Love or Faith
The midwife put the little baby in Surender’s trembling hands. Surender could not take his eyes off the all red and pink baby who lay there with her eyes shut. Suddenly he noticed that the baby, with her tiny fingers, was holding on to one of his fingers. His heart missed a beat. What an angel she was! She was his just born daughter; a daughter after two sons. He had been praying with all his heart for a daughter, and his prayers were answered. He named her Pari.
Surender loved all his three children but Pari grew up to become his weakness. After waking up every morning Surender, with his eyes still shut, would find his way to Pari’s room and standing near her bed, he would gently open his eyes to her sleeping face. Softly planting a kiss on her forehead, he would start his day. In all the past twenty two years, nothing ever could change this. His wife Promila would lovingly warn him against so much of love, but Surender had just a deaf ear for her advice. Surender was a very conservative person by heart and Promila feared if his love and pampering would make it difficult for Pari to toe her father’s line, blindly. She also knew that if ever there was a clash in belief, between the father and daughter, even love would not be enough for Surender to broaden his outlook according to the times.
Pari grew up to be a beautiful person, with the kindest of hearts and the strongest of will. She was exceptionally good in whatever she did. Her mere presence brought cheer to all around. Everyone loved her and she was the sunshine of the family. Her two older brothers too doted on her and, in fact, they were even more protective towards her than their father. Amidst all this love and protection, Pari blossomed day by day into a lovely flower. But her growing up made her brothers progressively protective and they always had an eye on their little sister. Pari would laughingly tell them that she was perfectly able to take care of herself, but alas! It was in vain. In fact, in college, Pari would find her friends, the ones that happened to be boys, suddenly start maintaining a distance from her. On inquiring she would get to know that such a behavior was thanks to her brothers; who would threaten or sometimes even beat up the boys, who they thought were trying to be friendly with their sister. Neither assurance nor anger could dissuade her brothers from such embarrassing and unfair actions. What was more astonishing to her was that her father too kept silent when he was told about his sons’ over-protectiveness towards their sister. Amidst such love and pampering, which though was stifling at times, Pari grew up feeling blessed.
College was over and Pari wanted to work. She got a good job but in another city, New Delhi. The whole family was shaken up. How could Pari leave home? She staying alone was something that none of them could fathom. Pari was determined. She would go, she said. So Pari left for Delhi, with her father and her two brothers. They wanted to see her settled well. After a week, with hearts like lead, leaving Pari behind, the trio had to return home. Infinite instructions kept on flowing till the cab left for the railway station. Pari also took quite some time to really settle down in a new place, and that too all alone. Time, being ever powerful, taught everyone to adjust to this unexpected event.
Two years flew past and during this time Pari fell madly in love with a boy, Ruhaan, working at the same place. Ruhaan was a very balanced person and he too was head over heels in love with Pari. Everything was fine except that he belonged to a different religion. Like Pari’s, his was also a very conservative family with very rigid beliefs. Though this threatened to be a big road block in their path, both were quite hopeful of their family’s eventual acceptance. Neither wanted to marry each other without their families’ acceptance. So they decided to go to their respective homes on a weekend and tell them about this major decision of their lives.
The weekend arrived and two bombshells were dropped in two different houses. None of the families could believe what they had heard. Their child wanting to marry someone from a different faith! Having full belief in their upbringing and love, they had never anticipated this. There was anger, shock, disbelief and gloom on the face of every member of the families. Surender just went dumb. He did not know how to react. His sons too seemed to have gone into a shell. Pari herself felt very guilty, seeing the pain that she had inflicted on the people who had loved and pampered her all her life. But she was helpless, with her love for Ruhaan. This was the first time in her life that her home, her family, was so sad and sort of lifeless. She could not take it any more and taking leave, she left for Delhi. Ruhaan did the same and met her midway on the bus heading towards Delhi.
