Krishna was perplexed to see a letter addressed to her in the post box. The only communications that came through post were promotional brochures, wedding invites or communication from the banks and none of these were ever addressed to her. She took the letter along with the other covers in the mailbox inside the house and settled down on the couch to unravel the mystery of the letter addressed to her. She turned the envelope around scanning for the name of the sender, but strangely there was none. She tore open the envelope to find a mint green coloured card covered in decorative calligraphic writing. As she pulled out the card a sheet of paper fell on her lap. Krishna adjusted her glasses and brought the card and the piece of paper close to her eyes.
“Mark your calendar for the 4th of June, 2021. Let us celebrate the silver jubilee celebrations of the special day in style. This is a celebration towards the beginning of the most special chapter in our lives and a tribute to all those who supported us. This is a reunion of one of its kind. For all those mothers who welcomed their little ones into the world on the 4th of June, 1996 at Medha Maternity Home. That’s where we will meet, in the hospital lawns 4.00 P.M sharp.” Krishna was surprised and shocked at seeing the card, feelings which were intensified on reading the note.
I am eagerly waiting to meet you. The celebration will be incomplete without your presence. Please don’t skip the event.” That was it, there was no name or signature of the sender.
Krishna was clutching the card and note firmly in her hand, wondering to herself, who could it be from that fateful night who had remembered her after all these years. The next moment there was a strain of fear in her eyes, how had they known where to find her. Was this an invitation from one of the many women who had occupied the labour ward on that day or was this invite from someone else? With great effort, Krishna had trained herself not to visit that chapter of her past, but today her restraint and self-control broke, her determined will to not look back at the bygone. Krishna found her mind travelling back to the past.
Krishna was seated with the other prize winners at the University’s annual award ceremony. She had been beaming all day and nothing could have dimmed her spirit that day. A year ago, she had fought bitterly with her family to continue her education and today she was going to be awarded the shield for topping her batch in B.A History, she could not have proved it any better to her family that she was deserving of this opportunity to study further. If this did not put an end to their scepticism nothing would. She went up on stage to collect the award as she heard her name being called. She came back to her seat and sat there clutching the certificate and medal tightly in her hand. “Congratulations, history repeated itself after 15 long years.” Krishna was taken aback at the sudden compliment and turned around to look at the speaker and the smile on the boyish face is a memory she cherishes to this day.
“If only girls were given the fair opportunity, they rightly deserve, history would repeat itself more often” Krishna responded to him.
“I can see, you are out to prove that. By the way, I am Avinash, first-year Political Science, though unlike you I didn’t top the batch.” Avinash said introducing himself.
That was the start of their friendship, Krishna and Avinash went to different colleges but would catch up with each other at the university library. Krishna enjoyed spending time with Avinash. Their conversations were interesting and charged her grey cells. But what she cherished the most about these meetings as she was heard. Avinash listened to her and valued her opinions and treated her like an equal. The first time she had seen a man do it. Her father or her brothers would only speak her down if at all she managed to her words across in a discussion. She had never interacted with men outside her family, rather had never been allowed to. She considered it a stroke of good luck that her friendship with Avinash hadn’t been noticed by her family so far.
The final year of her graduation had been coming to a close, Krishna’s final year exams were just a month away. She headed to the library to meet Avinash. She was in a pensive mood, as she wasn’t sure when she would be meeting Avinash again after that day. As they left the library that day, she ended up asking him the question, she had held back from asking all these days “when do we meet next? Where are we headed moving forward?” Before Avinash could think of an answer, she had left.
Krishna’s days had been tumultuous. Avinash had moved to a different city for his post-graduation and they had been able to meet only a couple of times in all these months. Her only solace was the letters she received from Avinash, which were routed through different friends. She had done exceedingly well in her final year graduation exams, despite which her academic dreams had been brought to an end. All she heard day and night were discussions of finding her a groom, while she was being trained to be the perfect wife. In no uncertain words her fate had been communicated to her “girls from respectable families did not go against the will of the family, she had to abide with decisions taken for her.” How much ever Krishna consoled and prepared herself for the future, she could not see herself living the lives the other women around her did. Living according to the will of the family, then the will of the husband and the will of the society, did these women have no will of their own, she wondered. Krishna did not want to live a life where she would have no say over her life.
