I AM NOT A COWARD, DEFINITELY NOT INSANE.
But I would understand if you think otherwise.
What choice do I have, or what options am I giving you, when you must be reading this on Whatzapp or hearing it in the news.
I am your sensational headlines today. Yes, I took my own life.
Of all the things that you may feel while reading my last written words, the one thing I humbly request you is to not feel inspired in any way. Trust me, there is nothing more depressing than taking one’s own life.
Lofty words you may think, but my suicide isn’t about me giving up on life. It’s my strategy, my meticulously executed plan to help you.
You are reading the last of the many letters that I had written today, but the one which took me the longest time to draft. For I needed all the right words, the words which would jolt your insides, the words which would not let you walk away brushing me off, like you always do when the headlines don’t impact you personally. The rest of the letters which I had sent to the Prime Minister’s office, to the local police station, to my lawyer, to my son’s school headmistress, to the media outlets, to Karunalya’s orphanage have different agendas, but the one you are reading right now is the soul of my plan.
So before you take sides, please give my letter and my story a patient ear.
I am Nikhat Khan – eldest child in the family, big sister to a brother and sister, niece to a crowd of uncle and aunts. I find you stereotyping me already. Stop right there. What happened to me wasn’t merely gender or religion, it was your apathy. I sound cruel, but I’ve learnt that that’s the only way I could communicate to you.
Let’s read further – AS IT ALL STARTED – My mom wasn’t the happiest woman on earth for bearing a girl child in her first delivery, but she was relieved to fulfill her fecund responsibilities when my brother was born. I wasn’t dad’s little princess, but I wasn’t shunned to menial kitchen labor or to babysit my siblings. If by the time you finish reading this, you’re able to comprehend my message, then do assume that my neighborhood public school has done its duty in educating me till my twelfth standard. I do not have any coming of age experiences or adolescent discoveries, I adulted straight to the marriage market. As fortune would have it, there weren’t many suitors for a brown skinned, soon to be shelved virgin. But then, like they say, every dog has its day, even I got married. Courtesy a Saudi return middle aged man looking for an immediately available bride.
Hope you aren’t bored by now, the story only picks up speed from here on – DOWRY. You must wonder if this is still a thing. Indeed it is. A year of silent tears enduring domestic violence and sexual abuse, I bore a son, the heir to my husband’s family. Even this breathing wonder didn’t satisfy my husband’s insatiable greed, he still yearned for the installments of petty cash which my parents could afford. I wouldn’t stop you from stereotyping when I mention about my in-laws. Four more years of this drama and I tolerated it all patiently, for what else could I do? My sister had to be married off before I become the shame of the family.
And just when the story lilts off to a monotonous melancholy, this happened – PURPLE. The blue scars on my son’s body was turning purple from the beatings. I died that day. Aching from your own pain is one thing, but seeing your child ache is a different thing altogether. My silence wasn’t helping. I can’t become a burden to my brother, having troubled my parents enough already, but I can’t live with my husband either.
From now is where you need to pay close attention – AS THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU. I carried my son over my shoulder and walked straight to the police station. The wise men and women there called up my husband. They recommended reconciliation within the family. What they failed to see was the terror in my son’s eyes. I asked if they could help me find a lawyer instead. But all I heard from them was deafening silence to the blows my husband showered on me right in front of them. My dried vacant eyes shed tears no more. I bundled up my son and scurried out, leaving behind my dad who had just walked in to appease my husband. After pit stop at a pharmacy to first aid myself, where no one asked any questions, I tied my son close to my chest, and waded through the streets in the vicinity, sneaking away from my tailgating family, trying to find a lawyer. I wasn’t prepared for this day, nevertheless I trudged one step after another. Sorry if you feel am rushing through here, skipping chapters. Though I could vividly recollect that day’s happenings which have haunted me ever since, I couldn’t bring myself to put you through the horrors of the so called System. I wish you never chance upon such a tragedy. I am cruel, but not that cruel to crush your soul. For the next three long years which seemed like eternity, I hauled up my son, begging for his custody at the national courts. Whereas my husband merely took minutes to divorce me in the religious court. Regardless, the wise people in our system, concluded that I as a single mother with meager means to run a family, wouldn’t be capable of taking care of him independently. What they also failed to see was that I was able to secure an income, meager or whatever, but was able to provide food, comfortable shelter and clothing to my son and also provide means for his education. I didn’t relent, I was never planning to give up on my son. I appealed my case in higher courts and for another two long years, the system indeed took me for the ride of my life. And that fateful day happened last week. The System ripped apart the last shred of hope that I was desperately clinging to. Though my husband has remarried and has kids with his second wife who has the least inclination to bring up my son, the court only deemed it appropriate that I handover my son and negotiate with them for my visiting rights.
Not that you don’t know how this story ends, but still, please keep reading – I DIDN’T GIVE UP. I requested the courts to grant me a week to prepare my son to move to his father’s house and start a new life. I requested two days of absence from his school and we headed out for mom-son time. Either it was my wild imagination, or it truly was the case, I wouldn’t know. But it was he who was assuring me that things would be alright, rather than me trying to alleviate his agony. He went back to school while I scouted all public knowledge on how to resolve my situation for good. I had to ensure my son is taken care and wouldn’t have to live at his father’s mercy. My fight for justice could have failed, but I wasn’t ready to fail in life.
And here we are – MY LAST WRITTEN WORDS. I didn’t set out to shame my husband or his family, but I had to ensure the concerned public offices understand the depth of the situations, the complexity of human lives, which they are assigned to handle. Not all that is written on paper makes sense for all times. My son lost his mother today, but I’ve taught him to grow up to be a compassionate human being. He will be fine. But will you be? You can judge me, call me names if it would help ease your inner conflicts, but don’t fail to see what I’ve tried to do here. I took my own life, so you don’t have to. I’ve heard many such tragic stories stemming from this atrocity plaguing our society, but I didn’t care to fight it till the time it happened to me. Don’t brush me off as yet another sad case.
Go on, go hold as many candle vigils as you could, march on protests all over the country, click your signatures in change.org and keep track of that growing count. Do all these for yourself, not as a favor for my soul to rest in peace. I’ve taken care of my life and my son’s. Now it is you who’d need justice from here on. Never give up, rest not until you’ve resolved this plight for good. I wish I could watch you all from above, till the time you sleep in peace having passed a law by my name, but I am not naive. I don’t believe in ghost stories, nor the lingering soul myths. Sort out this mess, before you get tired or another fellow human being chooses to end his / her life. Also so that it isn’t only about you and me, it is about justice for all. Take care.