The crowd cheers as Avantika enters the stage. As Avantika takes her seat, journalists waste no time interacting with her.
“Hello Avantika ma’am, we all are so thrilled about your new book.
We have heard so much about your work.
Finally, we will be able to get to know you personally through your book.”
Avantika picks up the mic. There is silence. She taps on the mic to make sure she is audible.
“Hello everyone. I am so happy to see you all here today.
I wasn’t expecting this.
Well, I am also thrilled about my book.
I would like to give credit to my daughter Khushi.
She persuaded me. Khushi thought it might inspire many women who may have experienced what I have gone through.
So here I am with my book-Spread Your Wings.”
“Ma’am, could you read a few lines from your book ?”
“Yes, sure. I would be happy to.”
Avantika opens the book. She flips through the pages …
“Amma, he is misbehaving with me.
Trust me. Yesterday in the pretext of teaching me how to play the guitar, he touched me inappropriately.”
“Avantika you have to stop this. I know you dislike him.
But that doesn’t mean you talk so filthy about him.
He treats you like his own. I have seen the love and care he gives you.”
“He does that in your presence Amma.
When you aren’t around, he behaves like a devil.”
Amma slaps me hard on my face and that devil is watching and enjoying the show like it’s a sitcom.
Avantika closes the book. Her eyes were moist but she resisted her emotions. She had been strong so far and wanted to keep it that way.
“So this was a snippet from the book.
I am sure you will like it and will inspire many women.
I just want to say one thing-Believe in yourself. You are powerful and much stronger than you think.
Never underestimate yourself. Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”
Avantika’s book launch was telecasted on national television. Her daughter Khushi and her mother Aruna were watching it. Avantika was going to continue talking when her secretary interrupted.
“Sorry, it’s an emergency. I have to leave.
Thank you all for gathering.
Be strong. Be brave.
Thank you all. My secretary will help you out with the distribution of some free copies signed by me.”
Avantika gets off the stage and rushes to her car.
“Driver, Hospital. Quick.”
While Avantika was on her way to the hospital, she recalled some of her past incidents which she had buried but time had made those memories come alive while writing the book-Her childhood, parents, friends, school, stepfather, how she had been treated by all and how she emerged from the situation. Tears kept rolling. Her phone was vibrating but she was so lost in her thoughts that she did not realise it.
A voice inside her kept telling- “You are strong Avantika. Stop crying.”
The car halted. Avantika was drenched in her thoughts.
“Ma’am” The driver looked through the rearview at Avantika.
“What is it?”
“We have arrived at the hospital, ma’am.”
Avantika peeped through the window. The driver opened the door for her. Avantika got out of the car. She walked to the main entrance of the hospital. As she entered inside, Avantika took a deep breath. She was anxious, her lips and throat were dry. Avantika went to the reception-
“Excuse me …”
“Yes ma’am how can I help you ?”
“Which way is room 302. It’s an emergency.”
“This way ma’am. Take the elevator. Third floor.” The receptionist points out the direction.
“Thank you.” Avantika acknowledges the receptionist and gallops to the elevator.
When the elevator opens on the third floor, she steps out. She sees room number 302 on her right. Avantika takes baby steps. She gathers courage and opens the door.
Aruna hailed from a middle-class family. Classical music was in their veins. Aruna took a keen interest in learning music. Music was her passion. After she completed her studies, she wanted to pursue her career in music but her parents got her married. They convinced her that the family she was being married to would allow her to follow her dreams and be supportive.
Initially, Aruna was a little hesitant, but after meeting Nitesh and talking to him about her passion for music, she finally gave in as he had promised her that nothing would stop her from pursuing her dream. Nitesh was a high school teacher. He had assured her that soon he would get her a job in his school as a music teacher. Aruna was elated and they got married in a simple ceremony.
It had been three months since the wedding. Aruna thought that it would be the right time for her to start working. She had acclimated well in her matrimonial house. Aruna patiently waited for Nitesh to come back from school. She had prepared his favourite food. After dinner looking for the right moment, Aruna picked up the topic-
“Nitesh, it’s been three months since our wedding.
Did you talk in your school about me? My job?”
Nitesh was silent. He looked at Aruna.
“See Aruna now it’s midterm. There are no vacancies currently.
Next year, I will get you the job.”
“Six more months, Nitesh. What do I do until then?
I will try if I get a job elsewhere in the meantime.”
Nitesh was angry.
“I told you I will get you a job. Just stay at home.
You have a lot of free time, don’t you?
Well, I will tell the maids not to come. You can do their work too.
Nitesh’s parents could hear him scream at Aruna but they were least bothered. Neither her in-laws nor Nitesh wanted Aruna to work. At the time of the wedding, they lied to Aruna and her parents about it as they did not want to let go of this proposal.
Aruna slowly learnt that they would never let her work or be independent. They even did not let Aruna practice or sing at home. Aruna was very upset about it. She told this matter to her parents. Her parents discussed this issue with Nitesh.
Nitesh was enraged when he heard this from Aruna’s parents. He threatened them by telling them that if they ever interfered in their lives, he would send Aruna permanently to their house and call off the relationship. Coming from a middle-class family, the word divorce was such a taboo. They apologised for their behaviour and promised to never interfere again.
