On the street parallel to our home lived a Rajput family. Rajputs, as you might know, are a fierce and beautiful race, originators of Sati, the practice of urging a wife to leap on to her husband’s funeral pyre—for what is a woman worth without a man, anyway? Better to burn baby burn, and get all the endless vicious abuse a widow is subject to out of the way, once and for all. Never mind that in thousands of cases the husband is a doddering old fart, and the wife a young girl led to marital slaughter by virtuous parents. Duty and honor were considered paramount in those days, and a “good” woman was urged to end her life when her man was gone. Those who refused were drugged, thrown onto the funeral pyre, and drums were beaten loud and hard to drown out their shrieks.
Now Lakshmi, youngest of three graceful daughters born to this particular family, committed the mortal sin of falling in love with Shaukat, the attractive son of a local Muslim building contractor. Traditionally speaking, the Rajputs and the Muslims are arch enemies; so, when some spiteful gossip leaked the information to Lakshmi’s parents, her father—an important man in the Rajput community—went stark raving bonkers: Lakshmi was instantly pulled out of college, given the whipping of her life, and placed under house imprisonment. And since neighbourhood elders supported her parents for disciplining their wayward daughter in this drastic manner, not one adult attempted to ameliorate the poor girl’s fate. Continue reading