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In this gripping short story, a young woman is led by her family into a future she cannot imagine. Will she find the means to escape it? Read on and find out!
I always have led a mediocre life – not too fancy, but not too boring. Father, Head-Accounts in a private firm and mother, a housewife. Wait! Not just a housewife (she hates that tag), but a part-time tiffin service provider too. I have two sisters, both elder to me. So in spite of belonging to a simple middle class family, I was the only family member who was overly pampered and promptly attended to. Ask for anything and my family (especially my sisters) would get it done somehow.
My mother, however, had problems with all this. She always raised her eyebrows at certain ways my sisters and father would care for me. Not that she hated me. In fact, she did fulfil every bit of her responsibility as a parent. However, it was nothing more and nothing less than she did for my other two sisters.
Don’t judge me, but I often felt that I was not her ‘real daughter’. Maybe that’s why she was upset when I was treated better than her other ‘real’ daughters. Though I could never be sure about that. Her regular hugs and kisses would confuse me even more.
Regardless of everything, I loved my mother. She was the perfect epitome of a mother, and a wife. Always calm and composed, impeccable with her work and dressed up gracefully (how much I was in love with her printed synthetic sarees!). There was only one trait of hers that annoyed me to the core…
Her head bowed down.
Mother never looked up or into someone’s eyes, even when directly speaking. Even while expressing her anger.
“How can she live like that?” I would often discuss with my sisters. “If I were in her place, I would have been dead with spondylitis already.”
And then we sisters would have a hearty laugh. My laughter was always mixed with tears of anger. One day, straight after lunch, when both my sisters were still at the college, I summoned my courage and confronted my mother.
“What are you scared of that you can never raise your head in front of others? Have I seen papa ever raising his voice at you? NO. Then why?” “Don’t you think it’s shameful on your part?” I didn’t want to say that last sentence and quickly regretted it too.
It was too late I guess.
Mother was stunned. I had not heard anyone speaking to her like that ever. For a moment, I too was shocked to look at her face (with her head bowed down, of course). The redness on her cheeks slowly spreading to her ears, her nostrils flaring up and her lips clenched. I am not sure if I saw a teardrop drenching her right eyelash. I think she smartly pulled it back.
It was her reply that left me fuming too.
“Never dare to say that again. And it’s better that you too learn to live like this. A woman you are, aren’t you?”
It was my turn to hold back my tears. Aghast and hurt, I almost screamed at her.
“I would never do that. NEVER EVER…”
“A bowed head is a sign of shame, fatigue and cowardice. I am none of this but you for sure are!” This time, my words were a deliberate attempt to hurt her and leave her shattered.
I stormed off.
That night was never-ending.
“A woman you are, aren’t you?” Mother’s words were echoing in my head. I was too restless to fall asleep.
For a 16-year old, it was difficult to decide if she was still a girl or a woman. But my sisters were 21 and 22 already, and were definitely young and pretty women.
The same women who have recently turned quiet and timid. The observation was unsettling and I quickly declined it in disbelief. Was I too on the path to becoming just like mother?
Immediately, another voice echoed. Something swept me to the past.
‘MEERA…what an impressive name!” Vikas, my classmate had once said as I casually dismissed the praise.
“What’s so great about it?” I mocked him.
“Oh, it is power. Can you imagine a lady falling in love with the supreme – Krishna, and not bowing down to anyone, even at the cost of her being ruined? This name is not ordinary Meera. Make this your identity, not just a name,” chuckled Vikas.
“By the way, who gave you this name?” he asked.
“Papa says it was his guru. I have never met him though. But papa has great faith in him. Once he even said that he can give away his life for his guru.”
I woke up with a jerk. It was 7 in the morning. Last night had been such a terror. I stepped out of the room, expecting the usual hustle bustle – sisters getting ready for college, papa heading to office and mother, as usual, in the kitchen. But there was none of this familiar chaos. Instead the entire house was haunting an unusual, eerie silence.
I could only hear some faint noise from the store room. The store room was hardly used except during Diwali (for the cleaning spree) or if a guest was coming over (to dump off the mess). Diwali was at least seven months away and no guest was expected as per my knowledge.
As I slowly headed for the store room, the voices became clearer. Just when I was a couple of steps away from the door, I could hear mother pleading. “Please, spare Meera. She’s young and naïve. Last time you took Kavita you said this would be the final one,” Mother was sobbing hard, sounding helpless. I peeped through the door and skipped a heartbeat. Mother had knelt down and grabbed my father’s legs. Both my sisters, Anita and Kavita were standing in one corner, scared and weeping.