Aruna was saddened by Nitesh’s behaviour but she was helpless. From her childhood, Aruna was taught good manners, respect for elders. After marriage, her husband and his family would mean everything to her. Keeping all these in mind, Aruna never dared to voice her opinion.
After that episode, Nitesh’s conduct towards Aruna had changed. He had started treating her badly. Shouting at her, beating her up and sometimes he would even force her physically. Aruna swallowed her pain in silence. Meanwhile, she got pregnant. Aruna was happy when she got to know about her pregnancy. It had given her a reason to live. Nitesh’s parents were also happy on hearing this news. Slowly Nitesh’s attitude towards Aruna started changing and he began to take care of her.
Aruna was physically weak. The doctors had advised her to get enough rest and to keep herself happy. She told Nitesh that singing would keep her mentally happy. With a lot of hesitation, he let Aruna sing again. Aruna would daily practice her music for an hour in the morning and evening. There was an improvement in her health.
Aruna’s in-laws were against her singing. But then they thought that after the birth of the child, she would be busy and Aruna would not have time for singing.
On a Sunday afternoon, Aruna complained of labour pain. Nitesh was not in town. The school had arranged for a picnic. When Aruna told her mother in law about it, she neglected telling it might be a false alarm as she wasn’t due until the next three weeks. The pain became sharper. Aruna knew the time had come. She gathered all her strength and went to the hospital by herself.
The staff informed her in-laws. Upon hearing the news, they rushed to the hospital. Nitesh was also notified. He was supposed to reach the town at night. Aruna gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
Nitesh rushed to the hospital as soon as he got home.
“Hello Mom, Dad where is Aruna?”
“They are shifting her to the ward.” His mom replied.
“Why do you both look sad? Is Aruna alright? What about the baby?”
Just then the nurse arrived and handed over the baby to Nitesh.
“Congratulations Sir. Here is your daughter .”
“Daughter? But nurse, how can that be?
It seemed that Aruna would have a boy. The kind of food she ate, her appearance.
Everyone around including my mom told me that it is a boy.
Are you sure it’s our child ?”
“Of course, it’s your child, Sir.
You must consider yourself lucky to have a daughter.
Just look at her once. Isn’t she so beautiful?”
Nitesh glanced at his daughter. She was sleeping-her rosy cheeks, dimpled chin would melt anyone’s heart. He held her close and kissed the baby on the forehead. The nurse smiled and walked away.
“Nitesh, we wanted a son. What has your wife doing?”
This is such a bad omen.
The first child should be a son so that he can carry forward our clan.” The mother was angry.
Nitesh remained silent and went to meet Aruna. Aruna was happy when she saw Nitesh holding the baby.
“Nitesh, the baby looks just like you.”
Nitesh handed the baby to Aruna.
“Nitesh, I want to name the child Avantika.
Do you like the name ?”
Nitesh was happy about the baby but those words from his parents, their reaction kept haunting him.
“Name her whatever you want Aruna.
After all, it’s your child.” Saying this Nitesh walked out of the room.
Aruna thought that maybe Nitesh was tired from his journey. She was so delighted that all other worries seemed meaningless. Aruna’s parents also visited her and they took her along for a couple of months. During that time, Neither Nitesh nor her in law’s had visited Aruna. He would make an excuse each time he was supposed to visit. Despite all this, Aruna managed to be happy. She had got the time, space and mental peace she needed after a woman gives birth.
The time had come when Aruna had to go back to her house. Her parents dropped her off.
It took a couple of days for Aruna to settle in with her new responsibilities.
“Nitesh, what is wrong? From the time Avantika has come into our lives, you seemed to have been a little lost.
You never visited us.
Is everything alright ?”
“You are asking me is everything alright ?” Nitesh banged his hand on the table so hard that the glass that was placed on it fell making a loud sound. The baby woke up and started crying.
“Shut her mouth first Aruna.”
Aruna did not like Nitesh’s tone. She ran towards Avantika, pacified her and put her to sleep.
“Nitesh, what is it ?”
Nitesh held Aruna’s arms tightly.
“Nitesh, please leave me. You are hurting me.”
Nitesh held it more tightly.
“We all assumed that we would have a son. You gave birth to a daughter ?” Saying this he pushed Aruna and she fell on the floor.
Aruna gathered herself and stood up.
“Oh, this is what it is about. You are holding me responsible for giving birth to a daughter.
Well, in that case, it’s because of you that we have a daughter.
You are responsible for the gender of our child.”
Nitesh was further enraged. He slapped Aruna.
“Just shut up Aruna.”
“You must be proud that we have a daughter Nitesh.”
“I don’t want you to lecture me, Aruna.
Very soon, I want a son. Do you hear me ?” Nitesh walked out.
Aruna wiped her tears and went to sleep.
Aruna thought that with time Nitesh would accept Avantika. But with each passing day, things became worse. Nitesh nor his parents took care of Avantika. It was like the whole responsibility of Avantika was on Aruna. It was difficult for Aruna to manage both household chores and Avantika simultaneously.
When Avantika turned two, Aruna decided that she would take up a job so that she could support herself financially and also for Avantika’s education. When she brought this matter across to Nitesh, he was disappointed. He did not want Aruna to work. Nitesh wanted to have another child. He discussed the same with Aruna.
“So Aruna, now that Avantika has turned two, I think we can plan another child.
It would give Avantika company too.”
Aruna knew what was going on in Nitesh’s mind.
