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Abaru - Honour

by Meena 

Posted: 17 September 2003
Word Count: 5175
Summary: Dedicated to many Asian women whose lives have been hard.

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Abaru : Honour

Tower Hamlets, East London was getting to be cooler. The days were getting shorter and darker early now. Rain and chill wind made the leaves on the trees turn brown and fall away to reveal a skeleton of the glorious and vibrant life they were during spring and summer. All signs of the approaching winter.

Nikita was in her room putting the final touches to her project on ‘Women’s rights’ as part of her BA (Hons) Law and politics. Suddenly, there was a fast and loud commotion outside her house. A car had stopped in front of the house and someone was calling for her mum. Nikita went to the window to see who it was that was making such a racket. Nikita rushed downstairs to greet the lady disembarking from the car. Her mother went through the front door and was hugging the lady. It was her auntie, her father’s eldest brother’s wife. They lived in Birmingham and hardly came to London due to being too busy with their Cash and Carry business.

‘Hi Bhabhu. What a surprise!’ Nikita greeted as she hugged her auntie.

‘How is bapuji? Did you drive all on your own?’ Nikita continued.

‘Yes, I drove on my own. I am experienced driver now.’ Nikita’s bhabhu replied.

Turning to Nikita’s mum, she smiled asking with approving eyes on seeing Nikita

‘Is this Niki, Chandni? Is this really my Niki, the one who used to sit on my lap, dirty her nappies and ask for chocolates? Look at her all grown up, taller than me even. I hear she is very smart, doing a degree.’ Bhabhu chattered on as she unloaded her luggage.

Nikita answered for her mum ‘Yes, Bhabhu I am your Niki and I still want those chocolates even though I am a big girl and ready to graduate this year.’

Nikita and her mum helped to take the luggage into the house. They all settled in the lounge when Bhabhu asked

‘Where is Riya and Neha? Yash must be at work?’

Nikita’s mum answered ‘Riya and Neha have gone out to the park. Yash will be in later. But why didn’t you come and visit us before. It has been some months since we saw you all last. In fact after you all moved to Birmingham the only contact was through the phone. Why Renu? Why so much distance from your own family?’

Bhabhu sighed saying ‘All fate - nasib, Chandni. We are so busy with the Cash and Carry that I hardly find time for myself.’

Wiping her face with a wet tissue she continued ‘But, I am so happy to have been able to come now and meet you all. I came to see Radhika who is now in Ilford, London. Her in-laws are so wicked and cruel to her. They do not allow my girl to come and visit us in Birmingham or phone us. When ever she comes for a day or two she is always chaperoned by her husband Rahul.’

Radhika was Bhabhu’s eldest daughter. Bhabhu had two sons after Radhika and all were married and she so loved to talk about them and her grandchildren.

Nikita asked puzzled ‘Why haven’t you complained to her husband or in-laws. After all she is your daughter and you have every right to see she is kept well and looked after properly.’

‘Nikita you are still naive about family culture and traditions. We must not interfere or disrespect our in-laws.’ Bhabhu dismissed Nikita’s questioning

Nikita persisted ‘Well than it’s up to Radhika to demand her basic human rights. Besides marrying your daughter off does not mean you have sold her into slavery does it?’

Bhabhu turned to Nikita, ignoring her last outburst and requested ‘Niki, please could you make me a cup of tea and get some snacks for me. I am so tired and hungry as you can see. Please, feed your hungry tired Bhabhu with some refreshments huh!’

Nikita laughed ‘OK! Bhabhu, don’t beg like a beggar please’

Nikita got up willingly and went to the kitchen to get some biscuits, Bombay mix, nuts as snacks and started to make some masala tea. The tea bags were finished in the tea tin so she went to the store next to the lounge to refill the tea tin. She was half way to filling the tin when she heard her name being mentioned. Nikita stood still straining her ears to listen to what was being discussed about her.

‘Chandni, what have you decided about Nikita’s future. I mean once she finishes her degree, what are your plans about her?’ bhabhu was asking mum.

