MANUSMRITI PART- II
She had been working in my house for nearly a year. I understand my wife had a long talk with her during her first meeting before my wife engaged her. I remember it was a long interview followed by my wife’s talking to her previous employer; asking her all that can be asked about a female household help - the kaamwali. The new Kaamwali had a son by the name of Nandu so my wife started calling her ‘Nandu ki Amma’. That was her identity in our house. My son and daughter called her by that name and so did I even though over a period we had learnt that her name was Rajani. In any case, I never had any occasion to talk to Rajani. First, I used to leave my house in the morning before she came and I returned home late in the evening much after she had left. Besides, I considered it prudent not to get into trifles since our house hold ran on my wife’s dictate. My wife was happy with Rajani’s work and that is what mattered.
“Rajani is punctual and quick in uptake. She has learnt my likes and dislikes in a very short span. She knows, I like floors and cupboards shining bright. She knows, we like coffee in the morning and children like hot milk with Horlicks and that we like lesser use of edible oil and condiments,” my wife had mentioned on a Sunday morning while she was in an expansive mood after a delicious idli-dosa breakfast prepared by Rajani.
Rajani must be in her mid-forties - that was my guess. I had noticed her long jet black hair curling over her hind side and that she was tall, fair and voluptuous. Truthfully, I knew she had an exciting profile but I never crossed the safety line.
It was the eve of Holi festival. My wife had asked Rajani to come early and help her in making some snacks for the guests. Rajani didn’t come early; even her normal reporting time had gone past. My wife was annoyed even though my daughter had extended her a helping hand.
“She shouldn’t have promised to come early or should have at least come on regular time. It is mid noon and there is no trace of her. I don’t like such irresponsible behavior,” grumbled my wife forgetting all the earlier homilies she delivered in her praise.
Our guests came. There were snacks cooked by my wife and daughter overly supplemented by those brought by my son from the nearby confectioner. In fact, no one was eager in picking up the home made snacks, which riled my wife a trifle bit. We played Holi and then the guests departed. We decided to close the festivities and go for a wash. My wife was unhappy and still grumbling.
“So much of this left over will go waste. If Nandu’s Amma were here, she could have taken it to her family. Of late, this woman is becoming difficult,” my wife growled as she started arranging the household.
And then there seemed to be some commotion at our gate. I saw Rajani running in and a man chasing her with a hockey stick in his hand. The burly man was followed by an elderly boy and a teen aged girl.Rajani ran inside without talking to us. We were flabbergasted. The man and his children stopped short of our court yard. The man was fuming. It was obvious that he was overly drunk.
“This woman has been avoiding me since yesterday; refuses to come to me at night. And she has been dying to come to you since day break,” he said staring at me.
I got damned scared and hastily rushed towards my room.
The man won’t stop. Coming close to me he shouted, “You and your wife have been tempting her with money and gifts and I know what that means - you have been seducing her.”
At that point Rajani came out. She had bruises all around and there was blood oozing from her mouth. She was shrieking and shouting.
“You are an inhuman beast. You treat me as if I were an animal. You want me to act like a bitch; always in heat. I don’t want to stay with you anymore.”
Then turning towards me she cried, “Sahib! See, how badly he has beaten me with the hockey stick. He is butcher, a demon.”
The brute jumped towards Rajani swinging the hockey stick but my son came in between. That made him furious.
“You think this old foggy will keep you? He will use you and kick your ass when he is tired of you. I know these bastards. They want a new woman every other day.”
I was furious at the accusation and I didn’t want to take it lying down. I asked my son to take out the car. “I am going to take Rajani to the police station. This scoundrel should not get scot free.”
I was emboldened when my wife joined me instantly. “Yes. These rascals should not be left unpunished,” she said with a determined look.
We went to the police station and narrated the whole story to theSub Inspector on duty. Initially, the SI was quite reluctant to register a case.
‘Sahib! I know these people. They will fight one day and be friends the next day. It is a daily affair for these women to be thrashed by their husbands. In fact, they are proud of it in a funnier way. It is the sign of masculinity in men - to thrash their women once in a while.”
“Stop yapping. Record a FIR or else I will report the matter to your superior,” I snapped.
The SI knew I was in the media and lack of diligence could land him introuble. A FIR and Rajani’s statement was recorded and then she was sent to the government hospital for a medical check-up and I insisted that her husband was also tested for excessive intake of alcohol.
We returned to my place minus Rajani’s husband who was detained by the SI in the police station.
“We will get the medical report and present him before the city magistrate tomorrow morning,” the SI told me.
I was happy that the scoundrel will get good thrashing while in the police custody. My wife gave Rajani hot tea and snacks to eat. They were in conference while I took a shower and changed. It was agreed between them that Rajani will stay with her maternal uncle’s familywho lived nearby and continue working for us.
A week passed. I was busy like usual, moving in and out of the town. The case was taken up by the city magistrate and I got a court notice to be present in the court on the given date. I consulted Harsh, my school time friend, who was also the lawyer of my business concern. Harsh assured me that there was nothing to worry. You are supposed to strengthen the prosecution case.
The court proceeding started. We were in for a shock. Rajani was narrating a different story. I was getting out of my wits. I looked towards the SI and then Harsh in turn. Rajani’s version was miles away from the actual facts.
Rajani blamed me of harassing her sexually in the absence of my wife and that I had groped her several times. That I had often given her money to lieu of sexual favours and threatened her to remain quiet in the matter.
I was aghast to know that she had accused my wife as the one who abetted in the crime.
“Don’t you have any conscience? Aren’t you ashamed of accusing me and my wife of utter untruth,” I shouted.
