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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10. PANGS OF GROWING UP

 

A few months into the new school, Gokuldas was again proving his mettle. He had caught the eyes of all teachers, even those who did not teach him. He was bright, obedient and ever ready to perform any task required from him. He was good in studies as well as any extra-curricular activities as well as doing all odd jobs that any of his preceptors requested him to.

 

An Indian rupee then consisted of sixteen annas. Four annas made a quarter or ‘Pavli’. Half-anna was the cost of ticket to school and Gokuldas required only one anna every-day to go school and come back. If he had another one anna, he could eat a plate of rice with fish curry with a small piece of fish thrown in by the benevolent owner of the small eatery near his new school. Two annas a day would ensure his studies going smoothly.

 

Those were the days when the British ruled over undivided yet un-unified India. Those were the days of poverty. People could not afford two annas and Purushottam did not have the two annas required to keep his son educated and happy. So his son walked to school depending at times on some cyclist giving him a lift towards his school while he walked rest of the way. Rains were very heavy in that part of India and Gokuldas would be fully drenched before he could reach his school during the rainy season.

 

It was not long before the Principal understood the plight of Gokuldas which the young lad was facing stoically. In fact, for Gokuldas it was never a problem as he never even thought that he was having a problem. For him it was a way of life as he always lived. The Principal arranged with one bus transporter to give Gokuldas a free pass to and from his village and the school. To Gokuldas’s fate, he found that this benevolent gesture was rejected by his father and Gokuldas walked to school always for almost the next three years.

 

Gokuldas was athletic, but due to lack of proper nourishment and the extra burden of everyday walking to school made him slowly lose his capacities to do anything which needed extra exertion. He was a forward in his early schooling days in the football team and also nominated as captain. Slowly with his overall strength waning, he was slowly put in a lesser important position and finally made the goal-keeper as he would than not have to run much on the field during the physical exercise sessions.

 

One day his physical trainer at school asked Gokuldas, “Son, can you not bring even one anna for your meal in the afternoon?”

 

Gokuldas kept quite and let the question hang in the air. The trainer quietly slid away embarrassed having even asked such a question. 

 

As for Gokuldas, he never let the opposite team strike a goal! No, he simply could not permit it.

One day, tired as usual he reached home to see his small house had an unusual collection of villagers and the mood was sombre. He saw his eldest brother with his head cast down. As he approached the house, the villagers seeing him stopped talking and the silence was eerie. His brother looked up and walked to him, embraced him tightly and told him, “Annayya, we have lost our father.”

 

Gokuldas, who was fondly called Annayya by all, then learnt that the boat in which his father had gone fishing was not traceable and that all aboard were missing. In fact many boats were lost that day due to turbulent seas. Many lives were lost and many of the houses in and around Gokuldas’s house had this collection of grieving villagers. As no body was found, there was no funeral.

 

Gokuldas went to school the next day. For him and many like him, this was a fact of life and life went on. But Gokuldas loved his father very much. And yes that was the first time that the opposite team could score a goal when he was the goal-keeper. And his team lost the football match that day. Gokuldas was in the eighth standard and almost sixteen years old and that was his last day of schooling. He never went to any school in his life thereafter!

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