“I know you don’t want me to work Nitesh.
Why don’t you tell me that straight away?
If you don’t like me going outside, I will take music classes at home.
You want me to be dependent on you and I know that.”
“Aruna, it’s got nothing to do with you working.
After we have a second one and both the kids grow big enough that they can take care of themselves, then you work.
I have no issues. First, look after your family.”
Aruna started laughing.
“What is so funny, Aruna?”
“By the time the kids can look after themselves I don’t know how old I will be.
What is the guarantee that a second one is going to be a son?
What if the second one is a daughter too?
I will have to face all of this.
I don’t want to bear that brunt again. Spare me Nitesh.
You are a single child and so am I.
Our child is also going to be single.”
Nitesh was angry at Aruna. He slapped her. When he wanted to slap her again, Aruna tried to stop him for the first time. Aruna was surprised that she could do it. She had no idea how she had done that.
“So you are trying to stop me Aruna? How did you manage to do that ?” Nitesh caught her hands tight and hit her hard this time. He went on and on until his hands hurt. Nitesh heard his father shouting and asking him to stop hitting Aruna.
Each time Nitesh or his family would bring up the topic of another child, there would be arguments at home and Nitesh would end up hitting Aruna. One day, Aruna thought that she had gone through a lot in this relationship which had not given her any happiness except for her daughter. She wanted to stand up for herself. Aruna thought that if it would continue like this, it would set a bad example for Avantika.
Aruna decided to take music classes at home. Though she was opposed by her family members, she did not stop. They would on purpose abuse Aruna in front of her students due to which she had lost a couple of students because their parents thought that it would affect their child. Aruna came forward and told her inlaws and Nitesh that if they would do anything like that, then they would have to face the consequences for their action.
From then on, the situation was a little better. Though at times Nitesh would hit Aruna, unlike earlier the torture had reduced. Aruna thought that she should have taken this step earlier. One day at work, the school Principal called Nitesh and told him that he had heard about his wife Aruna’s music class and her talent and the parents as well students wanted Aruna to teach at school.
When Nitesh got home, he passed on the message to Aruna. Aruna was happy to hear that.
“Sure Nitesh. I would love to teach in school.”
Infuriated, Nitesh slapped Aruna so hard that she fell on the floor. Avantika, who had witnessed it, started crying and came running towards her mother. Nitish was so irritated when he saw Avantika crying and hugging Aruna.
“Avantika stop crying and go inside,” Nitesh yelled at her. Avantika got scared and she hugged Aruna tight.
“Appa please don’t hit Amma.”
“So now you will tell me what to do you, little girl.” Nitesh caught Avantika by her hair and dragged her to the room. He hit Avantika and instructed her not to step out of the room.
This incident was like the last straw for Aruna. When she saw that Nitesh had treated Avantika badly, she couldn’t take it. Aruna gathered all her might and slapped Nitesh. She went to the room and locked herself. When Avantika saw Aruna, she came running and hugged her.
“Amma it hurts. Appa hit me hard.”
“Don’t cry, baby. Nor you or I will ever have to face this situation again.”
Aruna packed her bags and had decided to leave the house. In the wee hours, Aruna took Avantika and left the house without informing anyone or leaving behind any note.
The next morning, when Nitesh woke up he realised that Aruna and Avantika had left the house. He was confident that they would soon return home. Aruna went to her parent’s house. She narrated the entire incident to them. They tried to convince her telling no matter what happens, it is not right to leave her matrimonial home and come. They urged her to go back. Aruna was firm that she would not go back to that house. After her parents realised that their attempts had failed to convince Aruna, they had no choice but to support her decision.
After a month, Aruna went to the school where Nitesh was teaching. She met the Principal and showed her interest in teaching the children. Aruna also told about Nitesh and informed the Principal that she would be seeking a divorce from him very soon and guaranteed that this would in no way affect her professionally.
After hearing the story, the Principal suspended Nitesh from his job. The divorce was ugly as Nitesh had tried to convey to the judge that Aruna’s conduct was bad. All the allegations were proven wrong and the sole custody of Avantika was given to Aruna. Even Avantika had refused to see her father as she knew what a cruel man he was. After her divorce, Aruna was doing well both personally and professionally. She was teaching in school and in the evening she used to conduct music classes at home.
Aruna grew to fame in a very short period. She opened a music academy. All was going on well. Avantika too had started taking music classes. She also loved to play the guitar.
One day, she got to know that Nitesh passed away. After losing his job and the divorce, Nitesh had started drinking and his lifestyle was erratic. Nitesh’s parents had blamed Aruna for the loss of their son. Aruna did not take this matter to the heart because she knew it was not her fault. She thought that karma had served him rightly.
When Avantika got to know about her father, she was saddened by the news but very soon she had forgotten about it as she had never received love from her father. It was just hatred and nothing else.
Aruna met Satya in her music academy. Satya had come a couple of times to drop his nephew to the music class. Satya liked Aruna the first time he saw her. In the pretext of learning music, he became friends with her and slowly expressed his love for Aruna.
Aruna was not mentally prepared to be in another relationship after what she had gone through. Also, she did not need a man in her life to meet her financial demands as she was doing pretty well to support herself and Avantika.
“Look Satya, I am divorced. Shortly after the divorce, my ex-husband passed away.
I lost my parents a few years ago.
I live with my daughter.
She will be turning eleven shortly.
