“Ek parinda aise toota…”
Channi gave an amusing smile watching her little sister admiring her bridal attire and jewellery with gooey eyes.Her twinkling hazels inflicted a strange emotion in her heart.She felt happy and sad for her chidi’s pristine innocence simultaneously.She wanted to cherish her “innocence” for whole life and at the same time she wanted her to “grow up” faster,because she would not be with “her” anymore.She herself was not sure of her future anymore.She did not know whether she would be able to see her little sister again after eloping with Gurwinder on her wedding day,however she was content somewhere because no matter what,chidi would always be sheltered and protected by her true parent,”Rano”..
“When would I get married di??”
Geet’s voice brought an end for Channi’s musings as she looked into the yearning eyes of her little sister.
“Why you are in hurry of getting married chidi??” She asked with a smile on her face.
“Marriage is fun di..Tai ji has bought so many beautiful suits, dresses,shoes and jewellery for you..You got all this because you are getting married..“Geet gave her innocent and childish reason..
“and what about the “Bidai” ritual?? I won’t be living with you anymore..” Channi spoke as little dampness covered her eyes.
“Thats not a problem di..Your new house is in the village nearby..You can easily visit us whenever you want..” Geet said in a manner to console her sister..
Geet herself was not very fond of this ritual however other rituals like “Mehandi and Sangeet” did not let her charm reduce for the “marriage”.Channi wanted to tell her little sister that marriage was something beyond “beautiful jewellery and clothes” but she could not voice her thoughts as loud “music” had already grabbed geet’s attention.
“Sajan jee ghar aaye” was being played loudly in the “Shamiana”, to complete the scenario of “wedding house”..
“I am going for dance di…“Geet chirped in excited voice as she moved her steps towards the door.Her eyes followed her little sister till she was out of her gaze as she moved towards the bed. Her eyes traveled from her bridal attire kept on the bed to the “pen and paper” kept on the side table,With trembling fingers,she picked up the things kept on the table to write the most important decision of her life.She kept the “letter” on the table as she missed her parents terribly.If they were with her today,she would not have taken this decision. They surely would have understood her situation.
Piece of paper was crushed badly in the strong fist of old man as he barked with immense anger..“Its all because of you balwinder..You made me allow her to study further and It has resulted in all this..She ran away from her marriage..”
“What will we do now daarjee..???” said pammi meekly with fear in her eyes.
“I have sent my men to find her..” Daarji replied gritting his teeth in immense anger.
“They won’t be able to bring her back so soon daarjee..Barat has already arrived..” Pammi spoke adjusting her veil on her head.
“We should tell everything to groom and his family..They would surely understand our situation..“Balwinder suggested.
“You have gone crazy,Balwinder..“Daarji roared.”You are suggesting me to sabotage my reputation with my own hands..” He exclaimed further incredulously.
“But we don’t have another choice,daarjee..”Balwinder said in an attempt to convince his adamant father.
“We have one choice”
Pammi’s determined words made Daarjee and Balwinder turn towards Pammi who was standing now near the window with her eyes fixed on Geet who was busy enjoying “Jalebis” in the shamiana outside.
“Only Geet can save our family from the defamation now..”
“No..!!! Its not possible..She is a kid pammi..” Balwinder spoke denying pammi’s suggestion blatantly.
“Do you have any other solution,Balwinder???” Daarji asked his son with furrowed eyebrows.
” No..but darjee…“He tried to reply but could not complete as darji intervened,“Then don’t interfere in all this.”
“.Get her ready for the marriage..,He instructed further to pammi.
“and what about groom and his family???Would they accept geet instead of Channi????” Balwinder exclaimed with irritation and helplessness dripping in his voice.He knew,it was his last attempt to save his chidi.
Balwinder’s question made Daarjee look quizzically towards Pammi as if asking her same.
“I know Shoki’s mother quite well daarjee..A little raise in the “cash and gifts” can easily please and convince her..” Pammi answered .
“Hmm..”Daarji nodded his head consenting with pammi as he spoke,”I can do anything to save my hard earned “reputation” in this village..Give her as much money as she want..”
“Don’t worry daarjee..I will handle everything..“Pammi exclaimed before leaving the room,leaving behind two tensed and worried souls.One was worried for his beloved niece where as other one was worried for his so called reputation.
Geet looked around herself through the veil which had hidden her face completely.She was seated among the ladies of the village and in due time,Final ritual of the marriage ceremony,”Bidai” would be performed.Her eyes halted at the face of her “Rano masi” whose eyes were roaming around with lines of worry marking her fore-head.Geet knew she was looking for her. For once,She wanted to run and hide in her lap But then ,her “Tai ji’s” words did not let her.She was hit with the wave of excitement when Tai ji informed her about her getting married few hours ago.She wanted to share this news with all her school friends but she was stopped immediately by next set of words that escaped pammi’s lips.She was informed about her elder sister’s disappearance. She was very well aware of her grand father’s anger and mere thought of punishment that her channi di might get,once she would be back,sent a cold shiver down her spine. Her innocent brain was unable to understand why Channi did this???All she could understand was that her sister had done a grave mistake and to save her from Daarjee’s wrath,she had to do what her tai ji was asking her to do.She had to become a “rag doll” who had to keep her face hidden under the veil till all the rituals of marriage were being performed.
“Where is chidi parjai ji???
Geet heard Rano’s voice who was asking Pammi about geet’s whereabouts.
