“My brother to my left, my brother to my right. Together we stand, together we fight” read a poster as I walked to the courtroom. It transported me back to the old days when this saying was our impetus chant. We were introduced as the brothers who were destined to defend our motherland and only death could send us back to her abode. In service, we were unaware when we bonded nor were we aware when we parted, but all that we knew was to defend each other until the end.
When I look back, five years ago, the day I arrived at the Officers Training Academy I sat quietly at a bench waiting for my document verification. Although it had only been a few hours since my parents left, I was already feeling homesick. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder and when I looked back, a guy with a lean figure smiled at me and asked me to make space for him. Little did I know that it wasn’t just the space on the bench but a large space in my life as well that Shyam would occupy. Since then, there wasn’t a day that passed by without talking to him.
In the beginning, our family of thirty cadets fought as if there was no tomorrow. We competed in everything and held ranks of hate against each other. In time, with the cross country runs, the morning drills, the afternoon shooting practices, the evening basketball matches along with creative and unforgettable punishments, our trainers turned us into men and we turned from strangers to brothers.
Now, on a cloudy day, I entered the buzzing courtroom followed by two havildars as the accused for whom this court-martial is being held. The court proceedings began with the prosecutor standing up and accusing me of murdering a civilian at the crown of our country where my battalion was posted. Calling me on to the witness stand and after I took the oath, he just asked me one question, “Did you shoot Mr. Sameer Jha?”
I answered without a moment of hesitation, “Yes.”
The prosecutor smirked at my response and moved towards the judge to present the evidence in his hands which confirmed my statement through eyewitness testimonies and forensic reports.
It seemed to be an open and shut case. Within the first 5 minutes of the session, the prosecutor had proved me guilty. Then it was my lawyer’s turn to present an argument that deemed me innocent, which even I wasn’t sure whether or not I was. Since the day of the incident, I had already re-lived it an uncountable number of times in my head and now I was supposed to tell everyone what happened on the night of January 15.
Just like every other day, I was sipping tea with a few of my brothers when the emergency fall-in siren rang. We left our tea and rushed towards the ground where our commanding officer was already present. From the look on his face, it was clear the night was going to be a long one. He addressed us and off we went to collect our gears and ammunition to move. Six terrorists were hiding in a nearby village for the night. We were warned that they might hold a couple of hostages, one of whom intimated us about their presence. Ever since we came to the northern end of the country, such incidents had been quite frequent.
After reaching the location as a part of the covert operation, we moved forward as two teams since they were hiding in two houses. We were informed that the terrorists were loaded with firearms and could even possess explosives. Coordinating together, both the teams entered the silent and dark houses at once and the moment we entered, those cowards started firing their Kalashnikov rifles a.k.a AK-47. After a long while of firing, our team managed to shoot one of them. Shyam took advantage of the situation and tried to turn on the lights. Meanwhile the other team informed us that they had successfully rescued the hostages and captured the three terrorists. For a moment our team felt this operation might not be as difficult as we had presumed.
While we were listening in on the radio, out of nowhere, my brother Shyam got shot to death following which the only bulb in the house was blown too. In a fit of rage, we looked for them navigating using the light from the lamp at the entrance of the home and without any hesitation we shot everyone we could find while minding the hostages. Within a short span of time, two of them were killed but the last coward however hid behind an aged hostage while shouting, “I will shoot him like I shot your dog! Stand down!”
He pulled the old man to the exit standing exactly behind him with his face covered by his victim. In the dark, it was highly unlikely we would catch him if he left through the back exit and the thought that the terrorist who killed our brother could possibly go unpunished was unacceptable. We could either plan to coordinate via radio and have the other team cover the exit or let him go and save the hostage. In my mind, with the time to take the decision slipping away, neither of the plans seemed like a viable option and the worst part was that even my mates had no shot at him. Raising my gun, I shot the hostage on his forehand and just as I had intended, the bullet also killed the coward who stood exactly behind the old man.