I have come out of a very bad relationship.
After years of struggle, I can finally breathe freely.
I don’t think I am ready yet or I ever will be ready.
I am sorry. I cannot do this.
If you are keen on learning music you can stay.”
Satya had found his answer. After that day, he did not show up in the music class. A year had gone by and there was no trace of Satya. Aruna had thought that she would ask his nephew about him but then she did not want to leave a wrong impression.
One day accidentally Avantika bumped into Satya. She did not know about him. When Avantika was cycling back home from school, she had a flat tyre. It was already late and Satya helped her fix it. He called the mechanic, fixed the wheel and later dropped Avantika home as it was dark. Aruna was worried as Avantika had not yet shown up. When Avantika reached home, she pressed Satya to come inside and meet her mother. When Aruna saw Satya, she was pleasantly surprised. Avantika described the entire story to her mother. Aruna was thankful to Satya. They all had dinner together and later Satya left.
Satya had made a good impression on Avantika. When she learnt from Aruna that he was interested in marrying her, Avantika insisted to her mother that she should give it a try.
“Amma, at least be friends with him.
See how it goes. If you think you cannot do it then leave it.
Why are you doing this to yourself?”
Aruna was moved. She thought that her daughter had grown so big that she had started giving her relationship advice. Aruna felt that she had made the right decision years ago to move out of Nitesh’s life else both would be suffering in that house.
“Okay Avantika, if you say so I will give it a try.
I don’t need a man to complete me. I make my living.
But then if I feel that yes I can go ahead only then I will.
You will not force me.”
Avantika was jumping with joy. She was happy for her mother.
Aruna and Staya’s friendship grew stronger. Satya had played his role so well that Aruna could not deny marrying him. The entire plot of Avantika’s cycle having a flat tyre and helping her out and taking her home was also planned by Satya. He was successful in his ploy. He waited for almost a year so that no one could doubt him. He had done his research well and also in the meantime had got a decent job and made some savings.
Aruna and Satya got married. Avantika was happy. After years Avantika had seen her mother laugh heartily.
All was going on nicely. Aruna was happy with Satya. He was treating her well. Satya would also help Aruna with the chores. The popularity of Aruna’s music academy made Aruna travel frequently. There were shows, concerts in different parts of the city. In her absence, Satya took care of Avantika.
One day, Avantika was all alone at home. After she got back from her school, she got fresh and was changing her clothes. Since no one was at home, she had left the door of her room ajar. Satya had got back home early that day. He heard Avantika humming and walked towards her room. When he saw her changing her clothes, he stood there watching her silently. He was already mesmerised by her beauty and simplicity but after that day, the way he looked at Avantika changed.
Satya was waiting for opportunities to be alongside Avantika. When Aruna would travel, he would take her out shopping, movies, and dining. Avantika thought that he was taking good care of her until one day when they went out shopping wherein on the pretext of fixing her dress he touched her inappropriately. He immediately apologised but Avantika felt uncomfortable. From then onwards she tried to maintain distance from Satya.
Avantika wanted to tell her mother about it but since things were falling on the right track in her life, Avantika did not want to ruin it for her mother. But Avantika could not take it anymore as Satya was taking advantage of her silence. One day Avantika decided to tell Aruna.
“Amma, he is misbehaving with me.
Trust me. Yesterday in the pretext of teaching me how to play the guitar, he touched me inappropriately.
This is not the first time Amma.
I kept quiet all these days but things are going out of proportion.”
“Avantika, stop it.
Do you know what you are saying?
He treats you like his own. I have seen the love and care he gives you.”
“He does that in your presence Amma. But
when you aren’t around, he behaves like a devil.”
Aruna slaps Avantika for the first time in her life.
” Satya has told me all about it.
Do you like him? He told me that when I am not around you wear revealing clothes and walk around in the house.
You make excuses and touch him.
How could you Avantika?
Is that why you forced me to marry him despite the age difference between us that he is younger than me?
When Satya told me about this, I did not believe it.
I thought there must have been some misunderstanding.
Now to cover up your act, you are blaming it on him? Shame on you Avantika. ”
Satya was discreetly watching all this drama. He knew that Avantika would complain about him one day so before that, he made up a story about Avantika and told it to Aruna.
” Amma, you don’t believe your daughter?
I am your blood.
Do you believe in someone whom you married a couple of years ago? ”
” That someone is my husband Avantika.
Marriage is built on trust.
Now please go to your Avantika. Don’t repeat this ever again. ”
Avantika walked into her room. Aruna was very upset as she had slapped Avantika. She was the source for her living. But then what had happened, had broken Aruna. She had not expected that from Avantika.
After this incident, Aruna had stopped travelling. She would send her assistants. Aruna did not want episodes like this to repeat. Satya was unhappy about it. He had assured Aruna that he would take care of it but Aruna was firm about her decision.
On one such occasion, Aruna had to travel as she was going to receive an award from the government. She could not skip it. Avantika had her exams and hence she could not take her along.
” Aruna, please go. Don’t worry.
I will look into it. If necessary, I will call my sister to stay along for a couple of days. ”
” Satya, why don’t you come along? You can ask your sister to stay with her. It’s a matter of one night. ”
” I wish I could Aruna but I have a very important meeting tomorrow. The client is here. I cannot afford to miss it. ”
” Okay, Satya. I trust you. ”
Avantika was worried when she learnt that her mother had to travel. She decided that after her class got over, she would lock herself in the room until the next day. She would tell her friend to come home to pick her up and only then she would step out of the room. After all, it was a matter of just one night.
