The glittery material of her red lehenga lying on the floor is pinching in her eyes. The small pieces of jewellery lying carelessly on the bed. These are not giving her any joy but seems as if they are the fetters of social convention. The impressions of ‘heena’ in her hand is the constant reminder of her helplessness. She was not excited to wear her new suit which her mother herself sewed for her for this special day.
What she is wearing is her blue kameez, white salwar, white dupatta, and tied her hair with red ribbons to remind her what she is leaving behind. Her mother entered the room and shouted on her.
“Raani ye kya kar rahi hai? Safed rang kyun pehna hai?”
Usually, Lakshmi never loses her calm but seeing her daughter wearing white dupatta on her time of bidai, the very next day of her marriage makes her lose her temper.
Raani is sitting beside her single ‘hard to be called’ a bed, crying heavily.
“It is good, at least she is crying. Every girl does cry. It is her ‘Bidai’ after all.” This is what Lakshmi is thinking about, seeing her daughter. What she couldn’t see is her daughter’s school dress she is wearing, her books lying everywhere in front of her, newly sewed clothes thrown on the floor and her daughter’s eyes begging with hope.
“Ma, muzhe mat bhejo.”
These are the words she is repeating from the past three days to her mother, but it seems everything is falling on deaf ears. Rani is continuously cursing her mother for doing this to her. Rani didn’t want to get married, all she wanted was to study, but Lakshmi already made her mind.
Rani’s whole life changed in past week…
Lakshmi went to her home town to attend her sister’s son marriage. She couldn’t leave her daughter in Delhi only with her son. Rani is a beautiful girl with a good 5 ft 4-inch height, looks more than her 14 years of age. Whenever Lakshmi takes Rani to her Malkin’s house she always asks Rani’s age to confirm that she is 14 or 17. Even praises Rani for her good looks and sharp mind. She always tells Lakshmi to make Rani study higher as she looks bright and often pays for her school fees too.
Lakshmi didn’t plan to give her daughter’s hand in marriage so early. When she reached her sister’s home. Everyone there praises the girl’s beauty. She got few offers for her daughter’s hand in marriage. Still, she doesn’t want her daughter to get married soon. She always wanted her daughter to stand on her feet first. She didn’t want her daughter to face the same problems like hers. She fought everyone to keep her children fed right after the birth of her daughter. She couldn’t give her just-born daughter to her husband to abandon her somewhere in the dump. She knew she had to leave for good. Packing whatever little she saved, the very next day of her delivery, taking her 3-year-old son and her just-born daughter, she somehow caught a train from the small station of her village. She never looked back for a good 12 years. She knew her husband got remarried just a month after and now had a son from his second marriage. All the relatives of Lakshmi lived in the same village as her husband’s. Lakshmi never asked for a penny nor did she cared. She was illiterate but worked different jobs in the city at different households and kept her children fed. It was difficult but ‘god helped her somehow’ as she quoted.
That was the first time Lakshmi was back to her village since she left twelve years back. She never wanted to come but it was hard for her to say no to her dying mother. This was the first time she saw her husband and his new family attending the same wedding that she is attending that too from the groom’s side. Irony… In villages no matter how many wives one keeps relation to everyone stays the same. Everything was so surreal for her.
Lakshmi’s husband asked her for their daughter, when he first saw Lakshmi there. He already knew that Lakshmi and their daughter both are coming. Between the rituals of marriage, he told Lakshmi that he fixed Rani’s marriage to one of the richest Landlord in the village. It was a shock for Lakshmi at first. She couldn’t get the fact how her husband who was invisible from her life for the past twelve years, suddenly wants to take care of her daughter and her future. She got even more surprised when her sister joins in and told her that she is with her husband in this matter and she already talked to the landlord about Rani and her beauty.
Since Rani is fourteen in age, which is way more than the right age of marriage in her village everyone started forcing her for her daughter’s marriage. What she could do then; just run as she did before which seems impossible as everyone is more alert now and against her, pressuring her to give her daughter’s hand in marriage. She knew there is something fishy behind all this. She couldn’t leave her daughter in the paws of such heartless people. She couldn’t leave her daughter to live the same life as she lived.
Despite her herculean efforts of not doing so, she had to give her daughter’s hand in marriage and ceremony did happen in the village. As soon as Rani got married, Lakshmi left the village. That was the only way she could come back to Delhi. She took Rani and Rani’s husband to Delhi.
Rani’s husband Raju was not the landlord but an accountant in a small company, whose family lived in the same village and the boy is earning and living in Delhi with her mother. He was not getting any handsome salary but enough to feed her daughter good. Raju was the one who couldn’t take his eye off Rani when they first met. Lakshmi witnessed it. Upon knowing, that Rani is only 14 years in age he backed himself. Raju admits having 8 years of an age gap between him and Rani.
Raju is coming to take Rani to his house. Rani is still crying. Laksmi is packing her stuff. She gets her daughter ready for her Bidai. She packs a few things for her daughter in the suitcase her Malkin gave her a few months back. Rani is not complaining anymore now as she knows everything is useless.
In her new unfamiliar 1 room hall kitchen house, with yellow coloured walls, with all the festivities going on, where in every 2 hours someone is coming and asking for the ‘muh-dikhai’ of nayi-dulhan, Rani is feeling lonely and defeated. Is she asked too much from her mother to let her study some more? She is trying to open her only suitcase clumsily with her 14-year-old defeated self. Suddenly, a carton beside a stool in the corner caught her attention. It is a simple box but she could recognize it from afar because she is the one who decorated it with the fancy cover Lakshmi’s Malkin used, to pack her thirteenth birthday gift. She used it to decorate her carton where, she kept all her precious books and stuff collected. She jump towards her box hurriedly. There lying her school uniform at the top, followed by her all the books. At this very moment, enter her mother in law and husband Raju together. They said “This is your mother’s only request to make you complete your studies before you start living as a married woman in the house.”
“You are my daughter as I never had one and you will be my daughter in law once you finish school.” Rani’s mother in law said.
This very moment again tears start rolling down her cheek…
These are the tears of joy that she can complete her studies.
Tears of respect that she feels for her mother.
Tears of love for God that he answered her prayers.
Tears of hope that everything will be good…