Pihu is very happy today. She has ranked within top five in the board exam of twelve which means she will be able to continue her game as well as study. She is very good at swimming and has won silver and gold medal in district level. But after she failed to obtain highest marks in tenth her father Mr. Pravash Sinha objected her involvement in the swimming. He said “If you don’t get record marks in plus two you have to stop your swimming classes too forever; and I mean that” Pihu was very sad with her father’s verdict but she couldn’t argue too. She has seen her cousins well settled in life; to be successful in career you have to be serious in studies. She promised to herself that this time she won’t make her parents sad. She studied hard and practiced swimming as well. Her hard work has produced this result.
She got admitted in the best college in the city next to her town and goes regularly by bus. Many of her classmates travel from the same area and so the forty five minutes’ travel time isn’t boring at all. The distance from her house to the bus stop is just ten minutes’ walk. She walks this short distance with her friend Ritika every day.
In swimming classes too she is the favourite student of her coach Mr. Yogesh Dutta. Last Sunday after practice he said “You are a bit far from the record time. If you practice hard no one can stop you from getting gold medal in the coming competition”
Pihu answered “Yes sir, I’m trying hard”
“Good...keep it up”
Pihu dreamt she is getting gold medal from the President of The Sports Association within heavy applause from the onlookers.
On that afternoon the two friends are walking back to their house talking about the semester exam when Ritika said “I’m struggling hard with maths....though I like the subject at times it gets over my nerves. Aren’t you?”
Pihu “Yes but I’m more worried with the upcoming swimming competition. Both are important for me and I’ve to balance between the both.”
“This time the competition is state level challenge...isn’t it?”
“Yes that’s making me worry much”
When all of a sudden
Pihu and Ritika looked towards the person speaking. Kartik, the bully of the neighbourhood is standing with his group of friends. Ritika whispered “Lets’ get off without answering or he’ll carry on with his dirty jokes”
So they tried to move on. “Hey are both of you deaf? I don’t think so. I’ve seen you talking...................Friends do deaf people talk too?”
The group laughed in a chorus. The girls held their hands tight and stared at each other’s face to gather courage. He didn’t stop talking but said “Do you know darling you have just captured my mind and heart. You have such a beautiful face and attractive body. Uff sizzling hot” and licked his lips in such a manner as if he is licking leg piece of grilled chicken. Pihu felt anger rising within her body but she tried to keep calm. Ritika whispered “Oh God! Help us”
“Talk with me darling.... I want you to be mine. You are very hot and only I can satisfy you in bed ... he he”
Pihu slapped him hard and hissed “Mind your language before you speak to any girl. We are human beings so respect us as human beings. When you don’t talk in this manner with your mother or sister you shouldn’t with others too. And girls are just not dolls to satisfy you”
Kartik caressed his cheek and replied “You will see your status in the coming days” and moved away with his friends.
Ritika pulled Pihu and they literally ran back towards their home. When they reached near Pihu’s house Ritika whispered “Why did you argue ..... we could have run away without raising his anger”
Pihu turned and said “Why should we run away without any protest...they were insulting us....girls...if we don’t protest they get courage to do anything”
“It’s true but .... I’m afraid what can happen next”
“Nothing will happen.... go to your home....may I escort you?”
“No thanks I can go”
Pihu said everything to her parents and even her father encouraged her to be brave. But her mother Chaitali felt a bit afraid. So she said “It’s good that you protested but I feel you should be very cautious from now. Maybe they won’t harass you again but that doesn’t mean you should be careless. You should return home within evening dear”
The next few days nothing happened. Kartik and his gang of friends couldn’t be seen anywhere. Pihu went to attend her college classes as well as swimming classes as before. But she remembered her mother’s warning too.
That day her coaching classes ended a little late. Ritika didn’t come that day for the classes and so Pihu cycled towards her home in a bit fast mode. Evening has advanced towards night and Pihu knew she should reach home fast. At the turning of the road towards her house where the street lights are dim Pihu slowed down her bicycle a bit not to crash into anyone coming from the other side when all of a sudden she felt someone threw something on her face from the dark footpath and felt her skin burning and its extreme pain. She fell off her bicycle screaming “Ma......ma” after which she remembered nothing.
When she regained her senses Pihu found herself in the hospital. Both her parents are sitting beside her in pale faces and doctor is checking her burns. She heard doctor saying “She has recovered a lot and you can take her home within this week” She felt weak mentally more than physically. On Saturday afternoon Pihu was brought back to her home by her parents.
Pihu screamed the first day when she saw herself in the mirror. Left side of her face and neck has turned so ugly with the skin shrivelled up scalded black that it felt to her as if she is looking at a ghost in the mirror. She cried and screamed in hysteric manner with her parents unable to console her. She couldn’t understand how she will manage to spend her life with this permanent scar on her body. She shut herself in her room and met with no one. She suffered from mood swings and at times felt suicide to be the best option to get relief from this hell like life. Her career her dreams too have shrivelled up and dried with this acid attack.
Pravash couldn’t concentrate in his office work but had to go regularly as the family depends on him. And for Chaitali it seemed unbearable to see her daughter suffering from this unbearable pain and cursed their fate whenever she sat alone. She was very social and used to visit her neighbours’ house or they visited hers’ and they gossiped for hours. After this incident Chaitali didn’t feel like talking with anyone and she too confined herself within the four walls of her home.
One evening after returning from office Pravash said to Chaitali “I’ve applied for transfer to other city and boss has confirmed that it will get granted within this month”
Chaitali said “That’s really good news... I’ll start packing from tomorrow”
And they left the town. Most of the people forgot about the family.
Three years passed by-
The marriage hall is been decorated and the air is filled with beautiful songs, perfumes and talks of the guests. People with huge smile on faces and presents in their hands are entering the marriage arena. The bride, beautiful and gorgeous, is sitting on a decorated chair with a bright smile on her face and greeting the guests joining her hands. The groom is talking with his friends and looking at his new wife with a smile on his face.
A girl comes inside the hall with a big gift box in her hand and advances towards the bride and gives it to her. The groom comes near to introduce the guest with the bride but he too couldn’t recognize this new guest. The guest smiles and said “Let me introduce myself dear bride. I’m Pihu Sinha and I bet your husband can recognize me now, didn’t you Kartik” Kartik’s face has turned pale in the meantime hearing the name. Pihu smiled and said “I’ve got a special gift for you too Kartik. Hold this” and she placed a bottle in his hand. “You boasted to love me and so you burnt my face. So, now you should throw this on your wife and prove your love for her”
“No!” screamed the bride as she jumped up and moved away to a safe distance from Kartik while he stood there shaking in shock and without a word in his mouth. The whole marriage hall went silent at this unimaginable event. Pihu said “I’ve not come here to take a revenge but to show you the consequences of acid burning. You not only burnt my face but you destroyed my life my career my every dream. Plastic surgery removed my scars but not my pains. The whole world should understand that women are too human beings as men and they too have the right to live”
The bride getting back her courage announced “I call off from this marriage. I don’t want to be someone’s wife who don’t respect us”
Pihu smiled “No dear. If you get away you will miss the chance of rectifying him and if you really want to do something for these fate struck women you too join hands to pledge to do something good for them”
The bride comes forward and holds Pihu’s hands “Yes, I pledge to do something for these women and I would insist my husband to do the same”
Kartik too comes forward and pledges with his wife.