She looked around her taking in the leaves in the small pots and the small budding white flowers growing slowly in between. This was not exactly what she had expected when she had emerged from her sleep like state. She knew this would be temporary, however, so she was not too worried about it. The flat was neat and sparsely decorated. It was a far cry from the wilderness she was used to or the luxurious surroundings she had dwelt in on occasion, but this would do for now. She wondered how her twin was living and whether he had awoken too from the sleep like state that he must have been in too. This was not the first time that she would be awake before him though, so she did not dwell too much on this thought nor did she attempt connecting with him. She would have time to do that later.
The last time she had awoken before him it had not been a good age. The world had been in patriarchy mode and her ways of the old did not seem suited to the times. She remembered with some displeasure the difficulties of that era and the near helplessness she had experienced where her physical body had not only been a point of weakness, but an actual hindrance given the limited freedom that women had then. She had travelled long and far to reach the area where recounts of her twin had emerged. She knew quite well by then the tell-tale signs: The fantastic tales, the miracles, the huge gathering of followers and the automatic unrest that accompanied this within the rulers of that time. Every time her twin had manifested on Earth, whether it was in Mesopotamia or Ancient Egypt or the land of the two seas, he could not help but provoke the established order and create problems for both of them.
In comparison her methods had always been more discreet, working within the shadows, mostly with the female population, never basking in the light. There were always two sides to a story like there were two ways of approaching matters and hers had always been the way of the silent stream that slowly erodes the foundations of mighty dwellings rather than the direct towering waters that her twin had always loved to raise against the norms of each era. Well she thought to herself, the last time had not gone so well for him and even their father-mother source had not saved him from the trouble he had got them into. As a female with child, she had been spared and did not go through the fate her twin underwent. In fact, barely anyone noticed her contribution to the upheaval of that era and she did not even figure in any historical recounts or barely as a side figure, an afterthought and mostly in a negative light. It was always her twin who was in the limelight and she realised that he might as well given how he loved it while she preferred the shadows.
The keepers of the secrets of the Source had sent them as messengers, each in their own way allowing humans to discover themselves, to allow them to delve into their light as well as their shadows until they could realise that neither was more worthwhile. The idea was for them to allow humans to understand that each being or inanimate object was just a manifestation of the flux that emanated from the Source, that both light and dark were just different perceptions of the same energy that encompassed all and permeated from within everything. She naturally identified with the female side of humans as her star soul was the moon and had therefore chosen the shadows. Her twin had chosen to represent the light and he had gotten so infatuated with it that he no longer remembered at every human manifestation that he was only partly light. She on the other hand had never been dazzled neither with the light nor with the shadows and remembered that their original mission was to allow this Universe to achieve balance. In every era she had incarnated within, she made it a point to achieve that and in the age of patriarchy, this had mainly become a work linked with liberating women from their bondage whether internal or forced upon them externally. Wherever she went, the liberation of women ensued whether slowly and steadily or in outbursts.
It pained her to think that this play of light and dark had made human beings reach incredible levels of hate and bigotry and that the rules that the source had enacted within the minds of the initial messengers had all been diverted into rigid and ridiculous sets of dogma that allowed humans to fight and kill each other in all impunity. She was not very fond of bloodshed, not even when she knew that it was sometimes necessary to rejuvenate the planet they were on and allow for the recycling of those souls which had gotten too dense to allow the others to progress. She was of a playful nature in general and had found it very funny to diffuse in the minds of humans a representation of the world of shadows. Owing to the way patriarchy had been dominant in the world, however, this representation took on a male nature rather than a female one and with the fertile imagination of humans, it became a monstrous figure with horns and hooves, something between an animal and a human being.
