Monday, February 1, 2016

A difficult choice-short story

There was a big commotion in front of a flat  in Kapali Apartments, located in the suburbs of Chennai.  A middle aged  lady was hitting a young man  with her slippers while scareaming and shouting at him.

How dare you take my daughter out, you scoundral.  She is still in school and you are professing love to her, when she does not even know the meaning of love.  Get lost.  If I see you with her again, I will kill you.

The tall,  dark and handsome looking youth , perhaps a college student,  quickly took the lift opposite  the flat. He  left the building before the crowd gathered.  The girl's mother did not know that she had hit a boy who was the son of a  reformed gangster  in North Chennai.


Laxmi, widowed at a young age was struggling to bring up her only daughter Sandhya against all odds, as a single parent.  The small income that was available to her, thanks to some savings in the bank left behind by her husband,   was not enough to meet the growing demands of her pretty daughter.

Sandhya at 18, studying in the 12th standard of a popular school, had grown into a beautiful young girl.  With a fair complexion and  a gracious figure,  she was the cynosure  of all the  eyes  in the locality.   Very conscious of her beauty,  Sandhya refused to fall into any traps  and went about her business, like a normal diligent student.  She was a class  topper and also very popular in the school as a singer.  She was aware that her mother was struggling hard to bring her up and had dreams for her future.

She had lost her father when she was only 6.  Her mother,  a sickly woman, never went out of the home to attend any functions.  On school days, when neither of her  parents were in the audience to appreciate her performance she would invariably end up crying!  She really missed her father! She missed the presence of a man in her house.Until one day she found  a prince charming   in an unusual circumstance – a meeting which  was to create a storm in her life.


That day she was late to leave the school in the evening because she had to attend a
special class.While she was walking to the bus stop with her close friend Maya in school , she
suddenly realised that two boys were blocking her way and not allowing her to proceed further.  While one boy was passing lewd comments, . the other tough looking boy was trying to  molest her.  In the tussle  that followed, she fell down and started  screaming  for help. While the public was watching , out of the blue, a young man  materialised. He decided to take on the tough guy. 

In the typical filmy style, the two  fought with each other.  The young saviour managed to over power the molester. The molester  who found that  his friend had already run away from the scene without coming to his help  decided to escape,  swearing  revenge.  Sandhya, whose friend also had vanished from the scene stood there shivering from fear watching  the scene unfolding before her.  Though she was used to boys following her, she had never faced such a serious situation before.

She was  totally shaken up  by the event. She  turned towards  her saviour  and thanked him profusely.  He introduced himself as Raja, studying in the fourth year BA class in the college located  opposite to her school.  He escorted her to the bus stop and waited till he saw her off in the bus.  While taking leave of her he promised to take care of her and protect her from bad elements. 


In the subsequent days and weeks he was to keep his word.  Every day he would wäit outside  Sandhya`s  school gate and escort her to the bus stop.

Naturally love blossomed between them.  Sandhya who was in  an impressionable age was  longing for the love of a man in her life. She found her prince charming  in Raja.  He seemed to be a nice guy,  full of compassion and real love for her.  He also seemed to come from a well to do family, as she found that some times a car would be waiting to pick him up after he saw her off at the bus stop.

Their meetings extended beyond the school timings.  He started taking her out to the beach and movies.  Obcviously he was besoughted with Sandhya.

Whenever she was late in coming home, Sandhya would tell her mother that she was busy attending special class or attending rehearsals in the school.

Love is really blind.  Sandhya carried on her affair with Raja, even after learning that  he was a Dalit Christian  while  she was  a Tam Brahm. The mismatch became an issue for discussion when Raja started contemplating marrying Sandhya


It was a Saturday afternoon. They were sitting under a boat on the beach trying to escape the direct rays from the glowing Sun, like scores of couples do on a comparatively empty beach in the afternoons.Both were staring at the waves in the sea without  talking. Raja looked disturbed and was drawing caricatures on the sand with his fingers,

It was sandhya who spoke first.
What is bothering you Raja. Why don`t you say something.
I .. I don`t know.  I feel  miserable if I don`t see you even for a day.. Why did you not come to the school for the last four days-  I missed you so much.
`I was not well. Mummy felt I should take rest at home..

Why didn`t you call me. Atleast I could have listened to your voice
the telephone at home was not working. Besides my mother was all the time  hovering around me, worried about me.
Raja was silent for a while. Looking at Sandhya in the eyes he asked her Do you love me Sandhya?
In response Sandhya  put an around him and drawing him close said, Yes my dear savior I love you too.
Holding her tight in his arms, Raja said ,. I want to marry you soon so that  you can be  with me all the time. Sandhya , I cannot live without you even for a day. So saying he became emotional.
Sandhya was silent. He continued, My love for you is pure Sandhya. I want you to be my life partner. Disentangling himself from her  he said, I will not touch you again until I marry you. This is a promise.

