Intolerance to the Wrong

Photo by Ashwani Chaudhary on Unsplash

Several times in life, we are confused between duty and tolerating a wrong! But as they say, doing a wrong is as wrong as tolerating it….

Piyu was taking her class. She was a History teacher for Standard 5. Today she was doing the chapter where the widowed queen of Chittor, Queen Karnavati, sends a Rakhi as a plea of help to the Mughal King Humayun, to save her kingdom from the attack of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. The chapter talked in details about the story behind the festival of Rakshabandhan, in which sisters tie a sacred thread on the wrist of their brothers, signifying their love and respect. On the other hand, for brothers, it signifies their duty, their promise, to always protect their sisters from any harm. Like all other festivals in India, this is also celebrated with a lot of love, festivities and joy.

Next day was Rakshabandhan, and a school holiday. So Piyu, after telling the story, started asking the children about what plans they had for the next day. The children excitedly started talking about the expected visits of their aunts, or they visiting their uncles, when Amyra stood up with a question.

“Ma’am, if we are celebrating a festival every year with brothers renewing their promise to protect their sisters, then can’t they stop their sisters from being beaten up by their husbands?” Her face showed that she meant every single word that she spoke!

Piyu stood still. She had to answer though. “Why, who is being beaten up Amyra by the husband, as you say? Of course the brother, I am sure, will not allow this.”

“But Praveen Uncle does nothing to stop father from beating mother every day!” retorted little Amyra. Piyu was shocked beyond words but she had to put an end to this topic, somehow. She just couldn’t let a child wash the dirty linens of her home, in the classroom.

“I am sure, we need to know more about this Amyra. I will speak with you after class, and I will talk to your mother too. Don’t worry, things will be fine.” Piyu couldn’t have been more grateful when she heard the bell ring, signalling that the class was over. But her mind was in a turmoil. Amyra’s mother, Suchitra, was her friend and colleague. She was a teacher in the same school and they had known each other from the time she had joined school, some seven years back. But what was Amyra talking about? Suchitra being beaten up by her husband? Ravi, a wife-beater? Suchitra, a victim of domestic violence? How could that be possible? Suchitra was a double post graduate in English and Economics. She was teaching the high school children, and had the reputation of being an excellent teacher. How could she be a victim of domestic violence? But then, Amyra wouldn't have been lying about such a serious thing!

While driving back home, Piyu’s mind was bursting with pictures from the past. “What happened Suchitra? Why is your face swollen from the left side?”… “Oh nothing! A wasp bit me in the morning. You know, there are too many trees in the garden of our building,” would be her reply.

“Suchitra, did you burn your hand while cooking? Oh my God! It is a bad one! How did you manage to get that?”

“I am all the time trying to multi-task and this is what happens then! Yeah, it was bad, but it will be fine soon. Ravi put a lot of ice on it immediately and then applied the ointment too, twice.”

A black-and-blue blotch peeping from the shoulder, a limping foot, a bandage on the forehead, Suchitra had an explanation for everything; but though at times people did find it weird, no one could ever dream about the real reason behind it all - a horrible wife-beater, an alcoholic husband! Things started falling in place and Piyu was at her wit’s end, as to why Suchitra had been taking all this, lying down. Why did she not walk out on Ravi? Why did she never speak about her agony, to her? Piyu always thought they were good friends, but now she was not sure. How could a good friend not share such pain with her friend?

Piyu was a spinster, and lived alone. Like every year, she had plans to visit her brother and his family for Rakshabandhan, the next day. She woke up with a troubled mind. Suchitra’s predicament was not leaving her mind. She knew there was no point in calling her up, to confront her on this. She had to think of a right time and place, soon, to have a chat with her. With the gifts and sweets in the car, for her brother and his family, she left for her brother’s home. It was at a distance and she had to pass by the Central Jail. The tall, imposing walls of the prison always set her wondering about what lay behind these. So many criminals were locked up there, she would think. What all crimes they would have committed! Quite possibly there would be some innocents too, who would have been falsely implicated by circumstances or people. But majority would have done some wrong; some would have been a part of a heinous crime, say a murder, or murders? Kidnapping? Rape? She would shiver at these thoughts and would always wonder if there was any way of transforming these minds gone wrong, for ever. The red bricks, the imposing walls of the prison, always did this to her.