She looked at herself in the mirror and laughed at the thought of it. According to humans, the one who lurked in the world of shadows was a wicked being called the devil and he had a pointy tail, cloven hooves, wild looking horns and terribly pointy teeth. Above all he was supposed to tower over human beings and roast them with the fires of a place humans had fearfully invented and named hell. At the opposite side of that, there was supposedly a place where all souls that had been redeemed would be taken if they submitted to and worshipped their saviour, her light-loving twin. The humans had lovingly named that place heaven and each of them had their own personal idea of how beautiful this place would be although for most, it was likened to a garden with everlasting bounties. She laughed at the thought of this childish inclination but then sighed at the thought of the task that awaited. Perhaps she should have incarnated into something more akin to what they were expecting so she could be more convincing in her task. After all, better the Devil you know…
The Frost Chronicles : The Secret world of the Marid part 1
24 November 2019
The bills had been piling up again and as her bank account dwindled down she thought back to the Marid’s proposal of the energy exchange. She had not had qualms using the money from the sale earlier because of the urgency of the situation but she did not want to have to resort to what she herself would call money from a criminal activity. She realised she would have to summon him again as she would soon be needing more money. She started drawing the circles again and noticed that she no longer felt the need to draw the protective circle as she had omitted it. She no longer needed for sure the circle with the old blood as she had the Marid’s secret name now but out of her love for patterns she had still drawn the neat inner circle. She lit the candles, sat in the midst of the circles and summoned him by his secret name.
The Marid appeared in front of her, hovering high above her gaze and she had to crane her neck to see the cloudy ends of his frame. He seemed to already know that she was ready to provide life force energy in exchange for the diamonds. He had not been completely honest with her as he did not really need her life force energy but could use the energy from the sun to create what she asked for. He wanted, however, to own more life energy as this would allow him to remain in this world on his own and without having to use his own energy. The Marid usually lived in the the world in between worlds, neither fully within the material world nor fully within the spirit world and it took them a great deal of energy to be able to manifest into our world if they were not summoned. They were like shadows of beings and like slightly incarnate spirits showing alternately some traits of the former or the latter.
The Marid craved the possibility of spending more time in our world but they did not want to renounce their powers to do so. Although they seemed to most humans – who knew of them mainly through local folklore, as invincible and capable of extraordinary feats, they were bound in their world by certain rules which made it impossible for them to endlessly use their powers and manifest items. It was known within the Marid world that the more time they spent in our world without being summoned, the less powers they had and they could even go down to the ranks of ordinary jinns if they were not careful with how they used their energy. When they were summoned however, it was through the combination of either the old blood and the new blood or the combination of their secret name and the new blood together with the incantations that they were drawn into our world effortlessly. Besides, what most people did not realise was that when they summoned a Marid and made a wish, that wish already had a certain level of energy that the Marid would feed on to manifest partially the item of the wish. The remaining portion of energy was used by the Marid as a back up energy source that they called upon when wishing to visit our world without being summoned.
She looked at the Marid and asked him if he could perform his magic and turn her energy into the diamonds that she needed. He wanted to know how many months or years she was willing to give up and she said that she would be happy to start with a year or two if that would give the same amount of diamonds she had got from him last and he confirmed it would. He asked her to move closer to him as he slowly floated down towards her and she walked slowly, not sure whether this would be a painful experience. She felt the Marid float around her and could feel a tightening in her chest and brain simultaneously while she also experienced a sense of something slowly beginning to be sucked out of her. Just as the strange vacuum-like feeling had started, she suddenly felt a push that drew her apart from the Marid and he seemed to almost be torn away from her by some extraordinary force. She looked up dazed by the force of the push that had separated her from the Marid and saw another Marid standing right beside the one she had summoned earlier.
The second Marid was somehow much taller and seemed to be more powerful than the first one who was cowering in front of him. They seemed to be conversing but she could not fully understand what they were saying although the words seemed very familiar to her ears. It was clear that the first Marid seemed to be apologising to the second who seemed to be quite furious. She understood finally that it was because of what had been happening earlier and wondered what concern the second Marid would have if she were to give away a couple of years of her life. Was this Marid a sort of watchdog that did not allow Marids to take energy from humans or was this just generally not allowed and this was the Marid’s parent scolding him for having done something forbidden? She could not figure out the reason for his anger and just kept staring at them while they argued. She could see that the sort of haze they were made of glowered and changed colours as and when the argument seemed to get heated. In the end, the first Marid seemed to bow down and then disappeared. The second Marid turned towards her now and lifted her up to where his face floated. « Hello daughter » he said in a booming and suddenly familiar voice…
Months had gone by since she passed away yet the memory of her wane face was still imprinted in my mind. I was in Egypt when she died and my brother and I were by coincidence in the same neighbourhood in Cairo when we got the news. We both tried desperately to get back to her to be in time for the funeral but I was only able to catch the evening flight the day after she had passed away. Our family members had delayed the funeral so that we could attend. I arrived almost the morning of her funeral, weary and still in shock. I was still unable to face the reality of her demise. Later in the morning, I sat by her side still numb with the shock of the news of her death. She looked so frail wrapped in her light green and white saree that she used to like. The lady who tended to her had wrapped her in it and it was tightly secured in a few knots over her head.
