Monday, June 27, 2011

Anything for honor

“Where am I? What am I doing here?”

I opened my eyes slowly as the place I was in started coming into focus. I was lying in the foyer of a house. The whole scene looked as if a battle had taken place recently. Some chairs were overturned and some were broken.

I tried to get to my feet. Was I hurt? As I started to regain my footing, a dull pain started to spread through my ribs. Yes, I was hurt, but not fatally. My bulk has saved me from a serious injury. It was a club that hit me. It all started coming back. It cannot be very long ago, just a few minutes since I passed out I thought.

“I’ve to get to Rajesh sir” I thought to myself.

I tiptoed my way into the backyard, eyes alert, looking for anyone who might still be lurking in the place. Highly unlikely, I thought. As I walked, I saw tread marks of a vehicle, tread marks unlike anything I’ve seen in the house before. I followed them till the back gate of the house before they disappeared on to the concrete road.

I went to the place where I put the one thing I always found useful in these kind of emergencies. I dug it out of the bushes where I hid it and started sprinting through the fields into the darkness. I started to recollect when it all started. It was a routine evening.

Before I get any further with what happened that evening, let me introduce myself. I am Trixie, a five year old, brown black German shepherd dog. At 35 kgs and 65 cms, I was one of the most adorable and feared dog in our little town. I was adorable because of my thick fur and my affability to children and feared by the thieves because I was one of the best and most intelligent police trained dogs in the town. I helped the police in nabbing four drug peddlers, tracked about ten local thieves and helped in tracing two bombs.

In spite of being one of the most intelligent dogs on the police force, I loved the peaceful life of our town. My owner Kamala was a sweetheart who absolutely adored me. And I cared for her no less. Five years ago, she found me in the small wood adjacent to the farms when I was just a pup and dying of starvation. She brought me to her house, fed me, took care of me and gave me a home.

She would spend one hour with me everyday no matter how busy she was. She meant the world to me and it used to drive me into an uncontrollable rage whenever someone one hurt her. Her dad in particular, used to beat her up when he was drunk. After I attacked him once when I was just two years old, he never dared to raise his hand against her again. He simply used to scold her till his drunken mood wore off. After I completed my police training, he stopped doing that as well.

She was the daughter of a farmer, who was one of the many farmers in our little town. Kamala stopped her education after her class 12, because her father was not able to afford her education anymore. But the bright girl she always was, she set up a pickle business with the help of a loan from a self help group and now, at 21 years of age, ran one of the most successful businesses in our town. She was flooded with orders in summer and in the marriage season. She had plans of saving up enough money for her college and marriage. She also wanted to leave her family, marry and settle in another city. I didn’t blame her for it. Her parents were always pestering her for the money which she wanted to save for her college. And there was another reason.

That evening was like any other evening. Kamala and I were on our routine evening walk on the mostly isolated mud road that ran alongside the river that flowed through the village. Kamala, like always had a hard time putting up with my speed as I tugged at my collar hard and ran in random directions smelling the earth.

In a few minutes, we were joined by Ram, who was Kamala’s sweet heart. As usual, her grip slackened as she spotted him coming out from a turn. They started chattering away happily about their future plans. Ram was two years older than Kamala and was a good fellow. He had finished his degree recently and secured a permanent job in a computer firm. Kamala planned on marrying him and moving in with him as soon he found a house and everything. I was happy for them. Kamala made Ram promise her that I would come along with them to the city. I did not complain. As long as am with Kamala, I am a happy dog I thought to myself.

“Don’t you think I should tell my parents before we plan on doing something?” Kamala asked Ram. I could sense a note of panic in her voice. She released her grip on my leash completely and I started moving along with them listening to them and smelling the familiar damp pathway.

“I don’t think they’ll agree Kamala. You know that we are from different castes, and your family is particularly very stubborn. I talked to my parents and they approve of our marriage. But they don’t want to get involved in a fight with your family if it comes to that. I’ll lose the edge as I belong to a lower caste. My parents will end up getting banished by the Panchayat if they stand up against your family. It’s better if we just disappear. My parents will act as if they had no idea of what happened.” Ram said.

“He has a point” I thought to myself. Though Kamala’s family wasn’t really well to do or anything, they carried a chunk on their shoulder that they belonged to a higher caste. They considered speaking to a person of a lower caste as a sin. A marriage was out of question.