Though my teammates knew I had sealed my fate with such a reckless shot, I just turned around to look at Shyam’s body. I feared facing his family, especially his ten-year-old son, rather than standing for the trial. Carrying him back to our base, I sat beside him until it was time for his cremation ceremony.
I knew they would take away my stars and there was a part of me that regretted killing an innocent man. That moment when I made the decision and the bullet left my gun still replays in my head over and over again. But if I was to avenge my brother, I knew the price I had to pay.
Though my lawyer tried to convince the judge that I saved many lives from being lost at the hands of this killer in the future and even threw in the argument that a few of the hostages were in their own way rooting for the terrorists, the humanitarians and smooth talkers who had a significant influence over the judge seemed in no way convinced.
Even after everything I did, I believe I served my country to the best of my ability and at the end, my sacrifice seemed to be worth it. For those who criticize me, I want to ask, do you find it comfortable to just label a person without realising the situation he was in? Do you prefer everything as black and white or can we make some space for grey as well?
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The conquest of Subah Bengal by the British East India Company in 1764 led to a transcendental change in the socio-economic-political conditions of India. Slowly, after an accurate survey of the fertility of land and other available resources, the British East India Company introduced the Permanent Settlement Act in 1793. This act transformed the status of not only the ryots or peasants but also the erstwhile ruling chiefs of the region. The ruling chiefs became zamindars who were accountable for collecting land revenue of their respective region and got 10% as administrative cost and 15% as remuneration. The ryots became just tenants as far as the land was concerned.
The introduction of the Permanent Settlement Act was not digested by the ruling chiefs leading to a revolt. Prominently amongst these chiefs  were Hussepur , Darbhanga, Bettiah, Ramgarh, Benaras, Tikari, and Dumraon. The fight continued both on the battlefields and in the court and ultimately by 1848, a working truce was established with some give and take. However, the aggrieved ruling class were not satisfied and kept looking for an opportune moment. Concurrent with the Permanent Settlement Act came an introduction of agro-industries such as sugar and jute mills, Indigo and opium manufacturing units and saltpetre production.
Darbhanga, though not happy with the change in status, realized that the world order was changing and the economic status of a person or state would determine its power in future. On one hand the industrial sector was growing but the atrocities of the British led to a war of independence in the middle of the 19th century. The disgruntled ruling chiefs now turned into zamindars got another opportunity in 1857 to overthrow the British East India Company rule. However, scattered revolts and lack of proper leadership failed them, not leading to freedom. On the contrary, with the defeat of Indian rulers, the British Crown took over India from the British East India Company. The Crown tried to please the Indians by doing away with the atrocious rules brought into practice by the East India Company. However a few years after the war in 1857, a need was felt to bring people together for a mass awakening in order to throw away the British rule.
The members of the Congress had a cordial relationship with Maharaja too. At the fourteenth session of the Congress held at Madras in 1898, a resolution expressing grief at the passing away of the Maharaja was issued :
That this Congress deeply mourns the great loss the country has suffered by the sad and untimely death of the late Maharaja of Darbhanga, Sir Lakshniessur Singh Bahadur, G.C.l.E. The Congress places on record its high appreciation of his ready and enlightened public spirit and his liberal and catholic benefactions, and desires to give expression to its feeling of gratitude for the generous and unfailing support which the Congress movement received at his hands; and that a copy of the foregoing resolution be forwarded to Maharaja Rameshwar Singh, the brother of the deceased Maharaja.
After Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh, his brother Maharaja Rameshwar Singh also had cordial relations with the Congress. So much so that in 1906 at the Indian National Congress Meeting, he had offered his palace in Calcutta for hosting meetings . Apart from this, he also tried to bridge between the British authorities and Indian leaders. In 1917, when Gandhiji visited Champaran the local British authorities sought permission from the Governor to take strict action. The Governor sought the counsel of Maharaja Rameshwara Singh who in turn dissuaded the Governor from taking any strict action against Gandhiji . The Indian National Congress benefited from the benevolence of Maharaja Rameshwara Singh throughout his lifetime.
