She was definitely not prepared for the idiosyncrasies of a rural place. Down south where she came from, she wasn’t used to rules imposed by rituals. She was a free bird who never thought twice before voicing an opinion. Unfortunately where she was, it was huge crime for women to voice their opinion and follow their heart. In that area women were categorised in two parts – Angels and Demons. Those who abided by the patriarchal laws were angels those who revolted were demons.
Being a wildlife photographer, she decided to explore the forest “Aranya” (literally means forest). She was told that once she enters the forest she can meet Ram Singh who was the Forest Officer and stays there with his family.
After loitering in the forest and clicking whatever she felt was worth clicking, she finally reached Ram Singh’s house. She was welcomed by Ram’s wife Sita, a typical rural woman who had covered her head with a veil and never looked into the eyes when she spoke.
She found it a bit funny but before she could pay more heed to it she saw Ram. She was smitten at first sight. He was tall, well built, and had long hair. He wasn’t very fair but his eyes gleamed like stars. With a husky voice he greeted her. She stood still, as if in a dream. Her heart skipped a beat as her hand shook his.
Throughout the evening she flirted with Ram, trying to get close with him. It didn’t bother her that he was married. Crossing a line was her virtue. Mostly because she was limitless.
One thing constantly bothered her. She noticed that Sita was blindly following Ram’s orders. Being an independent modern woman, Surpanakha didn’t understand the reason behind Sita’s actions. She confronted her.
Surpanakha – Aap har woh kaam karti hai to aapke pati karwaate hai? (Do you do everything your husband asks you to do)
Sita – Ji (yes)
Surpanakha – Kyun? (why)
Sita was stunned. No one had ever questioned her actions before. In her village that’s what was taught to her. She said “Kyunki woh mere pati hai. Pati parmeshwar hote hain. Aur parmeshwar kabhi galat nahin hota” (because he is my husband, my god. And God can never be wrong)
Surpanakha wondered whether Sita was a woman or a robot. But she felt it wasn’t her business. From the looks of it advising Sita would have been a waste of time. She turned around and stared right into Lakshman’s eyes. The scariest pair of eyes she had ever seen. Lust and anger filled those eyes. She looked away. His stare made her uncomfortable.
After dinner Surpankha lured Ram with her charm and asked him to step aside for a drink. Sita didn’t object but Lakshman didn’t approve of her advances. He hid behind a door and listened to their conversation.
Ram – I see what you are trying to do. Par main shaadi-shuda hun (but I am married).
Surpanakha – I don’t think your wife will have a problem. We can be doing it right in front of her and she’ll never know. Anyways she never seems to disagree with anything you do.
Ram – That’s because she is my wife. Yeh to uska kartavya hai. (this is her job)
Surpanakha disagreed but before she could say something Ram intervened. By then he had realised that Surpanakha’s attitude might unsettle a few norms of his society. Without encouraging her to revolt in any other way he asked her to leave.
“Where’s your chivalry? You are asking a woman to leave in the middle of the night” she complained. She wasn’t scared. After all she was a traveler who had visited the darkest and the most dangerous parts of the world all by herself. But Ram was a chivalrous man. He realised he shouldn’t have said so. He apologised and asked Lakshman to escort Surpanakha to another forest bungalow as soon as the sun rises. Lakshman was more than ready. He anyways didn’t like the way Surpanakha tried to mock Ram’s and Sita’s ideologies. In his mind he had decided to teach Surpanakha a lesson.
At 3 in the night Surpanakha woke up to a loud noise. Someone was banging her door. For the first time she experienced fear. Stealthily she opened the door. Lakshman was standing there. “Come, we have to go”, he said. “But it’s dark, your brother said I can stay here till morning”, she replied. Lakshman pulled out his gun and said “My brother and I are the best shooters in the countrye forest with him. Suddenly Lakshman asked her to stop. Fear had overtaken her. She knew what was about to happen. She could see it in his eyes. Her hands trembled her head felt heavier and heart beat faster. She wasn’t scared of death. Because deep down she knew it wasn’t death that was coming her way.
Surpanakha walked into the dense forest with him. Suddenly Lakshman asked her to stop. Fear had overtaken her. She knew what was about to happen. She could see it in his eyes. Her hands trembled, her head felt heavier and heart beat faster. She wasn’t scared of death. Because deep down she knew it wasn’t death that was coming her way.
She was so engulfed in fear that she shivered as she uttered the words “You are making a big mistake. You don’t know my brother. And the extent he can go to avenge me.”
Lakshman laughed at her. He mocked her statement. And then Surpanakha’s fears came to life. She got something worse than death – Humiliation for life.
It was 6 AM and as usual Ram woke up early. He went to Surpanakha’s room and found it empty. He asked Lakshman.
Lakshman – I dropped her to the nearest forest bungalow as you had asked me to.
Ram – In the middle of the night? I asked you to do it in the morning.
Lakshman – Usey hum jaise jaahilon ke saath nahin rehna tha. Usey laga hum gawar hain aur humaare saath rehna uske shaan ke khilaaf hai.
Ram – Bewakoof hai woh. Jaldi seekh jaayegi. (She is stupid. Hopefully she learns fast)
Lakshman – Maine sikha diya (I taught her a lesson)
Ram – Kya matlab? (what do you mean)
Lakshman – Maine uski naak kaat di (literally translates as I chopped off her nose. But it figuratively means “I humiliated her”)
Note: The above story is a work of fiction. The objective was not to shake beliefs or hurt sentiments. This is an attempt to perceive what was taught to us, in a different way.