The local train trundled into a momentary halt, Pooja aged 34, disembarked from the wobbling wagon. She was in Delhi now, after spending an entire day at her eldest brother’s home. It was half an hour journey for her. A voyage she undertakes thrice a year, at holi, rakhi and deepawali. A travel, she sometimes think, she shouldn’t make at all. But this was rakhi, she just couldn’t miss it, for the last eight years since her brother left his paternal home, she hasn’t miss a rakhi; for her it was just ‘mechanical’. She made her way out from to station to the over-bridge above the station, waiting for the conveyance to her home.
The lights of the nature was dimming, honking of vehicles only reinstated her worst fear, the traffic jam, now she would be late for home. But why she is worrying, she thought. She stays alone and has nothing new to catch. Why in the hell would she be hurrying herself? To kill the time she began to survey other women in the road, embarked in every mode of transport; they were in their best trousseau, in their best form. She once had that fine skin, and bright complexion; which have made men go mad and women envy. But she is long past her prime now; envy has being replaced by disgust and madness by concupiscence. She bended over the railings of the bridge and unzipped her purse, she reached for her cigarette and lighter. She took out one and lit it, taking a deep puff; she began to contemplate her life.
She was the second of three siblings, only girl amongst two brothers. Her parents were government employees. Being only girl, she was the apple of their eyes, her both brothers loved her dearly. She grew out to be beautiful woman, one simply cut out of the rest. She did her masters and found a job with a brokerage firm. Her eldest brother was an engineer and her junior brother left the country for studies. Life was fine for her. But for one day when.
“What?” throwing her cigarette, she harked back at two guys who were lustily staring at her. Her reflection was just interrupted by the whistle of a train; this is when she looked back.
Her salvo invited the attention of other people waiting to get back, one of them was a sepoy; he was with his family. He gave an angry stare to the guys who just decided to walk back. He nodding his head he winked at her; everything is alright, he might have said.
She again searched for any conveyance, better if she’d bought her own car. But driving through holiday traffic only made her shiver. She pulled out her second cigarette and return to her thoughts.
She was married when she was only 24. It was an arranged marriage. The right age of marriage if her parents were to believe. She was happy; the guy she was marrying was a lawyer by profession; he was smart and seemed caring. It was remarked that on her marriage day, she looked the best, could have broken many hearts. She went smiling all her way through the ceremony. But it was the only time she saw all her family together, for the last time.
It was the first night of their marriage when the truth presented itself. ‘I am a gay’, her husband disclosed. At first she didn’t understand what he meant, he might be playing some of his legal jokes on her. But when he explained it to her, that he and his friend are having an affair; her world fell apart. Within next six months both her parents died.
She could have filed divorce the second day after her marriage itself, but she’d thought of her parents; what will they go through when they will come to know about this. After their death, she again delayed it, this was because her elder brother was engaged; he would be getting married within next twelve months. She doesn’t want to devastate his life with her own problems.
She had decided to endure, she went about her life. Her office and house, it was not her home now. She later discovered that her in-laws knew about it, but they’d thought things might change after his marriage. Things didn’t, and she became their punching bag. She could have lived that life, living under the umbrella of baseless taunts, but for the day when her husband gifted her to his partner.
“As per IPC with the permission of the husband, a woman can sleep with another man; so go on soul mate,” the inebriated man sputtered.
She resisted it, she fought back. But both of them were drunk, then held her and injected some medicines into her. She doesn’t know what happened afterwards. She woke up next day, with marks splayed over her body; she could only imagine what would have happened. She wanted to complain, but something stopped her. Next week her brother was going to be married. She decided not to pursue the matter anymore.
The matter pursued her, next day of her brother’s marriage; the whole act of debauchery was repeated again. She had it enough, she wanted to complain now, she wanted for everyone to know, she wanted help. But to her horror, she found that her husband has already filed for divorce. She was accused to be insincere to him. She was accused that she had relations outside the scope of her marriage.
The ember seared her fingers. She jerked her hand throwing away the butt. It was dark now. She might have missed few buses. But she was deep seated in her past. She got out the third cigarette.
