“Kill him! Kill him!” A masculine mob shouted as it piled beatings at poor Ajit.
“Kill him! How dare he betray us?! He has betrayed our culture! He has ripped apart the cultural parasol of our ancestors. He has gone against our Indian values – kill him!” The dark Indian man charged.
His Punjab suit and finely stitched moustache illuminated the nativity character in him. Ajit lay there on the ground, numb, broken and half dead while gasping for his last breath.
Weeks before fate kicked-open his profound life, he went against the rules of the Punjab community by inducing a campaign for feminism and forced marriage abolishment. It was an Indian custom to have all girls married as soon as they tapped maturity age. No girl was allowed to proceed to tertiary education or get herself a small dynamic job because it was seen as an insult to the Indian society.
“Girls are meant to be wives not workers,” many would say.
Their culture knew not how to embrace women—their obsession for preserving ancient roots was a whirling wind on the skin of civilisation. No girl or woman was to be found guilty of rejecting a marriage proposal or choosing education over marriage. She would have to face the wrath of society.
To them, inequality was never seen as a community disorder. Men were to have more rights than women and gender balance was an already foiled issue. Only a minority of Indians, those in civilized cities to be precise, embraced feminism and saw to it that every girl should be educated before marriage. Despite promoting gender equality, forced marriage seemed to be an infinite trait in the phenotype of all locals.
A dying Ajit cried out in pain with hope that the police would come to his rescue. Unlucky he was as police officers were sent back with flying stones and metal wreckage. It was as though he had committed a deadly crime like rape or murder. Yet he only supported a movement that would have shaped the perceptions of people towards gender equality and the essence of education for the girl child.
After being hospitalised, a few weeks later Ajit’s fate payed him a visit. He gazed at the ceiling, sighed his last breath and embraced death with a heroic legacy. The world lost an important icon. He sacrificed his body for the betterment of life among voiceless girls and women. He was defeated but his plea engraved a revelation of what was to come in the future. A few days later he was cremated and his powdered bones rolled along the waves of Indian Ocean.
Few years later
Dark clouds opened, a beautiful silver lining shone and a fresh aroma wafted in the strands of India, starting from the coolest cities to the remotest areas in the suburbs. A new heroine was born, to fight inequality and breathe in a new life in the heart of India.
“My child, death comes in a small package. I don’t want to lose you because of your women’s rights campaign. Many have come and gone but they failed to change the perception of Indians towards feminism,” Prem said.
“Priyah, my child, this is India not America. Our Indian culture says that a woman doesn’t have to do man’s work, her role is to be a daughter-in-law of a family. I did not invent these laws, I too, found them,” Prem added on, with a slurring sound illuminating his worries over the stubborn Priyah.
She was the only daughter of Prem Singh Gupta, a native Indian who dwelled on the bridge of civilisation and cultural customs. He wanted to see change in his country but his old roots opposed his motive to glide to full civilisation. And his daughter was one good fighter and activist who always dragged along the momentum of leadership and inspiration.
Her helpless father feared the worst from mob brutality in their town. The illiterate ways of dealing with issues marooned fear in him, thinking that his daughter would suffer the same fate as Ajit for going against customary laws and the Indian culture as a whole. Fortunately enough, Priyah had her voice heard by everyone; media houses focused their attention on her. This increased her zeal to fight on and be a mouthpiece to voiceless girls and women.
All she wanted was to axe the forlorn mentality engraved in the minds of native Indians. But the opposing force was much of a greater magnitude than hers.
One Monday evening, a bunch of women who lived nearby, and those from neighbouring towns, staged a protest against her movement. Their enraging anger could be spotted from the frown that was carved on their faces.
You can’t burry our culture! One banner read.
The old women marched, popping voices that formed one colossal melody. From their actions, it was evident enough that Priya’s message was well moulded and sent flying in the air waves. A majority of her peers and other citizens joined Priya’s movement but most definitely it ignited sparks on the country’s soil.
“You won’t scrap off our nation’s tradition!” Protesters chanted.
And there she was, dressed in an engineer’s blue working suit, clad in thick black boots. She went on and faced the protesters. Holding a mini-mega phone, she sighed out her anger, spilled out all her burning rage towards the old women, and it was time to set things right.
“I see! So you’re here to crucify me for supporting the truth, ah? You’re here to tell me that I am destroying the image of women in India? That I am a characterless woman for wanting to be equal as men?” She fired.
The crowd went mute, media personnel quickly rushed in with their flashing cameras, snapping every puzzle of the scene.
“Call me a shameful woman who’s misleading a generation. Call me a mind boggled woman. Call me any name you wish to, but don’t stop me from fighting for my rights as a woman. Don’t stop me from fighting for a voiceless girl’s rights for she wants to have equal rights as men.” she said.
“Most of you here have grown with fear ever since you were little girls. Have you ever asked yourselves what you want in life? Has any of you here valued independence as a woman?” she shot again.
“No! None of you here has thought of herself. You’ve always done what other people please. You’ve always believed that a man is more powerful than a woman,” she said.
“Look at how we are suffering. Tell me, is it wrong for a girl to be educated and become a pillar to herself rather than spending her entire life living like a puppet? Tell me, is it wrong for a girl to have equal rights as a boy rather than spending her entire life swallowing insults and degradation? Com’on, tell me,” she added on.
The crowd began mumbling. Some dropped their banners and started nodding to her enchanting speech.
“Yes, every girl has got to get married and build a family, but what’s the point of building a family when two partners don’t share equal rights as citizens? What’s the point of building a family when one partner is married off unwillingly? Tell me!” she dispatched.
“I’m not here to burry our rich culture. I’m not here to sell off our country’s tradition. I’m not here to act as decoy to our nation’s peace. I’m here to get back the rights we have lost as women and the portion we have chosen not to embrace in gender equality. I’m here to restore the power of women in society. I’m here to give every girl an identity she deserves,” she said.
“If you feel like I’m disrespecting your integrity by choosing to embrace feminism, then so be it. Change has to be seen, women should have their rights back. Every girl’s voice has to be heard, not tomorrow, but today! Every girl has to be educated first and everything else should come later! We have to change our perception towards life and change starts with us!” Priyah sighed out her burning rage.
Everyone one was now putting aside their banners and posters; suddenly a vibrating rhythm popped out as the crowd applauded her courageous speech. Finally her voice pierced through the nut-shelled minds of voiceless women who disguised their fear in black garments.
A few months later she earned herself recognition from around the globe and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for breathing a new life to Indian girls and women. A fearless Priyah went on and dared the stubbornness of Indian dwellers who vowed not to let women have equal rights to those of men in society.
Doors were opened, victory was achieved and feminism was embraced. But one Friday night, Priyah succumbed to the ferocious darkness of Delhi streets and was shot dead. Another icon perished but this time it was a twilight victory over inequality.