Boiling Water – III

image from here

image from here

Read part 1 and 2 of the story here –

Boiling water – I

Boiling Water – II

                                                *           *           *

I stood in the balcony for a while. It was dark and the city felt dead. I wondered what will happen if the Sun does not rise tomorrow. Everyone will gape at the sky for a while and realize how minuscule their blip of an existence is. Then the world will mould itself around its absence. We are good at forgetting. There is so much misery in the world that it would be foolish to think otherwise.

Her chair was propped at a corner of the balcony. She always observed the world sitting on it, with a cup of tea in her hand and a storm of thoughts in her mind. She travelled sitting on it. It was her time machine. I smiled as I looked at the empty chair. After a while I got tired of standing and I lowered myself on it. It was 4.30 am and I knew that sleep will not come near me now. Like me, she too was scared of my dreams.  

Sleep was having a good time with the woman inside. Thank God for that. 

                                                *           *           * 

When Shyamli saw my one bedroom house in Chandni Chowk for the first time, she broke down. I still remember the look on her face. She had been waiting for this for so long. All I can remember of her first day in that house is her arms encircled around me while she cried like a broken dam. My shirt was completely drenched from one side by the time she stopped and went to sleep. I took off my shirt and looked at it. I touched the wetness of our past one last time and threw the shirt away.

Shyamli finally completed her school. She was the oldest student in her class. She then went to college and finished her Bachelors. I too did well at my job and was promoted many times in the next few years. We moved in a bigger house. A few months after we moved, Shyamli got a job of a school teacher in a nearby school. The day she got her first salary, she bought me a shirt. It was same as the one I threw away on her first day in the city, the one soaked in her sorrows. 

“You should get married,” she said once.

“I won’t. I have to take care of you,” I said.

“Don’t do this. I will not be able to carry this burden.”

“We left all our burdens in the village.”

It never came to me getting married. I somehow couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was scared for Shyamli. I was scared that a slight hint of aloofness would push her over the edge. It was bound to happen if I brought another relationship in the equation. I talked to her about a second marriage but she recoiled at the idea. Maybe it was the rape. Maybe it was the fear of leaving me behind. In the end, both of us found solace in each other’s company. People often mistook us for husband and wife. We laughed them off. Sometimes they looked upon us as a strange pair – a brother and sister living together. Sometimes there were hints of suspicion, hints of our relationship going beyond the limits set by the society. But over the years, we made more friends than enemies. It was a good, fulfilling life. We didn’t have any regrets. 

                                                *           *           *

I went to sleep sitting on the chair. Seconds later, a gentle touch of a hand woke me up. I opened my eyes and Shyamli was standing over me with a smile on her face.

“Shubh, it’s seven o’clock. Come I will make you some tea,” she said.

“It’s seven? I don’t remember the last time I had such a sound sleep.”

“When did you wake up?”

“It was around four.”

“There is a function at my school today. They have invited all the retired teachers.”

“I know. You told me a week back.”

“Did I? I am invited too. Would you like to come?”

“No, you go ahead and enjoy yourself. I will go over to Srini’s for a game of chess.” 

I did not go anywhere. As Shyamli left for her school, I switched on the television and watched some news and eventually dozed off. The last thought before my eyes closed was that I would tell Dr. Kapoor that I slept soundly for two and a half hours after the dream. This has never happened before. 

                                                *           *           * 

I wasn’t supposed to be there. If I had any idea that the incident would haunt me for the rest of the life, I would have jumped in the pond and hid myself in layers of water. But of course I had no idea. I was a curious three years old.

Somewhere in the nearby hut, the women were wailing, Ma one amongst them. I had no idea why. All I knew was that Ma had a swollen tummy till yesterday and she told me that a baby brother would come out of that. When I asked her why not a baby sister, she hushed me up.

There was a small gap between two of the bricks in one of the walls where all the men were huddled. I saw the nightmare unfold through the gap. Baba lowered the crying newborn into a vessel in which water boiled furiously. My eyes widened as her head went inside. She thrashed for a while as chocking sounds filled the room. I stared from the hole as Baba pulled out his dead daughter from the water. He then took the dead body outside and threw it in the hole that has been dug for her.

That night the dream haunted me for the first time. I won’t call it a dream now. It was as if life decided to play a part of my past again and again to me. It was like a number burnt on the skin of an animal. I had to live with it.