‘Nikita would like to continue to train as a lawyer.’ Mum answered

‘But, if she studies too much you will find it hard to find a suitable boy for her, besides she will get old further reducing your selection of good families.’

Nikita’s mum argued ‘We have not been actively looking for anyone I must admit. Besides, I would like to give Nikita the choice we never had.’

‘That’s all very well if her father was alive. Even if he was alive I do not think he would have waited this long to get her settled. My daughter was married and had a son at Nikita’s age. Times are getting bad. Think Chandni, think. What if something happened to you? Do you think Riya and Yash will take care of her and see her happily settled? I do not think so.’ bhabhu continued persistently.

‘That is why I want to see Nikita in a good job, able to stand on her feet so that no one could take advantage of her’ mum justified.

Just then Nikita heard her sister-in-law Riya’s voice ‘Bhabhu, I agree with you. I have been nagging mum about getting Nikita married off. She just will not listen to me. The way I look at it is that a woman’s job is to be a good wife and a good homemaker. Not to make money.’

When did Riya return from the park? Nikita was thinking when she heard her mum in an annoyed voice scold ‘Enough Riya’.

'But mum, I was just trying to help and ease your burden. After all this is an issue you or rather we will have to deal with sooner or later.' Riya responded in an equally annoyed voice.

‘Do you know the value of education and knowledge Riya? You are lucky to have my son Yash as your husband who tries hard to fulfil all your desires. Now a day, boys want their wives to earn as well as be a good wife and a homemaker. If Nikita has a good career she will be able to juggle both roles otherwise she will struggle.’

Well, Nikita thought that has put Riya in her place. Nikita’s thoughts drifted back to the time when her brother’s marriage had taken place. At that time she had been so happy at the prospect of having company of someone of her own age. Ever since Riya joined Nikita’s family she saw Nikita as an alien and someone to be got rid off from the family as soon as possible. Why Riya would feel this way even before getting to know Nikita was a difficult puzzle to solve. Her attitude had created a lot of tension, heartache and a barrier between them with increasing resentment as time went on. Riya had turned out to be a bloody control freak wanting absolute power and say so in the running of the family. If anyone disagreed she would sulk or become hysterical. Nikita tried to stay away from her as much as possible, but saw her mother suffer in silence. Her mother’s silence and silent tears were a way of preparation for the rest of her life with them now that Nikita’s father was no longer alive. At such times Nikita would curse and wish that one day Riya would go through what her mum was going through now, only than would she realise the value of people and emotions. Nikita could hear her bhabhu recommending someone to her mum

‘Chandni, I know a good family here in London. They have twins and are in search of a suitable girl and family. They are both settled in good jobs. One is a pathologist and the other is a merchant banker. I think you should at least consider them. Let Nikita meet them and decide for herself.’ Bhabhu urged

Nikita’s mum replied ‘I will talk to her later. I do not want to make a mistake and spoil her life by pressuring her like many other girls in the past.’

‘Chandni, I am aware that the same mistakes should not be repeated as we did with Radhika. But, Radhika has her dad to fight for her if worse comes to worse. Who will fight for Nikita? Please think seriously.’ Bhabhu debated.

Nikita’s mum answered defeated, ‘I will talk to Yash as well as Nikita later.’

In a daze, Nikita walked to the kitchen with her filled tea bags tin. Made the tea and took it into the lounge with the snacks. Why can’t bhabhu mind her own business Nikita’s head screamed silently in her head. Why does she have to be a noisy parker? Isn’t it enough to see her own daughter suffer or is it she wants the same fate for me so that she can not feel the guilt of pushing and pressuring Radhika into a marriage when she was not ready – without much education or employment skills. No wonder everyone in her in-laws house are mistreating her including her husband. They have no respect for her. Treat her like a servant. Nikita felt so sorry for her and at times would think if she could help her to fight back, but how? Well, Nikita thought why not start with her self. Yes she thought, she would carry on her plans to train as a lawyer and she would fight for her rights within the family culture, it would be hard but she would not give up without a good hard defence. Bhabhu stayed the night and left the next day. Throughout the rest of babhu’s stay, Nikita quietly avoided her staying in her room on the pretence of a headache.