When Maharaja Kameshwar Singh ascended the throne, Gandhiji was the dominant face of the Indian National Congress. The relationship of Gandhiji with the Darbhanga Raj which started in the time of Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh, got strengthened by the time Maharaja Kameshwar Singh took over the Raj. Although the two were well acquainted, it was only after the Earthquake of 1934 that Mahatma visited Darbhanga.
It was during Gandhiji’s tours in the earthquake affected areas in Bihar that he had a meeting with Maharaja Kameshwar Singh. The decade of the 1930s was very crucial for the Congress and the Mahatma. During this time, Gandhiji’s clay feet got exposed and on the other hand, it was exposed that the Congress leaders had put their self-interests above the nation as can be inferred from the incident below.
Although Gandhiji’s tour was claimed as a great success by the Congress and to some extent it had helped the relief committee to gather some fundings, the Congress party itself was not in order. On one hand the members professed of khadi and home spun cotton but on other hand they tried to gain some profit from the foreign cloth sales . The Congress party had even resolved to tactics of blackmailing as they were reported to have done in reference to the Maharaja’s trip to London. The leaders had threatened to wave black flags when the Maharaja would board train for his voyage to London .
The relationship of the Congress leaders with Maharaja Kameshwar Singh is depicted nicely through the incident reported by the then governor of Bihar in his personal notes of 1939. Governor Hallett of Bihar put a personal note on an album of photographs taken on the occasion of the House Warming Party of the house of Maharajadhiraja of Darbhanga at Ranchi.
This volume of photographs was presented to me by the Maharajadhiraja of Darbhanga after a party which he had given to celebrate the completion of his house in Ranchi. The Congress Ministry was then in office and they had received instructions from Mahatma Gandhi not to accept any hospitality from the Governor or from any members of the civil service and not to attend any parties at which they were present. The Maharajadhiraja however managed to persuade them to attend the dinner party which he gave on the opening of his new house and to get round the veto, and the photographs show how much the Ministers enjoyed the evening which was the first time some of them had met any English ladies. I warned the Maharajadhiraja that it might be desirable to avoid the press notices appearing at the function as it might cause the Congress leaders to find fault with the Bihar Ministers; actually a paragraph did appear in the papers merely mentioning my personal name and my official title! 
Maharaja Kameshwar Singh, on many occasions stood in support of the Congress party. He was well respected by the old generation of the Indian National Congress. Writing his obituary in 1962, late Jankinandan Singh, President of Darbhanga District Congress Committee and Member of Legislative Council in Bihar, wrote that
Once Mahatma Gandhi came with Mahamana Malaviyaji and Dr. Rajendra Prasad to Darbhanga for collecting funds. They met the Maharaja and were expecting a donation of rupees one lakh but the Maharaja overwhelmed them by donating Rupees Seven Lakhs .
The Congress party had a very complex relationship with the Maharajas of Darbhanga. The party which had benefited from the Darbhanga Raj in its early days had taken a stand against the Maharaja post independence maybe because the politics in India had changed on social as well as economic level after 1947.
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Sipping the hot coffee as tears rolled down her cheeks, Anjali tucked a few strands of hair behind her ear while thinking about how her father kinda predicted her future years ago. When she introduced Anil to her family, she thought nothing about him could lead to rejection but she never anticipated that they would reject him based on astrology. She recalled her disbelief when they declared that he wouldn’t survive even a couple of years if they got married but nevertheless, they did. Now, on a Sunday morning, Anjali was reliving her past all alone in a dark, double bedroom apartment.
Whenever she didn’t work, Anjali would stare at the dark sky at night or the white ceiling in the mornings while trying to accept the reality that her ill fate had snatched away her future from her. At times, her friends from work visited her and except for them, there was nobody she had now. No calls, texts, or visitors. Only doctor appointments and the cook who brought her food every day.
