies was completed but he silenced her completely. He didn’t even ask my opinion as usual. My husband has not abused me physically but his sense of control and command over my daughter’s and my life had become like chains tied around our feet. That day when you opposed him and spoke about the bright future for Akansha he was unmoved but it deeply impacted me. Your words gave me courage to take the right decision even though I don’t know what lies ahead of us now. I decided that I would leave the house and support my daughter. I may not be financially independent but I am a graduate and I have the jewelry my parents gave to me in my marriage. I will take up a job in Mysore and find for my child’s education. It may not be easy life but certainly better than killing my child’s future with my own hands,” her forehead creased with lines of worry.
“You are a very strong woman Susheela!” Sarayu held her hands again.
“Akka, my strength is my lovely daughter. One look into her eyes and all my worries fade away. She makes me fearless. Because I have been afraid and I always want her to face her fears bravely. If I don’t show her how to do it, if I don’t lead by example, how will she ever learn? Leaving the house is my first step in that direction…” Susheela said in firm tone.
Sarayu hugged her and comforted her for a long time while Akansha slept peacefully. In the nearby window stations were passing one after another, as Susheela waited patiently for her destination. She had a long way to go like the train which was taking her now…
Editor’s note: This story had been shortlisted for the June 2018 Muse of the Month, but not among the top 5 winners.
Image source: Flickr
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