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.