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Pooja Pant



Pooja Pant


Ticket to Freedom..

Ticket to Freedom..

9 mins


A strong voice awakened Ravina from her sleep. It was the TT checking tickets of passengers with his arm stretched out to check her ticket. She carefully took out the ticket as her mind went back to what had brought her here.

"The awakening"

Paper cups, cigarette butts, vomit. There were even a couple of broken flowerpots, the mud spilling out. oddly angled flowers with broken stems and then because it was also depressing, the overturned plastic chairs and food half-eaten on Styrofoam plates, she knew in that moment that she would have to make up her mind about it all. Did she really want to be here?

That picture was not just a moment in her life, it was like a running movie strip, and she had been part of it for as long as she could remember. Her mind was working like a projector of a cinema hall as she was taken back in time to the day it all started.

"Too young to scream"

Ravina was all of 8 years old. Like every child of her age, she was full of energy and happiness. She loved going to school and was a favourite of all the teachers of her class. She was not just bright in books but was also smart in extracurricular activities. Although she hailed from a very conservative lineage the times had changed and her father had no reservations about sending her to school. It was their own school. Raveena's father was one of the wealthiest landlords in that region. They owned acres of farmland and a few dozens of cattle. They owned a local dairy too. 

It was Raveena's grandfather who had donated a part of his land for the construction of the school in the village and Raveena was the first girl of the family to go to that school.

That day was etched permanently like a never healing scar on her soul. It was around the festival of the Deepawali when all her uncles would gather at his father's house along with their respective families to celebrate Deepavali. 

Now Ravina had seen the male members of family indulge in heavy drinking on the night of Deepawali and play the game of cards with money at stake. But the eighth Deepawali of her life exposed her to the evils of alcoholism. 

It was around 10 p.m. at night. The sky was lit with fireworks all round and the cacophony of bursting crackers was too loud. Ravina was making her way from the kitchen to the staircase when she bumped into Prashant uncle. Prashant uncle was a very close friend of Ravina's father. He would often visit them and Ravina was really fond of him as he would always bring chocolates for the little girl. Ravina fell backwards due to the impact of collision. Prashant uncle too stumbled but even today Ravina was not sure whether it was due to collision or due to the fact he was heavily drunk. As Ravina tried getting up, she felt Prashant uncle's firm grip on her shoulders as he helped her up and then proceeded to hoist her in his arms. 

As Prashant uncle proceeded to pull her cheeks, the stench of alcohol nauseated Ravina's senses. What happened next scarred her young soul as she felt Prashant uncle's lips on her cheeks, treading dangerously close to her lips. She was not taught about "good touch and bad touch" but call it a sense passed down in female genes over centuries, she felt uncomfortable. She had been in lap of her favourite uncle before but today his touch was forcing her soul to scream. Sadly, her real voice was betraying her. 

The whole ordeal was broken by a couple of approaching voices. As the monster loosened his grip, Ravina bolted free and ran towards the safest place in house, the kitchen. She was perplexed by what had transpired but she had no idea whom to tell and what to tell. She was too young to scream. 

"It's your fault!"

Ravina's train of thoughts skipped several stations and arrived at the time she was nineteen and despite objections from his elder brother Harish, her father had given her permission to enrol in the nearby college. She was given a stern warning though to abide by the rules and regulations of the family which included no partying, no befriending boys, and no dressing in Western clothes. She felt as if she was handed a jail term instead of a college admission, but she decided to comply for sake of her dreams. 

Ravina tried hard to follow the dictum but there is a strange rebellion hidden amongst every youth. She too could not suppress it anymore as she started envying the jeans and top casual dressing of her college mates. Soon she had created a change room at one of her friend's home. She would leave the house dressed in demure salwar kameez but would stop over at her friend's to slip into Western casuals. 

Ah! The taste of freedom. Always so refreshing. Ravina too felt good about herself, but she had forgotten that she lived in a place where such dressing was considered an invitation. A hard truth she learned when she began drawing attention of a few drunken rogues outside the college. It started with a few whistles and escalated to catcalling. Ravina still did not have enough strength to protest. Call it an after effect of living in a patriarchal society, she suffered in silence which only emboldened the rascals. 

She had no idea that her decision to ignore would one day lead to those leeches drawing enough strength to stop her and grasp her wrist. The public watched in silence as three drunken hooligans tried to outrage her modesty. Thankfully for her, some local shopkeeper managed to dial up the police. 

