The truth of being free on paper but chained in reality

On the morning of Independence Day. the roads were deserted and Shiv could drive the tractor down from Alwar to Jaipur in just two and half hours. He had planned to surprise his sister Vandana by making this sudden trip. It had been a year and half of her wedding to the family of rice merchants in Jaipur. During this period, Shiv had come only once to meet her during rakhi last year. His younger brother Raj had probably fallen asleep at the rear end of the tractor. After losing both his parents within a period of six months, Shiv had single-handedly taken up the responsibility of his younger siblings. His father, a poor farmer who toiled in other’s fields hadn’t left behind a single penny.

Shiv started working odd jobs eighteen hours a day to finally buy a piece of land for farming. He had been saving up for Vandana’s marriage simultaneously. Raj had started helping him on the fields. After Vandana got married, the brothers started pulling up money to purchase a tractor. The microfinance firm had lent them a tractor loan three months back.

His heart had always been set on meeting his sister but it was she who kept encouraging him to focus on his work instead. She had always been very proud of her Dadbhaisa (elder brother). He was relieved that she had been married to a decent family that cared about her happiness. That’s what she always told him.

Shiv looked at the boxes of sweets that Raj had bought for Vandana and her in-laws. They had reached the destination. He parked the tractor on the opposite road of the lane where lay Vandana’s marital home. Waking Raj up, he washed his face with the water from the nearby municipality water tap. There were three to four people who were probably on their way to celebrate the day through flag hoisting.

Pic courtesy: Arv

Two old men, dressed in white, walked out of the lane with a medium-sized national flag. They were discussing the ideological differences between Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose. Shiv had studied till class five, so the names were familiar to him.

Suddenly the serenity of the environment was shattered by the shrill voice that had its source inside the lane. The lady was abusing someone in colloquial language about the person’s inability to be of any use in the family. This was followed by the pleading voice of another woman who was begging the other lady to let her inside the house.

One of the old men said, “The drama has started early morning again. Why does this old woman torture the poor daughter-in-law every day when she should actually be putting some sense into the brain of that alcoholic son of hers? They beat this girl so badly and throw her out of the house most of the days without food? On some days, I really feel like calling her family and ask them as to why don’t they take her back? Even stray dogs are treated better than this hapless soul.”

The other man said, “My wife came to know that this girl comes from a very poor family and is an orphan. Probably she doesn’t want to be a burden for her brothers or it could be possible that the brothers have deserted her. Her in-laws have been torturing her since the first week of marriage.”

Shiv’s heart sank while the men went on about their own business. The voice of the sobbing girl had been too familiar to ignore. He was so scared that he didn’t even want to get inside the lane lest his fears came true. But the impulsive and emotional Raj hadn’t waited. He had rushed inside. Shiv saw Raj come out of the lane. He was shaking, ” Dadbhaisa, they were hitting Jiji (elder sister). Those two old men who went away just now had been telling about how they hit her, make her sleep on the streets and don’t even give her food though she does all the household work. Why didn’t she tell us? Why is she tolerating this? Let us take her back right away.” Raj had been shattered.

Seeing that his wails were getting louder, Shiv made Raj sit on the tractor bonnet. He was finding this sudden turn of incidents very hard to believe. He slumped on the tractor seat. Everything that Vandana had told them about her happy life had been a big lie. He saw three street urchins holding a bunch of national flags, They were hoping to make a sale to buy some food.

Shiv pondered, ” Does independence mean anything to people like me who are still chained by financial incapacity? What good is independence day to women like my sister Vandana who are still shackled through gender discrimination and abuse? And what significance does the national flag mean to these street children whose fate is sealed by poverty, hunger, and labor? Has our country really gained freedom?” Tears rolled down his eyes as he realized the common factor of helplessness that connected all of them. His motherland would probably take another seventy-two years to become free from such evils.

Author’s note – Arv runs an amazing blog Jaipur thru my lens. While reading through his blog posts, I had chanced upon this picture. This photograph had such multidimensional interpretation that I had casually told him about my desire to weave a story around it. Without giving it a second thought, he asked me to go ahead and use this picture as a photo-prompt. I am grateful for the faith that you have shown in my story writing ability. I sincerely hope that I have been able to do justice to your thought-provoking snap.

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Who am I? An erstwhile banker turned blogger/writer/author. Any qualifications? A Post-Graduate degree in Chemistry followed by a second Post-Graduate Diploma in Management. I completed a one-year MFA in creative writing course from the Writer's Village University, U.S. in Dec 2020. Though I must admit that I am still trying to figure out how and when I can connect all these dots. Have I done any real work? If two years in market research, six years in banking as a branch head, three-plus years of blogging, writing, and publishing a book can be considered as real work, then yes! Where do I live? After spending life like a nomad for sixteen years in Delhi, Bangalore & Mysore, I am back to where it all started from - Kolkata. My favorite things - Books, coffee, travel, food, and my five-year-old son. What is this blog about? Through Sonia's musings, I intend to explore writing in various genres, create social awareness, spread laughter, and give words to emotions. Anything for readers? You can check out my book 'Deal of Death' on Amazon Kindle. If you like fast-paced thrillers, this Detective fiction introducing the woman sleuth, Raya Ray could turn out to be your perfect weekend read.

20 thoughts on “The truth of being free on paper but chained in reality”

    1. When i read and reached the end of the story, was actually i cudnt believe that i have reached the end because i got totally engrossed in it n was thinking of reading more.Its written beautifully.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m delighted to read this story, Sonia. You are a wonderful “story crafter”. Please let me know if you want to use any other picture that inspires you.
    As for the subject of your story, while the whole focus of women’s liberation in India has been on men, no one really understands that women too are equally guilty. In many cases, mother in law doesn’t want her daughter in law to work or her freedom. It’s a sad case. I feel women should be educated and should undergo some work training so that she doesn’t have to suffer. Financial independence paves way for a better life. Don’t you think so?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember this photo too! You’ve woven a thought provoking story round it . To me this picture suggested indolence and just two men shooting the breeze in the middle of a busy day.
    And I agree with you about the poverty that persists despite the hard work of people. It is truly a shame that our politicians of every hue are the only ones who have benefited from Independence.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully weaved story around Arv’s picture. Wonderful read. Its painful to see how people less fortunate view freedom and what independence day really means to them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely right! And let me tell you, same state here, the whole family is a bit under the weather…so i have not been regular with writing and reading too. Take care dear. Get well soon.


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