Mohini is no more!
Word spread like fire in our school. She committed suicide, hanged herself on the mango tree near our house , where we played hide and seek for hours and did our homework together. But why Mohini, when things were falling right for you and your family, were turning so right. My head was buzzing and to find out the root cause of it became very important for me.
There was a dead silence in the expensive and private school campus . All lips were sealed.
My only bet was Ramu kaka –Mohini’s Father.
So with a numb heart, I turned to the out-house in our garden where Ramu kaka ( our gardner) and his daughter Mohini used to live and where Ramu Kaka has bolted himself in. Mohini was his princess. He always tried to give her best- best food, best education. He had big dreams for her.
Now No one has seen him for last three days since Mohini’s funeral. It was definitely the time when somebody checked on him.
I knocked on the door , there was no response. But when I started begging and pleading, a ghostly figure emerged…all bent and broken, eyes swollen red , by crying or anger, I really do not know? May be due to the frustration and anger on the helplessness of the situation. Perhaps both!
Silently he pointed me towards his charpai to sit down, which he has just straightened down for me.
I held his hand gently and made him sit by me. Then with a great difficulty asked that burning question –‘ Why kaka…Why Mohini did it? Mohini Nath was the best student of our class . She came first in studies , she won most medals in sports! We all loved and respected her so much. She got the place in best university for further studies ! Why this, when the life was turning out to be so golden for her?’
‘ Because, she was the daughter of a Dalit Ramnath. Money , education nothing can wipe this Dalit fate from her forehead. Just a week late in depositing her fee and as a punishment and penalty, headmaster Mr. Ayer asked her to clean each and every toilet in the school . He made sure she did it in front of all the children and her friends.
She scrub-cleaned everything all right, then freed herself from this vile world.
Do you understand her pain Veeru? Do you know now why she did it?’
Not only his voice , he himself was completely choked with grief by now .
My head was hung down in shame . There were no word left to exchange or console.
Then I Veeru Shah, made a promise to my friend Mohini and myself in front of her despaired and sad father, my India should change, will change. No Mohini should hang herself like this in future or allowed to be treated like this, all because of her cast only.
I very well knew it was nothing more than a token gesture , still took all my pocket money and bought lot of sweets from Natthu Halwaai . Next day it was Diwali and I celebrated it differently, not with my friends, but with those bare foot hungry children. Smile on their faces gave me immense satisfaction and wiped off some sadness from my heart.
From now on, I am going to celebrate it every year with all my friends in Dalit basti with poor and heartbroken children…a small step to improve our society but definitely worth pursuing. I do not know whether Ramu kaka will also like to come with us or have I even got any courage left even to ask him !
May be next year !….