A Simple Story
is one of those unfortunate souls who pay for being born
at the wrong place, at the wrong time. I met her first when
we both were three. Our parents were very close friends,
so we also became very close to each other and confidantes
within a very short period of time.
We were dreaming of sharing all of life's adventures together
until our dreams were interrupted by her parents' sudden
decision to move out of the country. Her father got a very
well paid job somewhere in the Middle East and he had to
take his whole family with him. After a few days of useless
tears and tantrums, we resigned to the inevitable and said
a sad goodbye to each other. In spite of the barriers of
distance and communication, e-mail hadn't yet become so
popular and commonly used, our friendship and understanding
grew to a point where one of us could understand the others
untold thoughts or finish each other's unfinished sentences.
She had to study at a Madrassa there. But being quite brilliant
managed to become proficient at English and Bengla. After
a few years, she was admitted to an Indian school and from
there she completed her A levels with good grades and even
mastered Hindi. This is the part of the story that everyone
knew. But there were things that happened behind the closed
Joyita's father was one of those orthodox Muslims who take
it upon themselves to establish a 'proper Muslim culture'
in the family, carefully exempting themselves from the regulations
and putting the whole burden on the women. He thought that
it was his wife and his daughter's responsibility to maintain
the religious edicts, which includes purdah. While he could
enjoy all his freedom. He used to beat up his wife and daughter
on the flimsiest context. So, it was only too obvious that
he wouldn't appreciate his daughter's brilliance and her
aptitude for studies, and her creativity.
Joyita didn't accept such oppression silently. She fought
with her entire force of will, as a result of which she
was mercilessly tortured. It came with such frequency that
even one of her teachers had noticed that something was
wrong with this favourite student of hers. When a team came
to inspect the case, Joyita was given drugs that left her
unconscious for a while and the inspectors from school were
told that she was not at home. This was only one of the
many incidents. Even I am not sure how far this medieval
style of torture continued, for she rarely wrote me about
any of it. And even when she did, she only hinted at it.
She had too much dignity to confess any of such incidents
even to a close friend. By the time we all came to know
about it, it was all too late.
Her dark days came to a halt for a while when she passed
her A levels. It was time to send her to the University.
Although her Dad was not the kind of person who would be
delighted at such an idea, he finally had to admit that
in order for her to be eligible for a good bridegroom, she
at least had to go to the University for a while so that
no one could say she had only studied up to the A levels.
Her father's image was also at stake.
would people say?
He pretended to find out about the admission procedure at
a University in the U.K. He even got her there and right
after that he started, he said he had two sons to think
about, etc. He sent her to Bangladesh, where she was admitted
to North South University in the BBA programme. Joyita was
to stay here with her grandparents and study. I believe,
the one year or so spent here was one of the few happy memories
of her life. I still remember the day I saw her when she
came to Dhaka for her education. Her brilliance could be
felt from just looking at her. Whoever said that beauty
and intelligence don't go together would have agreed that
she was a bright exception. I was happily reunited with
my friend. We shared all that we had to tell each other
and couldn't get enough of each other's stories. We supported
each other, cried and laughed together with such assurance
after a long time! However, like most such wonderful instances
in life, this was also very short lived.
Before Joyita could even complete a year here, her father
started to pressure her to marry a guy who didn't even like
her name because in his own words, “It is a Hindu name.”
Joyita knew what was waiting for her if she were to marry
that person. She begged her father to let her finish her
graduation at least. She was not given the permission in
spite of her good grades at the University and was told
that her parents could not afford to pay for her studies
anymore, although they had no problem paying for her wedding.
“Besides”, added her mother, “we are not asking for your
opinion about the marriage, we are just letting you know.”
She had asked for help from her relatives. However, no one
in the entire clan was ready to face her father. He didn't
only have wealth and power, but was associated with the
mafia in Bangladesh.
This was the time when I was preparing to go abroad for
my studies. I was unfortunately stuck with my own problems
and could do nothing to help her. And as I was going out
of the country alone, for studying, I was considered to
be a negative influence on her and our meetings were restricted
and closely monitored by her family.
I saw tears in her eyes for the first time ever the day
I was leaving. She gave me a long hug and asked me never
to forget her. I was surprised to hear it and told her that
I'd be back pretty soon.
As soon as I reached Toronto, I checked my e-mail and a
very precise e-mail from Joyita was waiting there for me.
As always, she didn't write much. In fact, she didn't have
to. She wrote me that she will miss me and that life could
have been a little bit fairer to her. I could feel her tears
while going through the words and was alarmed as I could
sense something was wrong. I called my mom only to find
out that Joyita had run away. I came to know the details
as time passed. She was forcefully being taken back to Middle
East to be married to that guy who was a ditto copy of her
father. I believe that as she saw no other way of being
helped out of the crisis, she decided to help herself and
ran away. That e-mail was the last thing I ever heard from
her. It has been almost two years now and I have sent many
e-mails, she never got back to me. She had the right to
be angry, I wasn't there when she needed me most!
Her family and relatives kept blaming her ever since for
the shame she brought on the family. The elderly ones keep
nodding their head saying, “Well, she could have done something
else.” What else? Commit suicide perhaps. I don't know what
others will say but I have admired and will always admire
her for not giving in or giving up. I have no idea where
she is today or what has happened to her, but I'm certain
that whatever has happened, it is thousand times better
then the fate that her brutish father had chosen for her.
I admire her for refusing to live the life her mother has
lived before her, and the life that many women in this society
have come to accept as normal. I don't know what has happened
to the dreams she had, but I have confidence on her judgment.
I believe whatever decision she took, she had reasons to
take it. The tragedy is not that Joyita had to be lost from
our lives, but the fact that her parents and many more in
the society have still not learned the lesson.