It was a cool, pleasant afternoon. Peace prevailed everywhere. It was no wonder Santhosh enjoyed surfing through the society magazines reclining on the beautifully carved swing in the spacious hall of the luxurious bungalow.
Rishi’s frantic call from the kitchen jerked him into sudden activity. How time flies! Shakthi might come any minute now. Heaving a big sigh Santhosh shoved away the magazines and hurried into the kitchen to help Rishi with the final touches.
Even as they were setting the table the whirr of the helicopter was heard outside making them drops the cutlery in fright.
Shakthi stomped in and her thundering voice rumbled into the dining hall from where Santhosh and Rishi scurried into the hall.
Kalyan stood in obeisance near the deeply-cushioned sofa on which was Shakthi seated with both her hands spread on the back of the sofa.
“Why are the kids not back yet? I’m sure that lazy bones Dhayal was late to go to the school to pick them up!”
Just as she finished spewing these wrathful words the kids Preethi and Charan came running towards her followed by Dhayal over laden with their school bags.
Preethi jumped on to her mother’s lap and was fondly caressed by her. Charan stood nestling against her and hesitantly spoke” Mummy, let me also go with Preethi to the computer classes”.
Shakthi’s lips curled up in scorn at her son’s plea. ”Hey! What good is that going to do to you? Isn’t it enough for you to know the basic applications?”
“Mummy, please………” “No, Charan! Don’t expect me to throw away money on a fool who must end up mopping the floor, laundering, cooking and bringing up children. It is enough of a burden for me to pay dowry for you.”
With that august announcement she turned towards Rishi. “You,wastrel! What have you cooked up for me in that smelly kitchen of yours?”
Rishi bowed and muttered,” Chappathi and channa masala, dear”. “You and your idiotic menus! Throw your chappathis to the street dogs; I want pizza with prawn topping and paneer pulao with chicken tikka. Go and be fast, you fumbling fool! I am famished”.
“I’ll get them ready in a jiffy, dear.” With that he ran into the kitchen to rummage into his stock of ingredients.
Shakthi got up and sauntered towards the computer. On her way she stopped and wondered aloud.” Where is this rogue, Vimal? What keeps him so long in the farm? I have strong suspicions about the sincerity he shows in the farm work. The bastard is deep in some lewd tricks up there!”
She then suddenly turned towards Santhosh and shouted,”Stop staring at the roof and do something useful, you loafer. Did you wash the windowpanes of my bedroom? Did you get my new dress from the tailor? Did you idle away the whole day chatting with neighbors?”
As Santhosh silently slipped into the inner regions of the mansion Shakthi took her next shot at Kalyan,” Can’t you do anything without being reminded, you stupid fellow? Didn’t I ask you to attend to my rose climbers? The garden is a real sight! How irresponsible you are!”
She turned around to face her next target Dhayal, “Why are you gaping at me like that, you stupid fool? Aren’t you supposed to be helping Preethi with her home work? Don’t stand there rooted like a tree, you blockhead!”
With a grand gesture of great exasperation Shakthi slumped back in the sofa. A nice bunch of five good- for-nothing husbands to drive me mad! Woe to me!”
The evening wore away in a typical manner with such noisy tantrums and tirades from Shakthi. When night creped in she retired to her air-conditioned bedroom and the unique calm deseeded on the place. Out came the crouching husbands into the dim lit hall to have a tee- a- tee. They wait eagerly throughout the day for the sweet solace of these daily discussions in hushed tones.
Santhosh and Rishi were bursting with impatience to disclose their secret plan. Santhosh had received confidential information from highly reliable sources about a clandestine meeting-exclusively for men-that night in the neighboring town. When he imparted the news to Rishi he too became very eager to attend the meeting.
When they revealed their plan to the other three they cried in unison.” WHAT?”
Iimmediately they recovered themselves to remember their surroundings and promptly reduced the volume of their voice. But they could not hide their extreme fear and anxiety.
“Are you both mad? Do you understand what you are talking about?” asked Dhayal.”
What a fool hardly act!” was Kalyan comment.”Are you aware of the consequences of Shakthi smelling your stealthy exit at night?” demanded Vimal
“Nothing can be more reckless than your proposed adventure,” pronounced Kalyan.
“Such an escapade can be properly called a suicidal attempt,” opined Vimal.
Highly sensible words of those three men seemed to have little effect on the “brave” Pair.” This is too good an opportunity to miss” raved Santhosh.” I can’t just resist the temptation” persisted Rishi.
The three men could not help pitying the two they realized that nothing could have stopped them. Filled with misgiving they watched the pair pushing the motorbike silently outside the gate and walking away a few meters before starting the engine.
The riders felt highly elated. Filled with an incomparable sense of emancipation they drove at high speed, their expectation escalating as they reached their destination.
The venue for the secret meeting of men meted out with a similar fate like that of Santhosh and his mates was nothing other than a dimly –lit shed behind a deserted factory.
The shed was packed to its full capacity the faces displayed a medley of emotions like fear, anxiety, melancholy, anger and vengeance. There was a general mood of expectation.
In spite of the members being complete strangers an uncanny sense of bonding seemed to exist among them. Men who were talking excitedly with those near them exchanging information with sympathy and surprise fell silent when the coordinator welcomed the crowd and his voice rang clearly in the pin-drop silence.
“Our country is now passing through a dark period of extreme hardship and ignominy to the male section of its population. Our forefathers had a foolish aversion to girl children and started eliminating them. They killed the girl baby very crudely soon after their birth. As science and technology improved girl babies were scanned even while they were in their mother’s wombs and were aborted.
This cruel practice continued to flourish in spite of governmental interference with the result of a drastic dip in the birth of girl babies. The odd ratio of the male and female members of our population has become the cause for a completely unexpected and tragic predicament. The disproportionate sex ratio has become a tool of exploitation in the hands of the minority women community. By being rare in number they have assumed a precious status. Men have difficulty getting life partners.
In an ironic turn of fate today women are alike Panchali of Mahabharatha. They condescend to marry at least five men accepting hefty dowry if the male population must have the bliss of marital status.
We minions suffer in innumerable ways in the households of these proud queens, running errands without freedom of speech or movement. This is too heavy a yoke to carry. We must find what means we can to get out of this serfdom.
We must struggle to obtain 33% representation in the parliament. We must find equal opportunities of education and employment. We shall mark a particular day each year to be observed as the International Men’s Day……….”
The crowd listened with rapt attention and maintained absolute silence as the speaker continued with stunning authority and clarity. Finally came his clarion call, ”Repeat after me’ We want freedom’”. The mesmerized crowd chanted the mantra in unison repeatedly.
Raghu shook his friend Ravi sleeping with the newspaper spread on his chest with these words,”Are you dreaming? Why are you shouting ’ We want freedom?’ We got freedom more than half a century ago”. Rudely awakened out of his disturbed sleep Ravi described his weird nightmare to his friend. After a hearty laugh Raghu spoke seriously,” The newspaper headlines about the ominous trend of the sex ratio of the country’s population caused you such a frightful nightmare is a healthy indication, I should say.
Are we not an enlightened lot? Shall we not put an end to this rotten practice of female infanticide? Are we not fully aware of the consequences of what our elders are doing now? Cheer up, my boy! Get up now and start studying well for the remaining exams. Our challenges are many. Let us beac up to face them. Sowing seeds of good values we shall reap happiness. With the option of sighs or smiles before us we have made the right choice. India smiles. A golden tomorrow awaits us”.