One day, Anjali heard a lot of disturbance while she was working from home. When she opened her door, she could see men shifting things. She soon saw a sweet couple walking towards her, holding hands.
With a smile, the lady said, “Hey there! I’m Siri and this is my husband Venkat. We bought your neighbouring house recently. So sorry if the movers were too loud.”
With a soft smile, Anjali replied, “Hey! I just got curious. They were not too loud and welcome to the community!”
Noticing Anjali’s baby bump, Venkat asked, “When are you expecting?”
Anjali perceived a sense of pain in Siri’s eyes and hesitantly answered, “In eight weeks...”
Cheering herself up, Siri replied, “Take good care sister and don’t forget to reach out whenever you need any help. Don’t even think twice.”
Bidding goodbye, Anjali got back to her work and later that night, when the cold breeze gave her chills, she sat near the window looking at the sky and thought she might have held Anil’s hand just like Siri held her husband’s hand. If only Anil was not taken from her through that unfortunate accident.
In the next few weeks, Anjali and Siri spoke often and as their bond grew, both of them started sharing their past. Siri told her how she and her husband were delighted when she got pregnant about a year ago. However, soon, she continued with her eyes filled with tears, as to how she had a miscarriage.
Her experience struck Anjali and in the following week, she opened up to Siri by telling her about her marriage. She told her how their marriage made both the families reject them and then how an unfortunate accident killed the man whom she hoped to spend her entire life with. Though Anjali felt a lot of pain reliving the experience, Siri was very supportive and hoped her friend would finally get closure talking to someone about her haunting past.
Both women were dealing with their own losses that the other hadn’t experienced. However, Siri still had a life partner to help her deal with her pain. Sensing the void that Anjali must be feeling, one day while having coffee together in the evening, Siri hesitantly asked, “I’m not sure if I should ask this question but I would like to know if you intend to ever get married again?”
They sat silent for a moment before Anjali replied, “I don’t have any intentions to marry anyone else, Siri. Why do you ask?”
Her answer made Siri even tenser. She didn’t know if their bond was strong enough to have such a discussion yet but not giving up, Siri said, “Ever since we have moved here, I have always seen you being gloomy and depressed.”
While Anjali thought she told her what happened, Siri continued, “I know you have lost everyone who cared for you but I’m sure after knowing a few things, I must tell you to experience the pleasure of holding a baby within you.”
Holding her hand, Siri said, “I don’t want you to relive your past every passing moment while forgetting to live a moment that might never happen again. I’m certain, Anil would want you to do that.”
Out of the numerous conversations they had, this is the first time Siri made Anjali realise how beautiful and powerful it was to carry life within her. Hoping to be a mother someday and having had a miscarriage, Siri knew the feeling more than anyone else.
That night, Anjali thought about what Siri said. Looking at the dark sky, she recalled how Anil always spoke to her about living in the present. She recalled the time when they deliberated over whether they should get married or not, Anil straight-out said, “I will not leave you based on a speculative future.”
When he got to know that Anjali was pregnant, the first thing he said was, “Please let her be a little demoness like me and both of us will never stop teasing you.”
Thinking about it, again and again, Anjali realised that she needs to accept the past and grow beyond it. With a new addition coming into her life soon, she realised that she shouldn’t regret anymore about not listening to her parents because her loss was not because of predictions. For once, she told herself, she shouldn’t let the past hold her or fate beat her down. Instead, she should cherish her present while always continuing to love her first and only love.
No matter how things kept on falling apart in her journey, she promised Anil that their souls will be together forever and in this new beginning, for his loss might have left her lonely but not alone. She resolved to be grateful for every passing moment and hoped to live life filled with love and hope while being wrapped in positivity!
