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A wait for Eighteen

I have never been so glad to write. It is because I saw a happy face. This morning, I reminiscence the happy face and I decided to write to you. This is about Jaya, the new girl who has come to Mekhi’s Home. She came to our ‘home for the women’ on a Wednesday. Then the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of Lucknow called us up and told us that there is a girl who is eight months pregnant and needs help.  Jaya hails from a small town close to Kanpur. She was a minor and according to her documents, she is just fifteen years old. She is a school girl who fell in love with Gopal, a boy from her own village and later on they married each other. The story begins when she informed her father that she is love with Gopal. Everyone in the village knew Gopal, because he was from the same village. Marrying someone from the same village is often viewed as a bad omen for a prosperous family life.Further, families don’t encourage it because there is a taboo attached to “Love” marriages. “Love” marriage is not really encouraged in many parts of India. Any “Love” marriage will instigate a series of gossip among the villagers. When her Father came to know that his daughter was in love with a boy of the same village, he was angry. Jaya told her father that she wanted to marry Gopal. He insisted that she break away from the relationship, because Gopal is from the village and it was unacceptable! Nevertheless Jaya and Gopal continued to meet. Her father now resorted to harsher means. Jaya told us that her father was beating her regularly. He told her that he would kill her and Gopal if they continued to meet. 

Early in the month  of June, Jaya informed her father that she is pregnant. Her father was enraged. However the father pretended to be calm as if he had expected it all. He then told Jaya to run away from the village along with Gopal to some place and get married to him. He also gave her Rupees 2500 for her expenses for the wedding. Jaya thought she had her father’s blessings. But it was better this way so that the family will not be dishonored. Then the wedding was conducted with the assistance of Gopal’s family.   The happy wedding was not to end well. The police came in search of Gopal and Jaya in few days. Jaya’s father filed a case against the Gopal, accusing him of kidnapping a minor girl and forcing her to marriage. The Father also alleged that Gopal was a drug addict. Gopal was arrested on a non-bailable offense. Jaya was asked to go back to her Father’s house. However Jaya was scared and informed that she would not go back to her Father. She informed them that her father has a history of physically abusing her and so she will not go to her father’s house again. It was then that the Child Welfare Committee took the case up. The CWC asked us if we could take care of Jaya, because we were perhaps the only people  who have the passion and facility to take care of pregnant women in Uttar Pradesh. She was brought into the home on Wednesday. 

I did not meet her then. But two days back I went to the safe Haven  for some errands. I wanted to meet Jaya as well. As I was allowed into the sitting area, I saw a small hand close the door of the bedroom. After a while Jaya came out.  She was of small stature and her face clearly told her age. She held her right hand against her waist and her eyes stooped to the concrete floor. Her complexion was pale yellow, that for a moment, I thought she was anemic. Her hair was tied tight backward that allowed no loose strand  from the darkly oil-shined hair. I could smell almond oil from her bowed head. She wore a loose cotton maxie that flowed until the heels. I introduced myself, but she already knew me. She walked slowly towards the door and away, as she did not know what else to do. Rani, the other inmate was already sitting at the other end of the table, talking to me. Rani had already grown comfortable with me.  It's been seven months since the birth of Daivik (Rani’s son). I asked Jaya to sit along with Rani. Rani then looked at Jaya with an assuring smile. I knew what Rani was trying to tell Jaya. “you are safe here and there is nothing to worry about”. 

Jaya is 17 years old. She wants to be with her husband. She says Gopal is a very loving man. However he will be released only once Jaya turns eighteen.  Jaya will then have the right to live with the man she loves. Until then she has to patiently wait: wait to turn eighteen.

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