by Aarya Dubey
It was 1:30 am by the watch when the next house’s doorbell rang. The ‘stranger’ waited for a couple of minutes. But, no response. It was raining cats and dogs. “There must be some ghost at this hour of time”, my mother chuckled. “I’m not scared of ‘aatmas’ anymore, Mumma. I’m a grown-up girl now”, I deadpanned.
Next morning, I woke up at my usual time of 11:00 and went straight outside looking for my daily newspaper. The weather was unusually cold and the rain had stopped by then. There was something awful about the air that morning, of which I was absolutely unaware. I grabbed the newspaper and sat down on the floor, near my mother who was washing clothes then, to glance through the headlines of the day. “I hope you didn’t have any ghostly dreams”,
she giggled. I didn’t respond. Then she said in a rather hushed tone, “You know who it was knocking at the dead of night?” “Anyone but a ghost!”, I replied. “Priti has passed away and it was her mother-in-law at that hour of night”, she said, with no variation in the intensity of
her tone. “What! How?” I was astonished. “So, that demon husband and those two devils (mother-in-law & sister-in-law) have finally murdered Bhabhi!”, I yelled.
It had been over 7 years of the girl’s (Priti’s) marriage to the demon-Vinay. I don’t remember much since I was a child then. But one thing that has yet not faded from my memory is Bhabhi’s sweet face, which reflected nothing but the innocence of her heart and the purity of her soul. I remember how affectionately she smiled when I had complimented her that she looked beautiful. That was the only time I met her in-person. Like any other girl who weaves the dreams of her after-married-life, she also might have treasured those dreams in her locked heart. But who has seen ‘kal’? All those dreams that she might have watered since her childhood, all those dreams of her ‘sweet’ married life, and all those expectations she might have had from her ‘hubby’ and in-laws, were all shattered, when just after a week or so after marriage, she was locked up in a store-room by her so-called ‘husband’. Since that day, till the night she went for an eternal rest, all she got from her marriage was torture, torture, and only torture! She was asked to ‘be in her limits’, ‘keep a long veil’, ‘do all the household-chores without uttering a word’, ‘endure all the brutality done to her’ and ‘still be an epitome of sanskaari Hindu naari’. Damn! I wish her parents had taught her to live and not just survive. I wish her mother had taught her that she can still be sanskaari even if she raises her voice against the injustice by her in-laws. I wish she had not taught her at the time of her marriage that all she was obliged to do now was to take care of her family’s wishes, though it meant strangulating the neck of her’s own. Alas! Nothing that sort had happened. She was kept as a slave (not even a Maid!), by her in-laws, absolutely deprived of any human right. Infact, she was declared as mentally insane! Forget about healthy and nourished food, she wasn’t even allowed to drink water without her ‘family’s wish’. Before going out for work, the demon husband used to lock her up and she would do nothing but cry (not even yell for help).
Perhaps, she had forgot her own voice in all these years! She wasn’t allowed to call up her mother/brothers (her father had already died long before she got married). Even if the latter ever called up her husband (as the wife wasn’t given a mobile phone), he would make excuses (like- she isn’t there at home/gone outside/is upstairs/ is sleeping/ I’m at my workplace. And the list goes on.) but would never allow them to speak to Bhabhi. Once in a blue moon, he allowed her to talk to them, BUT IN HIS PRESENCE as he always feared the lady might reveal something about their ‘excessively humane’ behaviour. Once in a while, the brothers used to visit their sister’s place, but she always pretended as if everything was well and everybody in her house shared cordial relations with her. She was such an amazing actor that she could make her ‘dialogues’ and ‘acts’ seem so realistic that even her brothers (who were more like a father to her) didn’t feel anything ‘unusual’ with their sister.
Few years after marriage, she gave the family a ‘vaaris’. But, Aah, this cruel destiny! It seems as if she was hated and despised by the Almighty himself! Within a week of the baby’s birth, her ruthless sister-in-law took (rather snatched) him away with her, at her place. By that time, Bhabhi had not seen the face or even felt the touch of her new-born. A child of less than 7 days, snatched away from her mother! Only a mother could relate to it! It was only after 2 (or 3months) when she first caught the glimpse of her child. How ecstatic she would have been, then! But the whirling destiny blew with it her momentary happiness, once again! She was not allowed to meet her child (or rather feed her child), love her child or even stare at her child. Where every woman dreams of being called ‘mumma’ one day, she just wished to sing a lullaby to her child to sleep. By the time the son turned 3, the devils had completely brain-washed him into believing that her mother was a lunatic. What could be more heart wrenching for a mother than his own son calling her Mad! Aah, how hapless the mother-child were! Since our neighbours were not unaware of the in-humane treatment Bhabhi was being subjected to, one of the good members of our locality raised his voice on behalf of her. But his voice was subdued when Bhabhi advocated in favour of her in-laws. What else could anyone of us have done then! Years passed, but everything for the lady was constant. Morning-noon-evening-night and the cycle repeated itself. Her life was becoming worse day by day and so was her health. She had been fighting the longest battle of her life, all alone. Even her ‘king’ wasn’t there by her side. The man who had once taken 7 vows to protect her ‘ardhangini’ from the evils’ eye, who had once promised her to be that dhaal before any mishap could even touch her feet, was the man who had kept her as his slave all these years. What an irony it is!
But everything in the ambit of nature, whether material or immaterial, palpable or impalpable, has to see an end one day. Perhaps the last night, it was her miseries that have ended. But, that ‘not a single food grain/water except some guava leaves have been identified in the abdomen’, as the post-mortem report says, shattered our hearts into innumerable pieces. Not even traces of water! DAMN!!
I don’t know about the laws of God. I don’t know if she’ll be given justice after death. I don’t know if she was ‘sanskari’ or not. But one day, my mother saw her searching for some food ‘particles’ from the dustbin. That day, one thing that I was assured of was that she was a
human who was not treated humanely. I don’t know if it’s true that “bhagwaan k ghar der hai, andher nahi“. But I know and whole-heartedly believe that she did not die a natural death, but was murdered. That it was not death, but a journey to eternal peace.
About the Author:
Aarya Dubey is a writer based in India