Nothing was mentioned about bhabhu’s visit or subsequent conversations that had taken place. Diwali was fast approaching and Nikita was in the lounge with her family sorting decorations out when her mum told Yash about bhabhu’s proposal that day.

‘You must arrange to see them and see if he is suitable for our Nikita.’

‘What’s the rush mum?’ Yash answered irritated.

‘Look, Yash, a girl without a father is open to all sorts of nasty comments and gossip. Even though we trust our daughter the world is cruel when it comes to gossip.’

‘That’s why I say you should not listen to all these gossipy women who have nothing better to do other than spoil someone else’s peace of mind.’

‘Yash, this is not the time for arguing. A daughter’s marriage is a huge responsibility. You are now the male head of the house. You have to deal with this.’

Nikita butted in, no longer able to hear this conversation ‘Mum, why are you in a hurry to see me married off, just on bhabhu’s saying?’

Nikita’s mum replied with tears in her eyes ‘Do you think I want to see you away from my eyes even for a day. Nikita I have no confidence since your father died. If a good proposal comes our way we should at least consider it.’

Yash interrupted ‘All right mum. Stop crying. But let me meet the boys first before arranging a meeting with Nikita. I would hate it if they rejected our Nikita.’

Nikita spoke ‘Yash bhayia, what are you saying? You possibly cannot belong to these fuddy duddy thinkers on this issue? God I don’t believe you. I thought you were for women’s rights and emancipation etc.’

‘Mum’s right’ Riya said crisply

Nikita turned to her sister-in-law ‘Who asked you’ Nikita seethed

‘See mum, see Yash, how she disrespects me. I am elder to her and she answers back to me! What an ill mannered girl.’ Riya seethed back

Nikita shot back ‘What are you on about BHABHI. You are the one always ignoring or making sarcastic remarks. You are the one to start this division between us. Always cold shouldering me, now you want respect from ME.’ Nikita grunted ‘YOU MUST BE JOKING!’

Riya screamed back ‘Yash, slap her. How dare she be disrespectful.’

With hot tears spilling down her face Nikita yelled back ‘Bhabhi, you have a daughter too. Are you going to put the same amount of pressure on her? Will you get her married off to someone when she is not ready mentally or liking someone? Will you? I bet you won’t.’

Riya shouted back ‘We are talking of you and now. Not about MY daughter or 20 years down the line. Times would have changed by than.’

Nikita snorted ‘Oh yeah! Why can’t times change NOW! Just because my dad is not alive anymore does not mean you can bully me! What crime have I committed or mum for such circumstance to arise.’ You know I feel like cursing you. I hope you are not in this situation by the time Neha grows up, you bitch.’ Nikita shrieked, panting and breathless. All of them looked at Nikita wide mouthed and astonished. Nikita stood up and ran to her bedroom where she flopped on to her bed sobbing, feeling all alone and lonely. It seemed everyone was up in arms against her. This is not what families are supposed to be Nikita thought as she cried.

Nikita smelled her mother’s favourite perfume ‘Rosjas’, a subtle mixture of rose and jasmine fragrances, a sweet soothing aroma which indicated her mum was inside her room. Nikita’s mum came and set on the edge of the bed. Patting Nikita’s head she started talking