I asked my aunt if we could unwrap the top as I wanted to kiss her goodbye and my aunt unsecured the knots uncovering her face. It was pale, thin and drawn. I kneeled and put my lips to her forehead and the moment I did so it felt like a dam had opened up in my heart and the pain seared through. The tears flowed down my cheeks uncontrollably as I kissed her forehead and held her. After a while I regained composure and sat beside her as other members of the family moved around arranging everything for the funeral. People came and went offering their condolences and asking me if I remembered them but I recognised none, my mind blank to any memory of their faces. I don’t recall much in the days that followed, except for the aching sense of grief that would not leave. I could not believe that she was gone and I would see her no more.
She was an ordinary yet extraordinary woman. She had lived a difficult life after she had married my father and joined him when he had wanted to return to his home country. Ostracised, unable to speak the language and to adapt to the surroundings she was not used to, she had concentrated all of her attention on us, her children. Later, when she had returned to her home country, it was always visible that the experiences she had lived during that period away from her home had significantly marked her. She remained despite all the hostility she had faced a woman with a positive heart and a desire to always help. I remembered warmly now – although it would drive us crazy when she used to do it while we were young, how she used to gather all the stray cats that had been tortured by some awful kids in the neighbourhood and slowly nurse them back to a healthy state.
She was a beautiful woman, not just outside but also inside and her thoughts were always about how one should be a better person and make the world a better world. She believed in the virtues of kindness, respect, caring, independence and equanimity. She lived her vocation in all aspects of her life. A nurse by profession, tending alternately to children with severe diseases or to third degree burn victims, I remember how the patients would talk of her with praise and gratitude. It was not that she was a soft woman as she could be really tough on us sometimes, having spent several years taking care of us on her own. It was that she truly cared about others and was a nurturing human being. It was not by accident that she had become a nurse, she had always wanted to help others hence her choice of the medical field.
I returned to my daily routine but felt listless as if something had been broken. I realised that it was because with the death of my mother a whole aspect of my life was disappearing. When we lose our mother, it is almost as if the last link to our childhood is broken. Mothers are so emblematic of those times of innocence when we could huddle up closer to them and feel comforted and safe. I had spent many a night tucked underneath her arm when I was raving with fever and waking up tightly held by her had always given me the feeling that everything would always be alright. Somehow, the fact that she was no longer there made me feel like I had lost the possibility of feeling that comfort again. There is something unique about the comfort a mother can bestow and that nothing else can replace.
One day, I was feeling particularly destitute and thinking about my mother. It pained me to think that a woman like her who had cared so much for others had died all alone. Indeed, by a rare coincidence, my sister-in-law had not returned before her carer left and in the thirty minutes or so between the leaving of the carer and the return of my sister-in-law, my mother had breathed her last. I was thinking about how I had been planning for my children to visit their grandmother again that summer and how this would no longer be possible. My thoughts were focused on my mother and I could feel the grief well inside me again. I had stopped writing as I could not bring myself to pen anything and the weeks were turning into months.
