Fiction: Shunned (Neenu Kumar)

Proposals for Neelakshi had been coming for past two years. It was not that she was snooty or her parents were very choosy. Both Satinder and Neela wanted someone who would love their daughter. Harish’s proposal was brought by a close friend of the family.

Neelakshi and Harish clicked instantly. Courtship lasted six months. More they knew each other, more they liked each other. Everyone agreed that they were perfect for each other. They were married with all the fanfare both families could afford. 

Harish and his family had no objection to Neelakshi continuing to work after marriage. Her job entailed touring the country to help set up and complete new projects. She would be gone for days. On her return Harish would do everything to make up for lost days. On one occasion it was a diamond ring; then dinner at the exclusive Italian restaurant where booking a table took months; and an expensive designer dress on another.

Friends envied them. Colleagues wondered at the reason behind their happiness. No one could fathom the depth of their love. Every passing day brought them closer as their relationship was built on complete trust.

“I have to go to Chennai for a couple of days. The new project is almost finished. I have to oversee the final completion. I will be leaving on Monday.”
“Alright love. I will be waiting when you come back.”
As always, Harish was there to pick her up at the airport. Neelakshi was not her usual, cheerful self. In fact, something was awry. Dullness dimmed her eyes. Harish was worried.
“What is the matter my love?” Harish asked, taking her hand in his.
“Nothing.” Neelakshi almost snatched her hand back.
“Neelakshi, what is wrong? You are scaring me.”
“Pull the car over. I want to tell you something. No, no. Do not say anything.”
Neelakshi took a deep breath.
“I was raped.”

Harish gaped. He looked at her. Chalk white face, hands clenched so tightly in her lap that her knuckles showed.

“But how? When?”

Harish’s heart was thudding so fast he felt it would come out of his mouth.

“I…I could not find a taxi to go back to the hotel. There was a strike. The CEO, Mr. Murlitharan, asked if he could give me a lift. Before I knew it, Director Mr. Prakash, Senior Manager Rakesh and Murlitharan’s secretary Anil also entered the car. Everything happened so quickly. They took me to a guest house and took turns raping me.”

Neelakshi was speaking matter-of-factly, as if a recording was playing.

“Mom, I am divorcing Neelakshi. No arguments, no explanations.”

Neelakshi was dumbstruck. She was reminded of a role she had played in a college play.
‘Yes, I am Ahilya, who was cursed to turn to stone by her husband Rishi (sage) Gautama for sleeping with Lord Indra, who had come to her cottage looking like her husband. Literal of figurative, it was a woman’s fate to suffer the burden of man’s lechery.’


GLOSSARY
Ahilya — She was the wife of Gautama rishi (sage). Indra ‘violated’ the ‘renowned’ rishi-patni (wife of a sage) Ahalya. Gautama rishi cursed her to turn to stone.

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Bio-Note: Dr. Neenu Kumar teaches English at Aditi Mahavidyalaya, University of Delhi. She is recipient of numerous awards: Best Teacher Award (2014-2015) conferred by N. C. T. of Delhi, Certificate of Honour by Aditi Mahavidyalaya for College-Lecturer Award-2015 for outstanding academic achievements, Ecologist and Environmental Health Educationist Award and Social Worker and Nutrition Educationist Award in 2017 and 2018 respectively. She has co-edited a book Prawasi Sahitya Prasang. She has presented papers at several International and National Conferences. Kumar has published many articles in books and journals and many poems in books. Instagram: @drneenukumar

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