‘Beti, I understand your feelings but at times I feel powerless, especially when I see Riya’s behaviour. My darling, I can talk about emancipation, human rights and modernity as well as anyone else. You do not have to be educated to know that everyone craves basic human needs of respect, freedom and rights. But I have seen, experienced life. So, I have practical experience of the world and especially our society and community. Nikita I cannot give you details but you are smart and believe me the situation is sad and it’s the dirty tongues which make mothers force their daughters into quick alliances if a good proposal comes in their way. If marriage is a necessity for boys in order to carry on the family name, it is a compulsion for girls. There is no escape. Have you seen the life of spinsters in our society? They live their lives within the hidden, unspoken codes and rules. You either follow these or else you are alienated from the family and community. That is why so many women turn towards spirituality, their escape route for salvation and a plead to God to help them survive in this cruel world. Arranged marriage or love marriage, marriage itself is a continuous arrangement where adjustment is required. There is no perfect marriage. This is how we Indian women survive. Our lives are yin-yang, whereby we endure as much as possible to keep the family values, traditions, culture and ABARU, honour together. This ideology is in our psyche passed down through generations that Indian women are bastions or keepers of the Indian way of life, yet, we women are the ones who are abused, disrespected, hurt or killed.’

Nikita felt her mother crying silently. A chilly shiver and pain ran through Nikita’s body as she reflected on her mother’s words. Both were silent each reflecting on life and their position within it when Yash shouted

‘Mum, quick come down. It’s bhabhu on the phone for you. Quickly she is hysterical and crying.’

Nikita’s mum got up quickly and almost ran downstairs fearing something dreadful had happened. Nikita followed her mum. Oh God, Nikita prayed please keep everyone safe as her mum picked the phone up

‘Hello Renu, what has happened? Why are crying and hysterical?’

‘Listen, Chandni, Radhika is in intensive care at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. The police rang us just now. We are on our way. Please get there as soon as you can and STAY there until we get there.’

‘But, but what has happened?’ Nikita’s mum stammered

‘We do not know exactly. But I will tell you everything once I see you. Pray to God Radhika survives. Now GO.’

Nikita’s mum put the phone down and collapsed onto the floor sobbing loudly now and trying to explain what the phone was about. Yash, Riya and Nikita gathered round and pulled their mum up with Yash trying to calm her

‘Come on mum, pull yourself together. Something bad has happened to Radhika and we must be strong to face what ever it is. This is no time for crying.’

They all put their coats on and left for the hospital. On arrival in the intensive care they saw two police women guarding Radhika’s room. They explained who they were and the police women allowed them to enter the isolated room.

The sight they beheld was shocking. Radhika was on a life support machine with tubes coming out of her mouth, nose, hands and everywhere. She was on a drip and blood was being given to her. She was in a coma. Her body was badly beaten round the head and face. It seemed she had lost lots of blood.

Nikita thought, Radhika my first cousin, so very beautiful, gorgeous figure, fair skinned and well mannered girl. Any man’s dream girl. Radhika who was trained by her mum, my bhabhu, to be the perfect homemaker and wife was now lying in intensive care on the verge of death. Radhika who could have become a model, an actress, or an excellent professional had been coerced into an early marriage, to give everything up in the same way as Nikita was being forced by her own immediate family just a few hours ago.

Yash and Nikita’s mum asked the police women what had happened. They refused to say anything to them. They could only discuss the case with Radhika’s immediate family.

‘We will have to wait till Renu and Milind get here. They will need our support and only they will tell us the full story’. Nikita’s mum told them

It was nearly four hours before Nikita’s babuji and bhabhu arrived. Nikita could see babuji’s face was lined with worry and anger at the same time. Bhabhu’s face was swollen and her eyes were red with crying. They all hugged each other and went inside Radhika’s room. Bapuji and bhabhu were both traumatised with grief and shocked to see their only daughter in such condition. Bhabhu burst into hysterical sobs and was inconsolable, hugging her lifeless daughter. The doctor came to explain the situation

‘Radhika is in a very critical condition. She had lost a considerable amount of blood by the time she came here. We have done X-rays and our best to try to make her comfortable. Currently she is in a coma. She has a blood clot in the brain which we are hoping to dissolve. If the medication we are giving does not work on her, I am afraid the chances of Radhika surviving are very slim. I am sorry to be blunt, but it is my duty to tell you the truth and not give you unnecessary hope. However, miracles do happen and anything can happen to a coma patient. Keep talking to her. She can hear you but cannot not respond, but by constant, talking something could trigger her brain and bring her back to consciousness.’