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Trigger Warning: Sucide
Bhargav was going to do awful things that night and the worst among them was not just killing himself. He carefully planned them, leaving nothing to chance. It took a lot of guts to even consider suicide, but Bhargav was going through a rough patch since last year, and all it took was a breakup. The breakup was also not unexpected; both of them had been thinking about it for a year or so, but neither of them was ready to let their emotions take precedence. Giving priority to emotions and letting them run the show, they believed, was not something they could do freely.
There had been many misunderstandings and fights, but the emotional drama had devoured him up from the inside out. He wished he could get out of this relationship, but he was afraid he’d be left with no will to live because there wasn’t anyone worth living for. Everything started while they were at school like the typical stories seen in films. However, this was unusual in a way, because they both saw the relationship as an outlet for their emotions and desires.
Bhargav was sitting on his bed, while on the television, the newsreader diligently parroted the news. He tried to remember the first time they tried to get physical. It was more of a need than love for each other. He knew it, yet he was ashamed to admit it. Years later, when he would look back at those memories, he’d remember nothing except the passion they had for each other’s skin. Skin, more than heart, played an important role in bringing them together. Now, on this very day, when Bhargav decided to do whatever horrible acts that he believed were required, he tried to rack his brains to remember every last bit of it.
The first time they went out, Lalitha said, she was not sure of a relationship. She was attracted to him and she knew that he was madly attracted to her, but there were many other things that were off for her when she tried to check the compatibility and she said that she couldn’t look past them. For one, she never approved of Bhargav’s opinions about life and responsibility. And he was rigid when it came to choices and she wanted a bit of flexibility. So, when she let him put his hand on her buttocks, she said that it was going to be casual, a one-time thing, and if either of them felt uncomfortable continuing these things, the other should not object, and there would always be a chance of reconciliation because they were never in love in the first place.
A couple of weeks and she allowed him to touch her breasts. They never stopped kissing whenever they got time and she never let his hand on the insides of her thighs. A month later they did it and they both admitted that it wasn’t that great. Smooching was more fun. Bhargav thought it was more passionate when she restricted his advances. Lalitha believed they could always spice things up and when they experimented they found out sex wasn’t as bad as they thought it to be.
He proposed to her in the final year and she said no. “It works for me and I don’t see why you want more emotional drama.” was her answer. But he did persist with his ideas and finally she said, “An open ended relationship. We can still see other people if we want to, and we can always take the route of commitment. I want absolute freedom and I hope you want to see other girls too.”
But he never wanted to see other girls. They were attractive, few of them more attractive than Lalitha, but he never understood the point of dating multiple people when they could have the world for only two of them. He also harbored this illusion that one day she would come to her senses. His imaginations and thoughts did annoy him a lot. Whenever they were together, she used to talk about other men she was with, and this got on his nerves.
An open relationship meant many things and Bhargav was not prepared to accept that. He couldn’t even express his dissatisfaction because he knew she would leave him if he tried to control her. Still, he clung to the belief that she would come around and see his worth. One day, he dreamt of Lalitha having sex with other men while he was tied to a chair and forced to watch. She looked happy and the other men, whom he couldn’t recognize, threw jeering looks at him. This dream haunted him for days and one day he finally asked her, “How was it like with two men?”
“I thought you’re too open and easy for things like that.”
“Things like what?”
Her face was crimson red and he could see her suppressing anger.
Later he understood that something had changed in her. It started the day he asked her those questions. Something new had happened and he was at a loss to comprehend it. She did not show any interest or had no excitement to meet him anymore. Still he liked to imagine that their love for each other was strong enough to bring them together once more, but he knew it was just one of his lies he invented to soothe himself.
Later, she made it clear that she was going to get married to one of those guys she met casually, and when she was leaving he asked her why it wasn’t him and why didn’t she find anything in him even after spending years with him. She said she had no time for all of that and emotions were never really what they both agreed upon and suggested they could still remain friends.
