Suravipatti (Suravi – Sun; Patti – Village) is known for its greenery situated on the southern tip of India. Farming flourishes in the good soil as the rain never fails to visit every year. The breeze is a permanent resident bringing upon smiles even in summer. The coconut trees on either side of the roads gladly provide a warm welcome. Hospitals, schools, small scale industries, welfare centers all around does not hold the identity that the place is a village. The people lived happily because of the chief person, Rayappan. He took care of all their needs and always strived for improvements in every aspect possible. His political influence turned the afore things into reality. As he owned most of the lands, he provided job opportunities in many ways to the people. They respected and worshipped him. His son Muthu completed his post-graduation in biotechnology but preferred to stay here with his parents. There were heaps of praises for him as he did not wish to settle in the city. Muthu’s wedding was arranged, and the entire village worked tirelessly for the celebration.
During the preparations, the elders were engaged in the process of inviting people from the city and neighboring places.
“What is this Rayappan; you pardoned your daughter generously after she chose to marry a person below your status. Even though they absconded to the city, your son-in-law takes good care of her and they live there peacefully. Then why are you hesitating to invite them? It has been nearly five years. They may have a child now. So, let this occasion make the necessary bridge uniting your family together.”
“My wife Shantha was also giving me the same lecture past few days. Since everyone is requesting, let us send them the invitation.” Rayappan replied with a smile.
“You are such a kind-hearted person; everything will fall in the right place as you desire”, all laughed, and more cheers spread in the air.
Shantha was watching them from inside and felt delighted that she would soon see her daughter and probably grandkids as well.
Six years ago
Her eyes emitted positiveness at anyone she looked upon. Her friendly gesture paved the way for huge women followers. Her generosity knew no bounds. She filled the air with fragrance wherever she went, aptly matching her name ‘Malli’ (jasmine), only daughter of Rayappan, the apple of his eye.
“Appa, tomorrow we are planning to celebrate ‘Women’s day’ in our community center.”
He laughed loudly, “You are still in the city’s mindset dear, our people are not aware of such things”.
“No Appa, as we coach and train women to be independent and help them learn activities for their livelihood, it is also necessary to ensure they are strong and courageous. They should as well come out of their shell and stand for themselves. These instances provide the right way for it,” she kissed his cheek and walked out in her gleaming half saree. For a second, Rayappan felt the half-moon sparkling in front of him. He was always proud of his children.
The community center Malli described teaches activities like basket knitting, tailoring, and embroidery, painting clay pots, and many more such learnings. This was an income from the women to their families that helped to meet their household expenses. Their goods were distributed to many places and Muthu helped in achieving this through his influence in the postal department.
Muthu involved himself to oppose any happenings that would affect the welfare of the people. He would protest along with other villagers and ensure no factories can enter their fertile lands. Even though he has been jailed for these actions he was highly respected by the people as they have accepted him as the successor already.
Prabhavathy became close to Malli after she lost her parents recently due to ailments. She was good at stitching and designing clothes and Malli cared for her. Through social media, Malli ensured Prabhavathy’s splendid work, was seen and it did get them more orders. After a year, her elder brother Prabhakar came to visit.
“Prabhavathy, I am so surprised; you seem to be a different woman now. Even though I live in the city, you know how much I am worried about leaving you here all alone. I can see the confidence in your work, and the fabric paintings are attractive, never realized my little sister is so talented” and he pinched her cheeks softly.
“Anna(elder brother), I realize you hold the burden of my wedding on your shoulders for which you took up the taxi driver job in the city. Being a graduate, I always imagined you to work in a big company. How much Amma wanted to see you in rich suits entering our house like a movie hero. But fate took her so soon,” she started sobbing. He hurriedly went near and kept his finger near her eye.
“No Prabhavathy; I will not let you shed a single drop of tear. I promised Amma Appa that I shall take care of you like a feather”. He took her face into his palm gently and looked deep into her eyes. She smiled instantly.
“Hello, Praba square, is the sister brother melodrama over? Can I come now?”
They both turned around to see Malli standing at the entrance leaning her right hand on the wall and swaying her half saree pallu on the other hand.
“Akka(elder sister) please come in” Prabhavathy rushed and greeted her.
“Congrats Prabhakar. You have made us proud by receiving the ‘Best Citizen’ award from our Chief Minister” Malli conveyed her wishes.
“Oh! Thanks. I thought you were here to see my sister. What I did was out of humanity. Driving is not an easy job. The lives of people inside the car and those traveling on the roads as well depend on us. Even a slight mistake can cause terrible outcomes. Being in the city for a while, I observed that when accidents happen, some generous people call for an ambulance and wait till they arrive. No one dares to take a step towards the victim. When I enquired, they said they did not want to invite trouble. Those scenes disturbed me. Only then I started volunteering to help them reach the hospital on time. My hands, shirt, and car seats used to be stained with blood. I happily clean them on the thought that I was able to save a life. In cases when I could not, those become painful memories and refuse to leave my heart. The police initially questioned but then started noticing me. I guess they had sent their commendation. Now the trophy has decorated our house.”
“Your parents would have been very proud of you” Malli smiled.
The trio spoke for a while. Malli was ready to leave.
“I should thank you immensely Malli. It is because of your support am seeing my sister as an independent woman. Now I don’t have to worry after she enters her in-law house. She is self-sufficient. Once again, thank you for taking care of her, especially in my absence.” Prabhakar excitedly poured his gratitude
“Ah! no formalities Mister. Save your “Thankies” for others. By the way, only after the groom qualifies my interview, I will allow her marriage, remember that.” She waved at them and walked towards her two-wheeler. Least did she realize that a tiny love bud had found its way inside her heart while Prabhakar knew his flower had started blooming.
