Ranjini walked in with a cup of coffee. "Amma, get up and have this!" There was no reply. "Amma please! Just because you cry nothing will change. You will only spoil your health." Slowly Padma took it. As Ranjini turned to leave, she asked, "Don`t you feel angry Ranjini?" Her daughter shot back a no-nonsense glance and left the room.
It happened almost a year ago. Then Major Ashok`s family lived in Bangalore. The Major had chosen the city for his retired life. His wife Padma and daughter Ranjini loved everything about the city. Ranjini worked in a Multinational Bank and her parents spent time socialising. Life went smoothly until that black day.
Ranjini was used to working late and returning at ungodly hours. But on that fateful day, a mob of unruly drunken youths abducted her. What followed, I needn`t explain. Ranjini fell prey to those insane beasts.
Though she was devastated, Ranjini rallied back quickly. She wanted to put behind the shattering event and get ahead in life. She applied for a transfer, which she got immediately. The family moved to Chennai.
Major Ashok was adamant that a complaint should be filed and the culprits should not go scot-free. Ranjini was clear and firm in her reply.
"I really respect and honour our law and the system. But I also know that there are a lot of flaws and loopholes. There is never any witness in a rape case. I cannot produce an eyewitness and am not sure that I can identify those people. I certainly don`t want to make a joke of myself. I firmly believe in justice and I know that they will be punished in God`s court. Please Appa, let us leave the matter here."
Ranjini loved the not-so-fast life in Chennai. She knew very well that the scars inside her would take a very long time to heal. She decided that the panacea was keeping herself occupied. She joined Alcoholic Anonymous as a volunteer. She joined a mime theatre group, which conducted plays about various social issues. She kept herself busy and enjoyed what she did. This gave her parents some respite.
True to her nature, Ranjini made lots of friends and enjoyed their company. One such friend was Prasad. Both of them got along very well and became good friends. Prasad was a humorous person and kept Ranjini laughing all the time with his funny anecdotes and jokes. Soon Ranjini realised that the relationship was assuming a different colour. She thought it was best that she disclose the truth, and did so.
"I`ve told you everything Prasad, I don`t want to hide anything from you. Please don`t decide anything in a hurry. Take your own sweet time. Just remember, whatever happens, you will always be my good friend."
A few days later, Prasad approached her. "Are you free on Sunday?"
"I will be. Why Prasad, what is the matter?"
"I`ll come to your place with my parents. Is that okay?"
Ranjini was guarded in her reply, "Have you spoken to them about this?"
"No, not yet. They will always fulfil my wishes. After all, I am their only son."
"Prasad, I want you to tell them everything. Don`t hide anything from them. Just let me know when you`ll be coming."
Ranjini informed her parents and they were overjoyed. They started building their own dreams. But Ranjini did not grow excited. She remained controlled.
Prasad did not come to office for the next two days. Immediately Ranjini knew something was wrong. Finally when he did come, he looked haggard and dejected. She guessed what had transpired. Prasad was unable to convince his parents. They would not accept an impure girl as their daughter-in-law. He was `very sorry`. He couldn`t go against his parents` wishes. They had threatened to commit suicide. Though Ranjini was expecting such a reply, something deep inside her died that moment.
Ranjini took it in her stride and remained unperturbed. Consoling her parents was the difficult part. With all their dreams crushed, they were inconsolable.
"How come Ranjini, you are always calm and collected?" her mother asked her.
"I think I have reached a stage where, nothing surprises me. I just take things as they come. Amma, I once read somewhere `Never expect life to be fair!"
A few days later, Ranjini announced to her parents her decision to adopt a child. "I know the people at the Adoption agency personally. I am next on their list." At first, Ranjini`s parents were not very open to the idea. Major Ashok tried to explain the difficulties of raising a child single-handedly.
"Ranjini dear, this is a male dominated society. A woman, that too an unmarried woman, playing a single mother, is very difficult", said Padma.
"Ranjini, you know very well, children grow up and ask questions. Adoption, though not taboo anymore, is still a delicate issue here."
"I do understand your concerns. But, I really feel I can bring up a child with your support and blessings. Think of everything we have gone through. A child will do a world of good to us. We really need to re-discover our faith in life. Raising a child will be the perfect way to do it".
"We are really proud of you Ranjini. Our support will always be there for you."
"Thank you Amma. I never thought you would be the first one to accept, thanks a lot".
"Have you any idea, when we might get the call dear? Do we get to choose or..?"
"Appa, in fact the child has been identified."
"Good. Is it going to be a granddaughter or grandson? You know anything about the child, Ranjini?"
"Yes. It is a boy, barely a year old. His mother.... she too was a victim like me. Unfortunately, she never recovered. She lost her health completely and could not withstand the delivery."
There was a stunned silence. Ranjini continued, "The child is in an orphanage in Salem right now. We are waiting for the official papers. In another couple of weeks, he will be here."
That night, after a very long time, Ranjini slept peacefully. She slept with the satisfaction that she was ready to start a new chapter in her life. A chapter, devoid of all norms and conventions.