AND THEN SHE DIED

This is a human drama - the story of Maya, born in a village in South India into a poor family. Circumstances force her to come to Bombay as a child of ten years.

Maya sets out to live her life in very trying conditions at a tender age. Her chance meeting with Gokuldas, her future husband, brings some respite to her otherwise dreary life. They are a very loving couple. Gokuldas tends to stray which leads to corrosion in the relationship. His cruel streak surfaces and manifests itself till it could no longer be borne by Maya.

This is a story of courage, determination, loss and triumph of an illiterate woman born in poverty and thrown to the wolves by circumstances of her birth and birth-place. This story will give hope to countless women who compromise with their circumstances and remain where they are. It encourages a destitute woman to no longer be chained to her fate but create her own fate and her own life. Some succeed …. some keep on trying……some die!

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1. BIRTH

PART 1

 

The cry of the baby was robust. The doctor examined it holding it upside down as the baby wailed. He gave it a smile of satisfaction and proclaimed, “A healthy baby, if I have ever seen one. It is rare that we get to see one such lovely and beautiful girl born of such poor family.” The nurses oohed and aahed in concurrence as the baby was being weighed and sponged. The mother was frail and could barely smile as she heard the baby cry and the general notes of approval. Her heart swelled with pride and then she closed her eyes to relax. The baby was then given into the cradle of her arms and the child lustily began its feed. The mother never ever had seen such a voracious appetite in her earlier four girl children.

 

The mother reminisced the only son she ever had and began to sorely miss him. “If the boy was alive, he would be nearly ten now,” she thought as tears welled up her eyes. Then she remembered her husband would be waiting outside eagerly to know the sex of the child. By now, someone must have told him of the birth of the baby girl. She shuddered at her fate. The fifth girl child! Anyway Life was not a bed of roses and would never be. She herself was the seventh child in her eleven-member family. One can’t please everybody. But the fifth … if only it was a boy.

 

Puttanna, the father of the child, was a specimen of a healthy South Indian male….and virile too! This was the sixth child borne by Laxmi. Even he missed her son, Krishna, a lot and now was waiting for the birth of a son, an heir. I am sure that He will not disappoint me this time. “Let a son be born,” he prayed. If he had only known that what was to be born, had already taken birth and that too a female, he would have been deeply dejected. “Puttanna, a daughter for you,” he heard someone calling. It broke his reverie and brought him down back to his surroundings. “A girl, another stupid girl! Laxmi, I’d never let another girl, set foot into my house. I want a son,” he screamed. Then he felt all eyes staring at him. He gave a weak smile to no one in particular and waited for someone to give him a signal to meet his wife.

 

At first sight of his sixth child, he almost fell in love with it! What a radiant face! What a lovely smile! But when he remembered that it was a girl, he once again became despondent. “Laxmi, I never expected you to betray me. Tell me, but couldn’t you give birth to a son.” This was the year 1925, and Puttanna did not know that the father was the one who determined, his child’s sex.

 

Puttanna went home and drank toddy. He was very upset. The child is sweet, but ….. a girl! His other daughters surrounded him. The eldest was only twelve and the youngest was only two. They tried to humour him. He only smiled, in encouragement but he was really sad. He drank till he felt drunk. And then went to his corner in the hut and slept a restless sleep. His mother fed the kids, put out the kerosene wick lamp and then tried to sleep. “And now, he will try to kill her. Is it the innocent child’s fate that it be killed as soon as it is born?” She shivered as she visualized the ritual. A little bit of dhatura, and the child would be no more. She knew that four girls had survived in the family before this child and prayed to God that this one would also be let to live. And she prayed, almost the whole night – “Yellamma, Mother of All, please save the innocent being!” Sobbing quietly in bed, she went to sleep and remained in an awakened state.

 

The next morning Puttanna went to the hospital to fetch his wife and daughter. He did not even smile at his wife or even at the innocent child. He went about the process of getting the discharge from the hospital mechanically and set out towards his house. The child blinked as it felt the sun on it and its eyes adjusted to the harsh sunlight. The father using great strides marched ahead. The mother weak from the recent delivery walked slowly behind with the child in her arms. She was feeling very weak and exhausted, but Puttanna just did not care.  “Will you at least take this child in your arms and carry it please?” she cried out.  Puttanna did not utter a word, just bundled the child in his arms and again began walking with larger strides. He reached his hut a good five minutes before Laxmi could reach. He handed over the bundle to his mother and just left the hut before Laxmi could even enter her home. He was not to be seen in the hut for the rest of the day.

 

On learning that Laxmi and her child had reached back home the neighbours started pouring in one by one and soon a crowd gathered. All were just praising the beauty of the child. Somebody said this is nothing but god’s Maya. And the name stuck. The child was named Maya on the twelfth day amongst great enjoyment. Puttanna just wanted to get rid of the girl and asked Laxmi to either poison it or throttle it to death. On coming to know of Puttanna’s intentions, a kind neighbour intervened and persuaded Puttanna to give up such thoughts. The matter drifted as Puttanna hesitated. As the child grew up, the animosity just declined and Puttanna forgot about his original intentions and began to immensely love this child. Everyone, seeing the child and father play, heaved a sigh of relief. “Men are so unpredictable,” they whispered. 

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