The land is barren; it is as if rain has abandoned the country. Sun is beaming brightly in the sky; atmosphere as if burning coal has been sunk in the sand. India has got used to two things; first a year with no or less rain, and second, British. India has accepted its faith that, the British will never be going to leave them. Even thou, Gandhiji is trying his best to evacuate British from India still, it seems as difficult as touching the moon with hands.
On the other hand, the British is finding it hard to maintain their feet on Indian land, due to many freedom struggles are speeding up at all over India. Some struggles are non-violent and some had major violence. The other reason being the World War I. It is just the start of the war, but Germany is giving sleepless nights to the British Empire. Freedom fighters find this site as a Gods’ boon and trying hard to pressurize the British in this billet.
However, Chandernagore is different from other Provinces of India. The only freedom struggle fought in Chandernagore was in 1757, that too between France and British East India Company. The East India Company won the war and finally, Chandernagore became the part of British-India. Nevertheless, Chandernagore lost a war. A war against Sati practice. Even though Governor-General Lord William Bentinck promulgated The Bengal Sati Regulation in 1829, some remote village flocks still follow the practice.
Troops of Indian village people are heading towards the cemetery of the village. The caravan consists of only the male population of the village. The only woman allowed at the funeral is one who is going to be a sati, like the one who is sitting on the pyre. She is in her mid-twenties and fair enough to get any person fall in love with her. She is wearing a white colored saree, and has put her dead husbands’ head on her lap. The person was in his sixties before he died. They both are being borne by four muscular men on their shoulder, with the aid of a long wooden piece. In addition, the other four are walking alongside with a long and thick bamboo stick in their hand. Moreover, few more simply followed them shouting, ‘Ram Naam, Satya Hai!’ A small girl, not more than five, is leading the caravan with the earthen pot in her hand with smoke coming out of it. She is the daughter of the person who is dead and the woman who is going to die, burnt alive.
They halt at the cemetery, where sandalwoods were cut and stacked on each other making it the pyre. A priest is standing near the pyre and humming some Sanskrit verses. He is wearing a saffron color dhoti at the bottom and a white thread running down from his shoulder to his belly and curdling his upper part of the body. He has three thick lines of sandal paste on his forehead and on both the arms. Men carrying the dead and the Sati on the shoulder has placed them on the pyre. The priest took the little girl and asks her to offer last funeral rituals. A man of the family always does it. But the family to which the girl belongs, its only man has died and other than her no one will be left after this funeral. All the rituals are over and the girl did everything she was asked to. She gets up from her seat and holds the long stick of wood from the priest, which is burning at the other tip. Then she goes near the pyre and lights its one corner with the help of wood in her hand. Pyre instantly catches fire, as the woods are dry.
Woman sitting with her dead husband starts to feel hot at the bottom. She panics. Fear can be seen on her face. Fear not of dying, but of being burnt alive. Fear of tremendous upcoming pain.
A man from the caravan starts shouting, ‘Sati maa ki…’ And others follow him in the chorus, ‘Jai…’ They shouted at the top of their voice. People believe that the life of women is meant for sacrifice, and going as a Sati with the husband is the last sacrifice she is doing by giving her life, for the heaven to her man.
Fire is taking its speed, winds favoring the nurture. As fire is increasing, the feet of the woman start’s burning. She is trying hard to bear the pain. As soon as, the whole pyre lights up with fire, the burning sensation increased, and pain is something beyond of bearing. She starts screaming, as loud as she can in the pain. The loud she screams; the loud people are praising. She no more could bear the pain. Her feet, part of her leg and hips are already burnt. With burnt feet, she tries to get up and run away. Soon she gets up; she has a hard blow of bamboo on her head and on her back. Men carrying the bamboo have start to hit her. The only determination of those men coming in the funeral is to strike the woman with bamboo if she attempts to abandon the pyre. Her mind knows, she is gone die either by fire or by blows of bamboo. However, her body and pain does not know this. She still tries to run from the fire, but the men are ready for this. They had done this several times in the past. Whenever, she tries to get up from her place all four men start hitting her, half of her body is burnt, including her hair. Her beautiful face is no more attractive. Yet, she is trying her best to get rid of this inferno. This is the time when she curses herself for being born as a girl and looking at her daughter she prays for her that, she never goes to this hell. And screams’, as loud as she can and surrenders to the flame.
Her daughter is watching everything going in front of her. She is five, but today she grew ages. Not by number, but by fear. She is still standing at her place, which she took after lighting the pyre, and is seeing everything happening with her mother. Today, she realizes that the women are just born for sacrifice, pain, and misery. She is re-playing all the sweet memories of her mother in her brain, as she is watching her mother burn to ashes in front of her eyes. She recollects how beautiful her mother was, and she too wanted to grow as beautiful as her mother. Now her mother’s face was not more than a charcoal. Even though she is seeing her mother die; her eyes are dry. There are no tears in them. She remembers her mother saying to her, ‘Tears roll down from only those eyes, who have a heart.’ She no more has a heart because it is burning in front of her eyes. So how can she cry, if she no more possesses any?