Today, too, was the same. As soon as the walls became visible from a distance, her chain of thoughts started on familiar lines. But wait! What was she seeing? Why such long queues outside the prison gate? What had happened? As she reached closer, she saw that the queue was made up of women! Girls and women of different ages! Was there some protest, some demonstration going on, she thought. It didn’t look like that though, so she slowed down her car near two constables standing on the road.

“What is happening here at the prison gate? Why are there so many ladies queueing up?” She enquired.

“Madam ji, today is Rakshabandhan. All these women have come to tie rakhi to their brothers, who are locked inside,” was the answer.

Piyu moved her car ahead, on way to her brother’s place. These women had come to tie rakhi, which signifies love and hope for their brothers, and an expectation that they will always protect their sisters! These people, who were deemed unsafe to the society and hence had been kept away, how would they protect their sisters? The ones who maybe had raped, kidnapped or murdered other’s sisters, could they be trusted to protect their own? Her mind refused to take in so much, and she felt completely drained. Just then, she realised that she had reached her brother’s house. Hearing the sound of her car, her little nephew came running out to meet his aunt. Piyu was drawn into the merriment and laughter in the house, but some part of her heart remained disturbed and aloof.

Next morning, with her morning tea in her hand, Piyu picked up the newspaper. The headline startled her and shook her completely.

“Sister poisons criminal brother on the day of Rakhi.”

Piyu kept down the tea cup to read the news. It said that Raji, a twenty-five years old girl, was one among the many who had gone to the prison to tie rakhi to her brother Baldev. Baldev was put behind bars for being one of a group of three men who had gang-raped a teenager after abducting her, while she was returning home, late evening, from her classes. He had appealed to the Supreme Court and his lawyer was very optimistic of winning the case. Raji had gone inside the prison with rakhi and a very tiny piece of folded paper with some red vermillion in it. The red vermillion was to be put on the forehead as an auspicious practice. She tied the rakhi and applied the vermillion on the forehead of the smiling Baldev and then, suddenly, taking him unawares, she also put a pinch of the vermillion on his tongue. Before Baldev could react he had fallen down, dead. The vermilion had a deadly poison in it. Raji was immediately held and imprisoned. On being asked, she then confessed about the thought and the cause behind such an action on her part.

“From the time Baldev had been convicted for the ghastly crime that he had committed, our mother and I could not sleep in peace. We only thought about how he could have committed such a horrendous act. Mother kept blaming herself, thinking all the time that she had gone wrong somewhere in her upbringing of my brother. The whole of last year has been agonising for both of us. We simply could not accept Baldev, for what he had done. And, as his sister, how could I myself insult the precious thread of rakhi, by tying it on his wrist to ensure my protection? That poor girl was also somebody’s sister! How could my brother do this? Then, one day, my mother made me sit down and hear her out.

“Raji, you are my child and I love you. I am proud of you for the girl that you are. But Baldev’s act has shattered me. I hear now that his lawyer is very hopeful that he can get those sinners out, pretty soon. Raji, I cannot live at peace knowing what my son has done. I have to punish him. I was the person to bring him into this world, so now I have to punish him. If he can get away with what he has done, by the help of some immoral lawyers, I will see to it that he is punished. I hope other mothers too gather courage, and do what they should do; punish their criminal sons themselves. I want your help, Raji. Will you please help me die in peace?”

Piyu had not touched her cup of tea. She was thinking of Raji and her mother. What brave women they were! If only the wrong is thrashed from the very roots itself! Wrong happens because it is allowed to happen. Maybe things are not so simple, but at least, this brave act of theirs could hopefully make more and more people stand up against the wrong! Suchitra’s face flashed before Piyu’s eyes.

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Anima Chatterjee

Anima Chatterjee

Author of the book “The Heart Speaks”, Medium writer since 2018, top writer in fiction, short stories. Loves writing, dance, music, children. Learner for life..