As I walked, cloaked in my grief, a shrill call from above caught my attention. There, just a few meters above my head, a seagull flew with its arms alternating between stretching and flapping. It seemed to fly in a criss-cross pattern, right above my head, all the while calling shrilly. I stopped and looked at it and it stopped on the rooftop to the right of my head. I moved onward and the seagull called out and flew over my head again. From the entrance to the compound where I lived until the building where my apartment was, it continued to follow me calling shrilly all the while flying above my head in that curious criss-cross pattern. As I reached my building and looked up at it again, it turned its head one way and the other almost as if it were sizing me up. I felt as if it were a messenger from above as it called again shrilly. I thought of my mother again and as I smiled up at it, I could feel a weight lift off my heart. I looked around me and noticed the intense purple of the lavender in the pot and the bright yellow of the fallen leaves. That sense of comfort would always be there. Her body may have disappeared but she was still there, in every bird that flew, in every leaf that fluttered, in every beautiful thing that shone on in this world around me. I smiled up again and the seagull flew.
Mother (in Arabic) and Woman (in English) both dedicated to my mother – Geetha Balvannanathan
Alternate Realities – Chapter Six : The path of the Goddess
10 June 2019
She held out her hand and the dragons came closer, sniffing carefully at her hands before they huddled closer around her and rubbed their cheeks and foreheads against her palms. Their skin had not developed the hard scales yet and it felt smooth and silky. She was fascinated by how sweet and loving they seemed. Not at all the scary beasts that stories would have them be. Perhaps this was a feature of being in their infancy.
– How long does it take for a dragon to mature, she asked
– It depends
– How can it depend ?
– It depends if it is a real dragon or an imaginary replica
– What do you mean an imaginary replica ?
– Some of these dragons were born in the way that they usually are, through the interaction between a God and a human. Some of them are not born, they are imagined based on either the memory of that interaction or the vision of the interaction to come
– How can humans and Gods have a physical relationship ?
– It only happens in this Universe and is only possible with human beings
– How are the others imagined ? How do they actually get life out of imagination
– Well in this universe a lot is based on what is perceived. Not much really exists out of the sphere of the human imagination. Everything is merely energy. It is the perception of how that energy evolves that makes it evolve into various concrete forms. When a human woman remembers or foresees an interaction with a God, her womb accumulates the energy of a planned birth but as the spark is not transferred into her, the energy does not materialise into an actual dragon but is just an imaginary replica.
– You said they were neither flesh nor spirit but a combination of both. What does that mean ?
– They are not made with an actual sperm, unlike when the interaction is between humans but are made with the spark that is transferred by the God into the woman. That spark then evolves into a dragon in the womb of the woman
– Does it not kill her when it comes out of her ? She was thinking back to the various alien movies
– It does not, because it just dematerialises out of her womb and rematerialises outside. As I said, they are a combination of flesh and spirit and can be either one or the other depending upon the circumstances.
– Can all women be impregnated by Gods ?
– Not all. Only some and not all are able to give birth to dragons. Some just give forth immaterial beings because they are not able to imagine the dragon into the world.
– This is quite confusing. I never thought it would be like this. Why were some of the dragons cuddling up to me.
– That is because you are their mother
– What ? Her head was spinning again like when she had first realised who he was.
– You are their mother, he repeated softly
– With whom ?
– I think you already know that by now
– It can’t be. I thought it was all part of my imagination
– It is
– I’m so sorry.
– It does not matter
– How can we use them in the battle then ?
– They get their power from their father and it helps provide the energy required to counter the Gods of the dark and their armies. When you house the Mother, it will all become clear.
– House the Mother? What do you mean ?
– I think you know that too. You must remember that you have already housed her before
– Housed her ? When ?
– Not so long ago. Unfortunately it did not work out exactly as planned and it is just as well as the children of the world in between were not ready yet.
She vaguely remembered the great light that had come like a torch of fire and gone into her eyes. It had seemed like a bird of flames and she had not been able to run away or close her eyes. That light had penetrated her through the eyes and had filled her being. She looked back at him
– Yes, he said before she voiced her question
– That was the Mother ? Why did she leave then ?
– Well there was a lot of meddling that happened. Instead of her being manifested into you naturally, there were some people who tried to accelerate the process, spoiling it
– Too many cooks…, she said wryly.
– If they had not meddled with the process the integration would have been complete. Unfortunately they wanted to control the process apparently to ensure they could use it to their benefit I imagine.
– But how can I house her now ? Should she not be within the body of a young and physically fit woman ?
– That is not what is most important. Besides, once the Mother dwells within you and the integration is complete you will be transformed
– Why me ?
