Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Chetna

Deeply-oiled hair braided on both sides, a dot of black on the forehead and squarish bag on the back – Chetna was all ready for school. Unlike other kids, Chetna loved going to school for she had no siblings to play with. With a breakfast morsel still in mouth, she started the 2-kilometre-long merry-walk to the village school. Swaying the water bottle in her neck, Chetna fed the half-eaten breakfast biscuits to dogs on the way.

When the school bell rang, a swarm of kids rushed inside. Like every-day, Chetna was the first to get into the classroom and grab her favourite desk. In the English class, the teacher announced, “We all will be going on a two-day trip next month. Please inform at your home.” Chetna felt elated, and sad at the same time.

After reaching home, she told her grandmother, “We have a picnic next month. Can you take permission for me, from Baba?”

“You know he doesn’t like all this. So no point talking about it. Please eat lunch now. I need to clean-up before taking a nap,” she said while serving food. 

The relationship between Chetna and her grandmother was just about getting meals on time. Hence she spent the rest of the day in her room, making drawings and studying. In the evening, she went to play with neighbour friends. As they played hide and seek, Chetna lost the track of time. It was 7:30 PM, an hour above the allowed time to stay outside. Despite the cold weather, she perspired heavily for what awaited at home. Sneaking inside, she sprang straight to her bedroom. After taking a deep breath, she peeked around and soon felt relieved. Ramesh, her father, hadn’t returned yet, thus saving her from the admonishment. Ramesh was a very strict father, and Chetna was happy only when he wasn’t around.

About an hour later, Ramesh came home. As he went inside to change, Grandmother served dinner. Sitting on the kitchen floor, the three had a quiet supper until Ramesh broke the silence.

“Your school session will end next month and so your education. Start assisting grandmother in house chores after that.”

“But Baba, I want to study further. There are still 6 years for my schooling to complete,” Chetna urged in a low, fearful voice. For the cold nature he had, Chetna and Ramesh hardly spoke. 

With a stern face, Ramesh looked at his mother and asked, “Haven’t you told her that girls don’t study? I’ve still been kind to school her this much.”

With this, the dinner and conversation, both got concluded.

Chetna couldn’t sleep that night. The thought of leaving school disturbed her. After an hour of struggle, she got up and went to the kitchen. There waited a pair of eyes, looking only at her. A light beam entering from a small opening on top of the wall, surrounded the eyes bordered in golden. As Chetna’s eyes welled up, the voice made its way that only she could hear. 

“Don’t be sad my love. I knew this was coming.”

“But how do you know? I haven’t told you anything yet.”

“If I wouldn’t know about my daughter’s feelings, who would!”

“I so wish you were there with me in physical form, Ma!”

“How much I wish the same. But God’s still been kind to let me meet you like this!”

“But he’ll take away this fortune too. What would then I be left with?”

“We still have 2 years till I’m gone forever and by then, you’ll be matured enough to take care of yourself.

Ok now I have something important to tell you. I wanted to talk about this once you were 14 but with what Ramesh did today, I’m compelled to unearth the truth.”

Feeling anxious for what was coming her way, Chetna sat on the floor. Her mother’s eyes also moved along and they looked at each other in parallel. She continued, “I didn’t die in an accident. I was murdered by your Baba. I wanted him to get the opportunity to be a good father, but seems he’s still stuck up with his wrong beliefs.

Chetna was in a state of shock. She didn’t utter a word and waited for her mother to speak.

“I know this is hard but that’s what you need to deal with, in this life. A day before Ramesh murdered me, I was raped. I wanted to file a complaint against the offenders but he was concerned about his image in the village. When I didn’t surrender, he killed me in sleep. You were only 1 year old then!”

Heavy tears flowed down Chetna’s eyes. Gathering some courage, she asked, “Why didn’t grandmother tell me about this?”

“Because she wants to be a good mother. But you leave that reasoning. It’s no use talking about.”

“And why did you tell this to me today?”

“Because today Ramesh decided to stop you from studying. But I want you to complete your education and be independent. I don’t want you to be suppressed like me. And it’s only education that can open you up as a human! 

Today that you know the truth, I know it will break you. But I also know that it’ll give you a voice. Voice to have your say and strength to do what’s right!”

Seconds after saying this, the twinkling eyes merged with the illumination around and slowly faded off in the blackness. Like always, Chetna too dozed-off on the floor. Mother never used to bid goodbye, fearing the child would compel to extend her stay. 

When Chetna woke up next morning, it was unlike other days. The winter sun felt more warm and comforting. Despite sleeping on the bare floor, she felt relaxed. Last night’s worries didn’t seem to exist. Chetna’s inner voice said that life wouldn’t be the same anymore. Whether it was because of the guiding light from far above or her own maturity, is still unknown.

******

Photo Credits: Unsplash

This is an entry for the event #Supernatural #UniK-7 being held at Writers Room | Room8.

Read the event guidelines here: UniK-7 event guidelines

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Nitika Sawhney
Nitika Sawhney is a writer with a heart and face full of smiles. Mostly carefree, she occasionally delves into an imaginative realm. That's where she gets her ideas from. She enjoys watching movies. Visual scenes navigate her into an unreturning zone. She has a controversial persona. Obsessive about perfection, IShe convinces herself hard that it's okay to lie in a mess, sometimes 🙂 She likes mornings, yet she wakes up late. She wants to go slim, yet she ends up eating more. In short, I am a dissimilitude soul that likes different things at different times. The only constant in my life is my family and writing :)"
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