When lust blinds reason
Warning: While not explicit, the imagery in this content may trigger some readers.
Several years ago, I employed a young girl from Orissa as a cook in my home. Let’s call her Sundari. Sundari means pretty girl. Her beauty came more from her unassuming and smiling countenance than sharp features of any kind. She had a kind and friendly face. Had!
Years later I still wonder whether it would have been better if she had not resisted. Would she have been alive? But then, would she be truly alive? Either way, there is a heavy price to pay!
Bangalore is a haven for all kinds of employment. Lots of young folks migrate here from small towns to make a living.
Sundari’s tale is similar. She and her young husband, Sunil, and a bunch of other cousins moved to Bangalore to earn a livelihood and support their families back home. Their talents lay in cooking and most of them found employment as cooks at various homes.
Sunil was a little more enterprising. He started a catering unit. They had a set menu and catered to offices close by. Sundari worked at a few homes in the apartment complex where I live, and Sunil had his business close by. He picked up and dropped her off every day.
Hardworking, sincere, and happy with their lot — this sums up what I saw of Sundari and Sunil’s life in a strange new city. They had left the comfort of their homes and moved to a new city with a different language and culture — a hard decision to fulfill their simple dreams.
Sundari reached my home by 7:30 pm each evening. That’s the time I used to get back home from work as well. That day, I arrived at 7:30 pm as usual and there was no sign of Sundari. I called her mobile but it was switched off.
I worried that she might not turn up and mentally prepared myself to cook for the night when the phone rang. It was my driver calling from the common basement where our car was parked. He had heard something, he said. His next words sent a shiver through my body and turned my heart to ice. He said Sundari was dead. What? How? I was waiting for her. She was going to show up any moment. What rubbish! But I was shaking.
I had her husband’s number. I called him immediately and asked why Sundari hadn’t come yet. He said, “Ma’am, she died.” Calm, unemotional, statement of fact delivered by her husband. He sounded like a robot. I did not have the heart to ask any more questions. I mumbled that I was sorry and hung up.
I recalled her pleasant and smiling face. I’d never seen her frown, much less get angry about anything. Just the previous day she had made mint leaf chutney and insisted I try it. “Didi, try this chutney. I think it came out well.” Didi — sister. I felt a painful tug in my heart.
I called a few others in the apartment — houses where Sundari was employed as a cook. Slowly, the horrendous story came together.
Sundari had some free time in the afternoon and was usually at home catching up on daily chores. Sunil joined her for chai by late afternoon and dropped her back at my apartment for her evening duties. That day, when Sunil went back home for chai, a horrible sight greeted him. Sundari was lying on the floor with a knife through her neck. She’d been gone for a while.
The cops conducted a preliminary investigation and figured out that a neighbor had entered their home on the pretext of asking for some information. He apparently tried to force himself onto her. On being questioned, other neighbors admitted that they had heard screaming. Clearly, Sundari had resisted his advances, and in the resulting tussle, he knifed her and fled. There was evidence that it was him because Sundari had his neck chain firmly in her clasp. The brute was arrested. But that didn’t bring Sundari back to life.
I shudder when I visualize the scene. My poor, young, sweet Sundari being subjected to such trauma — leaves me shaking each time.
The case dragged on for a bit. Many of us in the apartment helped as much as we could because Sunil and his relatives did not know the local language, Kannada. We spoke to the cops, translated some of the paperwork, and provided monetary assistance. It didn’t matter. Sundari stayed gone.
Small-town folks who could not speak the local language, with no money to pay court and case-related fees — it was a matter of time before Sundari’s family gave up and quit the fight.
In the end, the evidence was not enough and the fiend got away scot-free.
As for Sunil and the rest of the family, I can only guess how helpless they felt. Last we heard, they had packed up and gone back home. You can’t blame them. They came here with dreams and went back with a nightmare that would haunt them for life.
One man with his wicked urge had carelessly snuffed out a sweet life and shattered the dreams of an entire family. I wonder how he can live with himself.
It has been several years since the horrible event. I think of Sundari often. She was a simple small-town girl making an honest attempt to lead a better life. She is now a mere statistic in a world filled with heinous humans.
It wasn’t just Sundari who died so horrifically that day. A huge part of Sunil died. All the dreams that Sundari, Sunil, and their families had built died a premature death.
The worst death? Any last vestiges of humanity left in that neighbor died. And still he roams free…