Panchakanya: A Tale of Five Women

Preeti is getting ready for school after a year. She is little nervous and worried. Radha, Preeti’s mother is trying to encourage her, ‘Preeti, you are my sweet, dearest and intelligent daughter. You have to learn so much, right? Don’t worry; your friends are waiting for you.’ Preeti is a 7 years old chubby with so much intelligence. She is such an adorable child. Her presence made the whole neighborhood so lively and when she laughed, it would be echoed all over. But, the situation is different now. 

It’s been a year that she had been raped by a 17 years’ old guy from the area. The boy was like a brother to her. Who knows what lies within a brotherly embrace? The boy took an advantage of the innocent child when no one was present at home. It was a nightmare to the family. Since the very day, there was haunting silence in the family. Preeti was unaware of what happened to her. She was told that she is unwell and will recover soon. She was critically injured and hospitalized for a year. 

And after a year, Preeti is finally backed to her home. Radha does not want Preeti to be miserable. Being single mother, it was a very hard time for her. But, she doesn’t want her daughter to suffer for the plight. Radha had already arranged dates for school so that Preeti would be busy in her studies. Preeti’s friends arrive at home to go to school together. She is pulled by her friends, at the mean time she glances back to Radha, waiving her hand with a humble smile. Radha responds with teary eyes and stares until Preeti is beyond her sight. Radha has suffered a lot in her life. She decided to divorce her husband after she came to realize about his extra-marital affair. Instead of supporting her decision, family as well as the whole society was against her. She was considered as a character of hatred and shame. 

With a heavy heart, she had to migrate to some other place with her only daughter. She had created her own world there. By profession, she was a health worker. She had worked really hard to earn love and respect from the people around. Preeti was also doing well. This had healed her pain to some extent but then eclipse occurred in her life again; Preeti’s rape case. Worst part is, the convict is still missing. She was completely shattered. Bishal helped her with his whole heart. Oh! I forgot to introduce, Bishal is a childhood friend of Radha. He has an NGO working on the health issues so it was easier for her to get the job. And to be frank, he was deeply in love with Radha. His childhood crush had turned to his lady love but he feared to confess it to her. He was there for her, every time she was in trouble. He appeared like an angel to their lives. Be it the treatment of Preeti or any other problem, he was a true friend indeed. 

Every time Bishal arrives at home, Preeti rejoices. Radha too, wasn’t unaware about the situation. She could sense the relationship being developed between Preeti, Bishal and herself. Bishal was fulfilling the love and care of a father that she lacked. She was just acting to be indifferent. Suddenly, Bishal arrives in front of her, holds her hand tight and says, ‘Radha, I tried really hard not to let my feelings conquer me but I am defeated. I loved you since the 4th standard and still I am madly in love with you. I don’t know what do you feel about me but if given a chance I promise, I will love you and Preeti immensely. You both are my world and would never let anything or anyone hurt you.’ 

Radha replied, ‘Give me a time to think.’

She is standing at the edge of the cliff, recollecting all those memories she spent with her boy friend. Those days were the most cherishing moment of her life. Smriti couldn’t believe that Bishwas has deceived her. What actually had happened?
Smriti is a beautiful teenager born with the silver spoon on her mouth. She was in the best school of the city and never had short of any things in her life. But, there was something no one knew. Something was weakening her deep inside. She had no close friends. She had no interest in studies, sports or any extra- curricular activities. Her only friend was her iPod. She always had earphone plugged into her ears. She was lost somewhere .And the reason behind this was her worst family relation. Her parents were very busy person and had no time for her and even if they were at home, they always quarreled like cat and dog.

But things changed when a new boy appeared in the school. Bishwas, a very good-looking, smart, decent boy, had caused butterflies fly in the stomach of almost all girls of the class. Of course, love sprouts at this age. It was a regular day for Smriti and as always she was lost in music.

‘Hey, what are you listening to?’ asked Bishwas.
‘Somebody’s me by Enrique’ Smriti replied in a rude tone.
‘Oh,really. That’s my favorite. Would you mind sharing the ear- phone?’ requested Bishwas in his regular decent tone.
But without Smriti could say anything, he grabbed the ear-phone and started humming the song. That’s how it started. They became friends; Smriti’s one and only best friend. He appeared as an autumn in her life bringing all the happiness she was deprived of. By the end of the year, Smriti had completely transformed.