One evening as she heard her father and brother discuss her marriage proposals, she stepped in and told them “I have no big demands, I only want a man who respects me and treats me as an equal.” Her father and brother looked flabbergasted for a second before she could see annoyance cloud their eyes. “Now, you are going to each us, how to find you a groom. Your education has gotten to your head” her brother screeched at her, while her father admonished her from the room, remarking “this girl needs to be wedded off before she gets out of hand.” Krishna was not surprised at the coldness o anger she received; in fact, she had expected it. But that did not lessen her disappointment, it only strengthened her will to take charge of her life.
Krishna and Avinash had tied the knot a week back. The wedding had been anything like what either of their families would have liked, but the bride and groom were more than happy. Krishna had left home a couple of months back, after being increasingly stifled and being pushed into a life by her family that she increasingly detested. She had fled to this city, as Avinash was the only person she expected support and understanding from. True to her expectations he had arranged for her accommodation at a girl’s hostel and helped her get a job at a local school. The salary had been meagre, but Krishna had been elated to take charge of her life. Over the course of time, they spent with each other Krishna and Avinash strengthened their commitment towards each other. They decided to take the marital plunge but did not want to hurry with the wedding. But destiny had other plans in store.
Krishna’s family had been desperately searching for her whereabouts and had finally managed to track her down. By a stroke of luck, Krishna received the news of their impending arrival. Avinash and she hurriedly decided to tie the knot and got married on a mid-March morning in the presence of a few friends. The marriage kicked up a storm in both their homes, more so in Krishna’s. She could see her brother wild with rage, but her father’s stoic anger is what frightened her. He did not shout, abuse or display any violent behaviour, all she received was a cold stare. She never heard back from her family again. Avinashi’s family had also not been happy with their decision and severed ties with him. The lack of family support was hurtful, but they were happy in each other’s company and learnt to be content with the life they had.
A few months after their wedding, Avinash found a part-time job at a publication house, where he was offered a full-time role after the completion of his post-graduation. Together they earned enough to cover their needs and also managed to save a little. Krishna was happy that she was spending her life with a man who did not impose his or society’s will on her but let her exercise her will and own her decisions. She had found a husband who treated her as an equal.
Krishna and Avinash had been elated when they got to know about their pregnancy. The months following the revelation had been exciting for the new parents. Krishna was in the last trimester of her pregnancy when all of a sudden on a June early evening she started experiencing pain in her lower abdomen. Her delivery date was almost two weeks away, so she initially dismissed the pain. But in a few hours, the pain got worse. Avinash was out of town and she was in no position to go to the public telephone to call him, so she sought her neighbour’s help and reached the hospital. After hours of excruciating labour pain, Krishna delivered a beautiful baby girl.
The next day Krishna woke up in the morning and found her little bundle of joy dozing happily in her crib. She looked around the room but there was no sign of Avinash. She saw her friend from the neighbourhood Usha walk into the room with her husband. Krishna immediately asked them, if Avinash had been informed about their daughter’s birth. Her friend did not answer. Her husband said after a long pause, that she and her daughter will be taken to the town, where Avinash is by evening.
Krishna’s head was reeling. Why hadn’t Avinash come and called them instead? How was she going to travel with such a small baby? Would the doctors permit that? A thousand other questions were running in her mind, but she was too exhausted to seek the answers.
Krishna and her daughter were transported to a city far from the one she had been residing in. She was hospitalised there for a few days. After her discharge, Usha brought her to the shelter home run by n NGO. It was there that she revealed to Krishna that Avinash had succumbed to an accident, which was suspected to be the handiwork of some politically connected people, who had been unhappy about a book Avinash had been compiling for the publication house. She was informed that there was a threat to her and her newborn’s life, the reason why they had been moved to this city in a hurry.
Krishna’s life had come crashing down with this revelation. She withdrew into her shell; the unfairness of life was overwhelming for her to cope up with. It was her little daughter who gave her the strength to rise above loss, to pick up the pieces of her past and move on. She found a job with the help of the NGO. The years went by with Krishna busy raising her daughter, working on improving her teaching skills and the weekends were spent at the NGO, where she volunteered in upskilling the women being rehabilitated. But the memory of the beautiful time she had spent with Avinash stayed fresh in her mind and the longing for the city they had built their little world in stayed strong in her heart over the years.