Sandhya believed in Raja. During the days  they were together, he never took undue advantage of her physically. That was something which impressed Sandhya.

I can convince my parents about our relationship. But what about your mother?

She replied, you will have to come and speak to my mother. She is dead against inter caste marriages. If she knows that you are a Christian it will be very difficult to convince her..

Overflowing with bravado Raja said, ` I will  convince her. .. when I drop you home this evening  I will come  up with you to your flat and talk to your mother

Sandhya was hesitant. But she realized that Raja was very serious and would not accept no for an answer.  She finally agreed to give Raja the chance to try his luck with her mother.


 Laxmi had already  come to know about the affair through the neighbours.  She was livid with Sandhya for  allowing herself to fall into a trap. Sandhya`s  explanations about how Raja had saved her from a serious situation did not matter to her. While she was having a running battle with Sandhya about the affair,  she was waiting for an opportunity to meet Raja and give him a piece of her mind. She  got the opportunity to  vent her feelings when Raja suddenly turned up at the house on the Saturday evening with Sandhya,  to talk to her. Laxmi never allowed Raja to speak. Raja least expected  the `slipper` treatment that he got from Laxmi. But he was not going to give up so easily.

Next morning a big  limousine  stopped in front of the apartment complex.  A tall dark man with a handle bar moustache  accompanied by two ladies  came out of the vehicle followed by Raja. They took the lift to Sandhya's flat.

When the bell rang and Laxmi opened the door, she was  aghast to see the four uninvited guests with intimidating looks..

They forced their entry into the flat and without waiting for Laxmi's permission they sat on the available chairs and sofas.  Hearing the commotion, Sandhya peeped out from her bedroom door to see Raja and his family seated in the hall.   Raja's eyes met hers with  a pleading  look.  But she did not come out of her room, leaving her mother to tackle the guests.

It was Raja's mother Rani who spoke first.

Amma, we heard about the episode about your beating our son Raja yesterday evening.  We have not come here to fight with you.  But plead with you. We know that what Raja has  been doing is wrong.  He is still in college with one more year to go and your daughter is in school.  .  We came to know about his affair and have been trying to put sense  in his head without luck.  He is threatening to commit suicide, if he is not allowed to marry your daughter.

At this point the father butted in, Raja is our only son.  We dont want to lose him.  Though we can get  many girls from our community, who are very well to do  meeting our standards,  we are willing to compromise for the sake of our only son. He sounded condescending.

The old lady , Raja's grand mother now intervened to say

We are not saying that Raja and Sandhya should get married immediately.  Let them both finish their education and we will ensure that we will have a grand marriage celebrated at our expense.  All that we are asking for is your Yes as a mother of Sandhya so that the couple of  have blessigs of  both the families.  We know that we do not belong to your caste but Raja seems to be madly  in love with Sandhya  and is  determined to marry only  her. We want to assure you until the  marriage no harm will be done to Sandhya

Laxmi did  not know what hit her.  In the absence of any other person in the home to lend her moral support in her predicament, she felt isolated and lost.  Instead of replying them, she started crying, cursing her daughter Sandhya for bringing this shame on her and her family. 

Hearing her loud cries, neighboours  gathered in front of the flat, watching the drama that was going on inside the flat.

When Raja's parents realised that they were not heading  anywhere, they got up to leave the flat.  Before leaving Raja`s father, David left behind a visiting card on the teapoy and told  Laxmi,
we know it is not an easy decision for  you to make.  But please think about our offer and call me whenever you are ready to talk. 

After they left all hell broke loose for Sandhya.


After Raja's family left the home, Laxmi closed the door of the flat and turned to Sandhya who was standing in a corner with apprehensive looks  and tears in her eyes.

Laxmi started abusing Sandhya and beating her with a stick.  To escape her wrath Sandhya quickly got into the bedroom and locked herself in.  In her helpless situation, Laxmi  rang up her brother Hari, living closeby and informed him about the incident.  Hari  and his wife Bhooma arrived soon to console Laxmi and discuss about what they should do in the matter.

They decided that they will not agree to the proposal made by Raja's parents but stop Sandhya from going to school so that she has no opportunity to meet Raja.  They rightly felt that Sandhya was so young to know about love and marriage.  They did not want to commit their girl  to an uncertain future.