Nothing happened after that. My father saw me at the door, mother wiped off her tears and then all of them dispersed and got busy with the daily chores. It would have been hard to explain to someone that there had been something wrong in the house only a few minutes back.
I did not ask anyone anything. I knew that it would have been a futile attempt. But the answer was coming to me….just a month later.
It was a cold morning of February and I was still tucked in my cosy blanket when mother woke me up. I could sense the tension in her voice but didn’t get time to inquire. I was asked to get ready and drape a saree. A saree? This was something terribly unusual!
Before I had any second thoughts, papa quickly got his Maruti 800 out and I was pushed in. Mother accompanied me. I had no idea where my sisters were on that Sunday morning though.
The car followed an unknown route – deserted and spooky.
An hour-long drive and we were outside a beautiful bungalow in the woods. The atmosphere of the house was silent and religious but the vibes were unsettling. There were young men and women dressed in white robes with some white powder smeared on their foreheads. After a brief chat with a tall and fat lady, papa took me inside the house. Mother was asked to wait outside. In confusion, I could only see her shivering hands and wet eyes.
Inside the house were gigantic pictures of a middle aged man, in every nook and corner. There were something scribbled on the walls – probably Sanskrit Shlokas (I took some cue from the Sanskrit classes that I hated).
Soon we crossed the massive hall, and I saw a big metal door with intricate designs on it. On one side of the door was a metal bell, dangling in the air. Papa rang the bell thrice and another woman in the same signature robe came out. She had a pleasant smile on her face – the only thing that brought some respite to an otherwise nervous and anxious me.
We entered and saw the same man in the photos sitting on a chair with his eyes closed. After five minutes, he opened his eyes. This man continued. He too wore the white robe but wore a big vermillion circle on his forehead that set him apart from the rest.
I hated his looks.
“Come Jagdish. I was waiting for you.” He said.
Jagdish, my father, ran and sat down touching his feet. It was awkward.
That man continued, “There is no chance of anything going wrong this time. I have given all my knowledge gained in the last 40 years, just to make sure you produce a son.”
A son? Did I hear something wrong? I always thought papa loved us and was proud of us.
“You can leave now Jagdish. I will see you tomorrow, same time,” said the man and closed his eyes again.
“Ji Guruji”, replied papa.
Papa quickly left, without looking at me. Without taking me along. I hurriedly walked back towards the door but was stopped by the same smiling woman. Before I could understand anything, a cold hand started rubbing my neck. I turned back in despair. It was Guruji, with his eyes open and wild.
Two hours later when I had spent all my energy screaming and crying, I was escorted to a beautiful room. Right from the furniture to the décor, everything in that room was royal and certainly not associated with monks or spirituality. But what caught my attention was a mesmerising Tanjore painting of Lord Krishna. It gave me a strange sense of relief.
Some female assistants helped me wash and dress up. I was terrified but still wanted to know why this was happening to me. So I asked one of the assistants. And then I wished I had not asked that question at all.
I thought papa was a hero, not some bloody beast with a mad desire for a son. Things started unfolding…
First mother and then my sisters going away from home every now and then – returning back dejected and exhausted from the claws of this guru. And mother’s frequent visits to the clinic for tests and then abortions. Hadn’t she given up already? First for herself and then for her daughters. A head bowed was all she could manage. She had accepted being a loser and a coward or maybe a living corpse.
It was 9 in the night and the door opened. Guruji stepped in – no white robe, no vermilion; just plain Kurta Pyjamas. I was ready too. I did not have to wait much longer. Soon he turned back to take the glass of water kept on the table, and I pushed the knife into his back. The oozing blood made me nauseous, but I pulled out the knife and stabbed again, this time on his chest.
Even after a week, the newspapers were flooded with the speculations over Guruji’s murder. Just outside the juvenile court I saw mother and sisters. Mother had filed for divorce. Papa was already in jail and this time mother had her head raised up.
The witnesses and evidence were in my favour. “It will not take long,” I heard the defence lawyer convincing mother.
Just before entering the court, I caught a glimpse of a photograph in the newspaper. ‘Famous Guru Kriparam Found Dead in His Bungalow’, read the headline.
It was guruji lying lifeless on the floor and just above his body was the Tanjore painting of Lord Krishna.
‘Meera – not an ordinary name. Make this your identity, not just a name.’
Her smile said it all.
Image via Pixabay
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