“Arey bechari ko maar diya, 2 chhote bacche hai, ab kaun sambhalega, kisi ki beti ko maar dala, kitna galat hai!” said Rajan’s mother while looking at Sanjukta’s dead body. “Sukhi nahi rahenge kabhi, karam piccha nahi chhortey hain bhabhiji, uparwala sab dekh raha hai!!” intervened Mridula’s mom.
“Dekh to neeche wale bhi rahe the aunty, aas-pados wale bhi dekhte the, jab mamma ko peet-tey the” the little-one interrupted in between!
The above mentioned is a scene where a daughter has been harassed and killed for the dowry by her husband and in-laws! In the corner of the hall there sat an old man, mourning her daughter’s death in such a young age. He is still in a state of shock where he can’t even believe her beloved daughter has left him! He is in trauma, lost in flashback of her only daughter’s memories! How she used to call him, tease him, annoy him during her childhood, how she used to advise him, instruct him and chide him during her college days, and was wondering when and where things went wrong. Sanjukta, who used to share every little detail of everything with him, has never mentioned what she was going through. She never uttered a word about how she was been tortured for dowry. Everyone was silent and in a state of shock, that how Sanjukta never mentioned how pitiful her condition was.
Sanjukta was a girl full of life. She was the only daughter of father and has been born and bought up dearly with great love. She was a MA in English Literature, and had great interest in reading, writing and researching about things. During her college days she used to teach the slum students for free. Prior to her marriage with Rajeev, she used to work in a college. As Rajeev’s family was not comfortable with her job, she left the job for the sake of her relationships with Rajeev and his family. She had two beautiful daughters, Srishti and Meera, of the age of 7 years and 2 years respectively. Soon after she got married to Rajeev, Rajeev asked her to ask Mr. Kamal to lend them some amount so that Rajeev can start a business of his own. Initially Sanjukta asked for some amount from her father, thinking she’ll return the amount once Rajeev’s business will be settled. She was not aware of Rajeev’s intentions behind asking for financial help from Sanjukta’s father. Later on it became a trend. Rajeev occasionally started forcing Sanjukta to ask her father for financial help. Sanjukta was a woman with self-respect, she never wanted to bother her father and ask him for money or financial help, every time her husband and family ask her to. Gradually she stopped asking her father for financial helps and tried to convince Rajeev that, every time approaching her father for finances was not the right way. Rajeev did not like it as the things were not going as expected and Sanjutka has stopped asking her father for funds. He began being rude with her initially, for not obeying him and bringing money from her father. Later the rudeness converted into the mistreatment, torture, atrocities and violence.
The situation worsened when Sanjukta gave birth to Srishti. Her husband and in-laws were actually not happy with the birth of a girl child. Sanjutka had to listen to taunts every day for not bringing dowry. Further she was also being taunted to collect dowry for Srishti. She tried resuming the job and applied for jobs, but all her efforts went in vain. She was not allowed to do a job. She never wanted to bother her father, so she never mentioned her pitiful condition to him. Kamal was in an illusion that her daughter is actually very happy as she always predicted to him. He could not think of Sanjukta’s actual condition even in his worst nightmares, which she was dealing with every day.
Years passed with Sanjukta’s silent battle against the dowry with her husband and in-laws. Sanjukta gave birth to another baby girl, and the situation further deteriorated. Apart from not bringing her dowry with her, she was now being tortured for being a mother of two girls.
In spite of all the torture and being ill-treated, Sanjukta kept fighting for her daughters every single day for two years. Sanjutka’s reason for living with Rajeev and fighting the circumstances was her two daughters, Srishti and Meera. Difficulties aggravated when Sanjukta’s mother-in-law Mala, threatened her in the name of harming Meera and Srishti. Last Sunday, Mala pushed Srishti, down the stairs. Sanjutka was horrified to see Srishti falling from the stairs. She was stunned out of her wits. That day, when she saw her beloved daughter Srishti falling down the stairs, Sanjukta lost all her courage to fight back. Srishti was frightened and traumatized; Sanjukta pacified Srishti first, and put her to sleep. But she herself was shaked-up. All the night she was sitting numb behind her daughters, cursing her fate as well as the dowry system which made her life hell, and is now affecting her daughter’s lives as well.