  The next few days were tough on Laxmi as Sandhya became morose  refusing to talk or eat, crying all the time.  Since she was not allowed to go out, she had no means of  contacting  Raja.  Even the telephone at home was kept locked up by Laxmi.  Sandhya`s  only link to the outside world was Prema, her close friend in the apartment complex who was allowed to meet Sandhya.  Prema informed Sandhya that Raja was found hovering around the building complex every day, hoping to meet Sandhya, if and when she came out.  Sandhya never came out for days together.  Since Raja  knew about Prema from Sandhya, one day he managed to give her a   cell phone with prepaid sim card to be handed over to Sandhya, so that he can talk to her.

Locking herself in her bedroom, Sandhya started having long chats with Raja over the cell phone without the knowledge of her mother. The mobile became an accomplice in their love.


One day Raja called her, Sandhya I cannot wäit any longer.  I feel miserable without seeing you.  It is more than three weeks.  There is tremendous pressure from my house asking me to forget you... but I cannot. He became emotional. Hearing him Sandhya also broke down.
I am equally miserable Raja.  But I dont know what to do.  My mother is refusing to allow me to go out.
Run away  from home,  Sandhya.  Find some way of getting out of the house and let me know the date and time and I will come and pick you up.  I promise you again Sandhya that  I will not even touch you until we marry. I want you to be my wife for life. I promise to look after you well.

But where will we go?  Where will we live?  What will we do for a living?

The child in her was confused. She had become extremely fond of Raja and knew that he was madly in love with her. She did not want to hurt him in any way.

Dont worry Sandhya.  Once you come out of the home, I will persuade my family to support me in life.  My grand mother is very fond of me.  She will do anything to see me happy..

So, it was pre arranged that on a Sunday morning when Sandhya was  to go  with her friend Prema to attend the wedding of a close friend, she would escape and run away  with Raja. As promised  Raja was waiting outside the wedding hall with a car   and  managed to whisk Sandhya away from her  friend. True to his word,  he took her straight to his grand mother's house which was close to his own house and left Sandhya in her care, until he sorted out the matter with his parents.


When Laxmi came to know that her daughter had ran away with Raja, in spite of the tight control she had  kept on her movements, she was devastated.  Her wrath  turned against Prema whom she cursed for  helping Sandhya run away.  There was a big scene in the apartment complex with neighbours gathering in Laxmi's house trying to pacify her.  Soon, her brother's family arrived.  After discussion it was decided to file a police complaint.  Fortunately Laxmi had kept the visiting card of Raja's father Davd.  The FIR filed with the police mentioned Raja's family as the suspected kidnappers of her daughter.

Laxmi soon realised that David, with his criminal background, had enough contacts  with the police and politicians  to ensure that they would  not take any hasty action against the family.

When Laxmi realised that she was against a corrupt system and nothing will happen unless she takes drastic action, she decided to meet the police commissioner persoanlly..  When she was refused permission to meet him, she sat outside his office in dharna refusing to leave the place until she gave her petition to the police commissioner personally.  She threatened the police who were trying to  force  her out that she will go to the media, if she was not allowed to meet the commissioner.

Her strategy worked.  Police commissioner received her petition and ordered  the SI in charge of the police station near Laxmi's house to investigate the matter and report to him.


The suburban police station was a a beehive of activity. It had people from all walks of life come to register cases.  There was man who had come to complain that his wife had run away with his driver. Another case was pertaining to extortion. Most common were the cases of people from the nearby  slum come to complain about the bloody fights they have had with their neighbours. This crowd  was invariably the nosiy ones  testing the patience of Inspectors and policemen in the station. On one of the side rooms one could  see some policemen sleeping on benches, in their vests. These were the policemen who were so busy with double duty and VIP securities that they had no time to visit their homes.

 The SI who had received the note from the Commissioner ,  had summoned the families of Laxmi as well as Raja to meet him in the morning on a Sunday.   He looked a harrased man.  He could be seen bawling at constables and also others who were crowding inside  the station.

Laxmi's family was the first to arrive.  When he saw Laxmi, he atarted abusing her for going to Police Commissioner directly and putting his job at stake.  Soon Raja's family also arrived.  They had brought with them Sandhya also, as per instructions from  the SI.  With  her head down, she was trying to hide herself behind Raja's family.

On seeing her Laxmi started  hurling abuses at  her and crying loudly.  The SI had to ask her to stop making a scene and allow him to conduct the inquiry.

Mr. David, this lady is accusing your family of  having kidnapped  her daughter against the girl`s wishes.
It is not true. Sandhya willingly came out with my son.   We have ensured that she is in a safe place – unharmed.  In fact she is now staying at my mother in law's place who is taking good care of her
Why did you do this.  Could you not meet the mother of the girl and sort out the matter?
In fact, when my son went to meet her, she beat him up  in front of her flat.  Since he seemed to be crazy about Sandhya and threatened to kill himself, we went to meet Sandhya's mother next morning.  She refused to engage in any kind of dialogue  with us   but was only screaming and shouting at us
Don`t you know it is a crime to kidnap a minor girl?
As per our understanding she is not a minor.  She turned 18 two months ago.
My son even gave her a nice Birthday gift on that day.

