When the sky is bejeweled with the stars and moon, Anjana would hum some melodic tunes, offering herself an interlude of happiness in her general music of sadness. Anjana recalls her beautiful childhood days, making some colorful flower garlands on Diwali – the festival of light. As the clear sky releases sparkling drops of rain, her irrepressible imagination reaches to those cheerful days when she was in some extended meadows picking up strawberry with her friends.
Anjana enjoyed every fraction of her early youth days. Her best times were with kids, lamps, and calf. With her imaginative nature, she always creates abrupt pastures of her village a better place to live.
Occasionally, when some uncertain emotions evoke, Anjana would sit quite and fantasize herself wearing a vivid and attractive wedding dress, waiting impatiently for the groom to arrive. Soon, in her mind, the groom arrives with his eyes as lovely as a pearl. Her face starts to blush, embarrassed with her wild thoughts. But she could not stop going further with her wedding ceremony, in imagination though.
The intro of Anjana’s life seems to be exhilarating, but what brings ocean of tears is when she recalls beyond her childhood. With the exception of some uncertain interludes, life has treated her harsh constantly. Anjana sorrowfully lost the charm of her teenage life, but even stern is that; her life from then on constantly appeared to be cruel.
The years of 1970s were imprinted in Anjana’s mind. It was in those days that the breeze of fate scattered the aroma of her nectar to all direction, evoking the romantic heart of many thirsty bees. However, Anjana never believed in the poetry of ambitious men. Deep in her mind, Anjana thought choosing a right partner is important in her life – a life risking decision. Thus, to endow with space in her little heart, Anjana thought, she needs to know the man first.
It was in the spring of 1972 that Anjana turned sixteen. In those days, her far-cousin’s friend Raj often used to visit her home. Sometimes, they would knock the door at midnight, disturbing Anjana’s only liberated time, and ask for some water or tea. With her thoughtful nature, Anjana would open the door and obeys their request with good grace always. She stays handy for them until they start snoozing.
What went unnoticed was the episode of love in their every meeting. Whenever Anjana caters them with meals, the waves of smile runs through Raj’s face expressing gratitude for her humanity. Anjana just gets blushed easily, and tries to escape from the scene soon. But sitting bashfully at the corner of the kitchen, she rejoices every smile and admiring comment that she receives from Raj.
Soon, the arrow of Cupid hit their heart. Raj used to call her often at their favorite rendezvous in the rainforest of Tsirang and keeps her till late night. He cajoles her with thousands of praises and promises. In between, Raj always tries to swank himself to make Anjana feel secured with him. Raj whispered that he is a government employee based at Gelephu. Anjana’s fragile heart simply fallen madly in love with him.
During those days, Anjana’s parents were worried about her budding relationship with Raj. There was a mutual mistrust for Raj’s words from both parents, and struggled much to interrupt their relationship. Whipping one’s own offspring is hard to accept, but no choice for Anjana’s parents. Anjana’s father used corporal punishment too because he doesn’t want their daughter to fall the victim their own sympathy and empathy. But nothing succeeded in destroying Anjana’s decision. Anjana was deep in love with Raj. Helpless mother shed many drop of tears for her innocent decision.
Anjana’s rousing dream was to marry an affluent man and be of assistance to her poor parents. She always dreamed of making her parents happy. Anjana thought that their odium on her decision to marry Raj will come to an end once she start being helpful for them. Thus, Anjana took all the scolding and beatings as her small sacrifice.
One dawn, when the whole world is still resting, Anjana woke up like a ghost and prepared to bunk off home. She packed some of her favorite clothes and walked out silently. The snoring of the cows and goats – her childhood friends from the pen brought some insufferable pain in her heart, but for Anjana, her decision was worth ignoring them. She took longer steps to escape from the heartrending scene soon. Raj was waiting near the entrance. They clutched onto each other’s hand and disappeared fast from the village.
They arrive at the highway a little before the sun. Thousands of thoughts deeply distressed Anjana’s zeal to start a new life with Raj. Anjana worried to leave her humble parents behind. She started missing the melodic sound of her cows and goats that she was brought up with. However, she naively looked at the brighter prospect, and overlooked to all her worries. Nothing was dominant over her irrepressible want to run away.
They hitched a lift to Gelephu from a passenger car. The journey was haunting for Anjana. Being rarely travelled in a vehicle, the strong stinks of petrol made her sick, want to vomit. Soon, the whole world seemed to be spinning and wild vomit rushed like an oozing of blood from her throat.
On their way, far in the open meadows Anjana saw some cattle grazing merrily, and kids playing at a distance. She remembered her beautiful times with the cattle at home and cried silently. Anjana enjoyed the tang of the wild flowers blew by the sudden gust of southern wind and the panorama of wide plains.
They arrived late at Gelephu. Anjana followed Raj in a northward direction for almost twenty minutes. They arrived in front of a small hut-like wooden bungalow. Raj opened the door shyly explaining the difficulty in getting flat at Gelephu.
