“I have only one person to thank for scaling these heights. That is Jyothi ma’am. She brought light into my life and then, life became lighter and brighter.”
Chapter -1 – What was her fault?
Jyothi woke up hearing the screams of her sister. Rubbing her sleepy eyes, she walked out to the verandah. The sight that awaited just jostled her from her slumber. Her sister Jaya was tied to the banyan tree.
She was beaten black and blue in the presence of her father and uncles.
“Please let me live. I don’t want to marry anyone. What is my fault if I feel so?” pleaded Jyoti. But her words fell on deaf ears.
The next moment, her uncle’s raised hand fell on her cheek like a thunderbolt.
Jyothi watched everything helplessly. She wanted to help her sister desperately, but she knew from inside, who would listen to a teenager?
Also, she was very naive to understand what her sister felt about marriage. She was still thinking as the beatings continued. Jaya was screaming in pain, but none of the villagers came to her rescue. The situation was only getting worse.
Jyothi wanted to raise her voice but the culture, tradition of the family stopped her in the form of her mother. It was a helpless situation for the womenfolk.
The neighbours did not dare to come out as the Menon’s were known to throw tantrums and would not entertain outsiders for inside matters.
Police and Municipal Corporation were far away to convey the information and for them to take any action.
Jyothi feared the worst to happen, but with no respite. No communication system was available. She thought to herself, Is there no mercy in the minds of these heartless people? Are they not blood-related? What satisfaction were they deriving? Is my sister’s crime so heinous?
While a turbulent mind threw zillions of questions, they had to be swallowed down with the salty tears falling down the cheeks.
Silently watching the weird scenes like the banyan tree, Jyothi experienced the worst scenario she could ever imagine in her wildest dreams.
As the men of the house left, Jyothi and her mother ran towards the tree to free her sister. There was no noise for the past few minutes.
Jaya was already ‘freed’.
Chapter 2 – Vibrant Life
SKS Vidhyalaya – One of the best schools in Coimbatore was always bustling with action.
The students of this school excelled in sports, academics, and co-curricular activities. Most of the students who joined this school pursued their studies with SKS College, their sister concern.
Malini, an all-rounder, was the pride of the school. She was an apple of everyone’s eye. Students used to ask for help in academics and Malini used to help them with no ego. Even teachers would seek Malini’s opinion regarding the conduct of activities.
Her manners were so perfect that being a normal student was doubted by a few. Like a candle having a shadow just beneath it, a few students were jealous of her. Her beauty lied in the fact that she helped even these reptiles selflessly.
Malini practiced gratitude perfectly and credited her parents for a wonderful upbringing. Mincing no words of praise, they called themselves Malini’s parents proudly. Both the parents were teachers and supported her in all her activities.
After completing her 12th standard, Malini joined SKS College on expected lines. Her magic continued growing into a beautiful woman. Fair and lovely, she became a heartthrob. Several boys just would feel happy just as she smiled at them. They used to make innumerable attempts to have a word with the most beautiful ‘lady’ of the college. Malini knew these things and would have a hearty laugh with her friends whenever they found a boy attempting to create a chance.
However, there was a topsy-turvy of events that alerted her parents. They found the extrovert girl that she was suddenly has stopped interacting. They could sense she had become more cautious and started shying away, especially from boys. Mrs. Nair brushed it off, as she felt it to be a passing affair that college-going girls had in general. One night, over dinner Malini said, “Acha, Amma, Principal ma’am wanted to meet you both. Tomorrow being a Saturday, can you please come to college?”
Chapter 3 – The Revelation and Aftermath
Mr. Nair was feeling proud adorning various trophies at the Principal’s cabin. His heart and mind knew his daughter was the recipient of many of those at various competitions held. The grin on the face, the sparkle in the eyes, the swelling of the chest were spilling out his emotions.
Principal Cherian though a scientist was a teacher at heart and preferred everyone calling him a ‘teacher’ than a ‘scientist’. He welcomed the parents and made them comfortable. Offering them a glass of water, Mr. Nair and Prin Cherian hit friendly notes instantly. One reason for the talk being casual was their acquaintance. Mr. Nair and Cherian happened to be college mates and knew each other very well.
However, the air was cold today. It was blowing across and even the ssshhhh… could be heard in the otherwise silent room. Mr. Nair’s palpitation increased as even his friend was not revealing much. His mind was clouded, like the pregnant sky.
A few moments later, a lady joined the party. Dressed up in a casual salwar kameez, she occupied the chair beside Mr. Nair. Her looks carried a lot of pain and the lines of her forehead were too obvious to reflect ‘something was cooking inside.’
Mr. Nair chose to ignore the pain and asked Prin. Cherian, “Yes sir, what is the matter? Why are we summoned? Would you please explain.”
Prin. Cherian introduced the adjacent lady as being the School Counselor.
Mr. Nair looked at her, exchanged pleasantries, and turned to the Principal anticipating further instructions.