Satya knew that Avantika would do her best to avoid him but then he had already made plans.
When Avantika got back from school, Satya was sitting in the living room reading the newspaper. Upon seeing Satya, Avantika started walking quickly towards her room.
” Avantika stop. How did you do your exam?”
Avantika did not turn back.
” I did well. ”
” Good to hear that. Here have some juice.
Your Mother asked me to give it to you when you get back home.
I asked the maid to prepare it. ”
Avantika turned around and looked at the glass of juice placed on the table. She stepped forward and picked up the glass.
” I shall have it in my room. ”
” Sure as you wish Avantika.”
Avantika went to her room and placed the glass on the table. She closed the door behind her and locked it. After a while, Satya walked towards the room. He placed his ears on the door. He could not hear anything. Then through the keyhole, he tried to see what was happening inside. Avantika was sitting on her bed and drinking the juice. When she had finished the juice, Satya knocked on the door.
“Avantika, open the door please .”
Avantika was trembling with fear when Satya asked her to open the door.
“What is it? Why do you want me to open the door?”
“Your friend is here. She is sitting in the living room.”
“Which friend? Didn’t she say her name ?”
“Well, I did not ask her. She said it’s urgent.”
Avantika wondered who this friend was. She opened the door.
“There she is sitting on the sofa. Go check what she has to say.”
As Avantika was walking, she was feeling dizzy. She was wobbling. Satya rushed to hold her.
“Are you okay Avantika? What is happening?”
“My head..my head. I am feeling heavy. It hurts.”
“Don’t worry. Since you have been studying hard for your exams, maybe that is why you feel this way.
Why don’t you go get some rest? I will take you to your room.”
“No, I will go myself. Please take your hands off me.”
As Avantika approached the bedroom door, she fainted. Satya carried her and put Avantika on the bed.
“Avantika, Avantika…wake up.”
Avantika was unconscious. Satya was successful in his plan. He made use of this opportunity and raped Avantika.
The next day after Avantika woke up, her head was heavy. She could feel that something was wrong with her. She tried hard to recollect about last night. Each time she made an effort to do it, her head was throbbing. Avantika could remember in bits and pieces. She heard her mother and came running outside.
” Amma you are back? ”
” How was your exam Avantika? ”
” I did well, Amma. How did the award function go? Show me the award. ”
” It went well. I missed you both. The award is placed on the table. ”
Avantika walked towards the table to pick up the award. Aruna could make out that something was wrong with Avantika.
” Avantika are you alright? ”
” Yes, yes Amma I think so. ”
” Then why are you sweating? ”
” I am fine Amma.” Saying this Avantika fainted.
“Avantika, open your eyes baby. Avantika.
Satya please get some water.”
Aruna splashed some water on Avantika’s face. She regained her consciousness. Aruna lifted her and took her to the room. Upon seeing her bed, Aruna got a little suspicious.
” What happened here Avantika?
Why is your bedsheet stained with blood? ”
“I can’t remember Amma.
But something happened. I feel differently. ”
Avantika was not able to recollect. When Aruna had gone to her music academy, Avantika confronted Satya.
” What did you do to me the other night?
I know you did something to me.
Answer me. ”
” I did not do anything Avantika. ”
” You told me a friend of mine came to meet me. Who was it?”
” I don’t know which friend. I did not say anything like that.
You came from your exam and straight away went to your room and locked yourself.
When your mother arrived the next day, that is when you came outside. ”
” No, no…I know you are lying to me.
There is something that you are not telling me.
You gave me the juice to drink. What did you add to it?”
Satya started laughing wickedly. Avantika got angry and she caught his collar tightly.
” You bas**rd, what did you do? ”
Just then Aruna arrived.
” Avantika, what are you doing? Leave him. I said leave him. ”
” Amma, he drugged me the night you were not in town.
I am sure he has done something to me and hence those bloodstains on my sheets. ”
” What are you saying Avantika?
Why will Satya drug you?
What do you mean he has done something to you? ”
” Why don’t you ask him, Amma? ”
” Just go to your room, Avantika. I will talk to him. Please go. ”
Avantika was weeping. She went to her room and locked herself.
“Look Aruna, I have no idea what Avantika is talking about.
That night a friend had come to meet her.
Avantika took him inside and locked the room. ”
“What did you say, Satya? Him?
It was a boy? ”
” Yes. When I tried to stop her she said it was none of my business.
She said it was about a school project.
After an hour he left.
When I told her that I will tell you about it, she held my collar and threatened me not to do so else she will tell you and everyone that I misbehaved with her.
That is when you entered the house.
Please forgive me Aruna, I should have told you earlier.
For some time now don’t tell Avantika anything.
I am sure after a few days when the matter cools down you can discuss it with her. ”
Aruna nodded her head and hugged Satya.
” Thank you, Satya. I am sorry that Avantika treats you this way. ”
” It’s not her fault either, Aruna.
All this while she had got your attention.
Now maybe she feels that she has to share you with me and she is not comfortable with that. ”
“Maybe you are right, Satya.
I will talk to her soon and spend some time with her.
How did your client meeting go?