SI then turned to Raja and asked him, I undertstand that you are still in college.  What is the  hurry about getting married?

Raja was hesitant.  His words came out  in spurts.

  I am deeply  in love with Sandhya.  She also loves me. She told me that her mother had come to know about our affair and she was so angry that Sandhya  was afraid that she might be even killed.
I wanted to provide a secure place and also take care of her for life--- I don`t want to lose her.  I cannot live without her.. Raja became emotional.

When SI asked Sandhya to come forward, Laxmi tried to pounce  on her and beat her up.

Stop it , Madam.  Allow me  to conduct the inquiry peacefully.  If you try to obstruct me from performing  my duty, I will get you  arrested

Whining  and weaping Laxmi withdrew.  SI continued with his enquiry.  He now addressed Sandhya

Why did you do this?  Is it fair to upset your mother who brought you up against all kinds of  odds for the sake of your love.

Sandhya did not answer.  She was looking down at her toes and drawing patterns on the floor with it.
Talk young lady.  Your mother seems to be very upset with you.  Why dont you compromise and  go back with her now? You are too young to know the implications of what you are doing

At this suggession, Sandhya reacted. She spoke with great hesitation.

No, I dont want to go with my mother.  For what has happened, she is likely to kill me and kill herself.  I am scared.  Besides,  I am being taken good care of by Raja's family.  Raja's father has even agreed to take care of my education.  Raja's parents and Raja are extremely kind to me.  I will not go with my mother.............

Laxmi was furious  at the response from Sandhya.  A child whom she had brought up single handed was talking against her.  She felt terribly  humiliated and hurt.  Suddenly she got up and ran towards the street which was bursting with traffic.  Before her attempt to commit suicide by going under the wheels of a bus, a constable managed to  stop her and brought her back even as she  was screaming and shouting,

I dont want to live.  Please allow me to die..  My only daughter has rejected me.. There is nothing for me to live for....

Sandhya who was watching her mother was moved by the scene. Tears  were streaming down her cheeks .  Raja's mother who was standing next to her tried to console her.

It was a pathetic scene.  The SI realised that Laxmi was in no condition to look after a reluctant and adament daughter.

He told Laxmi, I understand your feelings as a mother.  But your daughter who is an adult in the eyes of the law is prefering to stay back with her  future husband's family.  I would suggest that all of you go back home and do some serious thinking, before you take any drastic action.  I will report the matter to the commissioner.... You can also file a case in the court if you want  

While Laxmi was taken away by her brother's family, who had accompanied her, Raja's family with  
Sandhya got into their car and left.

Sandhya, obviously affected by her mother's attempt to commit suicide could be seen sobbing uncontrollably  as she was being escorted to the car.

In view of Laxmi's mental condition, her brother Hari  decided not to leave her alone in her house but to take her to his home close by. 


A week passed by without any change in Laxmi's condition. Most of the time she was lying in bed
sleeping  induced by the anti-depressant medicines she had been given. It was  again a Sunday morning, when everyone was at home.  The door bell rang.  When  Hari opened the door he was surprised to see Sandhya standing at the door.  She looked totally distraught  and miserable.  Seeing her mother lying in a cot in the bedroom she ran to her.  Laxmi who was asleep woke up to find herself in the arms  of her daughter who was hugging and kissing her , I am sorry Amma....  I am very sorry… I will not do it again… I love you amma...

Laxmi could not believe what was happening.  She also held her daughter tight and shed copious   tears of joy at the re-union.

When they settled down, the family found out that the scene of her mother trying to commit suicide at the police station had affected Sandhya very badly.  The whole week she could not eat or sleep but pondered over her impetous  action and the disastrous effect  that had on her mother.  That Sunday morning, on the pre-text  of going to the shop for  buying something, she left Raja's grand mother`s  house.  Before leaving she left a note for Raja that she was sorry to leave him and asked him not to pursue her any more as she was clear that she cannot have a happy marriage without her mother's blessing. It was a difficult choice- but she had made it.


Two days later Hari  was browsing through a Tamil daily.  He was shocked to read the following news item.

                                           21 years old boy commits suicide.

Raja, the only son of David well known in the locality as a reformed gangaster in North Madras, was found dead in his house by his family.  An empty  bottle of poison was found next to his bed.  A failed love affair seemed to be the reason for his death. Police have registered a case of unnatural death and are investigating

Hari decided not to show the paper to Sandhya. since she had already  made her choice.

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