ByÂ Sumedha Bharpilania:
I am a woman, just another woman; except for the fact that my heart has stopped beating, the blood is not pumping through my veins and I am not breathing the air that you seem to be inhaling at the moment. My being is charred beyond recognition so you will not be able to see the grace that I beheld once upon a time. The radiance that my visage exuded has gone up in flames, the delicate skin that I possessed is nothing but a wrinkled mess and the life that I once lived is now a part of the smoke that has mingled with the air around me.
They said I was pretty, that I would be just right for their eligible son, that I would bring glory to their family, that I would light up their lives. All they wanted was me, I was way more valuable than a trunk filled to the brim with gold, I meant a lot more to them than all the treasures in the world, that I was nonpareil. My parents could not hold back their tears- their daughter would finally get what she deserved- all the joy and a wonderful life ahead. I, on the other hand, found it extremely difficult to conceal the fluttering in my heart under the veil of modesty. Everything was perfect, everything was right; I could not ask for more, I simply could not.
My joy was short-lived; my life that was once filled with ecstasy seemed to come to a close, the castle that I had built with hopes and expectations came crashing down. I was suddenly not as important as I was supposed to be; the material joys that I did not bring with myself came to the fore and magnified themselves in a way that completely overshadowed me. My virtues turned into vices and everything that went wrong was attributed to my actions. My mother-in-law’s kindness and love transformed into something akin to acid being poured down my throat, her husband looked at me the way one would look at a pile of dung, their son’s caring hands turned into those that left me bruised and battered. Sticks and stones broke my bones and words tore my soul apart. I was a burden and nothing else; I could not buy a car, I could not afford the diamonds that would adorn my sister-in-law’s neck. My father thought that the values he had raised me with would be enough for me to lead a good life; he probably did not know that money held a lot more importance than morals ever did.
What was the point of my life? My existence was nullified because I gave nothing in return for what I received. I was an outcast, an object that had no value, a doormat. I was the reason my husband and his family were brought to shame. I could not meet expectations, I was good for nothing. I did not desire to live this way, I was disgusted with myself and thus decided to bring this ordeal to an end. Before I could take my life with my own hands, a pair of hands set me alight, it was as if they read my mind, they completed my task on my behalf. I was free, free like the wind that blows, like the bird that flies, like the ashes I was reduced to. I was free.
India is home to the maximum number of dowry related deaths in the world. According to India’s National Crime Record Bureau, one dowry death is reported every 77 minutes. 7,026 dowry deaths were recorded in the year 2005. A bride whose dowry payments are seen as inadequate is burned to death by her in-laws or husband and the cause of death is listed as a “kitchen accident.” Women are viewed as monetary burdens and child-rearing machines. The problem of gender inequality and the ridiculous traditions that make up our nation do nothing to help. Little time is spent on investigating these events and the law does not really seem to be interested in combating the problem. Awareness is what is necessary to alleviate this evil; otherwise our society will be reduced to flames just like these poor souls were. We need to keep in mind that a woman is always an asset and never a liability; your sons would never get to see the world had it not been for one.