Sleeping was a farthermost thing; she was not even able to blink her eyes for a while. She kept staring at her daughters. She never wanted her daughters to be treated like the way she’s being treated. She decided to leave Rajeev’s house and be independent. She had a spark in her eyes, and she knew she can do it. She started packing their stuff, while Rajeev and Mala stepped into her room. It took them a minute to understand what Sanjukta was up to. They forbid her from doing so, but Sanjukta denied. Sanjukta stood still, and made it clear that she was not going to bear any atrocities anymore; even she said that she will not tolerate any such behaviour from that moment onwards. She warned Rajeev and Mala for their behaviour, and asked them to step out of her room. Mala and Rajeev left the room for that time, but Sanjukta was still horrified, she doesn’t wanted to take any chance again, she was strolling in the room.
Suddenly her phone rang. Who is calling this late, she thought and checked her phone, “PAA Calling” was flashing on the screen. Sanjukta don’t wanted to hide anything from her father anymore, she picked up the call and said, “Hello Paa, kese ho?” “Thik nahi hai didi, saheb”, heard Sanjukta from Bhola, who was calling her from her father’s phone. “Subah se BP bahut zyada high hai, tumko phone bhi nahi karne de rahe hai saheb, upar se bukhar bhi hai, dhang se khate peete nahi, humari baat suntey nahi” further added Bhola. Bhola works at Kamal’s house and take cares of Kamal and his house.
Sanjukta disheartened after having words with Bhola. Today itself Sanjukta made her mind to tell everything to her father, but now she’s got to know from Bhola that he is not well. Sanjukta decided that she will leave for his father’s house in the very morning, after dropping Srishti to her school.
Sanjukta picked up a diary pen, and started looking at something in her phone. Looking at her phone, she started writing something in the diary. While writing, Sanjukta did not even realized when it was morning already, and the sun was shining bright.
Today Sanjukta looked completely changed, there was a spark in her eyes, she worked in the kitchen with courage, and not in fear as usual, she prepared Srishti for school, and took Meera in the dock. She further picked up her handbag, held Srishti’s hand, and stepped out of the house to drop Meera to school, post that she planned to go to her father’s house. She thought she’ll stay with him for a few days and will take care of him. Once he’ll be fine, she’ll tell him everything about what all she’s been through.
Sanjukta was about to cross the main door of the house, suddenly Rajeev and Mala popped-in front of her, and forbade her from stepping out of the house. When Sanjukta refused to obey them, they forcefully pushed her inside the house. Srishti screamed in fear “Papa, Dadi Mamma ko mat maaro, mamma ne kuch nahi kiya!”, and started crying. Sanjukta handed-over Meera to Srishti, and asked her to not to step into the house. Neighbors came out after hearing the noise and voices, but none of them said anything, neither had they intervened. They all kept watching the spectacle as always, the only difference was that the atrocities that used to take place inside of the house, were taking place in the open lawn. Sanjukta kept fighting continuously, but could not survive for long in front of Rajeev and Mala. Neighbors also continued to watch everything as spectators, no one came to protect Sanjukta. After a while Sanjukta’s voice fainted and later on there was silence. Rajeev stepped out, and took Srishti and Meera inside the house. There was complete silence, in a while all the neighbors also went back to their homes.
Sanjukta was lying unconscious on the floor inside the house. Srishti was sitting near Sanjukta with Meera in the lap. About two hours later, when Sanjukta regained consciousness, she somehow managed to get-up, checked up on her beloved daughters, and started looking for her mobile to call the police. But she could not find her phone. She asked Srishti “Beta mamma ka phone kaha hai?”, “Papa le gaye mamma!” Srishti replied.
Sanjukta’s difficulties increased even more. Rajiv had now snatched her phone from her too. Somehow she managed to reach her room with her daughters. She was worried, silent and devastated all day. She was imprecating her situation, dowry practice, and her silence! Sanjukta was cursing herself for remaining silent and tolerating and enduring all that torture for 6 years just for the sake of her marriage and society. She looked at Srishti and Meera, its already evening, no one came to ask them for food, and even water, since morning.