The doctor left us. Eventually babuji and bhabhu went out to talk to the police women outside Radhika’s room to get a full update.

Apparently, Radhika had been beaten very badly round the head with a blunt weapon. She had managed to drag herself downstairs and outside the house before she collapsed. A passer-by saw her and called the police and an ambulance. When the emergency services had arrived no one was at home. The police thought it was a burglary and possibly Radhika had disturbed the intruders and was therefore beaten up and left for dead.

‘NO’ bapuji spoke with a firm voice ‘It was not a burglary. I know who has done this to my daughter and I am going to kill that bastard. We have suffered enough, my daughter has suffered a great deal and now she is lying on a death bed.’

‘Mr. Kapoor, we understand your grief. But if you think this was not a burglary gone wrong, if you have suspicions we advice you to tell us. Do not take the law into your hands. We promise the British law will give justice to you and the family if the culprit is proven guilty. So if you do not mind, can you tell us who you think has done this to your daughter?’ stated, one of the police woman

‘Radhika, wanted to divorce her abusive husband. Radhika was attacked because apparently she sullied her husband’s family's "honour" by asking for a divorce. The husband wanted to hide behind the façade of ‘honour" by killing Radhika, when in fact he was having an affair with some woman. He wanted to have a wife who would serve him and his family like a servant at home and a mistress to have fun with. When Radhika asked for a divorce and saw she was determined, her husband thought he was going to lose her and at the same time his honour would be dented' babuji explained

‘Radhika’s and Rahul’s marriage was a semi-arranged marriage, where both families were ecstatic and happy at the alliance. During the first year of their marriage there were indications that Radhika’s husband was abusive,' babpuji declared

‘We thought he was still a bit immature and once he got fond of Radhika and her loving nature he would change. Soon the violence became a regular feature in Radhika’s life. We put an enormous pressure on Radhika not to talk about it.' Babuji continued

‘When I as her father complained to her in-laws about the assaults and violence against Radhika, I was told that “I should be careful of what I was saying and accusing Rahul of, because as far as everyone in the community was concerned Rahul was seen as a caring husband and an honourable man and if we tried to make Radhika leave him both their abaru - honour would be questioned.” We had to tell Radhika bluntly that no one would take her in. Her brothers were not interested and were not going to put her up. I as her father was not going to give her roti, bread. Those were my very words. We had no option but to be harsh with Radhika and hope for the best.’ Babpuji said, breaking down now.

Bhabhu spoke with a bitter voice ‘You did have an option. You could have rescued her, given her a home back with us. It’s your entire fault. Your male ego, the fact that you wanted to be so important in the community you could not be bothered about your own family. It shows how modern-day community politics uses and even reinforces ancient customs that make women a commodity in the name of religion, under the banner of family abaru. Your own daughter who complained so many times and who was suffering, turned to the only people she could. But, you, you had to save your abaru. Where is it today, Milind? It’s dying.’

Bhabhu turned to the police explaining
'Asian women are taught to hide problems that may bring shame on the family or the community. But it was getting too much for Radhika, so we told her to fight for herself within the family, threaten him with a divorce. We would see what to do later if things got out of hand. But we did not even think it would go to this extent.’

Nikita thought, bapuji and bhabhu just made similar statements as her mother’s who was trying to explain the necessity for marriage in Asian women’s lives. Bhabhu must have said similar things to Radhika which may have made Radhika agree to an early marriage.

One of the police women was now explaining -
‘The scene of crime has been sealed. All the people living in that house will be questioned. DNA samples will be taken and our investigations will be thorough. We will do our best to bring the culprits of this awful crime to justice. In the meanwhile we have to pray that your daughter survives and pulls through. She would be our key witness. At the moment we can not do much. We will live you now to spend time with your daughter as a family. We will keep you updated if there is new information.’

With that the police women were gone. Nikita and her family sat silently, all hoping Radhika would show some sign of movement. But there was none coming. It was getting too much for Nikita who left for the waiting room. Riya followed.

