Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
Kajri had had enough. She turned back one last time and looked at the closed gate. Dark and ominous. She could feel the darkness the brightly painted walls enclosed. She could remember each and every moment she had lived there. The memories were so vivid and so dark. She slightly shivered. It was dark outside too, it was 12 am. But this darkness was better than the one enclosed inside.
Life was not like this always. She was a brilliant student and teachers had great hope for her. Her teachers used to encourage her for choosing higher goals in life. Kajri' s parents were supportive too. Yes, they loved her. But then all that changed when she finished her graduation. Her father immediately started looking for a suitable groom from their caste. Kajri was stunned. She could not understand what was the hurry. Her mother explained to her that it was difficult to get a good boy for highly educated girls in their caste. Hence her father was not taking any chances. Kajri felt betrayed, betrayed by her own family. She wanted to study further. Be someone, do something. But their was no one to help her. Her friends were not allowed to meet her, lest she tries to escape with them or they try to put ideas in her head. All this was happening in this day and age, in front of all friends and relatives. Yet no one tried to help her. Some of the relatives even started bringing alliances for her.
Kajri was made to sit through numerous sessions of prospective groom hunting. She was made to sing, talk, walk in front of them. Her skin tones were discussed, her hair quality and length was considered. After every such session, Kajri would feel exhausted and drained out. This wasn't the life she had dreamt off. She wanted to become a management professional. She wanted to live life on her own terms. Did anyone care?
Finally, her parents finalised a guy who was just 12th pass but had a flourishing business. The family was quite well to do and rich. Her father talked about 'her luck' with her mother. Kajri had resigned to her fate. Nothing mattered. She had thought that at least her mother would understand her, help her. But she was more wife than mother. Kajri was married off to another city with truck loads of dowry and cash.
On the very first day, her mother in law took her to the kitchen. She explained in detail about what time everyone gets up. What time everyone expects their tea and breakfast. She asked her to get up by 5 am everyday. Kajri, meekly shook her head. Her mother in law then asked her not to mention that she was a graduate in front of anyone. "Your father put his pagdi on our feets to accept you. We were not too keen about you. I didn't want an educated girl. It gives them ideas. Try to stay in your limits. Also eat frugally, I don't want you to gain weight and look ugly. You already are quite ugly. I wanted a beautiful girl for my boy. But your father was so persistent. Hope you keep my son happy." Kajri knew how much cash her father had paid for this marriage. In the first few days, she understood that her husband was a drunkard and a party hopper. He would come late every night and then demand her body, like he owned it. Sometimes if she resisted, he hit her. Getting beaten up became customary. No one in his family stopped him. Her mother in law advised her to cover her wounds and 'not show' in front of the family. Once she had high fever. Her husband touched her and made a face. His mood was spoiled. He turned his back to her and snored peacefully. That day she couldn't get up at 5. Her mother in law came in her room at 5:30, she understood she wasn't well. She popped a pill in her mouth and forced her to have some water. "The fever will go down in some time, come out and finish your chores". Kajri was feeling very weak and tired but she dragged herself up. The fever did go away and with that her desire to stay there went away too. If only her husband would have understood her, life would have been different. But that wasn't the case.
She decided to leave the hell hole. She had some money saved over the years and no one knew about that. Little by little she had saved a good amount which would last for a few months. She decided to run away. But where ? Her own family would not accept her and send her back. She was just a graduate. She started looking for advertisements in newspapers for postgraduate admissions. Applied secretly and got selected. She was the topper in her graduation batch, most of the colleges were glad to accept her. She had also applied for scholarship and based on her past educational record she was readily granted the same. She got hostel facility as well. The college was in another city, far away.
As Kajri turned back and looked at the closed door, she promised herself that she will make something out of her life and never ever return to that darkness, that had swallowed her life.