The small town has began to rise itself : The milk delivery van rattles down the road, the recycling truck drivers try to back up their truck in narrow roads, the shop-keepers on the roadside re-arrange their best merchandises on the front, a few cows stand and some lay on the middle of the road chewing either grass or papers from the street, children walk on the street to the school ; some with colorful back packs and some carry a few books on hand. Across the street, morning light shifts thorough the clouds to give back the terraced row flats their eggshell color. Life forces want to emerge from all directions.
In one part of the town, at the farthest corner, at the end of a row far from the rustle and bustle stands a small house with bamboo thatched roof and walls of dirt and grass. The man in a soiled grey shirt sits on a small stool on the narrow front porch leaning against the wall. He has winter white hair, a beard and slightly wrinkled face. A middle age lady pushes the front bamboo door open. A slant of sunlight fell onto the floor at her feet. She carries two faded white mug of black tea without handles. The lady adjusts her torn lilac color dress, gives one mug to her husband and sits there with the other mug, close to the stool. They sip the hot tea quietly. After a while the man clears his throat, and says, ‘Yesterday, I met Harish from the other village. He is thirty-eight years old , only son of his parents and has his own business. He is looking for a girl to marry. I am thinking to give him the proposal of our daughter Madhu.’
‘What?? The wife says in disbelief. Our Madhu is only a child.’
The husband looks straight to his wife and says in a deep voice, ‘We can not take care of her. We do not have enough food for four of us. And it will be easy if Harish agrees to marry without any dowry. Any way girls are supposed to leave and stay with their husband’s family after their marriage. So sooner the better.’
The wife’s forehead is shaded with a heavy cloud, her lips are sealed in an expression of unspeakable sadness. She places the mug on the floor and lifts her eyes to argue, to oppose to this inhumanly idea of her husband. She gathers courage and says, ‘ Madhu is only eleven years old, a small child. Let her enjoy her childhood, learn a few things in life. And all the other children of her age are going to the school.’
Angers bubbles in the husband’s mind. He stands up slowly, stumps on the floor, bangs the mug and shouts at his wife, ‘ I am the head of the house and my decisions is final. I do not want to listen your complaint.’
His wife is very stubborn. She draws in a few deep breath, turns her head and glances at the broken pieces of the mug which are scattered on the floor just like her own life. She was married in a very young age of eight to this man and gone through a hell. She can not let the same misfortune happen to her daughter, she wants to protect her. She let the tears collect on her lashes and stream down her cheeks. She wipes her tears on the back of her right palm and walks closer to her husband and says,’ I beg you. Spare your daughter, let her go to school . I will find more work and arrange the food.’
Her husband raises his hand to silence his wife and says,’ Get lost from here. I wanted two sons, not a daughter and now do not teach me what to do. We are not rich and can not provide dowry. I have to take care of my son too. Harish will pay for everything and Madhu will be happy there.’ He climbs down the two small stairs and leaves. His wife sits there in the silence, staring numbly into the space, letting the tears trickle unchecked down her face.
A young man with a blue shirt and black pant bends down and tries to repair his bike in front of their house and overhears the conversation. As soon as the old man leaves, he climbs up the broken stairs carefully and walks up to the lady and says, ‘Excuse me’.
The lady turns her head slowly, her eyebrows lifted to see a stranger.
The young man walks a little closer and says, ‘I overheard your conversations with your husband. You are right about your daughter. She needs to continue her education, learn different things, and enjoy her life. No one should force her. But do not worry. Now there is a strict law against child marriage so you can come with me to the police station to file a complaint against your husband. And now there are lots of organizations who help in this type of scenarios. Please wipe your tears and come with me. I will be the witness.’
The lady relaxes her shoulder, a tentative smile plays around her mouth. She is determined to save her daughter’s life. She is strong enough to fight against and protect her. She closes the bamboo door from outside, climbs down the stairs and steps into the slice of sunshine.