“Ms. Jyothi, you can take over now. I will make my rounds and come back. Be comfortable Mr. Nair,” communicated Prin. Cherian. As he stood up from his chair, both the parent and the teacher in front rose in respect. Indicating them to occupy their chairs, the Principal left the room.
“Would you like some tea or coffee, Mrs. and Mr. Nair?” offered Jyothi.
“Well, we are fine. What is this meeting all about?” asked a nervous Nair.
“I am coming to that, sir. Well, let me introduce myself. I am Jyothi Menon, a lecturer of Psychiatry and a Student Counselor.”
“I hope you know we hold regular counseling sessions with our students at the beginning of the First Year of their college. This helps them to understand themselves as well as their surroundings better.” Jyothi paused for an answer.
As expected, it was a “NO” from the Nairs by action not in words.
She continued, “We conduct these sessions once in 3 months. For those who need additional sessions, special permission is sought, and they are provided the same. Further, we invite parents of such students for counseling as well.”
Jyothi could sense the disturbance in the couple. Mr. Nair started rubbing his hands, and there were droplets of obvious on his forehead. He took out his handkerchief to ward off those. A clear sign of nervousness. Mrs. Nair was mentally tougher and held the hands of her husband giving strength to him and indicating him to remain calmer.
Jyothi shot a question from the quiver, “Mrs. Nair, have you noticed any changes in Malini after she joined college?
“Well, nothing significant.” Said Mrs. Nair, before she could complete, Mr. Nair interrupted, “Can I add something here?
“Go ahead, sir. I am all ears,” convinced Jyothi.
“Malini has been shying away from boys or men lately. Earlier, she used to play badminton with me and my friends every evening. For the past month, she has been avoiding playing with us. I discussed this with Leela,” reported Nair.
“Oh yes, he told me, and I told him it could just be a phase. She needs some time to get used to her college and the new scenario,” said Mrs. Nair in an assuring tone
“What has that to do with our discussion now?” the worried father asked.
“I am coming to that, sir. I want you to stay calm and listen to me. Malini has admitted that she likes girls over boys,” revealed Jyothi in a calm but firm tone.
This statement impacted like the bombs being thrown at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The two silent Nairs could feel a vacuum in their ears.
“Whaaaat!!” Mrs. Nair was the first to react.
An unfaced Jyothi continued, “She has admitted to this and many of her classmates (both boys and girls) have concurred the same,” Jyothi paused.
“Apparently, she has tried talking to her mother about this too.” Jyothi could see Mr. Nair glaring at his wife.
“However, Mrs. Nair, did not approve of this and even admonished her for thinking like that,” replied Jyothi.
“Did she try talking to you, Mrs. Nair?” enquired Jyothi.
“Errr.. Yes, she did speak to me. What should I be doing other than admonishing her? What will our relatives say? What about society? I was thinking to take her to the Siddhan* and have him perform some poojas to wade this thought from her mind.”
“Wow! What a thought! You are a teacher, right? Don’t you understand what she is going through? Going to Siddhan it seems!!” exclaimed Jyothi in a loud tone.
She quickly realized her folly, and it was important to control herself in this session. Sipping some water, Jyothi composed herself and continued. “Mrs. and Mr. Nair, I understand this is a tough situation in all terms. No parent likes to be in your shoes at this moment. You may be correct but maybe not right.”
Controlling the situation, Jyothi advised, “There are certain facts which need to be accepted. Malini has admitted to being a lesbian. It is you who has to come to terms with it and understand her. She needs your support, not the society or relatives. You both are her world and the external world you are referring to is nothing, at least at this moment. Both of you, being teachers, should be able to help her sail through this smoothly. She is going through a lot of mental issues. I promise to be there with you all as you travel through this phase.”
The long lecture seemed to have no visible impact on the Nair’s. Mr. Nair’s head dropped and he was in absolute silence. No reaction whatsoever, even the initial inquisitiveness evaporated.
Jyothi was puzzled by Mr. Nair’s silence.
Mrs. and Mr. Nair sought permission to go home.
After they left, Prof. Cherian returned from his rounds and found a pensive Jyothi. She murmured, “Things don’t seem to sail smoothly, Principal sir. Malini will have a tough time ahead. I fear for her life as well. Can we do something to safeguard her?”
Jyothi stood up, requesting to leave. Her phone rang, and the screen flashed ‘Malini’. As expected, she got a call. The principal allowed her to answer the phone in speaker mode so that he could listen as well.
“Hello, Jyothi ma’am,” Malini here.
“Yes Malini, how are you beta? Hope things are good at your end,” a calmed down Jyothi asked.
“No ma’am (sobbing). Things are not good. My father, my (sobs continued) father was furious at me. He lashed at me with his belt and threatened to kill me. I am scared. I want to leave this place.”
“Don’t cry, Malini. I had expected this. Where are you now?”
“Ma’am, I am in front of the college.”
“Be right there. I am coming to get you.”
Prin. Cherian overhead this conversation. “So your fears turned true?” said the worried man. “First, go out and bring the child inside.”