In the hall Rajeev and Mala were wandering around, enjoying their snacks and drinks, speaking out louder intentionally so that Sanjukta can hear what they wanted to convey her. They were saying, if you want to live peacefully, and want your safety, then ask your father for five lakh rupees. Sanjukta did not want this. She sat quietly, kept thinking, then opened the diary and took the letter pad, picked-up the pen and started writing something on the letter pad, looking through the diary. Meera and Srishti stared at her silently, she called Srishti and said, “Beta school bag me tiffin me jo lunch rakha hai usey kha lo, thoda Meera ko bhi khila do, biscuits tum subah kha lena.” “Ok Mamma”, said Srishti. She took out the tiffin from the school-bag and they ate the paranthas from it. Sanjukta’s only hope for survival was the stuff in Srishti’s school bag and a few biscuit and chips packets she used to keep in room for her daughters.
Two days have passed since Sanjukta locked herself in the room with Srishti and Meera, her daughters had spent these two days with biscuit-chips, but now only one packet of biscuits is left. Sanjukta herself has not eaten anything for the last 2 days. She is just drinking water. The wounds caused by being beaten up by Rajeev have now turned blue. No one has checked up on them yet. Sanjukta still does not want to ask her father for money. Neither is she able to get out of here. Sanjukta is trapped in her own house with her daughters.
Sitting in the corner of the room silently, Sanjukta is staring the wall. A flood of thoughts is springing up in Sanjukta’s mind. Sanjukta is getting flashbacks of her tragedic marriage, and she is getting sights of the dark future of herself and her daughters. She does not want her daughters to be tortured for dowry in their future. She suddenly stood up, went towards the closet, she was searching for something. She took out a medicine bottle from the cupboard, and closed it. Sanjukta took out some pills from it and powdered them, and filled that powder in between the biscuits in the last packet of cream biscuits she had. She fed Meera some biscuits, she knew later or sooner Srishti will also eat the biscuits. Sanjukta then swallowed some pills herself.
She then opened the door, stepped out of the room. Rajeev and Mala were watching her. They were thinking that Sanjukta has now given up, and now she will get 5 lakh rupees from her father. Sanjukta went to Rajeev, and said, you have always considered this marriage as a means of earning and extorting money. Neither did you ever care for me nor for our daughters. If you would have allowed me, I could also have earned that money for the family, but you never even allowed me that also. Today I want to tell you Rajeev that you are a mean and greedy man who never cared about his wife or daughters. I tried for years to change you or convince you, but you never wanted to change yourself. You married me just for the sake of money. Your greed will cost you dearly now. Hearing this, Rajeev got angry, he shouted on Sanjukta “Chup ho jao, tumhara gyan nahi chahiye”. “Gyaan ke layak tum ho bhi nahi, tum insaan ki shakal me bhediye ho, jo apni biwi ko dahej or pese ke liye pichle 6 saalon se torture kar rahe ho, apni he betiyon ko marne ki dhamki dekar mujhse pese mangwane ki koshish karte ho. Sudhar to tum kabhi sakte he nahi ho Raajev, kyunki sudharte insaan hain, haiwaan nahi”, screamed Sanjukta even loudly. Before Sanjukta could speak anything further, Rajeev picked up the pot and hit Sanjukta. The flowerpot hit Sanjukta’s head hard, she screamed out of pain, and fell on the ground in the very next moment.
Leaving Sanjukta lying on the ground covered in blood, Rajiv and Mala left hall. Since morning neither of them came to check up on Sanjukta. Around 8 o’clock, Srishti woke up, upon finding the door of the room open, she came out. She screamed out loudly and started crying when she found blood stained Sanjukta lying on the floor unconsciously. Srishti was screaming “Mamma!!! kya hua hai Mamma!! Utho na Mamma! ye khoon kese aaya Mamma!! Please utho Mamma! Mamma ko kya hogya!!” Srishti was continuously screaming loudly. Srishti’s screams, woke up Mala and Rajeev. They ran into the hall. They both lost their senses as soon as they came to the hall, Sanjukta was lying unconscious all in blood, on the floor.
Rajiv instantly rushed towards Sanjukta and checked her pulse, she was already dead. A new neighbour Nalini, knocked Rajeev’s house upon hearing the screams of Srishti. She immediately called the police, when she heard Srishti screaming and rushed towards Rajeev’s house. Nalini was a divorcee, and has shifted into this society on the Tuesday only. Nalini kept knocking at the door, Rajeev did not open the door. In a while the police also arrived, and Rajeev had no choice, but to open the door. After watching the police, a crowd gathered outside Rajeev’s house. Kamal ji was also informed about his daughter’s death over the call, he was unable to believe on what the inspector informed him. Kamal immediately reached Sanjukta’s in-laws house, Srishti ran into him, hugged him tightly, and started crying saying “Nanu dekho mamma ko khoon aagya, mamma uth nahi rahi hai!.” Kamal shattered, as he looked towards Sanjukta’s dead body, he ran towards Sanjukta’s body, and clung to the dead body of his daughter. He felt something in Sanjukta’s fist, he checked and found that there was a paper in her fist. He informed the same to the inspector. Police took out that paper from Sanjukta’s fist, a constable was asked to read that letter aloud.
