Place: Serampore, Bengal
Year:1825, The East India Company's reign
It's pitch dark, Richard and Vaidehi were running frantically, dodging the trees. Vaidehi leaned against a tree panting, "I can't run now. You save yourself." "Have courage. We can make it!" Richard said encouragingly. The sound of approaching men was getting louder every second. "Hurry up!" Richard pulled her, and she followed him half-heartedly. They reached atop Serampore hill, below was Hugli flowing with her Gargantuan mouth. Before Richard could think, half a dozen men heaved into sight. Richard wrapped his arms around Vaidehi, "I won't let you'll kill her." One of those men hurled a log on his head, the blood spurted out and he fell on the ground wriggling in pain, "Vaidehi, run!" "No, I won't!" A man pounced on him and pierced his body with a sceptre. "Richard!" Vaidehi shrieked in terror. She got up with a jerk and beads of sweat appeared on her mantle.
Are you alright? How are you feeling now?" A lady in her mid fifties, spoke caressing Vaidehi's forehead. Vaidehi looked around diffidently, there's nobody whom she knew. "Where am I? Where is Richard?" "We found you alone on the bank of Hugli. This is Sadhana, an ashram run by Raja ji and we all stay here," she replied smilingly. Raja ji, an old yet energetic man, stormed in hearing the news, Vaidehi's innocent face reminded him of his own dead daughter. He stroked her head, "Don't worry. You can stay here as long as you want." Soon, Vaidehi became an important member of the ashram and relieved Raja ji aptly from almost all the responsibilities.
Raja ji darted in with the newspaper and beamed, "Vaidehi! Vaidehi! I'm so happy today! Our women got justice! You got justice!" He cuddled her and his throat choked. She looked up, "Richard, you won!" And her eyes welled up. Sitting on the windowsill, she stared at the headline, "A Historical Decision by the Governor General, Lord William Bentinck- The Bengal Sati Regulation", and delved into past.
There's an air of celebration in the house on Vaidehi's Haldi. It was hard to keep one's eyes away from Vaidehi's beautifully chiseled body wrapped in a yellow jamdani saree. Ladies were sitting surrounding Vaidehi singing folk songs and playing dhol, dance of young girls was adding more charm to the occasion. Suddenly, Raman Singh, Vaidehi's elder brother, leapt in and kicked the haldi plate that was kept in front of Vaidehi, everybody was statue still and puzzled. The atmosphere so lively a moment before, was overcast with apprehensions. He said fighting back his bottled throat, "Shekhar's dead." Vaidehi stood there paralysed. Maa found it difficult to contain herself and fainted. There's death silence all around, never in their lives had they seen such contrast.
Staring at the mehndi on her hand, Vaidehi was trying to comprehend what just had happened to her. Vaidehi was married to Shekhar when she was only five and he was seven, she didn't even remember his face, "Whom should I cry for? For myself or for Shekhar?" Aradhana, Raman Singh's wife, interrupted her meditation, "Drape this saree," she clutched her hand, "We're nothing in front of destiny." Seeing that white saree a shiver ran down Vaidehi's spine.
There was an incessant loud knock on the door. Richard, a soldier in the British army, jolted, "Who can it be in this unearthly hour?" No sooner did he open the door than a girl in white saree lunged in. She held his hand tightly, "Babu ji, please save me! I don't want to die!" and fainted. Bewildered, Richard latched the door instantly. While he's still fighting with his confusion, somebody banged on the door again. He peeped out through a crevice in the window "O God! I'm in trouble. What should I do? I think, I should hand this girl to them and get away from it. I can't fight with them. They are too many."
But looking at the fainted girl his heart melted, he dragged her inside the bedroom and darted towards the door, "What happened? Why are you'll disturbing me in the middle of the night?" Richard yawned and rubbed his eyes. "Babu ji, have you seen a girl in white saree? She came to this direction." "What? What are you talking?" A boy came forward, "Namaste sir, They're asking about a girl who ran towards your house." "Oh! I didn't see even a soul. I was sleeping peacefully, you all disturbed me," he said annoyingly. The boy apologised and directed the crowd to move ahead.
Richard breathed a sigh of relief and put Vaidehi's unconscious body on the bed. In the morning sun, Vaidehi's glowing face having some strands playing carelessly on it left Richard spellbound. Her lips that could make the freshest of the rose shrink in shame, and her curvaceous body in a sheer white saree reminded him of Venus. He felt a craving to stroke her forehead, but something kept him. Dragging the chair nearer, he sat still waiting keenly for her to get up. Vaidehi popped up, "I don't want to die! I don't want to die!" and squirmed. Holding her hand, Richard consoled her, "They're gone. You're safe here. Don't worry!" Vaidehi was advised to stay hidden in his house for some time and wait for an appropriate opportunity to flee. But nobody knew when the Cupid's arrow struck their hearts and they fell for each other. Yes! They were in love, a feeling, that's beyond the boundaries of religion, of language and of countries.
Michelle, Richard's childhood friend and fiancé, came to India to meet him. Having spent some time with Richard, she understood that his heart had started beating for Vaidehi. Helpless to bear that pang, she disclosed the secret to Richard's colleagues. Richard was given a warning to not meddle with the Indian customs as that might prove devastating for their reign in India. But he was determined and decided to sail back to England with Vaidehi. The news spread like wild fire, and the bloodthirsty villagers flocked towards Richard's house. Seeing them approaching, Michelle's blood froze. She never thought of that reaction, she only wanted her Richard, her best friend, her love back. But it was too late!
"Oh ! You're here. I have been looking for you all over. Let's go." Raja ji pulled Vaidehi. Whole ashram was decorated with tinsels and garlands and people were distributing sweets to every passerby. Young girls were perching all around flaunting their new dresses brought by Raja ji. Everybody was on top of the world and busy celebrating the victory, but Vaidehi's unable to comprehend if that victory could bring about some change in her life. Her agony was too deep to be satiated with any victory now. Though she ran away from being burnt with Shekhar's dead body, Richard sacrificed his life for her and Sati was banned, she could not fight with her destiny, "I'm destined to be a Sati. Sati, who had been slaughtered for the sake of anachronism and orthodoxy. Sati, who is incessantly getting immolated on the pyre of her love, her loss and remorse everyday, every moment." She sat next to Raja ji with a broad smile that had veneered her pain, hoping the Regulation might change the destiny of the girls in the ashram, as Ashram was all that mattered to her now.