Riya spoke first ‘My blood just boils. I wish I could beat Rahul up for what he has done.’

Nikita just stared at her sister-in-law, not knowing what to tell her – should she tell her to get lost you great big hypocrite or try to make friends with her through this tragedy. Finally Nikita said

‘Bhabhi, many Asian women are victims of violence and abuse. These are women born or educated in the UK whose aspirations are very different from those of the elders in the family. Even women from India have aspirations and want change. In my opinion, we need an organisation that will allow such women to unite and take an honest, strong, intelligent and open stand on this issue now. Otherwise there will be a backlash of traditionalism by young Asian men. They will see change as Western values that threaten them and their traditional position. There power over women. It takes a tragedy like this to wake our people up. Why do you think I was arguing for education, for preparation of girls before marriage? If they have survival skills they can defend themselves better.'

Riya glared at Nikita, but after a while softened her look realising that Nikita was making sense

Riya stated ‘Is this what happens when you try to get away from an abusive relationship? Women have no escape. If they try to get away they are beaten up or killed. If they stay they suffer mental and physical torture. I am indeed lucky to have Yash and you lot as my family’

Nikita gazed at her sister-in-law, at the change in her voice and body language. This incident seemed to have shaken her making her reflect on life as a woman

Nikita responded ‘That is why we need more organisations to help women like Radhika. Do you know many already exist, but we need more? More awareness, more understanding, more socially aware people.’

Riya replied enthusiastically ‘Yes, yes, you are absolutely right. You know what Nikita; I am going to study further and contribute something to society and our community.’

Nikita spoke almost bitterly ‘Why bhabhi, I thought girls were not supposed to be money makers but home makers.’

Riya looked at Nikita, ashamed at being reminded of her attitude towards her

‘I am sorry Nikita, if I was horrible to you. Let us forget the past and start on a new footing.’

Nikita was taken aback and surprised at Riya’s apology but replied

‘Sure, but it will take time to built trust and get close.’

Riya answered ‘Sure, I understand.’

With that little conversation, both felt silent, each thinking about the future, about Radhika. They must have fallen asleep, because both were jolted out of their world into reality by loud wails coming from Radhika’s room. Nikita and Riya stood up and hurried to the room. It was early morning Nikita noticed. The doctor and nurses were in the room. Radhika was taken off the life support machine.

Nikita’s mum came towards her and clung to her sobbing ‘She has left us, God has taken her. She died a few minutes ago. Doctors could do nothing. There was a huge clot in her brain and all her other organs failed. No one could do anything for this beautiful, loveable girl. No one. We all failed her.’

Nikita whispered ‘At least she is out of her misery. Even if she had survived what sort of life would she have had, when no one was willing to help her in her hour of need?’

Bapuji looked at Nikita with guilt and shame saying

‘I tried to make her strong. Her brothers would definitely not have taken care of her. What would have happened to her after I died? She would have suffered any way.’

Nikita spoke through clinched teeth ‘Babuji, see you still do not think of changing. If Radhika was older, educated and economically independent before you married her off, she could have stood up to her husband and family. She would have had that confidence. She would have known who to ask for help, when her own family failed her.’

Nikita looked at Radhika who looked almost the same as when she was well, healthy and alive. She seemed at peace, but was she? The whole scene would stay with each one of them who were in the room in a different frame according to each one’s perspective and closeness to her. Nikita was now sure of what she was going to do.

Nikita finally tried to appease them ‘Radhika’s death will not be in vain. We will fight for the custody of Radhika’s son and make sure Rahul pays for his crime. I know very good lawyers who come to give us lectures. We will hire one of the best.’

Bhabhu and bapuji were crying. They got up and hugged Nikita saying we will back and support you all the way.

Rahul was convicted of Radhika’s murder. The Kapoors got custody of their grandson. Radhika’s son would keep Radhika’s memory alive for them.

