The night was dark, it smelled funny. He couldn’t quite place the smell. It reminded him of this time he was punished for stealing. Maybe that’s why he felt uneasy. He could see the flames from a distance. They’d be here in 25 minutes.

How could she have been so stupid? What did she see in that guy? They’re dirty. They have no shame. They hate women for crying out loud. She was an idiot. She deserved what was coming.

He turned to see his sister’s face. He knew she was crying. There was a quiet resolve in her eyes, a steely glaze of righteousness. A strength he had never seen. A strength he didn’t have. There is a penchant for drama. A predisposition for the theatrical. It isn’t really what we think. It’s always about the ominous “log”. It’s all a show. We don’t own our lives.

The flames didn’t really move much. Why were they walking so slowly? They didn’t have to avoid any cops. His dad practically owned the cops. Plus the cause is just, even if the act is murder.

He buried his face in his hands. He saw her face again. It was a picture of pride. She doesn’t admit she’s made a mistake. How could she have met him? He didn’t allow any boys near his sister. His sweet sister, innocence personified. He pictured the day she was born. How he felt threatened by her presence. Eventually, an overwhelming urge to protect her. To shield her from sadness. Bapuji wasn’t too thrilled. He just scowled and grunted. Almost disappointed. He didn’t get it. He didn’t care. What had he done to her?

The flames approached, slowly but surely. She knew she mustn’t cry. She knew how to mask what she felt. To portray an emotion. To show the world an image of who you want them to think you are. Just thinking that got his head to spin. She kept looking straight ahead. “Look at me! Why were you so STUPID? How could you not know this was not allowed?” his inner voice was screaming. “Who makes these rules? Who decides what’s right? What am I doing??”

He couldn’t let this happen. Bapuji; the man was her father and he wanted to kill her. Killing your young. That’s the worst form of fucked up. Society turned him into a sociopath.

He pictured them burning her body. He knew it would be this bruised and bloody body that would be burnt. But he pictured her as a child. His mind was racing with pictures of a burning baby. He could hear the helpless screams. He could smell the flesh. Burning flesh. It’s a smell you cannot forget. It stays with you for life. He jolted himself out of it. His mind was blank with clarity.

He cut her restraints. “Bhaag!” he screamed, as he pushed her to give her a start. She looked up and the moonlight caught her bruised face. Gratitude, fear, happiness, relief, exhaustion, strength… A myriad of emotions. He threw his phone at her and it landed on the ground. She picked it up. All the time not trusting him. All the time vary. She stepped back a couple of steps. She saw the flames were almost here. “Aap?” she enquired in a broken voice. Her concern did not surprise him. “Tum Bas Niklo!” he bellowed. Then she ran! She ran so hard! She ran so fast. She was gone in an instant. If there’s one thing she’s not, it’s stupid.

He couldn’t go. He had to stay. Or her life would be hell. He could change their mind. All he had to do was convince Bapuji. He saw the flames approach. This was never about the family, it was about the entire village.

He realised “log” weren’t just these idiots. He knew “Log” extended to people in the next 4 villages. In the state. The entire country maybe. If he let them get to his sister, what would those log have said? And frankly, who gives a shit?. You don’t choose who you fall in love with.

They had arrived. His Bapuji stood there, livid with rage, shame and disappointment. “Kaha hai woh?” he bellowed. At no response he motioned to a few of them to beat up his son. He watched as they belted him with sticks and kicks. His wife was screaming. His son deserved a beating. He wouldn’t kill him but he had to be taught a lesson for disobedience.

There was a certain sense of overwhelming relief that he couldn’t explain. He knew they wouldn’t hurt his son as much as they’d hurt his daughter. His daughter. The more he thought about it, the more ashamed he felt. He was going to kill his own daughter. If it wasn’t for his son, he’d have killed his own child. His girl. His ego had taken over and corrupted every thought of his.

And that’s when he heard it.

In all his years of training, fighting and watching fights, never once had he heard a sound like that. He knew something was wrong. He looked down and saw his son wince in pain. He screamed for them to stop. They didn’t listen. They were in a heated frenzy. Fanatical release of all the pent up hatred they had in their system. Years of silly rules! He then swung at the nearest. “BAS!” he screamed. He rushed over to his son. He couldn’t move. His breath was short. His time was neigh.

He stared into his father’s teary eyes. His own tears blurring his vision. His brain had kicked into overdrive and looking for justification. He was scared. He was sad. He didn’t want to die. He then pictured memories flashing in front of his eyes. He saw all the unfair treatment. All the times he got away with way worse than his sister. The day she did better in school than him but got reprimanded. The day she was not allowed to go to the college of her choice. He was scared but an unnatural calm had swept him. He was right. It’s over. A definition had changed. A higher price was paid for intelligence and good sense to prevail.