“Yes sir. As you see, Malini has revolted against the actions of her father. I had promised her earlier as well that in every situation, I would stand alongside her. She believes me for that purpose and I’m ready to go to any extent to her help her,” wiping her tears, said a confident Jyothi.
“I appreciate your concerns, Jyothi, but did you think over this calmly? Do not make a decision that will haunt you for the rest of your life. You may have to sacrifice so much in this process,” the gentleman reminded the lady with a spark in mind.
“Sir, rest assured, I was mentally prepared for this. I have lost Jaya long ago for a very similar reason. Those days, I was exceedingly small and could not do anything except cry over her corpse. Today, I am able to take charge and act. I support Malini and promise to stand by her.” The words were hot as if thrown out from a furnace. Jyothi was fuming inside.
“I can protect you both for a short while, but not forever. Moreover, others in the neighbourhood may join the bandwagon and oppose. You and Malini must relocate to another city for safety purposes. I am assured about Malini’s safety. You both will have my support, both morally and monetarily. All the best, my child.”
Both Malini and Jyothi stormed out of the principal’s office.
As Malini looked at Jyothi, she saw a new woman. A timid counselor turned into a tigress in a short while. Malini felt Jyothi’s grip was reassuring.
Gaining confidence, she asked, “Ma’am, who is Jaya? You were mentioning her name while talking to Principal sir”.
Jyothi took a deep breath and said, “Jaya was my sister. I was very young to understand her at that time. She liked girls more than boys. My parents were agitated and tried to make her understand. All their efforts went in vain. Jaya chechi* just wanted a good life. She was against marrying someone as she didn’t want to ruin his life too.
I was helpless due to my age and lack of understanding. All I could do was to see her bound to a tree and pelted to death”.
Malini was shell-shocked. She just hugged Jyothi.
Jyothi composed herself and said, “Malini, you can conquer the world. I see my sister in you. I promise I would be there with you till my last breath. Whatever you want to achieve in life, aim for it.”
These motivating words meant a lot for a bruised woman. Both promising each other to be each other’s support and reason for existence moved in search of a better place to survive.
Chapter 4 – The New Leaf
Years passed by. The new city accepted the Counselor and the brightest student it could boast about.
One fine day, when Jyothi returned from her college, she saw a registered letter addressing Ms. Malini being delivered to her.
Jyothi was elated to open the letter but waited with bated breath for Malini to come for dinner and then hand over the same.
As Malini reached back home in the evening, Jyothi behaved normally. On the dining table, Jyothi smartly placed the envelope beneath Malini’s plate.
Starting a regular conversation, Jyothi asked,” So, how is your work going on? You seemed to be a lot more tired nowadays?”
“Yeah, chechi, there is a lot of work in the office. The counseling sessions have increased. The mindset of parents is still the same. They are not ready to accept their children. Today, I met Mr. Naik who was a tough nut to crack, reminded me of Achan,” she informed Malini with a drop of tear in the corner of her eye.
“Don’t worry dear, things will be alright and then you are always there for such parents and children. The Wounded Tigress, as everyone calls you nowadays,” both girls laughing their way merrily.
“By the way, I have got some good news for you,” said an elated Jyothi.
“Oh Wow!! Good news, after so long. Please, Please tell me now!” Malini got up from her place and came near Jyothi.
“Not here, look beneath your plate,” replied Jyothi.
On the D-day, both dressed in their comfortable best and the MC announced,
“The Young Achiever of the Year award goes to Ms. Malini Jyothi Menon. Ms. Malini, at a very young age, become a successful entrepreneur. She is a social activist who works with the LGBTQ Community in making them aware of their rights and laws. It is a great honour to present her with this award.”
The auditorium echoed with nonstop applause as Malini walked up to the dais to receive her award.
“I have only one person to thank for scaling these heights. That is Jyothi ma’am. She brought light into my life and led me from the front when my birth parents ignored me for what I was. Yes, I am a lesbian, and I do not have any qualms about accepting this. I was threatened at home and had to walk out in my early twenties. Since then, Jyothi ma’am, no, Jyothi chechi has been my everything.
At the peak of her career, she changed her city, her job, just because I could survive without fear. That horrible day had she not come to my rescue, I would have been Late Malini Nair,” laughingly she said with a tear in her eye.
“For me, this award, recognition is her appreciation and with your kind permission, being awarded to her hands would be the smallest payback possible. May I request her to be called upon the stage and she collects this, on my behalf,” announced an emotional Malini.
The applause grew bigger as Jyothi went up. She was visibly crying. She hugged Malini and looked up after receiving the award. A sudden and heavy downpour started. “Jaya chechi is blessing us”, whispered Malini as she hugged Jyothi.
*Siddhan – a person who claims to have divine powers to cure any evil
*chechi – elder sister in Malayalam
Image Courtesy : Google
Team – Witty Partners
Team Members – Vishwanath Iyer, Kirti V