| Lucknow, February 26, 2013 10:44
Mother | Father | Daughter | God |
“I have had a very difficult life. A motherless child, I have been working for as long as I remember. Then God gave me a drunkard for a husband. But I did not lose hope. Even while carrying my four children, I continued to work as a daily wage labourer. I am a fighter. I fought for a BPL (below poverty line) card. I fought to get a house allotted from the government. Slowly we added two rooms and a kitchen to it. When the alcohol started ruining his health, my husband gave up drinking. Life was getting better. She is my second child, my prettiest daughter. She cooks very well, even though I did not teach her much. Everyone envied her. The buri nazar (evil eye) ruined her.
He began visiting us when he came to town for a job. He is my sister-in-law’s brother and hence a brother to me. We never got a whiff of what was going on between them. After all he is much older than my 16 year old daughter. That morning, we did not discover she was gone till after 10. It was winter and I did not wake up my children early as a habit. We rushed to a social worker we knew. She took us to the thana. Word had already gotten around that he was missing as well. The police registered out compliant and picked up his brother-in-law. One day later she returned, dressed as a bride. They brought two jeep fulls of people to scare us. The boy’s father told me ‘We have your daughter, what can you do’. They did not even allow me to speak with her. She was like a stone who would not even look at us.
She had been heavily influenced by the boy’s family. My heart broke when they took her to the nari niketan (women’s home) Getting a pass to see her was so difficult. The only time we were allowed to see her, she was aloof, detached. Then one day we received a call saying that she wanted to come back to us. We were so happy. I know the neighbours talk but she is my child. If I don’t forgive her, how will she move ahead in life? She thinks I do not understand love but she does not realise what she is getting into. The boy is in his late 20s. His family has a notorious reputation. Some days after she was taken to the nari niketan, the boy’s younger brother came to us and said that even he loved my daughter. How will my daughter ever stay happy in such a family? Sometimes I fear that she might try to run away again.
I can’t watch over her all the time. But how can a mother send away her own daughter to live a prisoner’s life? Life has been so cruel to me. I ask God why this cycle of pain must be repeated. My children should be spared.”
“We had known each other for three months before he said ‘I love you’. Mother had gone to fetch grass and my father was at his shop. Before he said it, I had seen it in his eyes many times. I told him I can love you but cannot fulfil that love. Marriage was out of question.
They say he is my mama (mother’s brother), but it’s a very distant relationship we share. When we thought of running away, I was convinced that my parents would come around to accepting our love. I tiptoed out of home at 11 in the night. My sisters were sleeping. There was a heavy fog. I was wearing a new woollen suit. He met me on the main road. In his hand was a polythene bag from which he pulled out an orange stole and wrapped it around my shoulders. I was so happy. I knew he would always keep me happy. We got to the bus station and left for his home. We travelled all night. I had never felt so alive. But there was some fear and I kept praying to Goddess Santoshi.
The next morning we reached his home. His parents knew about us. They gave us breakfast. We went shopping to get me some clothes. Before noon we got a phone call saying my parents had complained to the police and his brother-in-law had been taken into custody. There was no option. We had to return. At the police station, I tried to reason with my parents but they did not want to talk to me. For two days we were kept at the thana. Then he was sent to jail. I was sent to the nari niketan. I hated being there. I could not breathe. Then one day the matron told me he had come to see me immediately upon his release.
They did not let him in because he did not have a pass. I cried myself to sleep that night. I did not want to return to my parents. But two months in the nari niketan broke me. It was a dull life. I wanted to be free. Now my parents have brought me back. They do not talk about what has happened. Ever since I returned relatives have been coming to check on me as though I am a museum piece. There is no way that we can get back together. But if there was just one thing I could ask for, it would be that I be given a chance to talk to him. I am 19, he is 22, why can’t we be together? My parents have always blamed him for leading me astray. You tell me, is it possible to clap with one hand?”
I have been sitting on a cot covered with a thick, red bedspread. As mother and daughter have taken turns to speak, in my mind’s eye, the colour has changed from a deep, blood soaked hue to a pale, fading tint. I imagine words of comfort that could make sense to either but I have nothing to say. In the long pauses, I nervously move my pen on the black, plastic bound note book that rests in my hand. My camera lies uselessly, shamefully by my side. I know it cannot be used. On the wall before me, the paint has started to peel off. On a narrow ledge above the cot are four black vases stuffed with artificial flowers. Between two vases, laminated photographs tell stories of happier times.
I do not know how to say a graceful good bye. So I just get up. Themother looks at me without really seeing me. I walk past the kitchen where the daughter is peeling potatoes for lunch. I look in and try to mouth a cheerful farewell. It comes out all wrong. We are both embarrassed. As I step out onto the main road, my companion tells me that if we
walk down to the clothing shop just beyond the turn, we are likely to see the boy. She laughs, “They say he sported a beard for as long as she stayed in the nari niketan. Such a dramebaaz I tell you. He has lost his job but still stays here”. I refuse to walk down. Between mother and daughter, I find myself in a vast, choppy sea of grey. I need to get out lest I drown. My car arrives. I flee to safety.