A dole of broken serendipity


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The rustic leaves on either sides paved a way and led towards the hurtling stream which jumped over the green moss stricken pebbles strewn all over the place. It was a beautiful spot with orange and pink leaves, the water was clear and the sound of the gushing stream was so pure and so serene that floating on the water made so much sense. The first feet went in the water and a sudden rush gushed in the entire body like a volt of current. The second feet came in a second later as the whole body slipped inside the icy cold water. The soul felt calm and just when it was starting to feel ethereal, a sudden fear gripped the body and it started to drown. You can’t float on water after all, the mind thought.

Jhanvi woke up with a start. She opened her eyes in fear to a room full of colored boxes and glittery paper all around. The dream depicted her current state of life. She felt her heart drop once more when she realized where she was and what day it was. A 13 year old by virtue may only look forward to some pancakes or meeting her friends on a sunday morning one would think but the bondages of human society transform a plain simplistic picture of life into a mosaic.

13 years ago her parents weren’t happy to see a girl being born in the family. A girl came with responsibilities, a girl came with a cost and above all a girl wouldn’t carry their family name forward. Her mother got busy trying to conceive another baby, a boy, and bore her second child when Jhanvi turned 1. The whole family was ecstatic on the arrival of the family heir. The little child of hardly 13 months was neglected as though she didn’t exist. The love of a mother could be questioned but not changed which prevailed only for her son. All eyes, all hands and everything was for the son.

Jhanvi reminded them of the cost her marriage would bring to them. The sooner she is married off, the better, her father always thought. A small child of age 5 or 6 didn’t know love because it never touched her. She always watched from the corner of the room when her brother lay between her mother and father while she stood in a corner abandoned. It pierced her heart but she only shed silent tears. Her grandmother was the only one who loved her. She spent nights listening to fairytales and slept beside her with a face saturated with dried up tears.

Jhanvi was 13 when her father’s cousin from the other town suggested that its the right age for her to get married to his friend’s son who was 20 and a plumber. Jhanvi’s mother was apprehensive only for a while and gave in to the idea after a little persuasion from her husband. After all, the wedding jewelry was ready and the sooner Jhanvi was married off, the sooner life became free of any burden for them.

Destiny conveniently chose the worst for Jhanvi and her hand was given in marriage to Pushkar.  She was reading Tagore’s ‘Where the mind is without fear’ which was ironic to the situation in her life when her father walked in and announced that she is getting married. Each word stabbed her right in her heart. She protested but in vain. She knew her father’s decision was final and nobody could ever reverse it.

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She stopped going to school from the very next day, why pay the fee when there was no need of education now? Her parents calculated everything and education didn’t fall in their list of priorities when the preparations were in full swing. Jhanvi sat in a corner and cried. Her grandmother tried to relate Jhanvi’s life to her own life and made her understand the sacrifices a girl has to make during her lifetime.

The present day was a horror movie in action. She had seen a small photo of Pushkar and he looked old enough to be her uncle. She was terrified of the very thought of living in the same house as his and yet here she was on her wedding day with no way out of the mess she was in. She could run away but go where? A 13 year old’s vision of the world is limited and her options, zilch.

Her mother forced her out of bed and into the shower. She was immersed in sandal paste and all sorts of things which were yellow and smelled nice to Jhanvi. Her life was a haze right now and she wanted nothing else but a day to comprehend what was happening and what lied ahead of all this drama that was taking place without her consent but unfortunately she was granted nor the day nor the choice to have the final word in anything.

Her henna painted hands were adorned with glass bangles, her head was covered in veil and the blazing red bridal outfit which was bought a fortnight back was put on her. Jhanvi still looked as young as she was, no amount of make up or heavy embellished clothes could hide her innocence or age. The walk from her bedroom to the mandap was a torture and she controlled her tears as a punishment to herself.

Hours later she sat on a bed of a house she had not seen before, a place she didn’t know and a feeling so alien she questioned why she was even alive to do what was about to happened. Pushkar walked into the room and bolted the room. Jhanvi clenched the bedsheets tightly awaiting the horror to unfold. Pushkar came closer to her and forced himself on her. With everything that was left inside her, she gave in. She gave in to a man she hadn’t even seen properly before, she gave in to a pain which made her want to scream her lungs out and she gave up on her life that night.

The murky sunlight filtered through the old frail curtains in the room and hit Jhanvi’s eyes. The events of yesterday had taken a toll on the little girl and although her body still screamed for more sleep, her brain had recalled everything that happened last night and the room came into focus. She saw Pushkar sleeping peacefully next to her. His sight irked her soul. She wanted to run out of the room and out of this life her parents had pegged for her.

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There was nothing to do but to get dressed and greet the hoard of family members waiting for her she thought. A small session on how to wear a saree was certainly not helpful as she struggled to drape it around her slender waist. Jhanvi met some good and some not so pleasant people of a house which was now her family. It seemed that there was an awful number of men in the family and very few ladies. On inquiring she was told that she was the only girl in her house and now she was responsible for all the household chores which was short for a maid.

