She was a lady of indomitable spirit. Even as a child Aditi was strong willed and full of energy. She kept getting into trouble at school because she was so naughty. But, she was also good at studies.
The beginning of school year was always interesting to her. Actually, the weeks before the new school year started were interesting because she would read her literature text books as story books. Then when school started, everything was the same-old, same-old – fun.
However, the start of 7th grade was not the same-old, same-old. Her old friends and teachers were there, but there was also a girl sitting quietly in the front-row, right corner of the classroom who seemed unfamiliar. Only her back and gorgeous long hair could be seen.
Curious, Aditi went towards her, and gently said, “Hello…”
The girl turned and looked up. “Hi,” she said, quietly, but unafraid.
“Are you new here?”
“Yes, I joined this year.”
‘Oh, how nice! She’s one of us and should be welcomed in’ thought Aditi. With a little more eagerness in her voice, she said, “What’s your name?”
“Sadhana”, the girl replied.
Sitting on an empty chair nearby, Aditi made herself comfortable. “I’m Aditi. Which school were you in before this?”
Soon the two girls were chatting away, feeling a sense of comfort in each other’s company.
Aditi and Sadhana became good friends. They used to spend a lot of time together, talking, going on long walks together in the large school campus full of trees. Aditi used to have a lot of friends before she met Sadhana, but now she spent less time in her previous group.
Their personalities were quite different. Aditi was vivacious, Saadhanaa was quiet. Aditi took part in many school clubs and activities. One friend was a comfortable optimum for Saadhanaa. Her energy was spent in extrapolating the fascinating things they learnt at school. Aditi admired the ideas that kept cropping up in Sadhana’s mind.
Not only was Sadhana quiet, she was melancholy. It seemed as if she was timid, but Aditi knew better. Both Aditi and Sadhana lived in joint families. The two girls, at the brink of puberty, would freely share and talk about whatever they were experiencing – whatever they were learning at school, the behaviors of their various teachers, what was happening with their bodies, what was happening in the country that had just gained independence. They also talked of their family members – the many siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, their parents, and grandparents in each household.
Actually, Aditi spoke about her family members. Sadhana mostly just kept quiet. When asked, she would smile wanly, the pain and resolve increasing in her eyes ever-so-slightly, and say a little something in response. Aditi invited Sadhana home and she went a few times. She interacted with Aditi’s mother and whoever else was present with measured, pleasant ease. However, she never reciprocated those invitations back. Nor did Aditi expect it. Over time, perceptive Aditi just knew certain things about Sadhana’s family, based on her friend’s meagre words, expressions, and body-language whenever the talk of family arose. She, a lionhearted lady who loved her friend, began to feel a sense of helplessness when the girls would part at the school gate and she saw Sadhana walking home.
Two years passed.
They were in the 9th grade when one day Sadhana did not come to school. “She must be unwell,” Aditi thought. However, Sadhana did not come for a week, and then Aditi got to know that Sadhana has passed away.
“She committed suicide,” her mother told Aditi. Saadhanaa and Aditi’s families knew each other and word had gotten around.
A blob of shock and grief fell with a thud inside Aditi. In a little while, the shock and grief transformed into a quiet anger and resolve.
Aditi went to LaL Bazar Thana, the main police station in her city, and filed an FIR against Sadhana’s family. “She did not commit suicide. She was killed,” was Aditi’s claim.
“What took you so long?” asked Aditi’s mother as she returned late from school, and Aditi told her everything.
Now it was Aditi’s Mom’s turn to get shocked — “What have you done? We’ll get into such a mess! What was the need to meddle in that family’s affairs?!”
“I know Sadhana did not commit suicide. I know she was killed,” Aditi replied. She sounded calm and adamant but she was trembling inside. For a moment, she was surprised at herself. It was as if a bit of Sadhana had entered inside her – the same quiet and resolve, but that same fear too that she had sensed so many times in her friend.
When Aditi did not budge, Aditi’s Mom told her father. “It’s my duty to tell him. It won’t be at all nice if he gets to know from outside,” Aditi’s Mom reasoned.
“I will take you to the thana tomorrow morning. Take the case back,” Aditi’s father told the girl – stern, matter-of-fact, no-nonsense.
“I won’t. I know Sadhana did not commit suicide. I know she was killed,” Aditi replied, once again feeling that same quiet resolve and that same trembling inside.
“You’re just a child. These are not the matters for you to be involved in. Yah bade logon kee baatein hain,” Aditi’s father said.
“I won’t take the case back,” Aditi replied.
The matter hung for several days. It was like Aditi’s father had become a different person – the way he looked at her, talked to her, treated her. Sadhana’s family came to know that Aditi had filed a case against them. It became rather embarrassing for Aditi’s father.
“Hey! Come here!” Aditi’s father called her one evening.
“Matters don’t end at filing an FIR! Do you even know about these matters? Now the case will be brought to court. You’ll have to appear at the court several times and explain in detail why you’ve filed such an FIR. You’ll be asked many questions,” Aditi’s father told her – contempt dripping from his voice. How could a small girl be so adamant and not listen to what he was saying?! He found the situation rather perplexing and infuriating. He didn’t like being disobeyed. Who had Aditi become? She used to be a vivacious girl and they used to play together when he got home from office.
“I won’t take the case back. I’ll go to the thana, I’ll go to the court as many times as is required,” Aditi replied.
Matters hung once again for several days.
Then, as the case was investigated further, Aditi’s father took her to the thana and to the court as many times as was required.