That was when Bhargav decided he should do something. He walked home that evening with a heavy heart, or rather, he convinced himself that he had a wounded heart that needed something done to heal it. Yet, he could not forget the love and warmth of the times they spent together, the sacredness of losing himself in her arms, waking up next to her. Everything was as rich as the sunrise. But even sunrise wouldn’t save the day from succumbing into the night.
“Revenge? How can you even think of something like that?”
“I have to do something or I will go mad. I can’t just see her get away like this. After everything that has happened between us, she went for a guy whom she met a month ago. How can this be justice? Is this how she rewards my love?”
“Are you sure it is love? Because you’re just thinking about hurting her and taking revenge because she is marrying someone she loves. I am sorry that someone isn’t you, but you both started this as a casual thing, right?”
“Still, my feelings are valid. I know I loved her and I know she was happy with me.”
“She was happy with you and you say you love her, aren’t they different? Sex and love can have different meanings and I am sure yours is different from her. Sure, your feelings are valid brother, but that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want to extinguish the flames by doing something bad to her.”
“You’re not the one who is hurt.”
“Revenge porn? What is it?”
A friend of mine replied, “You have a video of her, or a video of you together while you’re at it?
“Yes, but it isn’t much.”
“Whatever it is, there are people out there who pay money to watch them. There is this site and you can schedule an upload.”
“And can they know it was me? Can they trace it back to me?”
“Usually, yes, but trust me, they won’t go to great trouble when it comes to these things. After all, there are thousands of such videos.”
Bhargav knew what he was going to do. Although he had been in a dilemma about hurting her, he convinced himself to see the justice in it. She said it was casual, very casual and he was wronged. How many other men were suffering like this? How many other men wanted to do something to her but could not bring themselves to it? How could one not see the sacrifice he was to make for the good of the world? He talked himself out of any sanity and carefully drowned himself in the illusions. Illusions of justice and a passionate hatred for her were the only things that drove him to action.
He missed lunch and breakfast that day. Yet he could not feel the hunger. It was a different kind of hunger, a hunger that can never be satiated and a hunger that called for one thing, something most men wouldn’t dream of doing.
He set up everything that is required for the upload. And when it was done, he’d get a text message. Then, he’d swallow that poison he bought yesterday. That would give him an hour or so. He’d be dead on the road in some busy street soon, and his plan to hurt her badly would be finished by then.There would be no more guilt, no more explanations, he thought. But every now and then, there was a pang of pain, a pinprick he couldn’t deny, trying to rationalize things. But those moments were fleeting and would do little to change his corrupted mind. The heart wants what it wants, he said to himself.
He went for a walk that evening. He scheduled an upload and decided that he’d take the poison as soon as he was out on the road and far from home, because that’d ensure that the thing would go fine even if he changed his mind. He couldn’t believe how his mind came up with one excuse after another to justify his proclivity for evil.
He got out of his apartment and went into the next alley. He stopped talking to himself loudly, the silence he craved, the inner silence he wanted, evaded him. The air reeked of traffic and chemicals, and a tangible pressure of his thoughts bombarded him from all the sounds. He looked at the moving vehicles and found them to be his thought threads, none of them incoherent and none of them going anywhere he wanted. Crushed by the weight of his thoughts and the unending questions, he decided to take a drink. Drink? What good will it do? Will it make me see things that I don’t see now, and even force me to stop all of this? No! Drinking will only amplify my feelings and bring them to the forefront. Drink will not numb; rather, it will remove the shield I have now, the shield against the phony morality and righteousness that ignores my feelings.
While he was at this self talk, something flashed into his mind. Something odd and normal. Anything would seem normal if you were going to betray someone you loved because she chose a different person. What if I wanted just sex all along? How different would it be if I sleep with someone? Is it because Lalitha started seeing other people that made me an option for her? If I sleep with someone and get over her, won’t Lalitha be an option to me? He knew the answer to these questions or at least he knew how to find out the answers. There was this infamous street his friends always talked about. Women were good there and easy. Easy because they get paid for what they offered and that they never demanded any loyalty or affections. What if we were just prostitutes for each other who never took money? He was walking down the road and he knew the addresses of the houses he’d be going into. This was going to be his last act on this earth, he said to himself. Last act? What if I find some companionship after spending time with a girl here and Lalitha becomes an option? Am I still going to hurt her? He had no answers to these questions and he didn’t dare to waste time on them.
