Another Indian girl goes to the sacrificial plate

Photo by James Douglas on Unsplash

This story was so well-received that I am continuing it on… Here’s the next piece.

“Why are you reading those books?” My mother said to me. “It’s not like you are going to university or anywhere useful with that. Come over here, and learn how to make rotis. That way when you go to your in-laws house, you can show them that you know how to cook.”

I was in Grade 10. I had a big exam tomorrow. The nightly blackout is in two hours. I had to finish going through my notes one last time, but instead, I spent those last two hours in the stifling heat, kneading dough, and making rotis for my brother and father, who were sitting on the cool porch outside, chatting about his upcoming university exams.

I know they were also chatting about how they were going to gather enough money for my dowry. After paying for my brother’s university, and all of our other expenses, my father barely had money saved up.

I looked up at myself in the long mirror embedded in the iron wardrobe and I wished for the thousandth time I was a boy. It would have been so much easier if I were a boy. I could have gone to medical school like I wanted to, and become a doctor. I could have postponed getting married until I was 30 and no one would have said anything. I could have roamed about the streets without worrying about a thing, and I could be free.

I heard a quick ouch from my mother. I looked up quickly to see a burn on her arm. The chula (stove) was an open-fire pit, and the wood logs we had were still wet from the rain. They weren’t burning evenly, so my mother had to manipulate the rotis I was making, directly on the open fire, not on a iron pan. I ran and grabbed a bottle of cold beer from my father and brother outside, and gave it to my mother to cool down her burn. She looked at me gratefully. “My dear little girl. What would I do without you?”

I wish she wouldn’t say those words to me. They were hollow. If you really loved me, and wanted me to live a happy life, you would let me study for my exam that was tomorrow, rather than make me cook for my lazy brother, and my alcoholic father. But I was letting bitterness seep into my face and heart. I cleaned up my face, and smiled back at her, with a bright shiny smile. Everything was great in this world. I loved living here, and it was exactly the life I wanted.

“Have I told you about the day you were born?” My mother started. She was holding the cold bottle against her burn, and leaning back on her haunches, taking a bit of a break. I took over the duty to cook the rotis on the open fire. Despite being careful, I knew by the end of the night, I would have several burns on my fingers.

Another thing that would prevent me from writing down answers on the exam tomorrow.

Oh well, it’s not like I am going to get to go to university.

“Yes, you have.” Only a billion times, I thought. But I let her go on. She got reminiscent more and more recently, because she knew I was going to be married soon, and leave home and her forever. She constantly told me how I was going to be given away and not be her daughter anymore. I would be the daughter of my husband’s family.

“Oh, it was a beautiful morning. There were so many birds chirping and singing away. I think they knew that you were going to come that day. They sang and sang. So much so that the midwife who was helping me birth you shooed them away. But they kept on coming back. That’s when I knew that I was going to have a girl. I just knew it. When you came out of my belly, you were a tiny little thing. Just as long as my arm, and just as skinny. But I loved you so much. I was so grateful to have a daughter. I had had your brother already so my in-laws didn’t care as much if I had a daughter.” She had tears in her eyes. “You were the brightest little thing. You were so curious. Always looking at everything around you, with those big eyes of yours. I put so much kajal (eyeliner) in them, so people wouldn’t get jealous and put the evil eye on you. You were so smart. So smart. You started speaking when you were only a year old. And you took your first step then, too. After that I had no peace. No peace at all. You would go everywhere, rummage through everything. And you sang and danced all the time. All the time. Such original dancing, too. I don’t know where you got that talent from. Not from any of us. And soon, you are going to go away, and I’ll never get to see you again.”

“Ma… You will see me. I am not going into outer space. I am just moving to Delhi. I can take a train ride back anytime I want. And you can come visit anytime you want. You know that.”

My mother had a shocked look on her face. “Come visit you? At your in-laws? I could never do that. That would be blasphemous. It’s already a big deal that they are letting their son marry you. You know we are from the Dalit caste. It’s a great honour that they have agreed to marry you, even though they are from a higher caste.”

I didn’t want to hear any of this. I had heard it before from my mother, my aunt, and all of my other relatives. How lucky I was that this man from a higher caste had decided to marry me and take me to Delhi. No one saw anything suspicious in it. But I knew that there was something wrong with him. He was interested in men. I had heard the rumour from my cousin who lived in Delhi who had a friend who worked in his office. Not that that matters. But that meant that I wouldn’t be able to go into university and get into medical school. He wouldn’t want me to get educated, and go around telling people that he’s different.

My mother didn’t see my discomfort or even my sadness. She went on. “We are so lucky. You have no idea how many people I have had telling me that we are one of the luckiest families in Chandipur right now. The only family whose daughter has married higher than them, and is moving to Delhi. The capital. The big city. You are going to be treated like a queen. An absolute queen. I’m so glad. I know you had a hard life here with us. But now things will change. You will be able to order people around, even though I never did.”

I looked at her with tears in my eyes at her naivety. She was so innocent. I wished that she would stay like this forever, never learning the truth about this world. Never learning the truth about my husband-to-be. Never about my own dreams and the secrets in my heart.

I had already written a letter to Malin and told him that I was getting married. I told him not to call or come visit me anymore. It was over. He wasn’t as good as a man who would take me to Delhi, at least in my parent’s eyes.

I finished baking the last roti over the open fire, and put all the rotis, daal, and the sabji (veggies) on plates to take to my father and brother. They ate first. And they complained throughout it, about the troubles they were going through on my account.

I didn’t wait to hear them finish.

I walked to the back of the house. The moon was burning brightly. I noticed the little rabbit shaped crater that our teacher had spoken about a few days on the moon, and I realized that it was one of the last time I would be seeing the full moon from this backyard.

I dropped down to my knees, and cried.

Nothing else to do but cry.

Nothing else to do but die.

Nothing else to do.