“I think. I think we should just leave without telling my parents then.” Said Kamala in a voice muffled with fear and pain. Ram put his arm around her shoulders and started to comfort her. As I walked around, I smelt the exhaust of a vehicle close by.

“Very peculiar” I thought to myself. Vehicles usually don’t come on to this road. As I moved to my left into the thick bushes on either side of the path, I spotted someone lurking behind the bushes and spying on Kamala and Ram. I barked loudly and started running in the direction of the person.

Ram and Kamala ignored me, assuming that I spotted a routine stray cat. The man who was lurking in the bushes was terrified as he saw me, teeth bared, barking angrily and sprinting with great speed in his direction. He ran in the opposite direction into the fading sunset. I ran behind him for a good ten minutes till he got into a jeep and accelerated away.

I remembered that Kamala might be searching for me and ran back to the spot where she would usually wait when I wandered off into the bushes. She was not there. I looked around and spotted a trickle of blood a few feet away from me.

“Ram is in trouble” I thought to myself as I took in his scent. I followed it keenly as it led me the deep bushes on the right of the pathway. “What happened to Kamala?” There was no trace of her scent at the spot I found the blood.

As I ran into the bushes, the smell of his scent mixed with the smell of blood got stronger. I saw his lying face down, sprawled in the grass. He was bleeding profusely from the back of his head. I circled him completely, checking for any signs of other injuries. He was unconscious but not dead. Long experience with the police taught me that I should find help first. I picked up a second scent, probably the man who attacked Ram. It was strong enough to be followed. But I needed to get Ram some help first.

As I started running to the pump house a few hundred feet away where I was sure I could find help. I started to worry about Kamala. If someone attacked Ram when he was with her, there was a good chance she was in trouble as well.

I stopped at the pump house and started barking loudly at the door of the maintenance man’s cabin. He opened the door and looked at me. He knew me as I once helped him trace a thief who stole some jewelry from his house.

“What is it Trixie boy? Something wrong?” he asked and looked at me though the darkness. I pushed my leash towards him and barked again. He got the hint and took hold of my leash immediately. He called out for another person and he joined us as I led them in the direction where I found Ram.

“God, he is badly injured. Ganesh go call an ambulance immediately. We’ll carry him to the pump house and clean him up a bit. Good job Trixie.” He said and patted my head. The job was only half done. I still had to find out where Kamala was.

I ignored his startled cries and started running in the direction of our house. If she was attacked I wouldn’t find her at the house I thought to myself. But that was the first place I could search. I heard muffled cries from inside the house as I approached closer to the house. I jumped the wall in the backyard and moved quietly in the direction of the sound. The cries got louder as I came closer.

“How dare you insult our family by falling in love with that wretched Ram guy? Do you know what shame you brought upon us? How can I ever show my face to the people of the town again?” Kamala’s dad shouted as a heard the sound of wood hitting against skin and a muffled sob.

“You wanted to run away with all our money didn’t you? You wretched girl!” I heard Kamala’s mom scream before I heard a tight slap. Another muffled sound issued from the room. I was sure that Kamala was bound and gagged.

My whole body shook with a blind rage as I did the biggest mistake of my life. I barked with mad anger and ran to the front door trying to push it open with my paws. There was someone waiting for me. It was the same scent of the man from the bushes. He must have had another accomplice, the one who attacked Ram. I yelped with pain as I felt three heavy blows strike my rib cage and head. I was out cold before I knew it.

I still felt the dull pain throb my head as I ran in the direction of the police station with the collar that bore my identification number held tight between my teeth. Rajesh sir was the person who took care of the dogs in the police station. He was also the person who trained me. I hoped with all my heart that he was in.

I reached the entrance as two constables looked at me in the darkness, ready to jump and stop me from entering the police station. They apparently thought I was a stray rabid dog on a biting spree. I stopped before and held my collar out at them. They saw the name and the number on the leash.

“Is someone in trouble?” he asked me. He recognized me from some previous theft job I helped them trace down. I barked madly and turned in the direction I came from and barked again.

He removed the wireless from his pocket and spoke into it.

“Rajesh sir, your dog Trixie is here. And I think he has something.” He said into the wireless.