– The Mother does not choose mere beauty. She can create it out of nothing, even in this world if she were to wish so. She wanted someone who would not follow religious dogma but would be a seeker of spirituality. Someone who had just enough balance between the right brain and the left brain to be able to keep their imagination alive while being well versed in mathematics and with an interest in science. A woman with courage, endurance and balance. Someone whose skin she would feel comfortable in, a lover of art and the spoken word.
– I do love words, she said with a smile
– Do you know that words, spoken in a certain way and with the right intention allow the manifestation of thoughts ? The ancient people of this world knew that and were able to create things through the use of carefully selected words
– You mean magic spells ?
– Yes, if you wish to call it that. It is merely the manifestation of focused intention.
– How do you know someone meddled with the process of the integration, she asked, curious about that episode that had seemed so hazy now.
– The Mother and I are not absolutely sure if they wanted to accelerate the process or stall it. What we know is that they gave you a drug a few days before the Mother was about to transfer a part of her consciousness into you. That drug interfered with your chemical balance and made the transfer of the Mother into you unstable. If it had not been for that, the integration would have been complete.
– Why does the Mother need to integrate with me.
– She needs to be within this world to transform it from the inside out. That is the best way to conquer it back. If she comes as the Mother, she will not be able to interact with all human beings alike. She needs a human envelope to enable that interaction. She does not come here to be worshipped but to change the state of things in this world, beginning with the condition of women.
– Why women ?
– Simply because they nurture and when their lives are better, there will be less fear in the world. As you know, a world without fear is a world that will belong to us again. Then humanity can enter the Golden Age.
She looked at Horus and looked back at the dragons. She wondered how they would be contributing their energy. Would they know about their father ? Would they not want to fight alongside him instead of with the Mother, Horus and her ?
– Dragons are more loyal to their mother than to their father, he said. He seemed to be reading her mind again
– How do you know that ?
– I know that because the ones we had together chose you over me
– The ones we had together ? Her head was reeling now
– I know this is all a lot to digest but when Settesh realised that the dragons birthed would not follow him, he stopped making them with you. The Mother knew we needed more dragons so asked me to make more with you.
– And I did not have a say in all of this of course, she said slightly bitterly
– It is done now. It had to be done. You barely realised the difference
She looked again at the dragons and felt something strange between fascination, motherly pride and love. They looked so cute, she could not believe that they would become huge and powerful beyond her wildest dreams. Horus was now communicating silently to her that soon the mother would be back and she must be ready for her. The children must also evolve so they could play their part. All she had to do was think of them evolving, perceive it happening and it would happen. She looked back at the dragons and imagined them growing. The more she imagined, the more she felt they were actually growing.
She put the kettle on the fire and reached for the tea leaves in the tin on the shelf above the stove. The tin had again been displaced by her mother-in-law it seemed. She did indeed find it in the lower shelf under the stove. She wondered why her mother-in-law even bothered to do that as she never made tea for herself but came to her instead, even if it were in the middle of the night. Shanti hated how her mother-in-law would storm into their room whining that her throat was hurting her and that nobody had given her any tea or any milk and honey before she had gone to bed. She knew very well that her mother-in-law was lying as she remembered having given her whatever she asked for before but her husband would still growl and ask her to tend to his mother properly.
It pained her that she had to take care of everything relentlessly and that nobody in the house thanked her for it, on the contrary. It pained her more to think that her own mother was alone back in India since her dad had passed away and that her husband would not allow her to bring her to live with them. He did not have a problem keeping his mother in their house but always found excuses for why they could not have her mother with them. She felt anger at the age-old traditions well inside her. It was always the woman who had to give up her home, her name, her family and serve the family of her husband. When she thought about all the books she read and how they spoke about emancipation, she felt a bitter laugh rise in her throat. All that education just for making tea and meals now for a grumpy old woman. She felt like a slave and it was ironically even worse than that considering that her father paid a high price for that slave condition.