Krishna was staring blankly at the re-union invitation card, when her phone beeped all of a sudden, breaking her reverie. “Held up at work, will be late. Don’t wait for me, have your dinner” her daughter Trupti’s message flashed on the screen. Krishna yearned to go back to the city, she did not want to let go of this opportunity to travel there. But she was not sure whether she possessed the courage to go back to that very place, which would trigger memories of that night when her world had shattered. She would have to make this trip alone, Trupti was busy with work and Krishna still feared exposing her to the lurking dangers which had uprooted her from the city all those years ago.
Krishna made arrangements for her trip. Though she was excited about visiting the city and seeing all those places which held special memories for her, the unsigned note accompanying the invitation card made her uncomfortable. Trupti had been reluctant about her mother’s sudden plans, but she didn’t have the heart to dampen her mother’s excitement. Despite the nagging intuition concerning the unsigned note and lack of knowledge about the sender, Krishna set out on her trip.
4th June 2021
Krishna set out for the venue of the reunion. As she reached Medha Maternity Home, the place looked rather forlorn. The building had a dull and faded appearance and seemed to be in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint. It seemed unusual that a place would look so forlorn when an event was to take place. There were no signs of celebration, no lights, no decorations or banners. “Probably the lawn area would be decorated, maybe they did not want to disturb the patients in the main area of the hospital with all the fun fare” Krishna muttered to herself. Strangely there seemed to be very few patients near the main entrance and even more strange was the fact that there were hardly any women among the waiting patients. She turned right from the main entrance following the direction on the board near the entrance doorway. She walked a little further on the cemented pathway to only reach a dilapidated and abandoned parking lot. She stood there shocked and confused when a vehicle horn blared unusually loud.
She turned around to see a middle-aged man alighting from the front seat of an SUV. She had to strain her eyes to look at him, the only source of light was from the vehicle’s headlight. As the man came closer, she could not believe her eyes. Was that him? “Shekhar bhaiya” she called out. The man gave a burst of loud throated laughter “strange, you still remember me, you threw us out of your life, how come I am still a part of your memory?” he asked with a smirk
“Papa and you disowned me; I did not alienate anybody” Krishna responded bitterly. “You haven’t changed a bit; it is always about you alone. Had papa not held me back that day, you would have learnt your lesson at the start.” Shekhar minced the response in anger.
“You mean, taking charge of my life and living it according to my will was a mistake, for which I ought to have been taught a lesson, you haven’t changed bhaiya” Krishna spoke in a disappointed tone.
“Defying the society’s Will and destroying the family’s honour is not a mere mistake, but a crime. You knowingly committed the crime, so you will be punished. It should have happened 25 years ago, but you managed to escape. You defied our Will and honour for that husband of yours, why remain separated from him” Shekhar hollered madly pointing the gun at her.
Krishna’s face was clouded with anger and fear all at once. “You are the one responsible for Avinash’s death” Krishna was sobbing but her words were seeped in anger.
“You have to pay the price for defying the community’s will, destroying the family’s honour to marry someone outside the caste. Sparing you all these years has been a bad precedent. People have to be reminded that they cannot defy the community and live a life of their will.
Krishna was repulsed, she had a great urge to retch, and retch till her guts gave up. She was appalled she shared a bloodline with the man standing in front of her. His words made no sense to her, how could any man be justifying murder with such pride. While still in shock, a part of her mind was forcing her to run. She ran like she was in a trance, as she heard guns firing one after the other. All of sudden, there was silence and eerie and dark silence.
Note: This was influenced by a piece of news, I had read a few years ago of a man who tracked down and killed his sister and her husband years after their marriage. It was termed a case of honour killing. But I keep wondering what is honourable about these killings? Isn’t it a shame to humanity at large that such gory practices are still prevalent in the 21st century?
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One thought on “A Life of One’s Own Will”
A very thought provoking story, Parvadavardini. I especially liked the description of the meetings between Krishna and Avinash. The dark ending was unexpected and made me ponder