In the coming days, they exchanged phone numbers in the pretext of discussing about Prabhavathy. Conference calls later turned to personal conversations. One fine day Prabhakar proposed his feelings to which she readily accepted.
“Let us be practical Prabhakar. We must wait till Prabhavathy is settled. Then let me try convincing my brother and mom so that I will hold the majority votes of the family.”
“I agree, my dear.”
Malli blushed and their relationship went on smooth for another year.
Malli realized her father was getting serious in searching for a groom. It was time to take a drastic step. She contacted a few friends in the city for help. After making the necessary arrangements, she met Prabhakar in his house.
“Prabhakar, tonight we are leaving for the city. Early morning will be our marriage in the registrar’s office. Finishing it soon, you will stay there while I will reach here by afternoon. I have informed at home that I will be joining the fasting protest that is to happen early morning. So, they would not search for me until the evening. We are never going to reveal our secret and stay in our respective places until we receive our marriage certificate. Even after that, only if circumstances push me, I will open up about this to my parents.”
Malli realized the tension overflowing with Prabhakar. She sat beside him and held his hands firmly.
“Are you scared of my father?”
“No Malli. When our mom left us, she said God would send an angel to take of us. I am thinking about how true her words are.” His voice stammered and tiny droplets fell on her palm.
The much-awaited day for Shanta arrived. The entire village gathered for Muthu’s wedding. Nadaswaram (double-reed wind instrument from South India) and Thavil (barrel-shaped percussion instrument from Tamil Nadu) banged their ears while Shantha was focused on the vroom sound. Upon hearing it every time, she rushed to check if it was Malli. As time went on, her hope was fading away. It was time to tie the nuptial thread. Shantha stood near the couple on the stage but her focus was on the entrance that the flower petals slipped out of her hand. Still, her eyes explored over the crowd. She could not spot her daughter.
Three days later in the night Rayappan and Shantha were relaxing on the rooftop.
“I feel happy and contented Shantha. We have fulfilled our duty perfectly. Every person here took up the responsibility and did some work. This is the respect they have for our family.”
Shantha was silent and did not respond.
“Why are you not speaking up? Aren’t you happy about our son’s. . .” he coughed and started to spit blood. Suddenly he felt giddy and tried to call for help.
“Shanthaaa … I.. Help… “ and he fell to the ground. His heartbeat lowered and more blood oozed out. Shantha was unreactive and sat still starring at the wall.
Two days ago, on the night of the wedding
“Appa, did you notice Amma today? She was expecting Malli and did not concentrate on the happenings. For the first time, I felt worried.”
Rayappan gave a gentle pat on his son’s shoulder.
“If not for Velu, our sincere servant we would have missed them that night. Since he saw Prabhakar and Malli walking near our fields, he immediately alerted us. By the time we reached there, they were about to cross the junction. They should have thought to reach the main road early and chose this shortcut route through our fields.”
“Yes, Appa. I don’t have any grudge against Prabhakar. He is a sincere and dedicated person. But he cannot mess with our family. No one knows about the secret electric cables underneath guarding our land. We did fix them to prevent animals from entering during harvest season. But these two got caught. Since we were next to the motor room, I thought you would turn off the switch.”
“I agree. Prabhakar indeed made us proud by receiving some awards. I too like him as a perfect man. He should not have done this. Even if Malli had insisted, he could have walked away knowing about the caste difference. The moment I saw that fellow holding my daughter’s hand, I felt like chopping her into pieces. We may seem friendly to all the people here, but we belong to the higher caste. The reason I asked you to settle here is not to serve these people as they may think that way. As to how I am ruling them indirectly, so should you continue the same. This should be passed to our future generations as well. Our decisions are the unwritten commands. I was confident that they should be electrified. The power supply running through those lines is not enough to kill a human. They were thrown out when they stamped on it, but I think they were still breathing. According to me, the moment she fell for this guy, she was already dead. It is a good thing that Velu buried them alive. It was tough to create evidence that they were still alive. To divert people suspecting us, we arranged for Prabhavathy’s marriage as the poor girl still believes they would return someday. Moreover, I am not a cruel person to kill her.” Rayappan had an evil laugh.
Shantha started to speak faintly.
“Thirty-seven years ago, when my father showed you as the groom, I hesitated to proceed as I did not want to leave my birthplace and come here. You may think I liked your looks and riches, which is not the truth. Several decades earlier, your forefathers started a tradition where they would register a piece of their land to any girl child born in this soil. This custom was introduced to reduce female infanticide which was gradually eradicated one fine day. I respected your family and decided to share my life with a person hailing from such a generous background. You rejoiced when Muthu was born. When you held Malli for the first time, I did notice your tears. But, today see what you have done. Your caste has blindfolded you into mercilessly killing your daughter and an innocent man. My gruesome action now has brought back this family’s legacy. Let the poor souls rest in peace” she broke down crying.
Rayappan’s eyes widened as he noticed the poison bottle roll down from her fingers. With tears spilling over, he breathed his last.
“Oh dear, what is wrong? Is it blood? Someone, please help.”
Shantha knew it was Muthu’s wife.
*Prompt: Taxi Driver; Absconds/Elopes; Village
Among the many violence against women is the hidden honor killings where the victims are men as well. Below listed are some real-time cases.
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