In five minutes Rajesh sir was with me. We were running in the direction of the house. Rajesh sir didn’t even use a leash. He was sure I would lead him to the right place. We ran to the house which was now deserted. I led Rajesh sir into the room where I heard the screams. We spotted some ropes, sticks and a trickle of blood.

“Control room, this is Rajesh speaking. We are in the north of the town in house number 23-43/1 opposite the Shiva temple. There are signs of violence in the place and I want three armed constables with me within fifteen minutes.” Rajesh sir spoke into his wireless.

Time was running out. I had to find where they took Kamala before they did something to her and it was too late. I ran around the house looking for some clue. Then, all of a sudden, it hit me. I ran in the direction of the place where I found the marks of a vehicle after I woke up. I smelt the tracks of the vehicle. It was the same jeep from the evening. With some luck we could trace down the vehicle.

The two people were apparently relatives of Kamala’s dad. They found out about Kamala and Ram and wanted to stop them from running away. The person in the bushes was a trap to lure me away from them. The other man attacked Ram and took away Kamala he must’ve used some method to conceal her scent. I barked loudly and Rajesh sir came to my side and I started running on the highway. I could trace the smell of the jeep amongst the trucks and the cars.

As the scent began to become hard to follow, I started to lose hope. Just as I was starting to give up, I was struck by fortune. The jeep veered from the highway and took a turn into the fields. I was much easier to track the scent now, amongst the smell of the paddy fields.

After half a kilometer, we found the jeep parked in an obscure corner. I smelt the seats. I smelt Kamala, her dad, her mother and the persons who attacked me and Ram. The scent was now so strong that I could walk with my eyes closed. We reached the edge of a field which had a shack on the other corner. The lights were glowing brightly in the pitch black night.

I sensed it, and I was sure Rajesh sir sensed it too. The people were in the shack. We tiptoed our way to the side of the shack. We hid behind some bushes and peeped into the room. Kamala was there, bound and gagged. Her father was speaking.

“You don’t deserve to live if you don’t change your mind about marrying that low class bastard.” Even from a distance I could sense that he was totally drunk. There was the other person who was looking out at the door.

“Constables, change of location, come immediately to the paddy fields located on the first left after the first kilometer stone of the highway, I need you here ASAP. Come from the south and find us hiding behind the shack where you can see the lights shining” He whispered into the wireless set.

In the meanwhile, I could see Kamala’s parents dousing her in kerosene. They wanted to burn her to death in the isolated farm.

The constables arrived in the nick of time, and we nabbed all the four people who wanted to kill Kamala. Kamala had to be taken to the hospital as she was on the brink of unconsciousness. In a few days of time, both Kamala and Ram were back to their routine after healing from their injuries. They got married under strict police custody and the three of us were to soon leave the town to the city. All was well and I was the happiest dog in the whole world.

Author’s note: Honor killings are a dark mark on the 21st century developing India. In a country where hundreds of castes and creeds co-exist, it is still considered an offence to marry a person from another caste or community, more so when the person is from a lower caste. Here are the various other reasons that lead to honor killings.

(a) Dressing in a manner unacceptable to the family or community,
(b) Wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage or desiring to marry by own choice,
(c) Engaging in heterosexual sexual acts outside marriage, or even due to a non-sexual relationship perceived as inappropriate,
(d) Engaging in homosexual acts.

People from villages and under developed areas in particular consider this as a loss of prestige and are ready to kill their children for it. These acts are mostly directed at women and girls. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that perhaps as many as 5,000 women and girls a year are killed by members of their own families. Many women's groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia suspect the victims are at least four times more.

In India, Honor killings have been reported in northern regions of India, mainly in the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, as a result of people marrying without their family's acceptance, and sometimes for marrying outside their caste or religion.

Bhagalpur in the northern Indian state of Bihar has also been notorious for honor killings. Recent cases include a 16-year-old girl, Imrana, from Bhojpur who was set on fire inside her house in a case of what the police called ‘moral vigilantism’. The victim had screamed for help for about 20 minutes before neighbors arrived, only to find her still smoldering. She was admitted to a local hospital, where she later died from her injuries.

It’s time we spread awareness amongst the people and stop people from committing such heinous crimes to their own children. It’s only when these social illnesses cease to exist among the people, we can call ourselves a developed country.


Rachana Raghavan said...

Significant issue to deal with :) Congrats...

varsha said...

It's nice Harsha :) As, Rachana said, it's a really important issue to be dealt with.