It was end of my final academic year in July 1988. I aspired to become a doctor, it was very hard for my father to face all odds from society and my in-laws but he supported me to finish my graduation. People I knew, my relatives, my husband, his relatives, were against my aspiration that contributed to my arrogance. While my father was my only parent and he was different, he was proud of me and I wanted to make it worth for him. But my life wasn’t the destination to become a doctor, it was the journey. The journey that killed love from my life, the love that I thought was the gold of my heart.
That afternoon, I finished my final examination and stood in my college premises with my friend, Rinku, waiting for my husband. Then Malini joined our small talk.
“Hey, Priya. How did the exam go?” Malini asked me.
“Hi, the questions were predictable. What took you so long girl?” I asked.
“I think I’ll fail this semester”
“If you spend more time with your dumb boyfriend then you’ll never ever get out of this college”
“Yeah thats cute, its easy to say when you are married and decently rich”
“Marriage doesn’t make them easier, it complicates them. Look at me, I’ll have wait for my husband to pick and drop me home. I could’ve taxied”
“Aw, look at the pigeon in cage” Rinku said.
“Shut up! its not like that, he really loves me”
“Love is a fool’s gold, all I want is attention” Malini said.
We laughed at her wittiness. Few moments later, Siddharth came riding his black Royal Enfield motorbike, he stopped near me and said “I hope you didn’t wait long for me, Mrs.Dhalia”
“Too long, Mr.Dhalia” I replied.
He got out and walked toward me, I could see Malini gaze at him. Her eyes ran from his face to his broad chest and then on his leather belt. He replaced his glaring shades in his shirt’s pocket and shook hands with her and Rinku.
“These must be your friends, how are you both?” he said.
“Well now, Siddharth” Malini said.
“We didn’t get a chance to meet after marriage” Rinku said.
“Yeah we will meet later, sun is hot lets get out of here” I said pulling his arm.
“You know I don’t like this”
“Okay I was kidding, there’s something I wanted to tell you” he said grinning at me.
“What is it?”
“I came here to pick you up, because its special”
“You are wasting time”
“We are going to be parents!”
“Doctor’s report says you’re pregnant. I can’t believe I will be a father” then he embraced me in his strong arms.
“You’re kidding, right?” I asked.
“No, not now. Why?”
“Nothing. Its just surprise to me, as well”
“You want it, don’t you?”
The pregnancy news was a bomb on me, I didn’t want the baby to happen so early in my marriage and when my career didn’t even start. I wanted to spend more time with him instead of studying or giving examinations or changing diapers, bet he won’t understand. Convincing him and his family to let me finish graduation was an angle-dozer task alone.
“Lets have some ice cream before” I said.
We decided to walk, while on our way to an ice-cream parlor, I stopped to use a payphone and call my father.
“Hello? papa yeah, er. . .I am pregnant”
“What?! Oh my god that news! but don’t you think its too soon?”
“Something like that. I’ll talk later. Bye” I realized Siddharth was standing behind me, I didn’t want him to hear me talk about it to my father, so I cut the call earlier.
“But listen. . .later”
The ice-cream was only an excuse to debate with Siddharth over having a baby, but I didn’t. I saw how happy he was. He argued that the baby will have sweet tooth like me and will be strong like him. He carried the ice cream cups from the counter and gave me cassata and had chocolate himself. I wondered how happy my family and his family could be. Then I remembered what my father told me when I decided to become a doctor like him, he told me to be strong because I would see others pain, blood, death and I might grow a cold heart and lose the warmth love gives, he said I should never let my work forget that I am a doctor for people’s happiness and well being. He always taught me to put others before me.
Something pinched in my abdomen, the time slowed and I looked down. I touched my stomach and my eyes felt heavy. I looked up back at him but suddenly it was dark and I fell unconscious.
I woke up on floor of the parlor, Siddharth face was closer and worried. People crowded around us like barring walls of coliseum. I stood up, all sweaty and feeling mortified.
“Are you alright?” he asked me.
“I am perfect. What did just happen?”