Never in her 25 year old life till then, she’d ever smoked or drank. But she did now, she was stranded alone. The accusations ran deep. Her younger brother was the first to abandon her, declaring that he has no intention to come back to the country. His elder brother wanted to help her, but his in-laws forced him a rethink. He has a wife to look after. Fearing that case would drag on for years, she agreed to the divorce. She was thrown out of her in-laws house. Since everything was mutual, she was denied any compensation or alimony. She returned to her parent’s house. But within two weeks, her brother left it to her. He apparently didn’t want to share his home with a libertine. But blood cannot be simply washed by water, he extracted a promise; she will meet him during the festivals. He wanted to ensure at least she was alive. She was on her own since then. Every day of her life, she was a convict of morality. But she survived. She survived the social dejection, daily taunts and immoral stares. She could not just kill herself for what she knew she isn’t.
It was not that for her that she went to her brother only during the festivals. She went there when her bhabhi needed some assistant in her childbirths. She loved to meet her nephew and niece. It was only them who made her thrice a year visit more memorable. Only because of them she looked out for it.
It is for them only she undertakes the journey.
She was startled by the fingers which pulled out the half finished cigarette out of lips. She turned to protest. But instead she said, “Brother!”
“So! My little sister is waiting for someone.” He said.
“No, I was just going over some old thing. What makes you come here?” she inquired.
“Answer to a question is never a question.” He replied, pushing a file on to her hand.
“What is this?” she asked.
“Well you forgot that I haven’t given you any gift today, so this is it.”
“What! Do you want me write that house in your name? It’s always yours brother, just give me few more years, maximum two, I will move out.” She replied showing dry emotion. Her emotion ran dry for last nine years now.
“Do you have divine eyes? Have you read it?” he retorted.
“See, its dark now and secondly what worse can there be.” She shot back.
“All right, now can you see?” he said as he place the torch of his mobile over the thick file.
She began to read the contents. It was some judgment, it contains name of her husband and his partner. Feeling dizzy, she couldn’t decipher the rest.
“What is this?” she shouted, angry at reading the name of her tormentors.
“This is a Mumbai High Court Judgment.” He replied calmly.
“It states that your ex and his friend has being convicted of on many accounts and has being sentenced many years in prison. Apart from huge fine they’d to pay now.”
She gave him a puzzled look. She seeks the answers for the questions unknown.
“I have never told you this but ever since I left the home after your divorce, I have being pursuing these two guys through my sources. I died the day when I was unable to provide you justice on your divorce. People laid each type of allegation on you, even though they were false, I couldn’t help. I came to know about the facts later. The facts you didn’t tell me because you didn’t want to ruin my marriage. Your husband was a gay, he gave you to his friend” he said this line making an angry fist. Taking a deep breath he continued, “I came to know about this from my lawyer friends, he used to brag about this in his circle. I wanted to kill him but I can’t. Therefore I pursued him, them to be specific. There were few things that they’d done with their clients; few graft cases and few cases of cheating. Things only got exacerbated. I only pursued them, putting my lawyers on the payrolls to help the public prosecutors. And this is the culmination of 8 years of hard work.”
She looked at him, disbelieved, she said, “Why? What about your family? It must have cost you.”
“You are and have always being priceless for me, when mom and dad first bought you home, they put you in my cradle, this is your responsibility now, they’d told me. How can I just run away from it. I was bound, tethered by circumstances. But I was never weak. I know what you have gone through all these years. And believe me I haven’t had a good night sleep, till my lawyers gave this in my hand. I could nothing to prevent the injustice done to you on your divorce, but least I could do this. And for the family, your bhabhi was at first hell bent against it, till she came to know the truth. Yes, she was cold towards you; smoking doesn’t goes well with her. But still she loves you. You were the only one who sat by her side for nights during her childbirths. You are the only person who is liked by her children. She doesn’t like you because what you have done to yourself, she knew you before our marriage. But for her and for me you are still my little sister, beautiful and caring, just victim of circumstances.”
She looked at the contents carefully, she felt as if her whole life was hitting her face. She had gone dumb for moments. Tears began to roll from her eyes. The fog has shed itself. She slithered on her knees. He helped her out, putting his arms around her.
“Happy Rakhi dear sister, let’s go home now.”
© Tarun Mitra