Ma was again pregnant next year. She told me that I was going to have a baby brother this time. The women went into our hut for the delivery and soon a wail rose from there. The man standing outside the adjoining hut started digging a hole. A fire was lightened to boil the water. The crying girl was brought into the hut where all the men were grouped.  

I was shivering. Sweat ran down my face mixed with tears as Baba lowered the girl towards the vessel. I got up and ran towards the door of the hut.

“Baba! Please! I want to play with her!” I shouted as I reached the door.

He stopped and looked curiously at me.

“Daughters are a burden on the family. We are poor, son,” he said still holding the crying chid over the steam.

“I will take care of her. I promise,” I said. Baba laughed and took his daughter in his arms. A few men sitting in the hut laughed.

“Don’t forget your promise Shubh,” one of them said.

“I won’t!” I said looking straight in his eyes.

Baba gave the little girl in my arms. She had stopped crying.

“What will you call her Shubh?” he asked.

“Shyamli,” I said. I kissed her and held her tight.

The women were still wailing. A man was still digging the hole. But it did not matter anymore. I had made a promise. I was going to take care of her. 

~The End~

I was completely disturbed when my father told me the story of Shyamli. Murdering a female child is not uncommon in India. We have already killed 10 million girls and haven’t stopped yet. Shyamli somehow got lucky.

The ending of the story is completely true but I have fictionalized the rest of the story a bit. I have changed the decades in which it happened. Also, in reality, Shyamli did get married again. In fact, that is the reason why I am able to share her story with you. She was my great-grandmother. 

54 comments on “Boiling Water – III

  1. Amit I have heard of similar stories – first hand. Learnt of them only by accident when someone who had no idea I would not ‘automatically understand’, shared them. I have also heard justifications for these acts – heated arguments to ‘explain’ that those who committed these murders were not really heartless, that it was the ‘done thing’ in those days. Glad you shared this.
    In one conversation, two old men were discussing how many children and grandchildren they had, they only included their male children when they mentioned their children. Women do this too.

    • God! I would have slapped that person if he/she would have expected me to automatically understand. Why don’t people understand that they are talking about a human’s life? It is not a piece of furniture.

  2. I have no words to express my feelings. It was too touching and disturbing. It would have been a great effort on your part to have penned it down. How I wish all those dead girls could have been saved.

  3. I had saved my comment till the entire story was complete. What to say, thank you for sharing the story, rather incident. My heart wriggled to know about the incident and even more to know your connection with the incident. It is a brutal truth about India and such shameful incidents happen even today, but it’s for men like Shubh we are still hopeful & optimistic!

    • Yes, there was hope in the story and that is why I shared it. Even if it happened a 100 years ago in a remote village, there was this little boy who could understand that what was happening was wrong. That makes it a tale worth telling.

  4. Amit, an extraordinary tale! Your own great grandmother! Of course, we all know how this can happen and does happen. But it makes me so sad, nevertheless. So, so sad! Yet, there are ‘men’ like Shubh who make the difference and that it so very heartening, a small ray of hope for all the Shyamlis who would otherwise be dead.

    • Rachna,
      Yes, it was a norm back then. A grand event in which all the villagers participated.
      This whole family tree would have vanished with Shyamli if Shubh would not have saved her. What distresses me is that this still happens. We have not been able to eradicate such murders even after all these years.

  5. ahhhhhh… i was so stuck with the lines at the end… with lines when the father was about to pour the lil girl in boiling water… I mean how could he.. how can somebody kill his/her progeny :X 😥 very shameful…. right now in total shock, so can not write more… but hats off to Shubh, the great grandfather… had he not taken that effort, I think we would have been missed you Amit 🙂

    Gr8 story telling.. keep it up! thumbs up for more stories…

  6. Somehow this reminded me the story of Bheeshma.
    Thank you for sharing this extra ordinary story of your great grand uncle through amazing story telling..
    Have a great weekend Amit

  7. Wow man…I was in tears by the end of the story. What a tale re-told. Reminded me of my own maternal uncle who stood by ma all her life. But, what your grand uncle did was something extra ordinary. I couldn’t even imagine the scene of the baby…

    • We cannot imagine someone doing this to their own child but it is a very normal thing for people who are used to it. It is inhuman and it still happens.
      Thank you for liking the story Latha.