That night, Anjana could not sleep well with the emotion of great remorse. She was worried about her aged parents who now have to do all the domestic chores by themselves. She was troubled by the thought of how village people would condemn for her disobedience and that her blameless parents had to bend their heads in shame.
Next morning, Raj went for work. Anjana felt a little drowsy due to disturbed sleep last night and remained in her bed for the whole day. She felt terribly lonely as if like she was imprisoned in a small compartment. With certain pain of missing the wide pastureland and woods that accompanied her perfectly at home, she slept.
Raj arrived late at night, driving with his old taxi jeep. To her dismay, she sensed the smell of rum from his mouth. Raj became very harsh that night. He said that he may not be able to stay home always, backing up with several perplexing reasons. Anjana’s mind was left blank, powerless to believe or handle with the situation.
The other side of the marriage life turned fast for Anjana. Most of the time, Raj left her alone in the small cage-like room. His occasional visits were only accompanied with the strong stink of rum and tobacco. Scolding and beatings became a part of their marriage life. All her beautiful dreams disappeared in the air like a fragile summer rainbow.
Merely a month without freedom seemed to be years of year for Anjana. She wished to flee back home, but she was already pregnant by then. Anjana remembered the tears that her mom shed for her disobedience and the scolding and slaps that she received from her caring dad. She felt sorry for her parents from the core of her heart. Anjana forgive them with thousand drops of tears.
Sometimes, Raj would ignore Anjana for weeks. When food and money became concern, Anjana thought to brew ara (local wine) so that she doesn’t have to worry about where the next hot meal comes from. Carrying a painful bulging stomach, she toiled day and night to earn bread for herself. Anjana found brewing ara in the burning temperature of Gelephu to be much difficult than to raise cattle in the rough terrain of Tsirang.
One incident really haunts Anjana still. It was one dark summer evening. Anjana was taking a nap after a day’s hard work when she heard some women screaming outside. The frightening noise approached nearer as though the dark storm clouds looming on the horizon. Her lightly locked door was lashed with a kick from outside and caught Anjana tight on her neck. The mad woman was Raj’s first wife. Still innocent, Anjana was beaten to ground and humiliated for stealing her husband.
It was also only that time that Anjana knew Raj as a mere married taxi driver, and not a single government employee as said earlier. Anjana shed many drops of tear, unable to bear the ache. She felt herself worthless, nothing more than a toy in a rude child’s hand. That night, she had a guilty conscience and could not sleep. Anjana begged forgiveness for her innocent sins. She felt absolutely furious with Raj for sullying the beauty of her life. However, with fear, Anjana remained silent outwardly with burning pain inside.
Eight months passed with pain in her heart and tears on her eyes. Anjana became feeble, helpless woman with the pain of sporadic kicks from the infant inside. Sometimes, when Raj neglects her for longer period, she would silently plan to abort the unborn. But her own conscience troubles her, reminding that the unborn is guiltless. Anjana always prays her God to bless her with a son. She was very much fed-up by being a woman, and she never wanted her child to suffer like herself.
The most awaited time arrived. Anjana’s abdomen began to pain – the starting of delivery. She was a little worried, but Raj was out for several days – not sure if he will appear to attend her. Anjana called her neighbor friend Nesha (name changed) for help. Nesha offered Anjana with water, rubbed sweats from her body, and taught how to push.
With much pain, Anjana gave birth to a little daughter. Happiness in her mind was filled with anxiety and annoyance because her God disapproved her prayer. She foresaw the sufferings that her daughter, as a woman, has to undergo and cried silently. Anjana’s neighbors stayed the whole night doing all the delivery works and chores.
The next night, Raj arrived dunked. He picked up their daughter and kissed her on cheek, but never dared to make an apology for not being able to attend the delivery. He went out immediately and bought some clothes for their newborn and diets for Anjana. They unanimously named their daughter as Preti. Raj remained for about a week helping Anjana, but his normal schedule resumed soon. Life by herself with a newborn became hard for Anjana.
Sleepless night became a part of Anjana’s life. Weak Preti falls sick often, and Anjana learned several home remedial from local healers. Sometimes, it would help as if like a pain is washed away, but most of the time in vain. Raj showed no attention towards them. He rarely visits them, let alone buying foods and clothes.
Preti was only two years old when Anjana became pregnant again. Rani lost appetite and felt weak. She brewed less ara, just enough money for her household expenses. Sometimes, Anjana works for some landlords and make some extra money. With her distrust in Raj and his words, Anjana saved some money for the delivery. She bought some soft cotton clothes for the newborn and diets for herself.
The delivery of Anjana’s second child happened with comparably less pain. By chance, Raj happened to be with them. Raj immediately took her to the hospital. The gynecologist confirmed the delivery within twenty-four hours. At hospital, deep melancholy in her mind brought tears on her eyes. She felt herself worthless with no one to care her genuinely. Even Raj’s help, she thought, was his obligation as a father.
