It was around the month of April, winters were on the verge of ending and the days felt like summer. Only the cool breeze during the evening reminded of the winters. Almost all the students were packing their bags and getting ready to go to their homes. The final exams for the 2nd semester had just ended and students were excited for a long holiday season ahead of them. Two of the fellow classmates entered Prabhat's room asking him if he is going to stay in the hostel like the last vacation or is he finally going to visit his parents back in Mayurbhanj district. Prabhat was a little hesitant and lied that he'll visit his uncle's house here in Bhubaneswar. Prabhat knew that the money he would spend on travelling could provide for 2-3 months of groceries for their home. So rather he thought to do some work and earn some during the vacation.
Back in his village, his father had mortgaged their small piece of ancestral land to the local landlord that was only enough to pay the college fee. Despite Prabhat's partial blindness, his father had big dreams for his son. He had always believed that Prabhat was a very determined child and would certainly succeed some day in life. His father and mother worked hard on the fields to grow paddy and pulses. Of whatever they made a part was paid to the landlord, another part was sold and just a small part was stored for the family's consumption. His elder sister Pratibha used to teach tuition to middle school students and earn a living. If it wasn't for her maternal aunt who sent some money and vegetables from their farm, they couldn't have afforded all of it. Her aunt was married to a rich man who had a lot of land and cattle. The man was about 12 years elder than her, but eventually she agreed to the marriage him hoping for a better future for herself and her family. Very early into the marriage, she came to know that they had married her just to do the chores and give their family an heir who could take the family line ahead. She loved Prabhat as her own son and would send some money or delicacy on special occasions without letting her husband know about any of it.
That afternoon after everyone left for their home, Prabhat was strolling around on the campus and it felt like ghosted. It was for the first time that the lawns of Utkal University felt so quite and peaceful. Apart from a couple of dogs and 2 security guards, there was no person to be found nearby. Only 3 students in the whole batch of B.Sc were staying in the hostel. Prabhat went to one of the watchman to inquiry about any part-time job that he could do nearby. One of them offered to set him up at a local restaurant as a waiter and Prabhat agreed to it. The restaurant owner agreed to keep Prabhat as a waiter for Rs 200 per day. Prabhat started working there and started to save the money he got. A few weeks after he joined he was forced to work in the bar area due to shortcoming of staff. The lights were very dim and it was difficult for him to work there due to his blindness. One evening a batchmate had organised a party at the same hotel and they all made fun of Prabhat for working as a waiter. They deliberately put a chair on the way and Prabhat slipped over it.
Later that evening he was asked to leave the job by the manager. Prabhat was forced to sell chips and water bottles in the public parks with whatever money he had collected over the past 3-4 weeks. He would anyway make a profit of around Rs 150-180 everyday and paid for his expenses. He still had to save for the next semester fees and managed with the bare minimum necessities. The days went by very quickly. Prabhat had collected about 4000 rupees from the profits that he made. But still 8000 more was needed for the admissions. Prabhat even asked his father if he could send some money for the fee. But his father could only manage 2000 more by selling 2 bags of rice that they had kept for their own consumption. When her aunt came to know about it, she had sent him the rest of the amount from her husband's locker without informing him. Prabhat could finally start his 3rd semester and things went on fine after that.
Later one day when his uncle found out that there was some cash short in the locker, he enquired everyone about it. Her aunt admitted that she had given some money to his nephew for his admission. This wasn't the first time she had helped him financially. Everytime his uncle was found out about it, he would slap or hit her. But this time he was very furious about it and started hitting her with bat and steel rod. Her skin turned purple by the beating and she had to be hospitalized. Even after she returned from the hospital, he would constantly torture her reminding her of the mistake she did. Prabhat's parents tried to talk to his uncle but they were threatened by him to stay out of their personal matters. Her aunt couldn't take the trauma for long and finally passed away after few months of suffering. Prabhat wasn't informed about any of this and the case was dismissed. His uncle however was still filled with rage. He started behaving like a psycho and was in grief for murdering his own wife over that boy's matter.
He had made up his mind to make him and his family suffer for what they did to him. He was friends with the landlord of their village and used his friendship to influence him against Prabhat's family. The landlord restricted them to work anymore at any of the farms in the village. Prabhat's uncle had put a condition that he would forgive them only if they marry their daughter Pratibha with him. Prabhat's father was devastated at the thought of marrying her only daughter to a man who was around double his age and further more her own uncle. He didn't agree to it and started to look for alternative options of employment. Prabhat's uncle made sure that no grocery store gave them goods on credit and made sure they had seen the worst days of their lives.
Finally after weeks of hunger Pratibha was forced to plead mercy and agreed to marry him. The marriage was very secret affair and they just had a small arrangement at a temple to complete the ceremony. Prabhat's parents informed him about her sisters marriage, but since he was preparing for his final year exams they did not force him much. Prabhat's asked them about the groom, but they didn't tell anything about it and just said it was someone in their close relatives. Finally the wedding was done and his uncle paid them a huge amount as a settlement for the marriage and told them to stay out of their daughter's life. Pratibha's life was nothing less of a hell. She had the same duties as her aunt, doing the chorus, looking after her aunt's children and satisfying her husband. But she did not get the respect or space in that house. She had to sleep on a cot in the cowshed, while her husband slept with the children in the bedroom. She wasn't allowed to meet her parents or to outside the house premises. Life was very miserable in there. She never complained about anything thinking that her husband might again start torturing her parents. She just wanted her brother to be able to stand on his own and take care of their parents.
Prabhat had finally completed his graduation and had cleared the IFoS (Indian Forest Services) exam and was asked to report at New Delhi. During his course of training he was also treated for the partial blindness with the best medical facilities in Delhi. After completion of training he finally went his village after 4 long years. Everyone was immensely happy back in the village. Mother had prepared his favourite matar curry and his father had brought some sweets for his welcome. Prabhat was delighted to see his parents after so long and hugged his mother for about a minute or two. Tears rolled down his mother's cheeks and she kissed him all over his cheeks. Prabhat was a little disheartened that his sister didn't come to meet him. His father lied she was too busy due to the harvesting season and couldn't come to see him.
That evening Prabhat went out to meet some of his long lost old friends. Most of his friends had moved to the neighbouring cities for work. But he found that Ravi had taken over their family business and sat at their sweet shop near the bus stand market. Ravi was filled with joy to meet Prabhat after a long time. While talking Ravi mentioned how Pratibha had to marry her own uncle to make things alright for their family. Prabhat was shell shocked by the news and couldn't believe that his parents have been hiding all of this for a very long time. He went home and confronted his parents about it. All that the poor parents could say was sorry.
The very next moment Prabhat took the vehicle he had arrived in and went to his uncle's house. He also informed the local police station to send some constables and lady police officers. They raided his house with full force. Prabhat saw her sister blowing up the earthen chulha and coughing by the smoke. He also noticed scar marks all over her hand and slap marks on her cheeks. Pratibha came running into her brother arms and hid herself from her monstrous husband. She kept on weeping in his arms finally feeling free from the torture. All of the family members of his uncle's family were booked under different sections of the Indian Penal Code along with a non-bailable warrant for his uncle for domestic abuse. Prabhat and his sister returned to their house along with their aunt's kids. He enrolled her sister to the nearby renowned University to complete her studies. He also enrolled her aunt's children to the best residential school for all-round development.