A week passed and the festivities ended. Pushkar didn’t care much about Jhanvi unless he wanted some pleasure during the nights. Jhanvi cooked and cleaned, took care of the family in her own clumsy ways and braved taunts on being a useless ‘woman’ which she was not; she was merely a girl who used to attend the 6th grade a month back and now she was suddenly in charge of some middle aged men she didn’t even know properly.

Jhanvi was 3 weeks pregnant when she found out about it. Her instant reaction was to go kill herself in the nearby pond but the entire family was ecstatic and it was the most happy they had been since she moved in. The whole atmosphere of the house changed except that her pregnancy reminded her of the multiple rapes that she had endured. The child will not bear a single ounce of love but my endless sacrifices she thought. But the child had become a part of her existence and she had to choose between love and hatred. The innate tendency of human beings is to find a soul just like theirs to confide the greatest, deepest and darkest secrets that they have and when they don’t find that soul, they cave in and become dangerous. Jhanvi had that choice of choosing love over hatred, a choice of redeeming her life and living it with a purpose.

Her struggles were as real as her pregnancy. Her family extended no support, she went through the same cycle of torture each day and Pushkar’s desires couldn’t wait for the baby to come. Some of the days the pain and agony of suffering was so much that Jhanvi considered suicide as the prime choice to end everything but her grandmother’s last words rang in her ears. She always seemed to stop herself.

After months of illness and torment, Jhanvi gave birth to a fragile looking baby girl. The hospital was shocked to see such a young mother and vehemently opposed such a practice. The kind female doctor gave the infant in Jhanvi’s arms and shed a tear. She could read Jhanvi’s struggle on her face and felt a sense of guilt engulfing her soul for not handling them off to the police.

Jhanvi looked into her daughter’s eyes and felt a blanket of happiness enveloping her. She promised herself that her fate wont be intertwined in hers, that her daughter wont go through the agony of a life lent to her by others. Just when the infant started crying, Jhanvi vomited blood and gave the baby to the nurse. The doctor tended to her but the bleeding didn’t stop. In horror Jhanvi saw the bed smeared with her blood, her mouth was not the only source of blood coming out of her body. Slowly the room became a blur and she passed out.

Jhanvi didn’t live to see the baby live to even the second day of her life. Her in laws dumped her baby at her parents’ house and asked them to take care of the liability they were not ready to take since their daughter didn’t live to nurse the baby. Jhanvi’s parents were in a state of shock but more worried about the baby which was now in their charge.

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Jhanvi lay peacefully on the ground. She had a little smile on her face. The smile of finally getting relieved of all the pain that she went through in her small life span on the planet. The smile was for the freedom from the struggles that were yet to begin because she gave birth to a daughter. Jhanvi was free at last and on that unfortunate night; love and kindness died a million deaths.

{The latest Census report on the decadal headcount in 2011 reveals that child marriage is rampant, with almost one in every three married woman having been wed while she was still under the age of 18 years in India.

What is worse is a whopping 78.5 lakh girls (2.3% of all women or girls who were ever married or were married in 2011) were married while they were not yet 10 years of age. The Census data also show that 91% of all married women were married by the age of 25 years.

The legal age for marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men. But an alarming 30.2% of all married women, or 10.3 crore girls, were married before they had turned 18, as per Census 2011 data released on Friday. In a silver lining of sorts, however, the trend seems to be on the decline. As per Census 2001 data, 43.5% of all married women had been married while they were under the age of 18 years.}

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6 thoughts on “A dole of broken serendipity

  1. This was an enthralling read in its entirety. A grave topic gracefully explained in a way that sends shiver down one’s spine. It’s the plight of our society which doesn’t acknowledge the aspirations of a girl child. Fortunately the mindset is changing but its eradication is the way to utopia.

    Your story and its presentation through your writing totally does justice with the emotion this theme carries. Also presenting the Census data at last did add weight to your story. Kudos to such wonderful effort!

  2. This is a very interesting story that sheds light to us in the west upon the issue of child marriage – an issue about which you clearly care deeply. It seems strange to us now, but not so long ago 13 was considered a marriageable age in most societies, east or west. There is some suggestion that when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, he had in mind a Juliet whose age was no more than fourteen. Women hold the key to this, and unity brings strength. I am pleased to acknowledge that some practices are dwindling, but even here in UK prosecutions are rare. There is an older generation keeping unforgivable sins hidden, and FGM, for example, is still widely practiced.

    • You are right in pointing this out, yes 13 was marriageable when girls were mentally prepared for it compared to now when most of them resist or dont know whats happening to them. Yes, its a sin and sadly my country as a whole is doing very little to stop it.

      PS: I am sorry for replying after ages! have been so busy 🙂

  3. I see this even in metropolitan cities. But, the guy and girl who get married are underage as well. Yet, most of the times the men are way older than the girl and the girl is under age. This happens mostly in families who are financially challenged. Not only such things happen in un-educated families, it also happens in educated ones. I often wonder, why I did not check with them and should have reported to police of such things? Most of the girls here were not interested in education and they seemed happier being married to some one better than they are than stay with parents.

    • Cases differ. So many people, so many problems and we tackle none. Its not just you, its all of us who ignore things happening like this everyday, we have become too accustomed to this nonsense, who is to blame for this? our upbringing or some sort of a social ignorance that has taken over us and made us complacent, either ways, its leading us towards destruction.

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