Snow was falling in soft fluffs as I waited at the bus station at Kullu. I was posted there as S.P City.
Dressed as a typical hill woman, I was to travel to Shimla with two of my colleagues for a secret mission.
As I was about to board the last bus to Shimla, I saw her coming hastily, alert as a frightened doe. She entered the bus and squeezed herself in a corner seat. She looked flustered and shaky. She was wearing a sweater too thin for the chilly weather. I couldn’t help asking,” where are you going, child ?” She gave me a scared look and fumbled,” Me?” After a long minute, she answered,” Shimla.”
A teenage girl traveling at that time appeared odd, even to my non-conventional mind.
After reaching Shimla, we waited outside the Inter-State Bus Terminus for the staff car to take us to the guest house. I couldn’t wipe off the thought of that girl and went to look for her.
She was still there. I asked her sternly, “ Is anyone coming to take you? “ She gave no answer. “ Have you run away from home ?” She started crying. It was as I had feared.
I coaxed her to come with me. Just had to.
By and by she started warming up towards me.
She was Smita. Being the daughter of a conservative family was the bane of her existence.
Her life had been a plethora of questions for which she had no answers to questions from all around and questions her own mind asked her day and night. Her ordeal had started much before her birth. Her grandma had strict instructions for her mom to give birth to boys only.
“ Don’t laugh, aunty,” she told me innocently,” These hidebound old women know how to implement their orders. Their sons are so brainwashed that for them their mother’s casual talk is a divine order.”
It might have meant agonizing tests and painful abortions. Many sleepless nights and lifelong feelings of guilt for the mother.
The mother obliged her twice. She was forced to. “Wasn’t that enough? Not for her. ” Third time it was she who was born. An innocent little girl whom the grandma treated as a sworn enemy. As the mother was an accomplice in the crime of bringing her to this world, so she also had to suffer.
“ Girls don’t die easily. Let her cry.” “ Why to feed this little devil?” were her constant comments.
She survived in spite of all that.
Grandma soon expired leaving behind her harrowing legacy.
Those antiquated notions about girls were deep-set in her father’s mind. She was obliged to do chores while her brothers could remain idle,” Catch them young, they have to take up the responsibility of running a home,” was his logic. That meant no childhood for girls and boys could be as irresponsible as possible.
She could never go out alone, while they roamed free. She felt suffocated all the time.
The only time she felt really happy was when she was at school. She excelled in her studies. Her teachers were proud of her. But her extraordinary achievements couldn’t fetch a word of praise from her father.
Her brilliance worried him as it was ingrained in his mind that intelligent girls have a mind of their own.
It had been decided long ago that she wouldn’t be sent to college. A frantic search for a suitable match started.
Her mother pleaded with her father to send her to college till a suitable boy was found.
She was the target of ridicule in her circle of friends. Her father dropped her and came to take her home. In spite of that, She was bombarded with questions every day.” Why were you late to come to the gate ?” “ Do you talk to the boys?” “ who sits with you in the class? “
She had no choice but to tolerate all this.
Till one day.
It was a pleasant day and was drizzling softly. All the students of her class decided to bunk the classes and go to a nearby coffee shop. ” Don’t be a bore.” they said and dragged her along.
That was to be her nemesis. Her father spotted her there and insulted her in front of all, ignoring all her pleas.
“ Enough is enough. No college for you .” he declared
“ That was the end of all joy for me, I decided to end my life.
Even this wasn’t easy as my family won’t leave me alone.”
“ Finding an opportunity to escape today, I climbed down the window and ran out.”
“ Why did I do so ! “ she lamented “ They must all be miserable. I can’t even go back.”
The poor girl was thinking of the pain and humiliation she had caused her family.
I decided to go along with her myself.
As the police jeep reached their door, I could see fear and consternation on their faces. They were expecting the worse. Even when I marched out along with Smita their minds were full of a thousand misgivings.
The entire household was in a quandary, The mother had been crying her eyes out.
She had got her voice back and for the first time in life was blaming her husband for being too harsh with his daughter. After appraising them of everything I left giving them a strict warning.
They bid me farewell amid the tears of gratitude and joy. They thanked me profusely and promised to alter their behaviour for good.
Smita was to continue with her studies and they were sure that she would be an officer like me one day.
Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.