Sunday 1 March 2015

Prose 500 2015 Longlist, Aditi Sahu

Honour and Killings

Priyanka glowed with happiness as the gentle cool breeze wafted her dupatta away from her bosom-the wafting dupatta symbolizing her free, unshackled spirit! Riding pillion with the love of her life- was until today one of her biggest desires. Thanks to destiny, this wish was granted. Abhishek rode through the streets, enjoying every minute with Priyanka- he knew this day was all they had in their uncertainty-laden lives! They shopped, they explored, and they went on a tasting spree of delicious food items displayed in the colorful carts in by-lanes of Indore-the food capital of India. 

Priyanka belonged to the most orthodox and conservative family of Jabalpur, where getting one’s daughters married off to complete strangers was tradition while their simple interaction with the opposite sex was taboo. Priyanka secured admission into a prestigious co-ed college solely on basis of her merit, and her school teachers insisted she continue. Grudgingly, her parents agreed. Priyanka and Abhishek fell in love with each other during the second year of college and have been forced to hide their feelings ever since for fear of honour-killings, not very uncommon even in 21st century India. This summer, the college decided to send selected participants for a 2-day conference in Indore; she couldn’t thank her stars enough when both Abhishek’s and her name featured in the coveted list. Miraculously, her parents too gave the required consent. 

So here she was, spending quality time with her beloved as he contentedly rode through this city on his friend’s bike after bunking the conference midway. Just as they were about to cross LalBaag Palace, Priyanka stared in horror as their family friend eyed her suspiciously on the same traffic signal. She knew the damage was done; the news would reach her gates much before could. Scared to death, she reached Jabalpur the very next day. Silence signaling looming mayhem hung gloomily in the air welcomed her home. Once inside, she was first greeted with two sharp slaps by her father. Then her mother stepped forward and thrashed her soundly. In an overwhelmingly furious tone, she enquired if her daughter was pregnant. Priyanka was aghast at the accusation, but did not shy away from answering in the negative. Next came another slap and accompanying demand for a proof by her own mother. She whispered to her that she is having her periods, what bigger proof than that! And then came the final blow. She demanded to see her stained sanitary napkin! In front of her father!

Priyanka stood there, speechless. The recent news of same-sex marriage approved by the US Supreme Court crossed her mind. Also the recent wedding of her childhood friend with her French lover sailed in her memories. When globally the boundaries of love are pushing hitherto realms, even loving a boy from the same caste and gotra is prohibited in her old-fashioned household. Such a stark contrast, her heart lamented as she braced herself for the impending public humiliation and a tragic death!

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