She had had so many dreams and her mother had kept feeding her more dreams, telling her that all she had to do was succeed in her studies and she could do anything. Unfortunately when her dad had decided that she needed to be married to one of their distant cousins abroad, her mother never spoke a word. She and her father both pretended it was in her best interest as her future husband was living abroad and she would have better chances to find a job and use the university degree she had got. It was all make believe as they knew well that he came from a very traditional side of the family who only wanted women to be educated so they could have a better match. None of the women in his family had ever made it to a paid job despite their higher studies. She winced as she took the vegetables out of the fridge and hit her hand against the door. Her hand was still hurting her from when her husband had twisted it. He had apologised but it was not the first time and she had started to understand that it would not be the last.
She slowly started dicing the vegetables. Her mother-in-law peeped through the kitchen door. « Still cutting the vegetables. When will the curry be ready ? » she yelled. « Where is my tea ? » she continued, almost in the same breath. She seemed to be hiding something in her saree’s hip area. Shanti followed her out of the kitchen and watched as she put what seemed to be a letter inside the drawer. She waited as she knew her mother-in-law would soon be going to the toilet. As soon as she shuffled out of the room, Shanti swooped into it and took the letter from the drawer. It was addressed to her and was from an aunt. She ripped it open, a bit confused why her mother-in-law was hiding a letter sent to her. In it her aunt asked why she had not come to her mother’s funeral. She put the letter down in shock. She was supposed to speak to her mother that weekend.
Normally, her cousin would go to her mother’s house every three weeks to ensure that she was able to use the video chat of whatsapp as her mother could not figure out how to use the device and the elderly neighbours were not of much help. It was no point calling her when she was alone as she would never hear the phone ringing despite the number of times that her daughter would call her. She had become quite deaf with age so it was a very complicated process to get in touch with her and speak to her. The letter mentioned she had been buried almost two weeks before. It was shortly after she had spoken to her that her mother had passed away. She wondered why nobody had got in touch with her to let her know that over the phone. She read on and realised that her cousins had called and delayed the funeral but they had reached her husband who had not passed on the message. She remembered now why. He was due to go to a convention that week and did not want to have to find an alternate solution for his mother.
Her mother-in-law came back and found her with the letter. She sniffed and snorted and pretended that she was not aware of what was going on. Shanti started asking her why they had not told her. Her mother-in-law pretended again she was not aware of what Shanti was talking about. Shanti started screaming with tears of rage and hurt streaming along her face as she held her mother-in-law by the shoulders asking her again and again why they had not told her. Her mother-in-law’s attitude infuriated her. All of a sudden she felt somebody haul her from the shoulders, throw her on to the ground and kick her in the stomach. She realised it was her husband. « Don’t you ever dare touch my mother » he yelled. She thought that it was rich. She had not touched the old grouch and instead he was the one hitting her. She tried to sit up and felt a searing pain go through her belly. She seemed to be bleeding at the bottom of her dress. Her mind was swirling. He had kicked her in the belly which was still terribly painful. Why was she bleeding down there ? Her mind went blank and she blacked out.
When she woke up in the hospital the nurse told her softly that she had lost her baby. She was sore all over but barely felt any grief for the baby. All her grief was turned towards her mother and the ache of not having been able to be there for her funeral was just eating at her. She felt terrible but she was not sure that she wanted that baby at all when she thought of it. Now that her mother was gone she could finally go away and be free and if the baby had lived, she would never have been free. When her mother was still alive she would not have wanted to cause her any shame but she did not care what the rest of the family thought. She knew that she would not stay with her husband once her parents had passed away. This was not the life she had wanted for herself and she had never been the kind who would take abuse. She had only kept quiet so her parents would not feel bad and she had not asked for a divorce because she had known how crushed her parents would have felt with the shame. Theirs was a traditional family after all.
When she returned home she picked up her clothes and piled them up in her suitcase. Her husband had stayed back at home and followed her his fist raised as if to strike her. She lashed out at him when he attempted to. She was no longer going to take it silently. He lunged at her again and she struck back. It was a bloody battle, with her scratching and biting and him striking. At the end he won of course with his brutish force and she lay on the floor bruised and battered, her belly aching again. At the end of the argument he had taken her passport and burnt it on the stove. She had tried to retrieve it but it was all charred. It would take her several weeks now to be able to get a new one. She could not imagine staying another day in this house but she would still have to wait until the next morning before she ventured out as she had no money and no documents to identify her. She went to the stove and put the kettle to make herself some tea hoping it would help ease her belly pain. She could hear her mother-in-law creep into the kitchen. It felt like déjà-vu except that it seemed to have a more sinister feel to it.