The constable opened the letter, the title was “Dowry is drowning daughter’s don’t you think so?” Everyone was stood till upon hearing the title of Sanjukta’s last letter!
The constable began reading. The letter said ” Ye letter har kisi ko padhkar sunaiyega Paa, shayad aap tak ye bahut der se pahunchega par mai chahti hu sab isey suney aur samjhey bhi. Aapne bade laad pyar se mujhe paal pos kar bada kiya, kabhi mujhe ehsaas nahi hone diya ke beta ya beti me koi farq hota hai. Aapke ghar thi tab tak mujhe kabhi laga nahi tha duniya me ese lalachi haivaan bhi hai, jo ladki ko bas dahej lene ka token samajhtey hain. Maine kafi articles padhe the Dahej par, par kabhi socha nahi tha ke khud bhi mai Dahej utpeedan ki shikar ho jaungi kabhi. Shuru me laga tha ke aaj nahi to kal Rajeev or Maaji samjhenge or mujhe khule dil se apna lenge, par ye sab bas ek sapna he raha. Mujhe kya ye to apni beti ko aaj tak nahi apna paaye. Roj mujhe dahej na laane ko leke taane maare jaate the, aapse pese nahi mangne par sunaya jata tha. Phir Srishti ke janm ke bad mujhe ye kehkar or jyada taane mare jaane lage ke beti hui hai, khud aajtak kuch laai nahi kaam ka, iska dahej bhi lagega aage hum kaha se denge apne baap se laao. Mai jese tese sab sehan karke chije smbhalti aai. Hadd tab hogyi jab ye meri bacchiyon ko marne ke nam par mujhe dhamkaane lage! Maine ghar chhorne ka faisla kiya to ghar me mujhe bandi bana kar rakha gaya, mujhe mara peeta gaya or mera phone cheen liya gaya. Bahar aane jaane par puri tarah rok laga di, or pichle 2 dino se kisi ne khana to door bacchiyon ko pani tak nahi pucha, ulta aur daraya gaya ke aapse 5 laakh rupaye laau warna hum teeno ko maar denge. Maine ghar chhorne ka faisla kiya tab kuch research ki thi, mere jesi or kitni betiyaan badnaseeb ho gayi hai ye jaan-ne ko, sirf 2018 me 7166 dowry deaths hui hai, jaha se maine ye statistics dekhe the us report me likha tha ke Dowry Prohibition Act ke sath jab Dowry Death (304B of IPC) lagta hai, sirf tabhi inko “Dowry Death” me count kiya jata hai. Aage research karne par pata laga adhiktar cases to unreported hote hain. Mann ye soch kar sihar utha, ke ye statistics sirf deaths ke hain, kitni betiyaan actually suffer krti hai no one has any idea Paa. Aapki Sanjukta bhi jane anjaane iska shikar ho gayi hai or kalko ho sakta hai humari Srishti or Meera bhi iska shikar ho sakti hai. Mai nahi chahti kalko ye dono bhi us sab torture or trauma se guzrey, koi or humey maarde isse accha hai mai khud inhe leke marr jau, ghar se bahar humey nikalne nahi diya jaega, ghar me pichle 2 din se kisi ne paani tak nahi pucha, apne tak mai bardasht karti rahi, bacchiyon ke liye aage bardasht nahi hota Paa. Meera ko maine sleeping pills wale biscuits khila diye hain, Srishti ko bhi bhukh lagegi tab wo kha he legi. Inhe marne par he tuley the inke Papa or Daadi, wo tadpa kar marenge mai khamoshi se, bacchiyon me mere jitni shakti kahan hai.
Paa apke sath rehkar kabhi pata nahi tha betiyon ko kya kya sehna pad sakta hai. Padh-sunkar kabhi laga nahi tha dahej itna bada danav hai. Pichle 6 saalo me maine kareeb har din iska samna kiya hai. Najaane kitni or betiyaan krti hogi. Jab itna bura or bhayanak hai Paa ye toh itna prachlit kyun hai. Aur agar prachalit bhi hai to phir sirf betiyon ke liye he kyun hai!
