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Calcutta,1829.Laxmi threw away the rice liquor which was given to her. This was the third time in the day that she had done so. She refused again and again even thou she was being coaxed by the women folk to drink it. The women of the household said that she should drink it as it would eventually help her in subsiding the pain even thou Laxmi knew that it will only intoxicate her and will be of minimal help. Dhruv, her beloved husband would sometimes make her drink it at night.Dev, younger brother of Laxmi, opened the door of the room forcefully and ran towards her, hugging her tightly and sobbing hard. Her slender figure started trembling, knowing not what to do, whether to console her younger brother or to console her own self for the horror that lay ahead. Thou these customs were practiced by many in her land and nearby lands as well, she knew not that this was her destiny. Dev was then taken away by their mother who was absolutely quite and cold as a stone. The women of the house hold tried there level best to boost her moral and tried to convince her to drink up as it will aid her to sleep. But she was determined not to be befooled, for her brother had just whispered in her ears the inevitable future for which arrangements were being done. This left her trembling.Even in the worst of nightmares, eighteen year old Laxmi could never have dreamt of self- immolation. Thou she knew that many brave widows became Sati by sitting on the pyre with their husband‟s dead body in their laps, who were later glorified as Goddesses and worshiped. She also knew that even if she resists she would be compelled by any means to perform Sati. She had heard that many times widows were forced to commit Sati, sometimes even dragged against their wish to the lighted pyre. Laxmi thought to herself, if only Dhruv had not died of his sudden illness, he would have completed his studies in medicine and she would have been wife of a doctor and would have lived happily ever after in Calcutta. Dhruv would never have given consent for Sati. In the eleven months of their marriage, Dhruv had been a very caring husband.Just before he fell seriously ill and was taken away for treatment, Laxmi remembered the evening when Dhruv consoled her and said “Laxmi, you should remember that you are as strong as a diamond and precious as well. Just needing the right light to fall on you and you will reflect it back in brilliance, that‟s what you are!!!” The words echoed in her memories. It was almost evening and Laxmi had lost all hope. Emotionally numb, physically exhausted, her big beautiful kohled eyes stoned, she reached for the earthen container and gulped down the stale tasting drink.“Tomorrow Dhruv‟’s last rites would be performed and so would be mine, whether I desire it or not‟”, she thought to herself.She then started detangling her jet black, silky hair which had grown long till her knees, with her slender fingers. After detangling, she plated her hair and remembered how Dhruv use to love her long hair. It reminded her of their wedding night, when he had gifted her a Jasmine gajara for her hair and the whole room became fragrant with the sweet Jasmine scent. Laxmi could hear the sounds of the ringing of bells, blowing of conch shells and ululation by woman folk as there was a wedding in the locality. A fragrance had filled the room from the jasmine tree adjacent the window of her room. Slowly her body calmed down, the tensed muscles of her body relaxed, it was almost hypnotic. She tried hard to keep herself aware of the sounds, talks and noises around her.As she drifted away, she found herself travelling in distant lands, different landscapes. Suddenly she heard someone sobbing, she turned around and saw a woman dressed in a beautiful sari, sitting and sobbing with her back towards Laxmi. Her long wavy black hair touching the ground. Laxmi approached the woman asking her as to what had happened. She then placed her hand on the sobbing woman‟s shoulder, trying to comfort her. Suddenly the woman turned around and there was a sharp, blinding light, afraid of which, Laxmi covered her eyes. After about a minute she slowly dared to open her eyes and was astonished to see her beloved Goddesses Durga in her full mighty form, with eighteen arms, carrying various weapons, seated on a ferocious tiger. Laxmi bowed to her and prayed for her blessings. A bright light was bestowed on her by the goddess.“Laxmi get up, get up for God sake‟, Dev, her younger brother, tried to awaken Laxmi from her deep slumber.“Laxmi, we have to pack your belongings and get back to our village as soon as possible‟, insisted Dev. He spread out one of her sari‟s and started dumping her belongings onto the sari. Her head spinning and in utter confusion, Laxmi questioned “Am I not suppose to go to the funeral ground, they must be coming to get me?‟ .“The Police was here when you were sleeping. A law has been passed by the British, to abolish Sati. A British official had come along with police and sepoys last evening when you were sleeping. I tried to awaken you then but you were drugged therefore it was of no use. That is why we waited till morning. Mother has called for a horse carriage, it will be here any minute.‟Laxmi caught hold of her brother at once “What are you doing? What if my in laws and family members come hunting for me in our village?”