Very well. We will be locking the deal shortly. ”
Next few days, Aruna tried to spend maximum time with Avantika. Avantika was also happy. She felt like the earlier days. Just the two of them. A music concert was going to be held in the academy which happens once in three years and artists from different states participate. Aruna got busy with the preparations. Making good use of the situation, Satya had cleverly drugged Avantika a couple of times and raped her.
Satya threatened Avantika that if she opened her mouth, he would make the videotape viral. Frustrated with all this, Avantika attempted suicide by cutting her veins. Luckily, Aruna reached out on time and saved Avantika’s life.
” Let’s take her to the hospital Satya.
Are you crazy Aruna?
You are a public figure. You have the concert in a few days. What about your reputation?
My daughter is my life Satya.
I can not lose her. ”
Satya was worried about himself because since it was a suicide case police might take the matter into their hands and if he gets caught, he would lose Aruna.
” No wait, I know a friend who is a doctor.
I will call him home. Don’t worry. ”
The doctor arrived and examined Avantika.
” Doctor, How is Avantika doing? ”
” She is out of danger. Nothing to worry about.
But there is something you must know.”
The doctor paused for a while. Aruna was tense.
“What is the matter doctor?”
“Avantika is pregnant.”
Aruna was shocked to hear. She could not believe her ears.
“What are you saying, doctor? Are you sure about it?”
“Yes. Is that the reason she tried committing suicide?”
Aruna was not in a state to answer his question. Satya pulled the doctor aside and requested him to keep the matter to himself. He even promised to pay some amount. The doctor had obliged. Satya was nervous. He knew he was the reason behind Avantika’s pregnancy.
Aruna was sitting on the sofa as tears rolled down.
“Aruna, please calm down.
We can handle this together. I am with you.”
Suddenly they heard a noise from Avantika’s room. Aruna sprang up from the sofa and ran towards the room.
Avantika was trying to sip some water. She wasn’t that stable yet and hence the mug had slipped from her hand.
“Amma, I am sorry. I should not have tried to do all this.
I did not mean putting you in trouble.”
“Stop crying Avantika. I love you. You know you mean the world to me.
But then Avantika’s suicide is not the solution.
What about the baby? Who is the father Avantika?”
“Amma, what baby are you talking about? Whose baby ?”
“You are pregnant Avantika. That is why you tried killing yourself. Isn’t it ?”
Avantika was devastated to hear about her pregnancy. She looked at Satya standing at the door. She got up from her bed and walked to Satya.
“He is the father Amma.” Avantika pointed at Satya.
“What nonsense Avantika. What are you saying?
Aruna, Avantika has lost her mind.”
Aruna was furious.
“Satya, please don’t say anything. Leave the two of us alone. Please.”
Satya walked out of the room. Aruna locked the room.
Avantika was weeping.
“Trust me Amma. It is him.
He drugged me and then raped me.”
“Avantika, please stop this.
Satya tells me that the night I wasn’t in town you had got a friend home and you both had locked yourself inside.
Who was he? Is he the father of the child?
Be honest Avantika. You should have taken precautions.
Young age, raging hormones. I did not give you these kinds of values but yet I am ready to forgive you.
It is up to you to decide whether you want to keep the child or not. I will get you married to that guy.”
“Amma, which friend? Nothing like that happened.
Satya is cheating on you. I don’t know why he is doing that to you, to me.
I wonder if he loves you or not? Look what he has done to me.”
“You want me to believe that Satya did this to you?”
“Amma, you think I am lying? Why would I ?”
Both mother and daughter had a heated argument. Aruna barged out of the room.
Satya followed Aruna into their room.
“What happened Aruna? If you have any doubts about me, I am ready to do a paternity test.
But then after the test, I would like to end our relationship.
I don’t want to live in this kind of a relationship where there is a lack of trust.
I know your daughter is your blood and you should and have to support her.”
Aruna was crying.
” What happened Satya? How did it happen?
Where did I fall short? ”
Satya got closer to Aruna and started comforting her.
“Please Satya, I want to be alone for some time.
If you don’t mind, can you please sleep in the living room tonight?”
“Yeah sure Aruna. No problem.
Call me if you need something.”
Aruna nodded her head. Satya walked out of the room and went towards Avantika’s room. Her room was locked. He wanted to check on her but then he did not want to raise any further suspicion.
Satya was lying on the couch and reading a book. Avantika was in her room crying. Aruna was thinking hard about how to handle the situation. She sat on her bed and flashes of her past life kept cropping her mind. Aruna’s parents gave her a basic education and she fared well academically. They got her married at a young age due to their economic background. Her marriage to Nitesh was a disaster. Aruna was ill-treated by her inlaws, physically abused by Nitesh, she was not allowed to pursue her career, her dream.
After Avantika was born, they disliked the child because she had given birth to a girl. The same girl whom she loves more than her life and left the house and ended the relationship with Nitesh because he hit her.
Aruna had worked hard to make ends meet as she had the responsibility of her ageing parents and Avantika’s education. She had toiled day and night to achieve what she has today. Aruna had given Avantika good education and values but yet Avantika’s conduct today was questioned and somewhere Aruna felt responsible for it. Aruna felt guilty for not having given enough time for her daughter and not being by her side.
Aruna finally decided that how she had stood for herself years ago against Nitesh, she would do the same for her daughter no matter whom she had to lose in the process. All of sudden, Aruna heard Satya scream.