Kya beti hona gunah hai? Kyun beto se kabhi dahej nahi manga gaya?
Kya logo ko mehsus nahi hota ke Dahej desh ki betiyon ko doobaye ja raha hai, wo roti hai, bilakhti hai, sehti hai, jab tak, jitna de sakti hai lakar dahej bhi deti hai…. par kya mangne ki koi seema hai??
Kyu dena jaruri hai, kya ye accha hai ? Agar hai to itni jaaneien kyun leta hai; Agar nahi to aaj tak isey logo ne khatm kyu nahi kiya, jaha tak mai padh-samajh paai thi iske bare me ye din pr din badhta jaa raha tha! Mere sehne ki seema or bachne ki ummid khatm ho gayi thi, kuch dino me shayad ek bhayanak maut milti. Mere pas 2 he raste the, tadap kar marna ya khuko ek asan maut dena, maine apne or apni bacchiyon k liye aasan maut chuni Paa.
I love you Paa, aap apna dhayn rakhiyega, koshish to ki thi ke aapke paas aajau, or in sabse bach jau, par is dahej ke prahariyon ne to ghar tak se nahi nikalne diya, aapk paas ana to ek sapna ban gaya tha. Dahej ne to ek beti ko apne pita tak se door kar diya. Chalti hu aaj mai har gayi, ek beti or haar gayi or dahej phir jeet gaya!
As the constable completed reading the last letter from Sanjukta, everyone rushed towards her room to check up on Meera. Upon entering the room they found her dead! Near her deadbody there was an open packet of cream biscuits, which Sanjukta had placed there for Srishti. Kamal asked Srishti if she had eaten from the packet, Srishti said “Nanu khana khatam hogaya tha, Monday se Mamma ne kuch khaya nahi tha, taki mai or Meera kha sake. Dadi or Papa khana nahi de rahe the. Kal ye last packet tha Nanu, maine socha Meera ke kaam aaega, mai to big sister hoon, ek din nahi khaungi to kuch nahi hoga, isiliye Meera ke liye chhor diya!” Kamal was a bit relaxed to hear that Srishti has not eaten the biscuits and is safe now.
Everyone was shocked to know about the steps Sanjukta took. Many of them were blaming her husband and in-laws, others were blaming her for attempting suicide with her daughter! But Sanjukta and Meera had already left us, and no one can bring them back. Kamal’s only daughter is no more. Srishti’s will never be able to see her mother and little sister again. Everyone has a point to look at Sanjukta’s story and the steps she took! But unforunately this is ground reality.
Undoubdetly attempting a suicide is not at all a solution, it can never be! Sanjukta could have played a bit smart and informed Rajeev that she’ll bring the money from her father. This way she could have approached her father. But she attempted the suicide in depression which was definitely not a solution. But is supporting, accepting and offering dowry is??
In a way Sanjukta was right, Dowry is drowning daughters, IPC and NCRB reports shows us just a few cases, which are registered. According to NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) data from 2018, 53 women died due to dowry in Bengaluru, which prides itself as the city of IT and development. India, dowry proved most fatal in Delhi with 137 victims. These are just examples of reported cases from just 2 metro cities. What about the others? India has the largest number of dowry related deaths in the world according to NCRB. The cases and deaths that go unreported, we do not have actually any idea of the unreported cases.
Dowry can never be a symbol social status. The dowry system puts great financial burden on the bride’s family. Do every family has ample amount that they can bear dowry expenses? What about those who have 2-3 daughters? Is it necessary to give dowry? If not, then why it is still in trend? Isn’t it enough that a family is giving you their beloved daughter for life? Why a family has to send their daughter and additionally offer dowry? We often show off and present ourselves as educated and modern, but is it really a practice which we should follow or promote?
A boy’s father is never asked for dowry, while a girl’s father is always supposed to offer dowry and in most of the cases they have to give it! Either they offer it willingly or they are asked to do so. Is it equality? Is it the impact of education? Are we really growing up and abolishing the false practices?
Prajukta’s letter has raised the same question in my mind “DOWRY IS DROWNING DAUGHTERS, DON’T YOU THINK SO?