  8. What an amazing narration, intermingling the past with the present. The most chilling part was that it’s not fiction but stark reality. How can a parent kill his own child so mercilessly.

  9. This story is so well written, Amit. I honestly don’t know what to say here – to put a newborn baby into boiling water – I can’t even begin to imagine…. Worst thing is, this hasn’t stopped with our great grandfathers. Again, superb, superb writing – you’ve touched the soul of everyone who read this.

    • Diwakar,
      People have devised many ways to kill girls which are equally brutal. I too have heard of this method for the first time and it took me a while to come out of the shock.

    • Our country is full of fathers who have been equally brutal with their daughters. You will be surprised to know the number of illegal sex identification and abortion centres operating in this country.

  10. It was disturbing enough as a story—-raising goose pimples all over my body;but to think that it was based on reality…i am shaken to the core.My deep,deep respect for Shubh.
    Yes i know about female infanticide but in this cruel manner?How can human beings do this?

    • Indu,
      I have heard stories of parents drowning, burying alive, poisoning their female newborns. It is such a common practice that this did not surprise me that this happened in my family a few decades back. There was a ray of hope in the form of Shubh and that is why I decided to tell this story.
      Thank you for reading.

  11. My heart lurched while reading this… had my heart in my mouth rather. Disturbing narrative… but awesomely written as always. True….this is such a disturbing and horrific incident…. but then there are so many such incidents taking place all over India….

    I bow down to Shubh… for his great heart.

  12. Gosh! I got goosebumps reading this…I couldnt read the earlier parts, and just read all the three this really this what was done to the little innocent children in our country 😦 Why am I getting disillusioned with the system in India?

    • I think it will take a long time for things to reach a bearable state. There are a lot of practices that have been highlighted in the past decade. At least we are talking about the issues, which is a good thing.
      Hope is our only friend right now.

  13. This is a true story.. nice that this change happened ages ago.. wish the change had happened in every house.. you made an impact on readers.. it was worth waiting and reading in parts.. good that you gave time for the content to settle in us..

  14. The story is very disturbing. Am I glad that it ended on a positive note… It gave me gooseflesh to think that any parent would do this to their own child.. a child that you were willing to bring to this world, but murdered because of its sex.

  15. Your great-grandmother’s brother has left you a great heritage. You should be immensely proud of it. I am sure there were many more men like him and still are. These stories need to be told so that they get their due credit. They are truly an inspiration for others and God knows how badly we need it.

    • Oh yes, I am very proud of the fact that this runs in the family. I think this trait has trickled down the generations and thank God for that.
      Thanks for liking the story Nisha.

  16. It gave me goose bumps and made my heart race a mile a minute… Amit, feminism is not just an acquired principle but a legacy in your case. God bless! Thank you for bringing us this piece of history.

  17. I ACTUALLY got goosebumps when i read “Baba lowered the crying newborn into a vessel in which water boiled furiously……. She thrashed for a while as chocking sounds filled the room. I stared from the hole as Baba pulled out his dead daughter from the water. He then took the dead body outside and threw it in the hole that has been dug for her.”
    Its sick, crazy and heartwrenching! Thinking about ‘Baba’ for once, what would he have undergone, while doing this to his OWN child?

    • The people who do such acts regularly look at it like any other chore. She was just a problem he was getting rid of. It was a very unemotional act, something they never repent.

  18. This is mind blowing. I mean, I have heard of such things but to read such a well told story, with these details.. and then to think that she was your own great grandmother and all this life was about to be wiped out with her. Just, heart wrenching.

    I honestly cannot relate to people who can unemotionally kill their own new born children. Wow. Science shows that human feel empathy for babies of other mammals too.. that we are hard wired for it. I guess these people wouldn’t kill puppies but a baby girl is even beneath that for them. Speaking of unnatural acts, THIS should be the supreme court’s concern.. not what people do in their bedrooms.

    This story needs to be read by everyone because it is still happening all around us. Have you tried submitting this to a newspaper of magazine or something? I wish I knew how publications worked.. because this story needs to be read.

    • Thanks Carvaka,
      What really kills me is that is has not stopped. It is prevalent in the current, modern India. It is just the ways that have changed.
      //THIS should be the supreme court’s concern.. not what people do in their bedrooms. – Exactly!
      No, I haven’t submitted it anywhere except in a story writing competition where it did not win anything. 🙂

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