The best birthday gift
Priti picked up her phone to check out on her mails and messages . She deleted the unnecessary ones . A notification showed a friend request from one Sambhavi Shibu of ' Friends NGO ' . Priti ignored it . But the name had struck a chord somewhere. It was too familiar. Out of curiosity Priti opened the profile page . Yes , it was Sambhavi memsaab , her previous employer , her friend and guide . Priti accepted her friend request and soon they were chatting away . She had almost lost track of time . The door bell rang . It was her daughter, Sugandha. She had returned from college.
"Ok mam , bye . I'll call you later . Please come over to my place . Hope to see you soon ." Next week they met up at the coffee shop .
Tears welled up Priti's eyes . She was meeting her savior after a long time .
The dark clouds of her past collected in Priti's mind .
Priti was always a bright and bubbly young girl in school . She was also a good singer . She had participated in many school competitions and won prizes .
She had just appeared for her higher secondary exams and was awaiting her results . She and her best friend, Neha were planning to enroll for graduation now . She was always very excited about going to college. Like all teenagers, she had big dreams.
" Priti , he is a nice boy and is a ward boy in a private hospital . He lives with his parents . They will look after you well . Your uncle has got this alliance . He knows the boy and his family well . "
"But papa , I don't want to get married now . I want to go to college and do my graduation. Moreover I am still a minor. It's against the law ."
" Don't try to preach me and tell me about laws . What will you do with all your studies ? Always remember , you are a girl . Sooner or later you will have to marry and bear children . How long will you be a burden on me ? "
Tears rolled down her cheeks . Her own father felt that she was a liability on him . Even her mother didn't protest . She knew how stubborn her husband was and wouldn't budge from his decision . She was totally helpless .
" Priti , your father is right . "
" But amma , you know my wish . "
" You can study after marriage if your husband and in-laws allow."
Priti's dreams of going to college came crashing down.
From the very beginning Priti had entered her marital home with a man almost double her age , it was a relationship filled with abuse and violence . She was beaten , battered and tortured by her husband and in-laws for getting insufficient dowry . Mohan's persistent alcoholism and then the birth of her daughter made matters worse for her.
Mohan had lost his job . He would vent his frustration on Priti . He even snatched away the little money she was earning as a house maid or stitching clothes for her neighbours to supplement the family income .
She was the sole bread earner of the family . But her woes didn't end .
" Leave that sewing machine and cook dinner for me. " It was Mohan in inebriated condition . He flung a plate at her . She ran out of the one room shackle , holding her profousely bleeding head .
Next day she came to work at Sambhavi's place with a bandage on her head.
""Priti, how did you hurt your head ?" , asked Sambhavi .
"And what are these bruises on your cheeks ? "
Priti kept washing the dishes quietly.
" Priti , I am asking you something. Why don't you answer ?"
Priti broke down , clinging to Sambhavi .
" My Gosh ! You are burning with fever , Priti . Let's go to the doctor . "
" Tell me what happened . Don't be scared "
"That brute hit me again today because I told him not to waste money on drinking and gambling. "
" Did I say anything wrong." Priti was crying inconsolably now.
"Not at all" . Sambhavi gave her a warm hug and tried to consol her .
''Priti , please tell me your problem''
" Sambhavi mam , I just can't take it anymore. This has become a regular affair . He does not even show mercy on Munni . Today he slapped her just because she wanted to play with him .Her voice was choked . Soon she was crying inconsolably .
Priti showed Sambhavi the bruises on her neck and shoulders . Sambhavi could feel her flesh cringe at the sight of the bruised skin . She was determined to bail Priti out of the hell and rescue her and her daughter from her barbarian husband and in-laws at all costs.
Sambhavi called up her friend Radhika and told her about priti .
" Priti , please reach this address tomorrow at 9am . I have a job for you.
" Thank you mam . I accept your offer" . Priti felt her dreams coming true. She just couldn't believe her luck.
Sambhavi helped Priti to connect to Radhika and her NGO which rescued physically, emotionally and mentally abused women . Together they all helped priti to legally divorce her abusive and alcoholic husband .
Sambhavi ma'am and the NGO fulfilled Priti's dreams. She completed her graduation through distant education with flying colours . She began teaching the under privileged children and also worked as a councellor for abused women .
Priti completed her teachers training course from a reputed university .
She began working in a private school as a primary teacher . By her perseverance , discipline and hard work she soon rose to the position of the principal of the school.
Her daughter , Sughandha , was as bright as her mother. She excelled not only in studies but also in extra curricular activities .
Priti felt a great sense of pride and achievement when the anchor announced , " The Best Women Empowerment Award of the year goes to Ms Sugandha ."
" Congratulations Priti and Sugandha . And Happy Birthday Priti . This calls for a double party." I am so proud to see that you have instilled all your values in your daughter .", said Sambhavi , clapping her hands.
" Thank you Sugandha mam . I am really indebted to you . All this could happen just because of you . You helped me get back to my track and to get a job which I had least expected . "
"Happy birthday mom !I am proud of you . I dedicate this award to you . Inspite of your hardships you didn't break . You have brought me up as a strong person just like you . I will never let you down" .
" Thank you sambhavi mam and Sugandha . This is the best birthday gift anyone can ever get ."