When he was just about to go into a house, he found someone on the other end of the street. There were three of them, two boys and a girl, he could see that much. The girl was trying to run towards this end and the boys were after her. This unsettled him. He walked towards her and she was half conscious and trying to walk. The boys seemed young, teenagers or so and as soon as they saw him they ran. The girl fell down on the road and Bhargav approached her. She stank of alcohol and it looked like they had drugged her and tried to take advantage of her. He tried to wake her up. He asked her to take some water and helped her sit straight. The girl was out of her mind and she was babbling, babbling nonsense. For all his previous ideas he felt pity for her. He shook her again and spoke loudly, “What is your name? Why are you here?”
“Friends, we were having a party.”
“Where do you live? I can take you home if you want.”
“No, no. Stay with me for five minutes and I should be fine.”
Bhargav looked at her again, her nose was black and her lips had some cracks and they were bleeding. Her eyes seemed shallow and it was clear that she was high.
“Will you take me to the other end?” She asked him.
“Yes I can. Here hold my hand.”
They both walked to the other end, where she said that she was fine and that all she needed was some money. Bhargav gave her whatever he had and said his goodbyes. He also gave her his phone number and told her to call him if she needed anything. While he stood at the alley’s entrance, the girl crossed the street and walked towards the bus stop. Bhargav returned to the establishment. He wasn’t sure if he should continue to partake. It seemed pointless and foolish. This girl’s condition was no different than the girl he was going to now. Sure, there was money and pleasure for both parties, but what distinguished him from the abusers?
His final act on this planet, was it going to be wasted on carnal desires or worse for hurting someone he loved for years? What was this if not a direction from a higher power? He thought he should immediately go home and stop the whole thing. Lalitha knew what she wanted from the very beginning, it was he who built false hopes. It was his fault all along, or at least his inability to draw the boundaries. When she meant only sex, she was not after love nor any affection. She met a lot of people and finally found someone who was perfect for her, or at least she believed so.
Why should I be jealous now? Was it not my glaring inability to love someone else? I’m sure I can find love again, but if I ruin her life now, can she ever recover?
He walked back to his apartment and deleted the files. He stopped the upload, and deleted everything that was too personal. He shut the laptop and collapsed on the couch. Now everything was undone, he thought.
That was when the poison started working on his body. He looked through the window and the light was barely visible. The night was falling and everyone else was going home to find some peace and solace. The vehicles did not honk, the pedestrians did not laugh, the ambulances did not make any sound. All he could hear was his slowing heartbeat. He thought that his indifference to his own life, his lack of care, brought his doom. He walked slowly and sat beside the window. The buildings, the hoardings, the vehicles and the people - he thought of them and they all looked vibrant and beautiful, each serving their own purpose, but the human tendency to hurt their loved ones, there was no dignity in that. He wanted that dignity, the dignity he thought he had lost. But he knew Lalitha would not remember him as someone who spoiled her life. That was dignity, that felt enough for him.
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Shruti and Shreya were two sisters who were raised in a conservative family by a strict mother and an adorable father. Though the siblings were eight years apart, they shared a special bond and kept no secrets from one another. After their graduations, the sisters got married to guys who were handpicked by their parents.
It had been nine years since Shruti got married and one year since Shreya got married. Though both of them were imparted with the same values by their parents, Shreya disliked a lot of their notions and didn’t support their ideas. She didn’t want to follow traditions that were cast on them through the centuries. But neither of the sisters were given the liberty to even discuss why these traditions make no sense. They weren’t supposed to touch others or help themselves for a span of three days when they got their periods, they had to wash their hair every Friday, cut nails on specific days, braid their hair all the time, learn to sing, dress traditionally and even smile elegantly in public gatherings like a ‘lady’.
