Freedom Where?

village woman

LavanyaChellam

It was the year 2000. Asha was married of to a village landlord, but her life was miserable. Her chores began from tilling the fields to cooking to cleaning to serving. Her in-laws were demanding and insulting, and Asha had little power to go against their words. She was the girl, and girls did not have rights. So she tolerated what she could and pleased her new family. In due course, she became pregnant— and her real test began there.

Asha’s in-laws expected her to bear a male child, an heir to the future property and village. Her mother-in-law was strangely genial during Asha’s pregnancy and kept her from doing any work. Her husband used to massage her legs and carry her around. He did this all for one purpose— a male child.

But fate had something else decreed, and Asha brought forth a baby girl. Her in-laws were enraged. Her husband was dumbfounded. Her friends were disbelieved. And Asha was the target all their fingers pointed at. She was ignored by the entire village. And the very next day, Asha’s husband remarried, and threw Asha out. Asha had no companion or friend, and she was fatigued bodily and mentally. And she wailed and prayed for a better life, in America, where it is a free country, with rights for woman, with liberty for girls, with a better life. And saying so she fell down, and her soul departed the body.

Some days later………

It was Autumn in America, the free country. The orchards of the south grew still and quiet, the branches only now slowly revealing themselves amidst the falling leaves. The Autumn winds from the southern hemisphere had taken their turn towards the north. And on their journey, they admired the daring fields of America, where freedom and trust and confidence plowed the tracts, bringing forth flowers of children and races, all unique and proud. The winds saw orchards of dandelions, tulips, roses….And finally they saw a water Lily……the one and only bud…..the last remnant of summer. And the wind decided to stay here…..just behind a house and watch the show his friend, time, leads on Earth.

Over the course of the week, the wind was curious and followed inside the house. And it was there baby Asha once again breathed…..the taste of a free country.

Her parents, Mr.Bandhiya and Mrs.Bandhiya, were a strong, nationalistic couple who revered America so much. Three months ago, they had fled an Indian village and sought shelter under this land. Everything was America for them…..everything was freedom. And they never missed a chance to tell their daughter this.

Her parents wanted Asha to become a big doctor, overseeing many other companies and hospitals. So they advised and hoped in her. Every day her mother would cook and clean and wish and nurture…..that Asha would get into Harvard. Every day her father would pray and support and care…..that Asha brings him good name and fame. They did all the chores in the house, gave her all the necessary items of desks, devices, friends, luxury….and every sort of freedom in their hands. For years this standard went by.

But fate had different plans. Asha would try very hard in school, but her 98 seemed insufficient because of the highly competitive world around. She struggled and toiled to give her best effort, but only so much was within her control. And there were days where she would tell herself

“Asha…..always remember that freedom is the highest boon for humanity….this life is so much better than the previous.”

So much stress and tension and grief and pain. But Asha would get up and try again, remembering her last life.

Soon enough, Asha did not make it into Harvard, only MIT. Her parents were so disappointed that they kept vigil for three months. Everyone in her family had neglected her, and her friends all had stopped calling her. And if by chance they had to talk, Asha wished he had been deaf, because their words stung more than the silence.

“Asha…..did you ever think how lucky you are. Back then girls did not even have an education. Your great grandma, in fact, suffered a lot from mistreatment. And with so much luxury, you could not even go to Harvard.”

Asha merely remained quiet.

“Where did we do wrong? Did we not raise you well? So many children live without proper homes, and given everything you have still disappointed us. Why are you like this? You have such a stress-free life here in America? What is your problem? Why can’t you work harder and do what we want?”

Asha merely remained quiet. And now she knew that this life wasn’t a boon, but a lesson.  Back then it was carrying pots, and now it was backpacks. Back then it was to bear a son, and now to bear a degree. But both gifted the same torture. Freedom of rights was nothing more that entanglement in societal obligations.

Even the wind trembled sadly at such a fate of a tender girl. And it painfully left, passing the barren trees. And on its way, it gently brushed her heavy eyelids so that she may rest in peace.

The last lotus had frozen, in the “free” country.

 

We claim to have improved the lives of girls, giving them more freedom. But in reality, we have only moved them from one hell to another, both still devouring.

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