I was admonished by the magistrate. “You will get enough opportunity to speak out your side of story. Please remain quiet or I will hold you liable for contempt of court.”
That was the first shock I ever got in my life; publically insulted and humiliated. After the court proceedings, we tried to speak to Rajani. She refused to talk to anyone of our family; not even to my wife. In fact, her husband never left her even for a moment. He forbade her to work in my house. She was virtually under house arrest.
After the above proceedings, I found even the SI shying away from me. “Sir! What can I do in the matter? It is between her and you. I am there to merely help in the investigation,
It was the biggest shock of my life. I was crestfallen, thoroughly depressed. I had till then led a pleasant proverbial happy go lucky life. Harsh said he will fight it out in the court but could never spell the future course of action though he had managed a bail for me.
Three days of utter agony and I don’t recollect the number of times and number of ways I thought of ending my life. And then on the fourth evening Harsh asked me to come to our club. “Rajani and her husband have agreed to talk you. The SI will also be there. We could discuss the case there without being disturbed,” This was Harsh, my close friend and lawyer.
“You see the case has turned topsy turvy. Instead of appreciating your help, Rajani has filed a complaint against you. That you molested her modesty several times and that you have been paying her money to keep quite.” That was the SI giving the prelude of the case diary that existed then.
“The FIR stands revised based on Rajani’s statement recorded before the magistrate. You may be in trouble and that too serious one.” That was the pith and substance of the case according to Harsh.
“But you know I am innocent. Never ever looked at the female. Never touched her.”
“That is your truth. The Law is an ass. A blind ass. And unfortunately, provisions’ of law relating to outraging the modesty of women have been made very stringent. Even her statement is enough to put you behind the bar. No additional evidence required.” This was SI again.
“What do you suggest?” I asked the SI.
“The bastard wants ten lakhs to withdraw the complaint,” the SI spoke in a casual way as if there was nothing unusual about it.
I would have fainted but for the presence of my son on my side.
“So- I have been trapped,” I managed to speak.
“Leave that to me and your lawyer. If you are agreeable to shell out the money, we will try to close the case taking the magistrate is with us. Incidentally, the bastard has demanded one lakh,” the SI added, wanting to give credibility to the deal.
“And how much you two bastards get out of it?” I asked Harsh, my life time buddy in utter frustration.
“Breach of Trust - between a lawyer and his client.” Harsh quipped. And then he whispered, I don’t mind having her ass for once.”
My son took the initiative. Next day he went to the SI and called Rajani and her husband there. Harsh was there to help him. The SI and Harsh had drafted a loan document signed by Rajani and her husband agreeing to have taken a loan of ten lakhs from my son. That was the guarantee SI, the law enforcing authority had arranged as safeguard if Rajani or her husband defied the agreement.
A fresh statement was recorded absolving me of all allegations. It stated that Rajani had got hurt during a street fight with unknown Holi revelers over some trifle issue. I was lucky to skip the jail.
We tried to forget the issue. My daughter was married off. My wife and my son and luckily for us, his wife too decided never to appoint any kaamwali. We decided to share the responsibilities between ourselves. I didn’t know where the fault lay. Was it in the changed social system heralding women’s lib or was it in our recently modified law, which had castigated the freedom of male members of the society?
We have to abide by Manusmriti Part II. I tried to convince myself and my family.
We wanted to shift from the present location but property matters being complex, couldn’t do so. One day, while buying fresh from vegetable market, I suddenly saw, Rajani squatting on the ground. There were filthy, oily rags wrapped around her knees and she was begging for alms. I was dismayed. My first reaction was that she must be out of job since everyone in our colony believed that she had cheated us; no one engaged her any more. Bad reputation spreads faster than the good one.
Our eyes met and then I hurriedly looked other way. I wanted to get away from the place. I dumped the bag in the boot of my car and came in front. I was perplexed.
Rajani hurriedly dragged herself in front of my car.
What could be her next ploy? I was worried.
As I opened the door of my car, she dragged closer and folded her hands in namastey.
“What do you want now? I don’t want to talk to you. Get away,” I could not keep my cool.
“Sahib! Please forgive me. I know I have been very mean to you but please believe me it was the doing of my husband and the SI. They both schemed to trap you and extort money from you. My husband beat me mercilessly and threatened to kill me if I didn’t follow his orders.”
“Sahib! The SI took two lakhs out of the money you gave and a lakh was given to the magistrate to withdraw the case. My husband squandered the remaining money within few months and then he wanted me to work for another rich family. He wanted to repeat the same story. The SI had taken him to one of his colleagues who was willing to be the part of next episode.
“Sahib! I refused to be a party to another game plan and you see the result. He broke both my knees and has thrown me out. I am on the streets for last one week. I knew you come here to buy vegetables. I wanted to seek your forgiveness before I leave this town.”
“Sahib! I couldn’t have left the town with so much of burden on my conscience. Please forgive me. I have been punished enough for my sins and I am willing to accept the remaining retribution.
“Where are you going now?”
“I don’t know. I pray for death but it doesn’t come so easily to a sinner like me. I want to go to Haridwar. They say mother Ganga accepts every sinner and forgives him.”
I was stupefied. I hated this woman for all her miss-doings. And here before me was a victim of male brutality; beaten and forced to commit one wrong after another.
“Rajani! I wish I could do something for you. Ironically, we are sailing in the same boat. You are the victim of the ancient social law and I am the victim of its modern version. The Manusmriti – the ancient law was blind towards women; berated the modesty of women and so is its new version- arrogantly belligerent towards men.”
I took out a five hundred rupee note and gave it to her. “Be God with you,” I whispered while getting into my car leaving behind the hapless woman, her hands folded in supplication.