Her struggle for survival began as soon as she was born. Her family was displeased by the news. Father had a permanent frown. Grandmother’s face contorted. Mother wailed in response to the way fate was jeering her. They believed it to be a black day yet as an assurance named her “Ujaala”

    Maturity knocked at her door long before she grew up. Her fascination towards books was disregarded as mother snatched away her pencil and handed over a ladle. Her parents could afford the education of only one child which they were clear to decide. Despite being shoved into household chores, she sneaked to watch her younger brother studying. Her brother was allowed to mingle with friends at odd hours whereas her leaving the house even during broad daylight was highly condemned and later prohibited. Menstruation increased the discrimination she was already used to as she was kept aloof on those 5 awful days. Judgemental stares of the society surged for the worse. People around her dictated her life as if it was their own.

    At the age of 19, she was betrothed to be married to an elder man whom she barely knew. Nobody asked her if she was happy, nobody asked if this was what she wanted. Her parents were the decision makers, she was a mere puppet doing what was being whispered to her. On the day of marriage, she feigned a smile, feigned excitement but refused to cry. She had become immune to everything around her. Her husband was just like the others who found pleasure in humiliating her. Less salt or more spices in his platter of food tempted him to beat her ferociously.

     When she became pregnant, she was glad for the first time. The child she bore was a girl. She kissed her forehead, cried out of joy and decided to shelter her from all those evil eyes. She gathered some courage that was suppressed within and separated from her abusive husband. The light that she was waiting for had finally fallen on her threshold. The realization of her name “Ujaala” dawned upon her. Her smile became intermittent hence she named her daughter “Muskan”.

      One day while standing in front of the mirror, Ujaala looked intently at her wrinkled face, neck, arms and legs. Her hair had turned a blend of salt and pepper. She opened her mouth to take a look at the vacancy created by a newly lost tooth. She slightly lifted her top, thereby gently grazing her fingers through some stretch marks that lined her waist. Muskan who was keenly watching her moves, tip-toed towards her, turned her around and kissed her cheek.

“Ma, do you know how beautiful you are? If you ever forget, recall the hardships of your life and how you fought valiantly, those are just a few scars of a triumphant warrior.”

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