She turned around just in time to see her mother-in-law splash some liquid on her dress, face and arms. As the liquid reached her, she could see it lighting up like a wave of fire all around her. She realised that her mother-in-law had thrown some inflammable liquid on her. She could smell her skin burning and she tried to run and find something to put the fire out but the old woman pushed her with her cane. Suddenly she was not so frail and plaintive anymore. She hissed in a horrible voice while she struck her with the cane at her forehead « That’s for lacking respect to my son. He is hundred times your worth ». Shanti fell to the ground, her body writhing with the combination of pain from her belly and the burning. She tried smothering the fire by rolling on the floor but the flames kept licking at her as the old woman kept spraying her with the liquid. She could see her husband’s face appear at the kitchen door. He looked aghast at what was happening as he watched his mother bathe his wife in alcohol while she was burning. « Mother, how could you ? What are we going to do now » was the last thing Shanti heard.
When the ambulance arrived, she had been severely burnt all over her body. She passed away the same night. Her husband told the police that his mother and her were cooking in the kitchen and all of a sudden the bottle of alcohol they were keeping to clean items had spilled over on his wife’s clothes making them catch fire. He explained that his mother had tried to help but owing to the fact that she was old and walked with a cane she had tripped and slipped instead making the whole bottle spill over his wife. He had just come in to see that happening and had quickly gone to look for a blanket to smother the flames on his wife but she had continued to burn. The police did not find his story very credible given the amount of scratch marks and bites all over him and the bruises all over the parts of his wife’s body that were not burnt. They charged him for murder in the first degree. His mother watched and whined plaintively as they took him away in the courthouse. She would have to go back to the village now and live with one of her other sons who had not done so well and gone abroad. All because of that stupid Shanti she thought.
Shanti’s husband sat in a corner of the prison courtyard. There were a lot of inmates who despite being hardened criminals did not take kindly to men who beat up their wives who could not defend themselves. Some of them were eyeing him and planning on teaching him a lesson. The bell rang for lunchtime. He plodded along with the rest of the prisoners knowing that things were not going to be so easy for him in here. This was his first day in prison and he was already regretting that he had not told the police it was his mother who had killed Shanti. Would they have even believed him, anyway ? They would have simply thought he was trying to pin it on her using her as a scapegoat. He reached the dining area. There was a sickening smell coming from the kitchen area. He knew that smell.
The prisoner at the counter smiled at him. « Meat for your first day, you lucky bum» he said smiling. The man had not heard unlike the others why he was in prison. Shanti’s husband looked down at the meat. That sickening smell. « I can’t eat it » he screamed. « I need to eat everything raw. Raw, you hear me ? Raw, raw, raw ! » he continued screaming as he tried to throttle the man at the counter. He seemed to have lost his mind. His eyes were glazed and he was frothing at the mouth. He screamed and kicked while they carried him out of the dining room and into the infirmary. He never recovered speech but he only got raw food since then or there would be another scene of him turning into a madman again. He ate his food quietly in the corner. The other inmates did not even bother teaching him a lesson. He was like a ghost, barely noticeable as he had thinned down a lot. Nobody bothered talking to him and none of his family members asked for him. From time to time the prison psychiatrist met him and when she asked for him, the guards would only answer referring to him with the nickname he had earned there :« Raw ».
According to Wikipedia “In 1995, Time Magazine reported that dowry deaths in India increased from around 400 a year in the early 1980s to around 5800 a year by the middle of the 1990s. A year later, CNN ran a story saying that every year police receive more than 2500 reports of bride burning. According to Indian National Crime Record Bureau, there were 1948 convictions and 3876 acquittals in dowry death cases in 2008. India reports the highest total number of dowry deaths with 8,391 such deaths reported in 2010, meaning there are 1.4 deaths per 100,000 women.”