Roughly in twenty-four hours, Anjana gave birth to her second child. Her prayers to bless with a son once again went in vain again. Her God never answered her. With two daughters, the pain in her heart tripled. Whenever she was distressed or dejected, she worries about her two loving daughters who are probable for the same sufferings.
Even with two daughters, Anjana never got the rights of a wife. She lived with her head bent down always, tired of being treated like a slave by her husband and neighbors. She toiled each day under the scorching sun to earn money. Indeed, it was only the works that help her escape from the insufferable pain of her world. Meanwhile, Anjana began saving money for her daughter’s education.
With the time, Raj’s manner became increasingly worse, worse like a plague. Besides his habitual violence, he even started robbing her savings instead of helping. He consumes much of Anjana’s ara – till his sense get ridiculous and body shakes, and starts harassing her back. Raj became a tiger to Anjana’s eyes, but a tiger that cannot be avoided.
In the autumn of 1997, Preti turned seven – the accepted age for attending formal schooling in Bhutan. Anjana arranged school stationeries and uniforms with excitement to see her first daughter go to school. Raj came totally drunk and evoked a quarrel for no reason. Raj didn’t wanted Preti to go to school, and torn her new books and threw away her school bag. Both Anjana and Preti wept the whole night. But Anjana showed her guts for the first time. She bought all the things again because her desire to get her children educated was so strong. In her lifetime, Anjana learned that it is only with the education that can safe a woman from the unendurable sufferings.
A decade passed, but with no sign of improvement in Anjana’s relationship with Raj. By then, both of her daughters, Preti and Tara were in school. A single mother sacrificed everything for her daughters’ education. She worked hard in the burning temperature of Gelephu just to earn some extra money for their education.
It was on one pleasant winter day. Anjana was listening to the deep, resonant tone of religious instrument from a distance. The echoes of jingling bell made her recall the faint memories of her youth running after the cattle high up in the woods and low down in the grasslands. The annual Tali Dratshang tshetu was on its full swing. Elders wear their most expensive clothes while children clothed in the latest fashions. Indescribable joy of Dewali and Dasian celebrations at home evoked clearly in her mind.
Anjana was totally lost in her blurred thoughts and remained as silent as a cat when Raj appeared unexpectedly. He asked Anjana for some ara first and then some money. He said he needs it at the tshetu. Anjana doesn’t have money. She had already paid for a new set of dancing dress for Preti. Thoughtless Raj thrashed Anjana hard until her neighbor friend Nesha intervened to stop it. Nesha was a sharp-tongued woman. She rebuked at Raj for his adverse behavior always. She humiliated Raj in front of many people. Raj felt embarrassed, and never returned for months.
In 2008, Preti completed her basic education – class X, but she didn’t qualified for the secondary education in government schools. Preti remained self-conscious for blurring the dreams of her mother, but Rani remained self-conscious too for not being able to afford Preti’s education in some private schools. Preti remained home, helping her mother in brewing ara and other household chores until she was invited by a kind shopkeeper to work with them. As sale-girl, Preti earned a little additional money. Her earning helped the falling health of Anjana.
Preti had fallen in love with a young working man. Their relationship was well built so that they never wanted to separate. They planned to marry. But miserably, their dream went unfulfilled when her boy knew that Preti doesn’t have citizen identity card. Her boy explained the inconveniences of marrying before getting ID card. The cause of their breakdown was never a lame excuse, but a hard decision from Preti’s lover. Preti was left hopeless, and a strong hatred for her father grew in her mind.
Last year, Tara was in class X – the first huddle in her schooling. There will be a merit-ranking wise screening to be eligible for higher studies in government schools. The tuition fee in private schools was too dear for hand-to-mouth family like Anjana’s. Hence, she raised a hog with much trouble thinking that it will help make some money if in case Tara disqualify for government scholarship.
Bhutan Certificate of Secondary Examination (BCSE) result was declared in December. Tara had done fairly good, at least qualified for full scholarship in arts major. Anjana shed tears of happiness for the first time in her life.
The hog that Anjana raised became bonus for them. But Anjana and her daughters never wanted to see their hog that had been with their family for almost a year to be slaughtered right in front of their eyes. So, they sold it in lump sum of Nu.10,000. Anjana was handling such huge cash for the first time. She planned to buy a TV screen set. But priory emerged – her friend, who was also a victim of domestic violence needs some money. She satisfyingly lent most of her money to her friend.
Today, aged Anjana and daughters still live in a small hut-like bungalow in the outskirt of Gelephu town. Although the brutality of Raj came to an end, she still lives an incomplete life. Her elder daughter still works for a grocery shop and younger studies in class XII. They still have ID card problem – a curse from their father. Anjana remained silent and voiceless in the kingdom of freedom of speech.