It was a very cheerful evening in a long time for me. Being stationed in a town which does not allow me the company I have in my home town or even Mumbai, I was longing for this one. It was a long time since I had been among young people; otherwise most of my days are spent among foul mouthed colleagues (those BC MC types) who are close to the respectable 50 years mark. Only god knows how much respect they do deserve! Anyways, this fine evening, my sister Ash, who is a hotel management student, had called some of her classmates and good friends for a dinner. Chole Bhature and pulao was on the menu, and as they arrived one by one, some arrived later and some kept coming and going, I could sense that they were a happy bunch of kids, and I was happy to be a part of such an evening. One of them was a pretty, medium heighted girl, called Avni. She was quieter than all of them, but whenever she talked, she gathered all the attention. She kept strutting in and out of the guest room, thanks to her constantly beeping cell phone. Between pranks and jokes, one of them asked Avni to recite an Urdu verse, possibly the one which is chanted in the mosque during an “Azaan”. She recited it so well that I liked it, just because it was fairly a long and tongue twisting one. On my asking her that how she managed it, she just smiled, the smile had nothing joyful about it. As all of them left, I just kept visualizing her pretty eyebrows!
This evening I casually discussed about this “blank noise” with my mom and sis. And somewhere in between Avni found a mention. My sis just asked me how do you think she knows that “azaan” so well. I guessed as far as my silly mind could reach. I told because she stays in Panigate(an area mainly inhabited by muslims, which was often razed during the post-godhra riots) she should be hearing it daily and that’s how she memorized it. My sis, too threw a similar smile, which had nothing joyful about it. And thus the story began.
Avni was an engineering student before she joined hotel management. She was forcefully married off by her parents without even checking the background of her “sasuraal”. Within 4 months of the marriage, she decided to part ways with her husband. The reason- after marriage she was sexually harassed several times by her father-in-law, not just her husband. Dowry was not the reason here. Just because she was pretty, she paid the price.
Baroda, my home town is a hot place, and dusty too. Girls while biking here normally do wrap their entire face with a cotton “chunni”, leaving eyes open, to protect them from heat and dust. Avni while driving to college does this so that her husband or any of her relatives do not recognize her. For them she is in Poona, studying. While coming to college she is in the usual uniform, but suppose you want to meet her outside college hours, she will turn up fully clad in a “ burkha”. I was shocked to know this. I feel this may look too simple to read, but imagine the daily trauma she has to go through. I asked my sister, then how did she memorize this verse? Because she wears a “burkha” she is apprehended many a times in the area she stays, and by chanting these verses, she can prove that she is a Muslim. She is just 23, a broken marriage, a society driven by lecherous passions, ever watchful relatives, and thousand such things!
I only pray to the almighty, please accept her every chant of the “azaan”, and let her get some real justice (she has filed for a divorce, but her sick husband is not allowing her that Right even!)
“Why is this world driven by so many extremes? Most of the Women in this country ask for whatever little they could have for themselves, but they are denied even that.”
Action Hero Amit