The next day, not hearing from Pari, Promila called her up but found her phone to be out of reach. She called her in the evening again, but was a bit surprised that her phone was unreachable again. Late evening too, the same thing happened. Now Promila got worried. Pari would always inform them about her reaching safely, which she had not done this time. To make matters worse, she could not be contacted over phone too. Everyone in the family was disturbed, but they thought that Pari was not contacting them because she was taking time to get over her unpleasant stay at home. Next day too there was no sign of Pari. On contacting her office Promila was shocked to know that Pari was not attending office for the past two days. She further found out that Ruhaan too was still on leave. Where was Pari then, wondered a very disturbed Promila. All sorts of thoughts were troubling her. She suggested to Surender that they should take help from the Police. But she was aghast to hear Surender and her sons asking her to wait, and not to get impatient. As luck would have it, next day’s newspapers carried the story of a young couple having been killed by the girl’s father and her brothers, because she had dared to elope with a boy from another caste, whom she wanted to marry. Honor Killing, they said! Promila was shaken to the core. Has her daughter Pari too met with a similar fate? Surender getting his own daughter killed in the name of honor of the family? Her sons ? Were they also involved? But no, how could this be possible? She didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t hold on any more and confronted her husband and sons.
“Did you all get Pari killed? Just because she wanted to marry against your wishes? How could you do that? Your own Pari? Is this why you don’t want to lodge a complaint with the police? Oh my God! I can’t believe this. I can’t take this anymore.” Promila raved and raved and Surender and their two sons kept looking at her with empty eyes.
It was four days now that Pari and Ruhaan were untraceable. A police complaint had been lodged and the police were making all sorts of inquiry. Surender and his two sons had generally kept mum.
Then suddenly Surender got a call from the Police.
“Pari and Ruhaan have been traced. We are going to get them.”
“What! Where are they? We too want to come with you,” said Surender.
They all set out for the place. It was around a hundred kilometers north from Delhi. They all reached by evening. It was an old warehouse. Surender took the sobbing Pari into his arms. He held out his hands for Ruhaan too. The few men present in the warehouse were arrested. Pari and Ruhaan then narrated their ordeal.
“We were sitting in the bus that was headed towards Delhi. It was dark outside and both Ruhaan and I were heartbroken with our respective visits to our homes. We were thinking how our own happiness could take a back seat for our families; the families who loved us so much? Was religion above love? Did they not trust us to decide for ourselves?” Pari continued.
“Suddenly the bus screeched to a halt. We all looked around and the door of the bus opened. Four men with their faces covered, and with guns in their hands, climbed up. They cast a look at all the passengers and then came to us and dragged Ruhaan and me out. They covered our faces too and pushed us into a van.” Ruhaan took over,
“Those men were jeering at us saying how shameless we were to have put the honor of our families at stake by deciding to marry outside our religion. They told us that they will never let it happen and that we both deserved to be punished. Just then we heard one of them speaking with someone over the phone,
“Sir, we have got them and now they are in the van. Yes, we are taking them where we have been asked to, and will wait for you there,”
Ruhaan continued, “After a few hours the van stopped and we were dragged out. As our faces were covered, we had no clue to where we had been taken.”
Pari muttered, “I could not believe that Papa could do this to me. I was shattered and was waiting to die. After sometime we heard someone speaking again over the phone, saying that the person responsible for our predicament, for some reason, would reach there only after four days and that till then, we were supposed to be kept there safely. Our phones had been taken away by them and we were thrust on chairs with our limbs tied and faces covered. They would feed us themselves and not once did they uncover our faces. I would be taken to the washroom by a woman guiding me.Then today early morning a man, may be the boss, came. He entered the room and on seeing us, started shouting like anything,” said Pari.
“You morons, you have got the wrong couple here. I don’t know them. You fools have let my sister and her boyfriend elope. I am going to kill you for this. Leave these two!” saying this the man stormed out.
Surender and his sons were crying uncontrollably. They hugged Pari tight as if they would never leave her. How could any father or brother even think of harming, forget killing, their dear one, thought they. They loved Pari and had full faith in her choice. Nothing was, or could be, more important to them, than her happiness.
Meanwhile, Ruhaan’s father too had come to Delhi. He too had not been able to contact Ruhaan. Both the fathers met and gave their acceptance to this relationship. Love along with Faith, had bridged all the gaps that once seemed insurmountable!