“She must be playing somewhere Rano..You know ,no one can’t hold her at one place for a long time..”Pammi answered in a nervous voice..“Stop worrying about her..Why don’t you help me little..We are already getting late for Bidai” She spoke further dragging Rano to the other room as well as away from geet.
Tears welled in her hazels as she saw Rano going away from her.May be her elder sister was right. Marriage was not that exciting and fun..
He guffawed at the joke cracked by one of his friends as he poured “bubbling soda” to his glass of liquor. He was not very fond of “alcohol” but could not deny his friends on the happy occasion of his wedding.
“Go shoki..Your “bride” must be waiting for you in the room..” said,one of his friend in hazy voice due to alcohol consumption.
“Like I am going to jump on her tonight..” He exclaimed taking a small sip from his glass.
“What do you mean???” His other friend asked incredulously,pushing a fist full of “roasted cashews” in to his mouth.
“I mean..She must be tired today..Let her take some rest..“He tried to explain,only to get a teasing “laughter” from all of his rustic and drunk friends.
“Stop making excuses Shoki..We know,you are scared of her rejection..”He heard his friend’s words amid fits of laughter.
“You are right brother..I have seen her younger sister in the marriage..She was so beautiful..If the little one was that beautiful then elder sister would be epitome of beauty..I am sure she won’t let our Shoki touch her tonight..” His other friend in the group consented with previous statement.
“I am afraid if “parjai ji”got scared seeing his face???” The third one increase the level of “taunting” with his comment.
They all were busy spluttering under the effect of “alcohol”,oblivious to the way their words were poking his heart and ego.He was most educated among all his friends but still could not find a girl for himself.His dark complexion and chicken pox scars were a big hurdle in his path of marriage.That was why he was getting married at the age when all of his friends were busy raising their kids.Sudden disappearance of “light” because of usual power cuts in rural area resulted in one more “taunt” from his friends as they amusingly rejoiced at the fact that his wife won’t be able to see his ugly face on her wedding night.
He gritted his teeth as he brought the “liquor”bottle to his lips to empty the content in one go.He did not want to be in his senses tonight as he would not be able to endure the rejection from his beautiful wife.
Sudden absence of light increased the eeriness for geet as she missed her home and Rano masi terribly.With the passing minutes,her “charm” for “marriage” was decreased gradually.There was no fun in marriage,She concluded as she tried to make her mind focus on beautiful red dupatta she was wearing right now.She did not find “dupatta” that appealing as it was looking when it was kept on channi’s bed this morning,however the “sequins” on it were still able to distract her mind.She was busy admiring her dupatta as she heard footsteps entering in to the room.Suddenly She was reminded of all the instructions taiji had given her at the time of “Bidai”.She was not allowed to say a word and She had to let “her husband” do whatever he wanted,however she was pretty unsure about what he was exactly going to do.She had seen “Wedding night” scenes in number of movies but they all ended with switching off the bed lamp.She wanted to ask about all this to Rano masi but talking about “wedding night” was taboo in the society she lived.
He saw her standing near the window.Her skinny frame was enlightened with the moonlight that entered the room.He took his wobbling steps towards her.He stopped when the distance between them was decreased up to level that he could hear her breaths.His hands encircled her tiny waist from behind as he pulled her closer to himself.He could sense her flinching at his touch,however it ignited his fury as all the taunting comments of his friends started reverberating in his “liquor dazed”brain.With a harsh pull,he turned her around and tried to snatch her dupatta..
A meek “No” escaped geet’s lips as her hands clutched the dupatta on her front.She was not liking the way this man was behaving with her.
“Shut up!!!”..He barked with anger as he pulled the dupatta with much force.A painful moan escaped geet’s lips as the “safety pin” tore the soft skin on her shoulder.She could not find the time to check her wounded shoulder as his lips and limbs attacked her brutally next minute.
She felt disgust rising in her veins the way he touched her.She wanted to scream loudly but then,face of her elder sister flashed infront of her eyes and She succumbed to “disgust”..
She succumbed to “shame” she felt when he tore her clothes.
She succumbed to “abhorrence” she felt when he touched her body the way she was never touched before.
She succumbed to “sharp pain” she felt between her legs after some time.
Finally,She succumbed to “darkness” that covered her eyes when she felt the same pain third time.
He felt his head bursting with immense pain as he opened his eyes next morning.He cursed his friends for dragging him to their boozing as he jolted up in his bed. Chilled wind entering from the window made him realize his “naked” self and his actions previous night.His gaze roamed around in the room and halted on “her”.She was laying on the floor.He closed his eyes in regret watching her dishevelled and naked state as he grabbed his kurta. His steps moved towards her to cover her body with quilt.He was securing the comforter around her when he saw her face.Pain in his head was accompanied with confusion now.She was not the girl whose picture his mother had shown him.He was trying to understand the situation when loud bangs at his door disturbed him. He opened the door to find a middle aged couple looking at him with immense anger and accusations.
“I would make you rot in prison for doing this to my daughter..” Mohinder spoke grabbing him from his collars.
Tears could not leave her eyes because of shock as Rano found her unconscious chidi on the floor.She could not muster the courage to reach near her as she knelt down at the place where she was standing.She could hear faint voices of her angry husband and the “man” who was trying to defend himself by telling his “unawareness” about all the events.Her gaze went to broken anklets of her daughter and It was then,She broke down completely. Her painful “cries” echoed the room next minute..Her chidi’s wings were “trampled” badly before she could enjoy her first flight…!!!