Though Shruti disliked these rules as much as Shreya did, she never resisted and always took the side of her parents. Her most common words were, “The reasoning behind these traditions is beyond our scope of understanding and following them doesn’t harm anyone.” and these words were no different from the words their father often told them.
On the other hand, Shreya often felt her parents or at times her sister didn’t have solid reasoning considering their concluding statement. In the worst case, they threw in the argument about rishis and Vedas being the eternal source of wisdom that cannot be comprehended by a single human in a lifetime even if they tried too. To put it simply, you cannot defy a tradition even if you could argue its demerits crossing over its merits.
After Shreya got married, both the sisters only met during the Pongal vacation at their parents’ place once a year and for the rest of the year, they communicated via calls. However, this year, Shreya just showed up at Shruti’s place in June without even a phone call all by herself. For about two days, Shreya didn’t say a word about her visit and their mother informed Shruti that the couple fought over something.
On the third day, Shreya finally opened up. After the children left for school and Shruti’s husband left for his work, the sisters sat at the dining table to have breakfast. Serving her sister two idlis and a dosa from the hot pack alongside coconut and tomato chutneys, Shruti asked, "I don't know what happened but if you prolong your silence any longer, our parents will be here soon."
Tasting the Ravva dosa, Shreya could certainly agree that her sister was a better cook. Meanwhile noticing her sister’s silence, Shruti probed, “Did you guys fight?”
When she heard the word fight, Shreya relived the humiliation for a moment before she spluttered, “Yes!”
Knowing her sister too well, Shreya even clarified, “Not just argue, Sweety. He hit me.”
Without a moment of thought, Shruti asked, “What have you done?” and that hurt Shreya. She could not help but think, “Why for once can’t my own family believe something bad could be done by the husband too?”
Controlling her frustration, Shreya patiently replied, “I defied sex whenever he was drunk thereby making my chivalrous husband to force himself on me. When I resisted, I got a good beating for it.”
“I’m sure there is a reason for him to get drunk, Shreya and I don’t think this will happen again,” said Shruti, trying her best to get the situation in control without even wanting to know the truth.
On the other hand, her response baffled Shreya. She couldn’t believe that this was her sister’s response after she told her about being molested and raped. She couldn’t believe that her sister presumed there is a justifiable reason to defend the assaulter.
Hoping to see if there is any sanity left in her, Shreya confessed, “This isn’t the first time.” and even this statement didn’t change anything. For the first time, Shreya felt she was all by herself. She knew her parents wouldn’t back her. They would say “There isn’t even the system of divorce in our faith.” but seeing her sister being so accepting of this couldn’t be any more painful.
It was unbelievable for Shreya that her family would back a man whom they knew nothing about except for the fact that he comes from a ‘respectable family’. A chill passed down her spine, her eyes were filled with tears and she could for the first time feel how loneliness felt.
Noticing her sister’s eyes, Shruti held her hand. She knew it was painful but what could she say? She knew walking into the fire would be a better deal than defying a providing husband. Everyone around them will tear them into shreds through insults and even their parents would be disappointed in the last few years of their lifetime.
Helplessness is the worst enemy for a dependent and insecure being. The moment they walked into their marriages, both the sisters gave up their choice to work obeying their parents’ demands. Now their degrees weren’t serving them anything except for giving them a tag of being called educated. The husbands understood that the sisters’ dependency is their best advantage. So now it is all up to them to choose to be good or bad and as they always say absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Not wanting her sister to suffer the horrible fate, Shruti warned, “I know what you are thinking but if you do it, you would be an outcast once and for all.”
As much as she loved her sister, Shreya couldn’t accept to give in and submit to an abuser. She didn’t want to empower him even more and she didn’t care about being an outcast.