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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7. CHILDHOOD

 

Maya grew up into a beautiful child. Her father doted on her and would become a horse for her to ride out in the rough courtyard. She was the darling of all and mischievous too! She was tomboyish and would climb the mango and cashew trees with alacrity. She would swing from the branches like a monkey. She would outrun her sisters before she was six!

 

Savitri, the eldest, was the weakest. She would always be left behind as her stronger siblings outdid her in every field. Maya soon developed motherly feelings for Savitri and would pamper her as a mother would a sick child. Maya was a bundle of joy and a picture of responsibility. She just adored her eldest sister. The feelings were mutual.

 

Childhood for Maya was very carefree. The responsibilities were few and she did not have to go to school. Schools were only for boys and girls did not enter such institutions. So, none of her siblings ever went to school. As Puttanna also was illiterate no one ever taught Maya to read or write. She was blissfully ignorant about this aspect of life.

 

However, she learnt to sweep the courtyard of fallen leaves. She would take the cattle out for grazing. She even attempted to milk the cow when she was barely nine! She could cut grass for the cattle’s feed. She could run after the hens and shoo them away. She was a bundle of energy and was everywhere. Her childhood was joyous for all. Rarely a child with her exuberance was born in the village, a cynosure of everyone’s eyes. She never ever felt sad and no one saw her crying after she had been weaned.

 

As she grew her siblings were growing too! When Maya became ten, Savitri was twenty-two. Nobody married Savitri or was ready to marry her. She just wasted and was a total contrast to life. She was living life like a zombie. 

 

Kalavati was about seventeen and a mother of one. Her marriage was a grand affair as per the standards then prevailing. India was undergoing a tumultuous phase with the freedom struggle going on. Though politics did not enter the villages, living was not easy in these trying times. At the age of ten Maya was an aunt. She loved being referred to as an aunt.

 

Aarti was about fifteen and Sarita was twelve. Kalavati had come home as Aarti was getting married. She was to marry her first cousin much against her own desire. Sundar was Puttanna’s elder sister’s son and was infatuated with Aarti. He knew that if he chose any one of the daughters of Puttanna, he would not be denied. Seeking the hand of Savitri in marriage was out of question. He missed an opportunity to wed Kalavati as her marriage was fixed to another before he could even think of asking for her hand in marriage. The sight of Aarti would awake in him deep sensual feelings and he was determined to make her his wife. He did not hesitate to let his mother know his desire and the alliance was determined between his mother and his maternal uncle. Laxmi was not even consulted by Puttanna in the matter. “Aarti will wed Sundar soon,” he announced in his house to no one in particular. Laxmi and her mother-in-law were stunned to hear this. Sundar was simply unacceptable due to his bad habits and was the most disliked. This did not deter Puttanna from his decision and Aarti’s fate was sealed. 

 

Kalavati had come for this marriage which even she did not favour. In those days the girls had no say about who their life partner should be and had to marry whomever her parents chose for her. The fact that her own mother did not favour this alliance did not matter and Aarti had to prepare for her marriage with her cousin. She made the best out of this situation by reconciling to the fact and went on preparing for the wedding day as any child could. After all she was a doll to play with. Her father and later on Sundar would play with her life!

 

Puttanna was missing the night before the day of the wedding. Laxmi thought that he must have drunk to his heart’s content at the local liquor shop with the thought of the event of the next day boosting his desire to drink. His absence was not much felt as the wedding was to be a simple one and money was definitely a problem.

 

They found him next day…..dead with his throat slit and lying in a pool of his own blood in the fields. The wedding was of course cancelled much to the disappointment of Sundar. Rumours spread like wild fire as to the murderer. The rumour in most circulation was that Shankara’s widow was pregnant with Puttanna’s child and that a member of her family had killed him. The fact was that Shankara’s widow did give birth to a male child a few months later which, if the rumour was true, would have given much satisfaction to Puttanna. At last he would have had his son. He was dead and it made no difference to anybody as to who was Shankara’s widow’s son’s father. The murderer was never found nor was the local police interested in finding him.

 

Puttanna’s early demise left Maya cold. She lost her smile. The death affected the entire family. When a person is alive no one bothers about him or her. When a person dies he or she is missed….at least for some time. What Maya lost was not her father; she lost her childhood. She was soon to become an adult at the age of ten. Now her travails would begin. Now her life would have a story to narrate…… 

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