A Girl's Life Matters
A Girl's Life Matters
Quote: The question isn't who's going to let me; it's who is going to stop me - - Unquote
Disclaimer - The following story is a fiction and all the characters and the events are fictitious. Any similarity with the real world is just coincidence with no intent to anyone or any event. The processes in government organisations have been fantasized to keep in tune with the story and has no bearings on actual procedures.
The house was quiet and no one dared to make any sound. Because the master of the house Balbir was at home. Balbir was a rich farmer on one hand and the Panchayat Pradhan on the other. So he wielded a lot of power. Everyone feared him and his temper. Only his daughter Sheetal was an exception because she was an apple of her father's eyes. Sheetal 's mother Mira was always worried that some day Sheetal would annoy her father. Because Balbir was not only a strict disciplinarian but also a deeply entrenched Conservative. But Sheetal was her dad's darling and whatever she wished in front of him was fulfilled. Her mother Mira used to silently observe in horror. She knew that after Sheetal reached her adolescent years her wishes would not be honoured by her conservative dad. Mira knew the status of a woman in the eyes of Balbir reminiscing herself as an example. A true misogynist was the apt description.
Till now whatever Sheetal desired was getting fulfilled. Soon she would be going to college where girls and boys freely mix around. Mira knew that her son Vinod two years older to Sheetal had been moulded the same way as his dad, Balbir. Vinod now himself an adolescent had become very protective and possessive of his kid sister Sheetal. Mira was trying to brace herself the best way she could to face upto the events the day the challenges arose. Because it was bound to come as Sheetal was quietly ambitious. Mira knew her daughter's steely resolve. She had once confided in her mother the secret of becoming a pilot of an airplane. How that was possible Mira had no idea. Mira even didn't dare to ask Sheetal again if she was harbouring that ambition till date. Because she knew her husband to whom all this was trash. Women were just a commodity as Mira had been for so many years. Her job was to manage the house, cook food and raise children. Although they were well to do so Mira didn't have to do all the chores as there was help available.
Vinod used to keep a tab on his sister's movements in and around college. Who all were her friends? Was there any boy with whom she seemed to be intimate? Vinod himself was in the final year. He had hardly any ambition for he knew he had to manage his father's big farm later on. So too much of an education was not needed. Vinod knew that to keep the honour of his family he must protect his sister. His father would be pleased to see his concerns.
Sheetal was aware of her brother's overtly concerns of her safety. She also knew the change in the attitude of her doting father towards her now. She was a very intelligent girl. She had to be smart and intelligent to be able to live her dreams. She had once shared her wish of becoming a pilot with her mother. But the reaction which Sheetal saw on her mom's face she thought it best to keep it to herself. She knew what a future she was facing. It was now an uphill task or succumb to the desires of her family. She could overhear talks of marriage on everybody's lips. Sheetal knew time was running out for her. She was now in her final year and the terminal exams would end soon. Her family would not wait for the results and very soon would marry her away.
There was a boy named Vinay in Sheetal's class. Very stealthily she used to talk to him so that it would not be oblivious of her approachings. Vinay was one with whom Sheetal could confide her secrets and spell out her desires and ambition. However, once her brother got the wind. She got severe reprimand from her brother at home in front of her parents. At college Vinay had to face the wrath of Sheetal's brother. They were let off with warnings. Vinod, Sheetal's brother even reminded the two of the differences in the castes of the two families and as a result they should maintain distance respecting the sentiments of both the families.
Really, it was end of the time which Sheetal called her own. Every passing day was bringing a new challenge. Mira spoke to Sheetal. She told her to get herself mentally prepared to get married. Sheetal replied with a very worried look on her face. '' Mom, I have my wishes, my dreams, my ambition to fulfil. Can't I do that? '' Sheetal questioned. '' Only after your marriage, if your in laws permit you, '' came her mother's reply. '' But it's my life. I have the right to lead my life my way,'' retorted Sheetal. '' A Girl's life matters, '' continued Sheetal in a philosophical way.
Sheetal knew that her days were numbered now. She had to decide fast. She had no one in her support only in Vinay she could trust. But his help would be limited. Vinay had got admission into Engineering College and would soon leave for his college in Delhi. Then all of a sudden Sheetal saw an advertisement in the papers and was attracted to it. The Indian Air Force was wanting to recruit specialised and physically fit unmarried women as Pilot Officers. This was the opportunity of her life time for which Sheetal was waiting for. Such a grand moment in her life but she couldn't share it with her family. Even she could not share it with her mother for fear of retribution. Her mother secretly supported her but couldn't voice her support for fear. Vinay was her solitary support. After applying she got a call for an interview and health check up before final induction. This was in their institute in Delhi. If selected she would have to be under a two year training all expenses paid by the government after which she would graduate as a fighter plane pilot. Times were definitely challenging but they were leading to the fulfilment of a life time dream for Sheetal.
Vinay would be leaving for his engineering college in Delhi very soon. It was situated on the highway connecting Delhi to their village separated by a distance of about three hundred kilometres. Sheetal thought of running away with him. She had an aunt living in Delhi who was active in an NGO which was working for the support of distressed women. This aunt was distanced from Sheetal's family due to the women's liberation work she had been doing. Sheetal somehow got her contact details and told her aunt about her plans. Her aunt was quick to support her and invited Sheetal to stay with her till her joining the institute.
So after the sun set one day and the evening darkness was about to engulf the surroundings Sheetal packed her bags and left her house quietly to join Vinay at the railway station. No one was there at home except for her mother who was busy at the Puja room. Her father was at the Panchayat office and her brother was at the agricultural market.