Nikita qualified as a lawyer. Her sister-in-law Riya became a social worker. Together they worked with the local councils and the government to bring awareness of ‘honour killings’ in various disguises as they exist and cultural taboos which are used against Asian women. A refuge home and a foundation was established for women who were in violent or abusive relationship dedicated to the memory of Radhika, called ‘Vrindravan’, a haven for safety and hope for those who have no one.

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Comments by other Members

Fearless at 18:16 on 17 September 2003  Report this post
As one with a mother and sister who should have had it easier, I'd like to thank you.


Becca at 21:11 on 17 September 2003  Report this post
Hi there Meena. Yes, the honour thing and traditional versus non-traditional society, a big big mess at the moment.
About the work itself, well it reads more like a piece of a novel at the moment and could do with some severe editing in places, but another completely different thought struck me, and that is, have you ever considered doing radio or TV scripts? The reason I say that is I can sense your almost compulsive need to describe what are important things to you, but in, say, a short story format, they're coming across as a lecture, I sense a 'consciousness of the reader' in you the writer, so it seems kind of strained, a bit unnatural. But a play can deal with this depth of material better. What do you think?

Meena at 14:14 on 18 September 2003  Report this post
Hi Fearless

Thanks for your comments. I hope things are easy now. I did not know you before. I read all your poems and they are so meaningful and full of emotion. It seems to tell little bits of life's experiences. Please keep writing and read my other works if you have time.


Fearless at 14:25 on 18 September 2003  Report this post
Thank you sister Meena

(For you were born one day after my own sister).
Things are a little easier, quite different, but at the same time, without change.

It sounds crazy, but you make yourself a promise that you will do whatever it takes to get those changes.

Thank you for your kind comments on my work. I will seek out your other works right now.

Whatever else happens, never stop feeling, thinking, experiencing or writing. We should not be afraid to sing our song.


Nell at 14:35 on 27 September 2003  Report this post
Hi Meena,

I'm catching up after a short holiday, so forgive me for not reading this sooner.

I found the questions raised in this piece very interesting, also the glimpses into the attitudes of the members of the family, both young and older. One particular example that struck home was when Nikita herself in decribing Radhika's admirable qualities includes among them the fairness of her skin - this was a surprise - something I might have expected from the older ones, but not from someone of Nikita's age.

I believe Becca may have put her finger on the answer to your particular preferences in writing. I know that you've said before that you strive for clarity of emotion etc., but in aiming for this you may sometimes tell the reader things he/she is perfectly able to discern for his/herself. I'm thinking in particular of those places where you've described how the speaker said something, rather than to leave the reader to come to the obvious conclusion from their words alone. Suppose you reworked this piece as a play, then your descriptions could become stage directions and work invisibly. I seem to remember that one of your other pieces was written as a play - am I right?

I do love these glimpses into Indian family life, also the idea of learning more about Indian tradition and how it is having to be translated and adapted to the 21st century life of new generations raised here, and I believe there is a real possibility that this sort of subject and writing could be used to promote inter-cultural understanding.

Hope this helps, best, Nell.

Meena at 08:59 on 29 September 2003  Report this post

Nice to hear from you. Hope you had a great break. Anyways, the reason I have described the fairness of Radhika's skin was to provide a picture wherby her character was the role of everything that is supposed to beautiful, correct and right in an Indian women. The idea being that even perfection is not enough sometimes when it comes to life. Alos, there are even in the young new generation this slant towards having fair skined preference which I Have seen myself and heard. So I am describing the attitudes which have not changed even though other things are in transition. This transition phase is hard on some. I won't say anything more apart from the writing is based on reflections and experiences by myself.


Nell at 12:07 on 01 October 2003  Report this post

Thanks, I had a peaceful week.

I've just read your poem on the same subject, inspired I'd guess by recent horrific events. I'm just returning to this piece because I feel more strongly than ever now, that there is a real need for work like this, performed as plays in schools perhaps? The effects might be unnoticable at first, but surely anything that can be done to avoid another tragedy, possibly even far into the future must surely be worthwhile.

