Veena could not believe her eyes. Her daughter Jahnvi was at the door.
Veena’s motherly love erupted like a volcano as she sobbed incessantly and embraced Jahnvi. She had buried her feelings for too long. In the name of family honour she had forsaken her only child, the daughter of village priest who chose a Muslim boy.
“Have you come to rub salt in the wound? Go back to the other world.” Jahnavi’s uncle yelled at her.
“Not a word from you, Chandru.” Veena’s voice trembled with rage. “When your children want to marry outside caste and religion, it’s perfectly fine. What a double-standard!”
“Sister, that’s different. You are forgetting they are our sons.” Chandru smirked.
“My daughter is more educated than your three sons put together.” Veena was holding Jahnavi’s hand firmly interlocking fingers. Jahnavi had never seen her mother like this, like a fierce tigress.
“But that does not give her any right to challenge our age-old systems, our caste hierarchy and religious boundaries.” Chandru shouted and walked away.
“Ma, pay no attention to uncle’s patriarchal sexist nonsense. How is Papa? I am dying to see him.”
“Come inside. He is waiting for you.”
Three days back Bhuvan suddenly fell sick. He had been asking for his daughter since. After a lot of struggle, Veena could able to trace Jahnavi’s whereabouts and passed on the message.
“I missed you Jaanu.” A tear trickled down the corner of his eye.
“I love you Papa. I am sorry. I was away.”
“It’s OK. It was your wish.”
“It was not my wish Papa. I never wished to marry in presence of strangers. Like any other ordinary girl, I wished Ma and you by my side. I wanted to be among my childhood friends, my near and dear ones.”
“I am sorry Jaanu. I was overpowered by religious prejudice.”
“I was too scared Papa. Scared for Shahid’s life, our safety. Those news of gruesome honor killings always terrified me. We remained address-less for many months. We could not trust anybody, our family members, the police, or the government. I had no option Papa.” Jahnavi felt terribly guilty for being away and shirking her responsibility towards her aging parents.
“You took the best decision my child.” Bhuvan clutched Jahnavi’s hand. “Your Ma and I are proud of you. All my life I preached ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family), but you truly practiced it.”
Bhuvan continued, “After you left, I realized, our village is not one, let alone the world. The houses are along caste-lines. As the priest, I wanted to make corrections. I allowed Dalits to the temple. All I faced was opposition from every quarter. I got completely disenchanted. All rituals looked hollow and meaningless. What matters is humanity. I have stopped going to temple and taking tuitions to make ends meet.”
“You get well soon Papa. Shahid and I are studying Law now. We are not afraid anymore. We will together fight for your wish for humanity.”
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