Local SHO arrived within 5 minutes and all three guys were apprehended and taken to police station. Ravina too was escorted by female police in case she wanted to lodge a formal complaint. 

At the police station, Ravina's father was a known figure for his societal status. What followed was not what Ravina expected. As both father and brother arrived at police station with their own henchmen, they were greeted to a shocking image of their daughter wearing western clothes. Ravina remembered how the SHO passed a terse remark blaming her for wearing "sexy" clothes. It was as direct as blaming her for instigating those drunken hooligans. 

Ravina's memory skipped to the part where she was slapped by her brother once they came back home, and her father announced his decision to get her name struck off from college. She pleaded but to no avail because not those guys, not their alcohol induced disinhibition, if anyone was responsible for the whole ordeal, it was she because it was her fault. 

"A marriage made in hell".

Ravina's father allowed her to complete her education by correspondence, but she was not allowed to go to the city alone. She was even told sternly that she will be getting married once she finishes her graduation. 

Till date Ravina is unsure whether the release of her graduation results brought her happiness in form of high marks or was she filled with dread as her marriage was going to be fixed. Like all girls she had certain desires from her would be husband but once again the patriarchal society threw a spanner in her dreams. As she went to the courtyard to break the news of her topping the exams, she was treated with a shocking news that her father had already fixed her marriage to son of another landlord in the nearby village. The name of her future husband reverberated like the shockwaves of a nuclear explosion. She knew the man for he was just an extension of what her brother had grown up to become. 

Barely educated, brash, abusive he was everything Ravina despised but there was no scope of revolt or even an argument. It was just not the way she had been brought up. 

Ravina's mind was now running like a slide projector, and she could see images and events flash in front of her eyes as she once again surveyed the view in front. 

Today was her 'God Bharai' function and as was the custom in the patriarchal world she lived in, what was a party without men slurping on alcohol and behaving like drunken hooligans. Every function she could remember right from her father's parties, her marriage, her brothers' marriage to any festival celebration, she had witnessed unruly behaviours and drunken chaos. Every such incident was never criticised but became tales of valour of men around her. 

This alcohol had been scarring her life since as long as she could remember. Her father beating her mother in drunken outburst to she herself being at the receiving end of her husband's alcohol fuelled toxic masculinity, she could see each visual clearly. Every slap, every kick, every throw of objects sounded like loud gongs after gongs of a huge bell in her mind. Every slur, every abuse echoed in her ears to eventually roll out like tears from her eyes. She could finally feel her scream build up inside her, ready to unleash her hate for the alcohol. Yes, it was the alcohol that turned these men into monsters, and she was done living suppressed. 

Her hand gently caressed her tummy. She was 7 months pregnant, and she had no idea if it was a boy or a girl child she was carrying. Neither did she wanted to know. All she knew at that moment was that if it was a girl, she was not ready to bring her into this world that crushed her happiness. And if it were a boy, she could not bear the thought of watching her son grow up into the same kind of men she despised. 

The decision was clear. There was no scope of reasoning with these men. There was no scope of continuing to live in this hell where booze ran thicker than blood. The eight-year-old Ravina had finally mustered the courage to scream 'No!'.

"A journey begins"

The train chugged off as the first rays of the Sun greeted her face. She knew that back at her husband's farmhouse, the men would still be knocked cold with all the alcohol they had devoured. She knew that the women would be getting up to start their daily routine of being servile to those men. It would be another hour or two before anyone would notice her absence. That window was all she needed to take control of her own life. She knew that there will be struggles in a far-off city, but she was ready to bear that pain rather than bear another slap of her drunk husband. 

The train gathered speed as Ravina looked out of the window. The trees appeared to be moving away from her, back towards her jail. She looked at them and smiled as she bade them farewell along with all her bad memories. With every jerk of the train, she could feel herself shedding bondages in which she was trapped. She gently dozed off as a cool breeze kissed her. She slept for the first time in decades, free from the nightmares. She slept as a new day awaited her in a far-off place. She was finally on a quest to find her own identity.


The TT spoke alerting the passengers down the coach as he handed her ticket back to her. She carefully returned it back to her purse. Afterall it was no ordinary train ticket, it was her 'Ticket to Freedom'.

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