Good luck, Nell.

Meena at 14:37 on 01 October 2003  Report this post

You are right. But attitudes are hard to change. Even though the young generation may wish to but are held back or are in fear of the results such change can bring, as seen from yesterday's (30th Sept 2003) news about that Kurdish girl who I suspect was trying to change attitudes, but it did not work. By the way do you know of anyone who may take my work up. Some time ago I had received 2 queries about my other work 'Shattered dreams' asking for the 1st 3 chapters. I did send them off (summer) and I have not heard yet. I suspect it will probably be a dead end!!


Nell at 16:34 on 01 October 2003  Report this post

It's a very good sign if someone actually asks you to send them work! And I think the longer you have to wait for the outcome the more hope there is - no news is (allegedly) good news.

If I were you I'd polish those pieces that relate to promoting inter-cultural understanding and look for dramatic companies/societies that might be interested and send them out. Even if you began locally in a small way it would be a start. If not performed as plays some might work as monologues. It's a matter of finding the right niche.

And good luck with Shattered Dreams too.

Best, Nell.

Meena at 09:13 on 02 October 2003  Report this post

Thanks. I heard today from one of the concerns relating to shattered dreams called Sheil. I am afraid it was bad news. They sent a complimentary card with a regret message but did not give an explanation about why or what was not right. I guess I will keep trying. I feel shattered dreams is a good story, and such situations are still going on in society.

But I appreciate your encouragement.

Talk to you later.


Nell at 11:46 on 02 October 2003  Report this post

Sheil Land must have thought the first part of the novel looked promising to have asked you for the whole thing. You have to try now to analyse why they refused it after seeing it all. You've put a great deal into writing it, and are therefore possibly too close to the work to be able to to see it dispassionately. You could of course pay a fee to a consultancy to read and give you a report on it, but the great thing about this site is the feedback we get for free. I believe if you looked very hard at the comments posted after the first chapters of Shattered Dreams you might be able to to see how to make the novel into the one they're looking for.

And rewriting is no bad thing, many novels need some reworking, it can only improve your writing skills.

Good luck, Nell.

Meena at 12:24 on 02 October 2003  Report this post

I will revisit and attempt to rewrite where neccessary.I need to put my other chapters on so that I can have a feedback. I do writing in my spare time as I work during the day,so the progress and the process slows down a bit. But thanks once again for your advice.

matheson at 10:29 on 13 October 2003  Report this post
this is a late entrant to the conversation. Forgive me. I've been busy and did not read this piece until this morning.

I felt it was a very important and worthwhile piece of writing. It was well situated and seemed extremely relevant, the more so in the context of the case last week and the increase in "stove-fire" killings in India itself.

Like Becca and Nell, I wondered about the form you have adopted. At times, reading through, I felt this had the makings of a great novel (still do) but that it would involve (for example) stepping back to Nikita's and Radhika's childhood and playing out the narrative from multiple perspectives (including Rahul). There is a story here and a story it seems important to tell.

You seem to have chosen, in many cases, to tell the reader what the issues are rather than show them through the dramatic/tragic actions and inactions of the participants (which are immediate and present in your story). This seems in my experience to jar a little with current "prose" fashion but has a long tradition in theatre (for example Brecht or the stuff John McGrath did with 7:84....all socialist didactic theatre rather than....what?)

This was powerful work. I learned a lot and was stimulated to think about the issues. But I think, like others, that it might be delivered still more powerfully in a slightly different genre.

Look forward to reading more of your writing.

All the best


Meena at 11:21 on 13 October 2003  Report this post

Thanks. I write as I get the inspiration during my free time. One of these days I may need to go back to all my work and take into account all the comments and do a rewrite - BUT it's time - time - time. Maybe oneday!!
Do comment on my other works. I write poetry and children's and nonfiction.

Best wishes

vijay at 09:54 on 10 November 2003  Report this post
i admire the 'silence' of language. still i would like to know the background of the story.

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