And most obviously, she was silently in love with Bishwas. There was not a single moment when she did not think about him. She wanted to express her love but feared the consequences. But luckily, the feeling was mutual. Smriti and Bishwas made an adorable couple.

Teenage is a very crucial period. It can lead into a mishap if not taken care. No one had ever imagined that the plight of the most adorable couple would turn so horrible. Their intimacy had resulted what should not have taken place. Smriti was pregnant at the tender age. And worst part is that Bishwas blamed Smriti for trying to ruin his career. Smriti was in a hopeless state. She had no idea what to do, whom to share her problem with. Forget about her parents, Bishwas was her one and only friend.

He had started avoiding her and claimed the baby to be the result of her entertainment with some boys around. She was devastated in summer love. This led her to choose the best option i.e suicide. At the moment, a song was being played in her iPod. It sang ‘Good-bye my lover!’ and there she goes like a mermaid into the white splashes of water.

‘Akanshya, I have already said that I don’t like you to arrive home late. Are you unaware of the situation out? Men are like vultures, looking a chance to devour you up. Oh God, when would you be able to understand’- mom lectured. 

This was not something new to her. Akanshya had been listening this since the time immemorial. She belongs to a very strict, educated Brahmin family. She is doing her Bachelors in Agriculture Science. She is a very talented, friendly and amazing person. Her academic record was excellent.

Belonging to a very conservative family, she had never worn dress that displays her beauty. She had a tomboy dress codes with a big wrist watch to be always aware about the time. She was never meant to be late from school, forget about the picnics, outings. She had no idea about having fun with friends, hanging around. She was so much limited and every time she asked for a permission to visit her friends her father would say,’ Girls from a decent family don’t go here and there. It is not good to walk with your “so-called” friends and laugh like hooligans. They are not trustworthy. And boys, they just are looking some chances to flatter. You are wise enough to understand. Decide yourself.’ 

And only thing she could do was nod silently and return to her study room. But, her life had a U-turn after she got enrolled in IAAS, Chitwan. She was far away from her home and could experience whatever she was devoid of. She was very much outspoken and known for her friendliness. In course of her studies, she had to travel so many places that she never imagined she would be able to do. Traveling has become her passion. And she was enjoying the explorations. 

Obediently, she seeks permission with her parent every time she comes across any field-based works. She has to assure them that at least a girl is with her during the trip. She has to explain everything and she has no bitter feelings doing so because she thinks that parents have right to know. They are worried about her safety coz they are aware about the society. During her visit to various places and meetings with many people, she has also realized that everyone is not trustworthy. Men are cunning like a fox and good like a cow too. She has to be able to differentiate. 

But the limitation still exists. Lately, she has been trying to convince her father to let her visit far-western Nepal. This was one of her favorites and most awaited work but there lies a big hurdle. She is the only female amongst the group of men. She was damn sure that her father wouldn’t let her go. But still, with a minimal hope she asked him and as expected he burst out with agony, ‘Are you out of your mind? I hadn’t expected this sort of behavior from you, Akankshya. Have you ever imagined what does our society say to such woman? How can you be so disrespectful to me? What do you know about men, huh? You will drive me crazy. This sort of activity can lead to lifelong disaster. Tell me one thing, who would be responsible if anything wrong happens with you? The only thing you can do then is jump into Rani-pokhari.’blah blah. 

Akankshya speaks out boldly, ‘Baba, till when will you be there to protect me? In the days to come, I may have to work with only men around. What shall I do then, quit the job?’ 

This was the first time, she raised the voice of revolt and it was infuriating to her father.

He yelled, ‘You have turned very indiscipline. And yes, now you are under my supervision. You are responsible towards me and later to your husband. So, stop this nonsense and focus on your studies. If the situation continues, I have to immediately get rid of you. I think I have to look after a guy to bear your responsibilities.’

With eyes full of tears, she rushed towards her room. She was so much hurt by his words. We could see how she has transformed. She just can’t agree whatever was being told to her. She was in mental conflict; either to follow her instincts or accept whatever is decided for her.