“We should tell the doctor”
“Maybe you are forgetting I will soon be a doctor. I know its just side effect of exam stress”
“I didn’t mean that, I just-”
“Just what?! I don’t want a fight here let’s go home”
We didn’t talk till we reached home. And the only sentence he uttered was “Be careful on curb”. I had a shower, fixed myself a tea and sat on my bed, thinking over to start my practice nine months later. Then I noticed Siddharth follow my mother in-law going in the kitchen, which was unusual. Shoba was her name, she spent her day rolling her rosary between fingers and reading Ramayana. She was above fifty years old, wrinkly and short and always wore white saree as a taboo because she was widow.
His father, Abhishek Dhalia, owned and ran a chemist shop. Siddharth first wanted to become an automotive engineer but he failed the examinations twice and eventually took over the chemist shop. His father died of heart attack five years before we got married and then he told his mother about our relationship, it took him five years to convince her that I am the perfect bride for him. I never understood why we had to wait so long, he was either scared of his father or was the mother’s boy. I knew he was going tell her about my pregnancy without acknowledging me. I took cover behind a wall and overheard them talk standing near the kitchen stove.
“Did you tell her?” my mother in-law said.
“Yes. You were right ma, she doesn’t want it she still wants to be a doctor” he replied.
“Don’t worry my son, let few months go by. Then we’ll know if the baby is a boy or a girl”
“I can’t stand her even a minute! I will throw her out now!”
“You will do as I say you fool! she may be arrogant and ungrateful but she LOVES you”
“I don’t understand ma”
“Call her father, tell him his daughter needs money to be looked after during pregnancy. We won’t spend a rupee on her”
“So that is your plan huh? Siddharth?!” I interrupted and said giving them sarcastic applause.
“How dare you listen us talk” she said.
“Behind my back” I finished her sentence and continued “You both want a baby. Fine. You have problem with my graduation. I’ll drop out. You want more dowry from my father? I leave you now! and I am going to my father’s house” I turned around to walk out of the main door, I didn’t want to waste time in packing my things, my own family and my graduation was all I needed to live happier without him.
Siddharth ran to shut the door and my mother in-law hit a glass vase on my head which knocked me out. Few minutes later, I gained conscious and found myself strapped to my bed, the bedroom door was locked from outside and I cried for help. Siddharth opened the door and stood over me. He removed my clothes and unclothed himself.
“Stop don’t do this. Please!” I screamed but he didn’t stop. His mother came in and gave me an injection and I fell asleep. The next day when I woke up, the windows were closed, a strange man stood at the door looking at me. I tried to pull the ligature and loosen it but my strength gave up on me and I cried for my father. Siddharth came in pushing the stranger and exhaled a foul breath of scotch on my face.
“Your father? he is a generous man” he said.
“He will kill you when he finds out” I said.
“Find out. Uh-uk-he thinks we are on our honeymoon in Shanghai. You are forgetting he is a fool. He keeps sending me money to make sure my ma and me are happy. You are a very hard working girl, if it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t have bought a new car”
Then he walked out of the room with the stranger. Shoba then put a tape on my lips and injected me with sedative again.
Two weeks passed, and my husband didn’t change his mind. I was trapped and kept locked in his bedroom. I didn’t eat or drink, when ever they realized I was awake, they sedated me again. My forearms hurt and my skin broke by needle holes. Then, one morning I heard my father talking to Siddharth’s mother outside. He asked where Siddharth had dissappeared with his daughter, he threatened them to call police and he sounded agonized. I lifted my head and tried to utter the word I hoped to say to his face “Papa” but I didn’t have any life left in me. I looked around to find something to jar my father’s attention with and was shocked to see the strange man sleeping beside me.
My eyes stirred away and instinctively I tried to sit up. That’s when I felt my baby inside me and I started crying. The stranger woke up and shut my mouth. I could least bend my knee to hit him in the testes, he shouted and my father heard him.
My father pushed the door and tried to break the lock, he screamed my name and I cried louder in joy. I wanted him to break through the door, beat the strange man and put a cloth on me. I wanted him to say that everything will be alright because he was there for me.
“Shut up! Shut up!” The strange man said pulling his jeans back on. The outside lock broke but the door was still locked from inside. The strange man opened it and I saw my father, he bent his head to look at me and I saw water in his red eyes. Siddharth came running from the kitchen holding a knife and stabbed my father’s back, he clutched his chest in pain and fell on the floor. I couldn’t see him from where I was, I could only hear him cry out god’s name. And then everything was still and I didn’t breathe.