“Stop it, Stop it….”
Aruna ran outside.
“What is it, Satya? How did you hurt your hand ?”
“What happened to Avantika?”
“She attacked me Aruna with a knife. When I started screaming and defended myself, she ran away.”
“Ran away? Where ?”
“How am I supposed to know where? She ran outside.”
Aruna went outside and checked. She could not find Avantika. She even called out for her but there was no response.
“Aruna, Aruna….wake up.”
“Oh, I don’t know when I fell asleep. Did Avantika come home?”
‘What are you doing here Aruna on the patio?
No, Avantika is not home yet.”
“How is your hand Satya?”
“It still hurts Aruna.
“Let us go to the doctor later.”
“No, the wound is not so deep. I will be fine.
Please come inside and get fresh. Eat something.
Avantika will be home by then.”
Aruna checked with Avantika’s friends. None of them knew about her. Aruna was worried. It had been three days since she ran away from home and there was no trace of Avantika. Aruna went to Avantika’s room and lay on her bed. She was crying hard. Aruna’s hands slipped below the pillow and she could sense something. Aruna got up and lifted the pillow. There was a piece of paper underneath the pillow. She opened it and it was a letter from Avantika.
I have tried to tell you several times about Satya. He is not the person whom we think he is. I had thought that he was suitable for you. But I was wrong. I feel sorry for putting you through this. Again another relation where you will eventually be hurt when you get to know the bitter reality. The truth will be out someday. In your absence, he has misbehaved with me. When I told you about him, he did not like it and raped me by drugging. He threatened me that if I tell you or the police, he would make the video viral.
I wanted to end my life because I could not face this torture. When I learned that I was pregnant, I was devastated. What hurt me more was your lack of trust in me. Did you think that I was jealous or felt insecure about his presence in your life? No Amma, never. I always wanted you to be happy. I know what you have gone through and I have seen it. I would always wish the best for you even to this day when you have not stood by me or supported me which I thought you would.
You are the only one I have in my life Amma and when you are not by me, I see no point in staying in this house. Please don’t come looking for me. Promise me that you will look after yourself and not brood in my absence. You have established yourself and you will live up to it. Love you Amma.
Aruna’s eyes were moist as she was reading the letter. Satya was not at home. She opened his wardrobe and started looking for tapes that Avantika had mentioned. Her search was futile. Aruna knew that Avantika would not stoop down to this extent of blaming anyone for a crime they did not commit but it was hard for her to not believe Satya also who had treated her so well. But without any evidence, she could not hold Satya responsible. Aruna carefully kept the letter so that Satya could not find it.
Aruna felt Avantika’s absence. But as promised, Aruna had tried her best to keep herself active. The music concert was successful. More and more students had enrolled in the academy. Aruna thought that she had been successful in her career but as a mother, she had failed miserably.
Even though Avantika had mentioned to her in the letter not to look for her, Aruna put her best efforts to search for her but in vain. She had even sought the help of the police.
Six months had gone by but Aruna had not heard a word from Avantika. Each time Aruna prayed, she wished for her daughter to be fine wherever she is and to get back to her soon. She was feeling lonely. Satya was at work. Aruna went to the study room to pick up a book to read. Aruna noticed that books were not placed in the proper order that they used to be in. It was quite some time since she had entered this room due to her schedule. She pulled out the books so that she could place them in proper order. While doing so, an envelope fell from one of the books. She picked them up. The book belonged to Satya. She was curious to know what was inside as she could feel the envelope and there was a strange touch to it.
When Aruna opened the envelope she found some CDs. She wondered as to why Satya was hiding them in the book. She turned on her laptop and inserted the CD. She was shocked to see what appeared on the screen. The tape was that of Satya and Avantika. Aruna was enraged. She could not see it any further and hence closed her laptop. Aruna clenched her fist and banged it on the desk. She kept yelling….
“No, No, No …..How could you do this Satya…”
Aruna was waiting for Satya to get back home.
“Aruna, you are home early ?”
“I did not go to the academy today.”
“You sound a little different Aruna. Is everything alright ?”
Aruna slowly walked towards Satya.
“You tell me Satya. Is everything alright?”
Satya was confused. Aruna had never spoken to him in this tone. He knew that something was not right. Aruna showed him the envelope.
“I found this when I was cleaning the bookshelf.”
Satya was sweating. His hands and legs were trembling.
“Look Aruna, I can explain.
It was Avantika who wanted it this way.
I did not know she had taped it.
She was trying to blackmail me. Trust me Aruna.”
“Enough Satya.Enough. I trusted you and this is what you have done.
Avantika was the one who wanted me to marry you. This is the price she paid .”
Satya was trying to defend himself but Aruna was least interested in listening to him. She had informed the police and they arrested Satya. Aruna felt so helpless.
“I am sorry Avantika. I am sorry. Please come back.”
Avantika gave birth to a baby girl and she named her Khushi. Khushi was the sole reason for her existence. Avantika had gone through a lot. When she left the house, there was no one to help her. She then went to an orphanage. They were reluctant to admit her but when she pleaded with them, they obliged. Later Avantika was shifted to a women’s welfare organisation. Her health wasn’t favouring her but yet she worked in a small scale industry and earned daily wages to meet her needs. The organisation also took good care of her. She was trolled and looked down but Avantika had decided that she would not let this affect her.