“They dare not, the British had warned everyone in the family, that if you perform Sati whether with or without your consent, your in-laws would be punished by law and a criminal case would be charged against them. They have all gone to the funeral ground so hurry up” Dev said to her with such confidence that she could not believe her fate. She sat down on the bed and thought for a moment, trying to clear things in her head. „There is no time to waist, hurry up, I have packed your essential belongings, the horse carriage is here.”Dev insisted. He then tightened the knot of the sari with Laxmi‟s belongings inside it.Laxmi, from beneath her pillow, quickly removed a small Bengali booklet of poems with a peacock feather as a bookmark. She then kissed it, for it was a gift by her beloved husband Dhruv. Both the brother and sister hurried out of the house, climbed the horse carriage where their mother and father were waiting and trotted away towards their village. As they drove father away from the house, Laxmi looked nostalgically towards here marital home and pressed the booklet against her heart, as if a part of her heart was being left behind.Laxmi in her thoughts thanked Raja Ram Mohan Roy and the British for the divine intervention and remembered the last words of her husband Dhruv, the right light had indeed shone on her!Rajas, Rajasthan, 1987The women of the household and village sat mourning around the body of the deceased, some wailing as hard as they could as to provoke the people gathered around to shed tears of grief and sorrow. Some of the women, dressed in black, entered Laxmi‟s room, looking pitiful towards her. They caught hold of her hands and banged them on the wall thus breaking her glass bangles for now she was a widow. No longer could she wear glass or ivory bangles in her hands nor wear sindoor, a red powder which is applied at the beginning or completely along the parting line of a woman‟s hair, as it is only to be worn by a married woman.Laxmi lifted the yellow dupatta veil from her face and looked out of the window at the dead body of her husband Dhruv. Married for eleven months, many a times Laxmi had pleaded Dhruv to curb his habit of excessive drinking. Ultimately he was found lying dead close to their house. Laxmi was persuaded by the woman folk of the household that she should perform the ultimate sacrifice because she was a Rajput woman. Only a few months ago, a young bride from a nearby village who was widowed had performed the ultimate sacrifice. Tears welled up in Laxmi‟s beautiful brown eyes. Her skin, which was brown like the colour of the Thar desert, was now cold.Self-immolation was nothing new for Rajput woman of Rajasthan. Sati was practiced for centuries by woman of the Rajput clan and temples were build after their sacrifices, to glorify them as Goddesses. A woman‟s life was considered worthless without her husband. Some Hindus believed that the act of self immolation by a widow facilitated the attainment of spiritual salvation for her dead husband.“Laxmi‟, a male voice called out her name from behind the door. She went across the room and looked out of the door. It was her younger brother Dev, dressed in Rajasthani attire, wearing a colourfull turbane . He looked at her bare hands and his eyes were filled with grief. Laxmi, who was illiterate, thought that her brother who was an ace student in school would not approve of the sacrifice. She asked her brother “Dev, remember the bride who had performed Sati a few months ago? The elders are expecting me to perform it as well.”Dev was shocked to hear this. Sati, he thought in present times did not make sense even thou it had been abolished more than a century and a half ago by the British, as he had learnt in school. Shear wastage of human sense and sensibility as it is a barbaric act. He had heard that during the Sati performed a few months ago in a nearby village, people gathered around had chanted “Sati Mata ki Jai”, salutation to Goddess Sati. Dev immediately left the premises of the house. Laxmi was not able to convince herself for the sacrifice.Dhruv, to whom she was married for eleven months, owned a small grocery shop in the market place of the village. He had first seen Laxmi in a mela in his village and fell in love with the dusky beauty. He then found out about her native village, went to Laxmi‟s father and asked for her hand. He use to behave fine in his senses but as the day weathered away he would consume the local liquor and sit with his lousy friends and gamble. Many a times he lost all the money earned during the day. Laxmi at times tried to persue him to stop the bad vices. Initially he use to promise her that he would stay away from the bad vices, but as time passed he started physically abusing Laxmi, if ever she tried to stop him from drinking and gambling. Ultimately he died from excessive drinking, drowned in his own vomit.As the evening approached, Laxmi became very tensed. Some of the village elders had started anticipating that she would follow the footsteps of the bride of the nearby village who had made the ultimate sacrifice. She knew not what to do. Laxmi did not want to be a Goddess, she just wanted to live her life ahead, even if it meant to be without her husband Dhruv. Laxmi then rested on the mattress on the floor, her eyes gazing into infinity.All of a sudden, she heard some chaotic voices. Dev called out her name “Laxmi” and she rushed outside to see her brother standing in front of her house along with local police and a sober looking man. “You need not worry my sister, I spoke to my school teacher and we informed the local police. The state and central government have made strict laws to prohibit Sati. Nobody can force you to perform Sati”. The sober looking man greeted Laxmi, who was Dev‟s teacher. The police then dispersed around and made sure that no one dared to make arrangements for the Sati ceremony.Laxmi then packed her essentials and went along with her brother Dhruv. As they walked away, she looked behind at her marital house and determined herself that she would come back soon and re establish the grocery shop and earn her living.