Siddharth pulled the knife from my father’s back and ran toward me.
“Kill me! Kill me!” I said, looking alive again.
“This madness started from you!” he said.
Shoba pulled Siddharth by collar and slapped him. “What have you done!” she said.
“I killed him! and I’ll kill her!”
“No! we will tell the police that she killed him”
“But why would she kill him, she is his daughter” the strange man said.
“Because we will say that she has lost her mind”
“Did-you-hear-that-Mrs.Dhalia? The police will come for you and then its a trip to mental asylum” Siddharth said pressing my neck, then he let go and the murderers of my father left the room.
“My name’s Priya Rai. I name my son after my father, Rahul Rai! and he’ll kill you all!”
I never felt so impotent in my life and the person responsible for my strength, my hope was then dead. Shoba sedated me again. I woke up tied on a chair in the living room, my hair were combed and I had a bright orange dress put on. I saw a police officer was asking questions to Siddharth.
“He killed my father officer arrest him!” I screamed to try and get him arrested but the officer didn’t believe me. I was living my life half sedated, I wasn’t aware of what happened between the harass by syringe and me waking up only to endure more psychological and physical abuse.
My lips were dried and when I shouted, they cracked and started bleeding. Siddharth held his handkerchief on my mouth and I bit him. It only added to the story he made up.
“I told you she’s crazy!” he said taking back his hand.
I saw two nurse boys cover my father’s body on a stretcher with white cloth and carry him behind me.
“He is dead because of me” I murmured.
The officer went out and gestured something with his head, two constables came in and handcuffed me. They undid my straps and I ran toward Siddharth to attack but the constables held me back, they lifted me and dragged me downstairs to their police van.
I was condemned in prison with isolation, while outside, Siddharth filed an F.I.R. against me reporting that I, influenced by my psychosis, had murdered my father with a kitchen knife which helped him legally dissolve our marriage. There was nothing I could do. My relatives were always against me because I graduated, my friends were clueless and my father was dead.
It took four months for a lady psychologist named Rajeshree Agarwal to assess me. Although it was obvious that she was hired to prove I suffered multiple psychosis, she only stated in her diagnosis that I was influenced by axis-1 schizophrenia and she recommended jury to order the mental institute to strap me for life. I figured, Siddharth took his time to pay her agreed bribe.
I was taken to the Ana and Archie mental institute unconscious. I didn’t even know if the asylum was in same district. On my first day in the asylum, I was made to wear a clear white dress with lose fitting bodice, long till my ankles. I was given good food before shower. Then the guards chained my limbs and then strapped me to my bed. When the cell door closed making skewing noise from rusted hinges and it slammed shut and the locks clanged back to their dwells, I realized I was never getting out of this madness. And I kept crying.
A nurse would come twice a day to feed me, I tried to make her understand that I wasn’t crazy, I’d tell her that my husband killed my father. All she did was listen and nod.
Every time the door opened I wished it was my father and he’d unlock my straps, every time the door closed, I cried till it opened again.
On my fifth day in the asylum, the cell door opened early in the morning and I stopped crying.
“Papa?” I asked to the emptiness in the room.
“No, I am Ganesh Dougay” A man said locking the door back and walking around the bed to face me. I felt great relief to see the person I recognized from my college days. Ganesh Dougay was a senior student in the college and he was Rinku’s elder brother.
“Ganesh. . .help me” I said.
“How’d you end up here?” he asked.
“I don’t know, I thought I was in love. You will get me out of here right?”
“Its hard, but I’ll try talk to my uncle. He’s a lawyer”
“I knew I could trust Rinku, she send you. Thank god for her”
“No. I just started working in this institute, the medications doctors give you is strong. Medically it not easy to prove that-”
“-that I am sane!” I finished his sentence and he snatched his gaze.
“Look at me!” I screamed.
“I’ll try my best” he said.
“Promise me one thing, promise me doctor Dougay that when my child takes birth, you’ll get him out of here and that you’ll name him Rahul. Give him my father’s family name. Name him Rahul Rai”