Avantika had seen how her mother had emerged as a hero despite all the troubles she went through and she wanted to do the same. Except that she pledged that she would trust her child, unlike her mother.
Avantika completed her education through scholarship. She is also keen that Khushi also gets a good education. Avantika became in charge of the organisation. She gave it a new dimension and it helped many women who were in distress. With time, they had good funds and support from the government and opened many branches in different parts of the country.
When Khushi had the time, she helped her mother. Khushi was aware of everything that Avantika had gone through. Avantika wanted things to be transparent between them.
Avantika was an inspiration to many women who had gone through or were going through various problems that women face.
Through her organisation, Avantika had not only provided shelter and support to the women but also educational facilities, job opportunities and respectable life in society. Khushi wanted her story to be known. She insisted that a book be written. Also, the other committee members and her friends were keen on Avantika writing a book.
Avantika began writing her book. When she was writing about Satya, she had goosebumps. Even to this day, the very thought about that incident haunted Avantika’s life. Khushi resembled Satya but then she thought that Khushi was not to be blamed for it. It took Avantika few months to complete her book as she had other commitments to be met.
Avantika had decided that she would release the book on her mother Aruna’s birthday. Over all these years, Avantika had not attempted to meet Aruna nor find out about her. Avantika would get to hear about her either from the television or newspaper as Aruna had become a well-known music artist .Admission in her music academy was a dream for any student who wanted to pursue music as their career. Avantika did not hate Aruna but she was so hurt by Aruna’s behaviour that she had decided that she did not want to see her again.
“Mom, Mom come here soon.Mom.”
“What is it Khushi?”
“Mom, see the news. Your mother is unwell and she is hospitalised. ”
Avantika sat down and watched the news. She was shocked to hear about it.
” Mom, you must go visit her. ”
” Tomorrow is my book launch and I have to be there. ”
” What is important, mom? ”
” Khushi, I am not going. Please don’t force me. ”
” Then I will go visit her. ”
” Up to you Khushi. I am not stopping you from visiting her. ”
Saying this Avantika walked into her room.
The next day, Khushi went to visit Aruna at the hospital and Avantika for her book launch. Amidst the event, Avantika got a call that Aruna’s condition was critical and Aruna wanted to meet Avantika. She had no choice but to visit her.
Avantika reached the hospital. She was nervous. When she saw Aruna in front of her eyes, she had various feelings. She was happy to see her mother after many years. Avantika was sad that she was meeting her in this condition and she was disheartened about the past.
Khushi who was sitting beside Aruna whispered into her ears that Avantika had arrived. Upon hearing this, Aruna slowly opened her eyes. Aruna was excited to see Avantika. Her BP was rising. The nurse advised her not to get excited else she has to send everyone outside the room.
Aruna extended her hand towards Avantika.
” Mom, Mom….please come forward. Amma is calling you. ” Khushi got up from the chair so that Avantika could be seated. Avantika sat beside Aruna.
” Avantika, how are you? Are you still angry? ”
Avantika remained silent.
“I am sorry Avantika. I was not there when you needed me.
I am happy to see you here .”
“Happy Birthday Amma.
You should get some rest. Get some sleep Amma.”
“Avantika please don’t go. Stay here with me.
I met Khushi. She told me a lot about you. I am so proud of you Avantika.”
“After all your blood runs in me Amma. How could I fail?
Like you I am a fighter too.
You had me and I had Khushi.”
“Please forgive me Avantika.”
“Amma, I have forgiven you. I don’t have any grudges against you .”
“Then why did you leave me and go ?”
“But I am here now Amma. That is important.”
“Khushi told me about your book .”
“Yeah, she insisted that I write.
Amma, you are the hero of my story. I have dedicated it to you.
I will give you a copy. Read it later.”
Aruna smiled and nodded her head.
“Avantika, Khushi wanted to know about Satya.
I did not tell her anything yet.”
Avantika stared at Khushi.
“Don’t get angry at Khushi please Avantika.. She has the right to know. After all he is…”
“I am not interested to know about that rapist Amma.”
“Satya is dead, Avantika. He committed suicide.
He was arrested by the police.
Later when he got out of jail on bail,he hanged himself.”
Avantika looked at Khushi.
“Got your answer? Khushi.”
“I am sorry Mom. I did not mean to hurt you.”
The nurse entered the room and requested Avantika to leave as Aruna had to rest. After a few weeks, there was an improvement in Aruna’s health. Aruna had requested Avantika to stay with them but Avantika refused as she did not want to enter that house. Avantika suggested that she move in with them. Khushi also forced Aruna to stay with them. Aruna agreed.
Like Aruna, Khushi too took keen interest in music and wanted to join the academy. Aruna decided that after her, Khushi would take over her music academy. Avantika’s book was successful.
“Yes, Amma. What is it ?”
“I was asking Avantika as to when are you getting married.
She told me to ask you .”
“Amma…is it necessary that I get married?
I am happy the way I am.”
“Not all marriages are bad Khushi .”
“But then I don’t need a man in my life, Amma.
After a few years, I have decided that I am going to adopt a girl child.”
“That is a good thought Khushi. Isn’t it Avantika? ”
Avantika was happy to hear about it.
Avantika called out for her mother and Khushi.
” Come let’s have a group hug.”
The three of them hugged each other and lived happily thereafter.