New Beginnings

New Beginnings

1941, Karjan, Gujarat.

“Radha, you’re a lucky girl. He is a freedom fighter”, whispered my best friend in my ears. 

 I didn’t understand why it was lucky to become a freedom fighter’s wife.

I was barely twelve. I sat fully decked up in my bridal attire, a white saree with red pallu covering my face.  My forehead was decorated with a big bright red bindi encircled with small white and red dots which ran over my eyebrows. My fragile body was burdened with two necklaces, a dozen bangles on each wrist, thick anklets, damini on my forehead, jhumkas, and waistband. I looked like a mini jewellery shop!

I didn’t understand the wedding rituals. For me, wedding meant a girl became a princess for a day and a slave from the next day. Wedding meant a girl changed her address.  It meant a girl had to apply sindoor.

Mohan was a freedom fighter.  That suggested he was out of town most of the time.  I was told that he travelled in troops, remained in disguise, and knew how to use guns.  He always carried a weapon with him and was part of big operations.

I looked at him during our garland ceremony from my veil.  He was sixteen years old and had a sharp nose and twinkling eyes.  He was tall and had broad shoulders. Locks of hair covered half of his forehead. His innocent smile captured my attention.

That night, he met me on the threshold of our room and declared, “I must leave.  Will meet soon. Jai Shri Krishna.”

I replied, “Jai Shri Krishna”, but he had already left.

I came to know later that he had married with one condition-he would leave immediately.

Mohan had three younger siblings. His sister Kamala was my age. We became friends. We would play in the evenings.

My days passed by looking after our cows, pulling water from the well, and working in the fields. The house was huge, and I played with the younger siblings of Mohan. I did not particularly miss Mohan.  

Mohan travelled extensively. Sometimes, police would come searching for him. But we never knew his whereabouts.


He came home for one day with his troop. They needed a place to stay at night. He along with his fifteen companions stayed at our cowshed. They discussed some important upcoming events. I wanted to see Mohan once. But he was surrounded by the members of his troop. The next morning, they had left.

My father-in-law had declared, “New movements will soon be adopted.”

I did not understand these terms. 

Soon the Quit India Movement started. Mohan was an active participator. We heard about massacres all over Hindustan and were worried about Mohan. Everybody in the family prayed for his well-being.

Every evening I would light a diya near our entrance, beside the tulsi plant. The diya emanated positivity and gave me hopes of seeing him soon.

Mohan would sometimes come home, but always with his companions. They would stay at the cowshed. I never saw him. 


Life was moving at a slow pace. Kamala got married before two years and was now a mother. Loneliness was killing me. All my friends who were married before a few years were now mothers.

I, on the other hand, had not even talked to Mohan. He always arrived with his companions.

I missed Mohan a lot during Holi and Deepavali. Festivals didn’t mean anything to me.  Evenings were difficult to pass. I would pray near the diya, hoping it would spread its light into my life. 

Sometimes I felt if he wouldn’t have been a freedom fighter, he would have been home with me. But immediately I would rebuke myself for garnering such thoughts.  He was on a mission. It was my duty to support his every wish. 

Once, his companions dropped him home, injured, and unconscious. His shoulder was hit by a bullet.

I shrieked when I saw him. 

My mother-in-law took me inside and advised, “Stay calm. Mohan needs attention right now.” 

The local Vaidyaraja was called immediately. With difficulty, he removed the bullet, but the infection needed time to heal. Vaidyaraja informed me that he should regain his consciousness soon. Else it might prove to be fatal. 

My head spun when I heard these words. 

Why God? Why? We haven’t even looked or talked to each other. Will our love story end without starting?  All types of thoughts entered my mind. The only thing we all could do was pray. I prayed at the diya with moist eyes.

It was difficult for anyone to eat.  My parents-in-law and his younger siblings prayed. Kamala also arrived.  

Our prayers were answered. He regained consciousness after two days, after which he slept most of the time. I nursed him. Our eyes hardly met. He didn’t speak much.

As soon as he recovered, he left. I was sad. I wanted him to stay longer. My eyes were moist when he left, but my tears went unnoticed inside my ghunghat

I longed to spend time with him. I wanted to talk about myself. I wanted to tell him that I longed for his loving touch. I sought to know more about him. I craved to tell him that I too wanted to have babies. I wanted to tell him what makes me smile and what angered me. I wanted to spend hours looking into his eyes. 

Unfortunately, I realized he didn’t notice me. The only thing which kept dancing in his mind was freedom. His one love was Hindustan. He couldn’t think anything beyond that. I respected his thoughts.

Whenever I served him food, I would consciously try to be near him. Casually, if my hand would touch his, it would give me currents. But he was oblivious to my reactions.

The next morning, there was a knock at the door. My father-in-law beckoned everyone to stay quiet and opened the door.

As soon as he opened the door, four police officers barged in. 

One officer who looked like their head demanded, “Where’s Mohan?”

“We don’t know. He doesn’t live here”, my father-in-law explained.

One officer instructed the other policemen, “Go and search for him in the house.”

The policemen searched our house while turning every corner upside down. But they couldn’t find him. I shivered at their sight but was glad Mohan had left the previous day.

The police left saying, “Will soon catch him. He cannot fool us for long.”

I shuddered and hoped against hope that Mohan did not return soon.

Mohan visited after three months with his troop. This time they were carrying huge sacks of goods. 

The cows were shifted to our back yard. He instructed everyone in the house, “Don’t come near the shed.”

There were a lot of noises, followed by screams from the shed. 

My father-in-law explained to us, “Mohan is teaching his troop to make bombs.”

I asked astonished, “He knows?”

He replied, “He has just learned.”

I got petrified and did not wander near the shed till they left.

15th August 1947

History was created. The whole nation was celebrating. Everywhere the famous Jana Gana Mana and Vande Mataram were being sung. The Tricolour got its due respect. The country was free from Britishers, and me from loneliness.

The entire nation looked forward to new beginnings, and I too. The whole family waited enthusiastically for Mohan.

Mohan came home after ten days. There were celebrations and decorations everywhere in the nation. Decorations ornamented our house too, for more than one reason. Rangoli adorned our front entrance. Torans of marigold and asopalav leaves hung at every corner of the house. I lighted many diyas and placed them around our house. The house appeared as if it was geared up for Deepavali. All types of delicacies were prepared. After a long time, we all wore new Khadi clothes. 

Kamala had come with her two-year-old daughter to receive him. For the first time, the house was full of laughter. Mohan’s younger brothers were eager to receive him.

Kamala stated, “You have been very patient, bhabhi. Only I know how much a freedom fighter’s wife must sacrifice.”

I said, “Glad you understand, didi. Anything for the nation.”

We hugged each other with moist eyes.

Mohan was welcomed with garlands. Now there was no need for him to hide. He didn’t stay in the cowshed. He settled and shared his stories. His eyes sparkled when he talked about their successful operations.

While sharing one of his operations, he glanced at me. His gaze stuck towards me.

He couldn’t see my face. From my veil, I could see him gaping. His gaze made me conscious of my body. I adjusted my pallu and covered my curves. I could perceive him investigating me-top to bottom. I gathered he just discovered me! 

That night, he entered my room for the first time. I lay on my cot with my eyes closed.  I could sense him observing my face, and realized he was looking at me for the first time. He removed a strand of hair from my cheek and caressed my cheek.

He gently whispered, “Radha! You are beautiful!”

His words were music to my ears! I opened my eyes. He smiled with that innocent smile that I had noticed during our garland ceremony. I smiled back coyly.

Our love story finally began.
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