One of the servants however had observed Sheetal sneaking out. He immediately alerted Vinod, Sheetal's brother. Vinod took some brief moments to consolidate his thought process and then got into action. He first let his father know of the event and he himself hurried to the railway station with two of his confidantes. Sheetal's father Balbir rang up the police station to cordon off all the escape routes. Later he went to the police station to lodge a formal complaint.
Vinay met Sheetal at the railway station just in time to catch the Delhi bound intercity express. The train barely left the platform when Vinod and gang reached the station. The train had left the station by that time. The running time of the train to Delhi was three hours with one halt in between. Vinod knew now it was futile to chase them. But he had one hope. If Vinod could reach by road to the station where the train halted then he could catch hold of Sheetal. He had few friends there whom he alerted to reach the station and by some pretext have the train held up till Vinod and gang reached there. Vinod took his fast moving SUV and drove into the night like the demon. He had a sudden rush of blood after all it was the family honour at stake.
Sheetal was happy and felt relieved after the train had left their home station. She felt a tinge of sadness only for her mother. She let know Vinay of her plans, of how her aunt in Delhi would help her out till she joined the air force institute.
The train halted at the next station before finally reaching Delhi. It was a couple of minutes halt. But when the train did not begin it's journey even after fifteen minutes, Sheetal started worrying. Vinay tried to assure her that it must be some routine delay that is usual.
But then Sheetal froze after looking out of the window of the train. She could see her brother Vinod and his three friends. They were looking very worried and trying to look into each and every coach as if trying to find someone. Sheetal then hurriedly told Vinay all she saw. Vinay assured that they will not be able to find them in the crowded train. The train was definitely very crowded taking home the office returning home bound passengers. But Sheetal could not be complacent. She knew that with his clout Vinod would hold up the train as long as all the coaches were not searched thoroughly.
Sheetal implored to Vinay that they jump off the train from the opposite side so would not be noticed and climb up the platform on the away side. From there they could go out of the station and take a cab to Delhi which was not very far away roughly fifty kilometers. Any cab would agree as there are ready passengers.
Vinay had no other option but agree. They did just that and were successful enough to take a cab. Very soon they were on the road unnoticed.
Vinod and his friends searched each and every of the ten coaches in the train but did not find success. The train finally left after an hour's delay. Vinod felt afraid to tell his Dad but he had to give him the report. A good scolding awaited him. He was told to return and the search would be conducted by the police.
Vinay and Sheetal safely landed in Delhi. Vinay took a cab to his college and Sheetal was on her way to her aunt's address.
The next day the Police came searching for Sheetal based on her father's assumption. Sheetal's aunt who was also politically well connected used her clout to ward off the police action. She contented that as Sheetal was now an adult, she had every right to move around upon her free will as long as she was on the right side of the law. The police went back dejected. Sheetal remained forever grateful to this aunt of hers. Her aunt used to say that her main objective in life was to see every woman liberated and free from any coercion and she would fight with this motive till the end.
Very soon Sheetal joined her dream institute. The next two years went away far more smoothly than she had imagined. It was a very busy and packed schedule. She learnt all the nitty gritty of flying an aeroplane. She also had to learn the mechanics of it's running. All the parts of the plane had to be deeply studied. The best time of her life she spent when she was in the air flying free as a bird. Initially she was accompanied by a trainer. But later she was in the cockpit on her own. Controlling the joystick and zooming up into the higher altitudes gave her the goose bumps she had always dreamt of. On the academics part also she did very well. She had to be very careful to remain absolutely fit. Because fitness was the key to remain in contention in this job.
On some weekends she got to see Vinay who had also become very busy with his projects and internships. His was four year course and would continue for further two years after Sheetal had finished. His subject was Aeronautical Engineering so he had much in common with Sheetal. Due to similarity in their subjects they had lot to talk and discuss about.
Sheetal's family tried to contact her within these two years but she didn't meet them. She was doubtful about the sincerity of their intentions. Only once when her mother came to meet her she saw her in person alone after she was brought to her room. It was a very soulful reunion with lots of emotions and crying.
After the end of the course the graduation ceremony was held. There was held a passing out parade and all the pass outs were inducted into the Air Force. The President of India was the Chief Guest. In his speech he lauded the role of the women officers. Seeing so many women pilot officers, he said that it was a befitting compliance of the government slogan 'beti bachao, beti padhao' movement. He asked the women of the country be motivated by these women and come out and serve the nation. All the officer candidate's parents and family members were invited as guests. Sheetal had invited her family to the pass out parade hoping to make a turning point in the strained relationship. Her parents even attended the event. But one incident again marred the relationship.
After the passing out parade a high tea was organised in honour of the President and the passing out graduate officers. The ambience of the event was very pleasant and there was signs of bon homie among all those present. The President and his wife who were gracing the event were exchanging pleasantries with all those gathered there. Sheetal and her parents were also enjoying the moments when all of a sudden there was pandemonium and hullabaloo. The President and his wife was quickly whisked away into their security vehicle by their guards.
Someone had chucked an acid bulb and luckily it had missed its target and had fallen near one of the catering staff who was slightly injured from the acid spray. The police was quick to nab the culprit. Later on quizzing the culprit it was revealed that some Vinod had hired him to target it on officer pilot Sheetal. The family of Sheetal got embroiled in the controversy and Vinod had to do a lot of answering. Police cases and court attendances became routine for the family.
Meanwhile the department knowing the dangers to which Sheetal faced offered her an overseas posting to lure her away from the impending risk to her life. She was posted as an assistant to the military attaché posted in Paris, France.
In another couple of years time Vinay got a plumb placement in an aircraft manufacturing company based in Paris. So Sheetal and Vinay got united and were far away from the dangers related to their respective families. Their friendship had over the years turned to admiration and then to love. In front of the great Notre Dame cathedral Vinay finally proposed to Sheetal. A girl has every right to lead her life her own way.