The emergency room was full of people; some were sobbing, while others were chatting with themselves. In the bed a semi-burnt body was protected within an incubator. Sita, 38, was seriously burnt and was in very critical state. Police arrived later and her brother had to go through the rigmarole of procedures as per the investigation.
He sobbed, ‘Sir, they have been torturing her since marriage. She was beaten several times inhumanely demanding for dowry. We are not well off to fulfill all their wishes but still we tried. Still, they did not stop abusing her. This time they conspired her to be a witch and brutally injured her. That was not enough and they burnt her alive.’ Sita was stripped‚ beaten mercilessly and fed human faeces for allegedly practising witchcraft. She was critically injured after the miscreants thrust a stick into her anus and later burnt alive. What sort of behavior is this? How can somebody stoop so low just for the sake of some dowry. 

Tulmaya is peering out through the wooden-carved window. The street was busy with people moving here and there; wearing their best attires; putting red tika on their forehead and jamara swinging on the head. But unlike the rest, she was there lying stationary with her shabby choli and old dhoti. While the whole country was celebrating Dashain, she was just a bystander. 

She is staying at an oldage home near Pashupatinath. Every morning she gets up at 4 am, visits the nearby temple, prays for a while then return back. ‘Happy Dashain, aama!’- I wished her. She gave a short smile and blessed me, ‘How are you? Oh, you have grown up so fast.’
I knew her since I was a child. She was our neighbor and was very nice to us. She was happy in her small world; her husband, son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
‘I am good aama, and you?’ 

I could see how time can transfigure a person. She was so beautiful and fine. Now, her face had wrinkled and turned dull. She was coughing almost every time. Suddenly, tears rolled down her eyes, reached cheeks and still falling.
‘No matter how badly they treated me, they are still my children. It is better to be browbeaten by them than staying here with the strangers. I wish I could die seeing them. I miss them so much.’

I remember how her world turned upside down after the demise of her husband. The way her son, daughter-in-law and even grandchildren tortured her was so much intolerable. I also heard that they tried to kill her so many times that she had to escape. And with nowhere to go, she took a shelter in the oldage home. It’s been 17 years already. It’s really strange, how a child can act so inhumanely with his own mother; the one who gave birth to him, nurtured, and made him capable enough. And when the time comes to pay her back, he kicks her out of his home.
Since, then she is living the lonesome life. She spends most of her time praying to God, chanting hymns, crying silently. ‘I hope my children are very happy and wish they have to suffer no problems in their life.’ She prayed with a wrinkled smile.

All these stories are occurring every day in our society.
A recent government survey found that 47 percent of all women report being the victims of either physical, emotional, sexual or economic violence. But 84 percent of those who are victims of domestic violence remain silent. The situation is dire. It is also observed that the countries that are most conservative have the biggest problem with sexual violence against women and human trafficking.

There are hundreds of Sita and Radha in our society; seeking justice and struggling hard for their better future. We are not fighting against the men; we are just revolting against the orthodox practices that have been affecting our society. We are born with this malady of the spirit inherited from our orthodox norms and values. We confine ourselves within the Plato's cave of shadows. We ourselves have wrapped our wings.
And in order to have a prosperous society, All members must be productive, both sexes!
So, Women widen your mentality, Go beyond the boundaries.

 Woman has different roles; daughter, sister, wife, daughter-in law, sister-in law, a friend. Above all, the most challenging is to be a Mother. She bears all those pains with a smile and gives a new life to the baby. She does everything for the baby. It becomes her life. She has to nurture as well as get tortured?

As De Beauvoir says, “One isn't born woman but becomes woman"
It is also ironical that election manifestos of different parties are not interested in reducing gender based discrimination. Women are never minority to be reserved as there are as many women as men on earth. In Nepal, we hear reports of women being tortured, raped, accused of witchcraft and being brutally killed every day. They face sexual harassment in all spheres of life. We may not have a father, a brother or a husband everywhere to save us from ‘dangerous’ men. How can a same man be Ram as well as Ravan; on one side he is so much possessive about his female members and on the other hand he is so much violent and aggressive with other women of the society. We just want men to treat us as a normal person and respect us.

Just remember, that you have the ability to end things that you don't like and to say something isn't okay when it isn't okay. You have the power to insist on good and real things for yourself. You always have the choice to walk away when you are not being treated with respect and most of all you have the right to make adjustments regarding anything and everything to your life. Life is the sum of all YOUR choices. WE RISE!!


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