Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Giving in to a flawed framework not only makes the individual’s life harder, but it even enforces the faulty system to continue being enforced on future generations.
“The Outlier” by R. S. Chintalapati shows how the framework should be redefined at any cost, even if the price to pay is being outcasted.
Shruti and Shreya were two sisters who were raised in a conservative family by a strict mother and an adorable father. Though the siblings were eight years apart, they shared a special bond and kept no secrets from one another. After their graduations, the sisters got married to guys who were handpicked by their parents. It had been nine years since Shruti got married and one year since Shreya got married. Though both of them were imparted with the same values by their parents, Shreya disliked a lot of their notions and didn’t support their ideas. She didn’t want to follow traditions that were cast on them through the centuries. But neither of the sisters were given the liberty to even discuss why these traditions make no sense. They weren’t supposed to touch others or help themselves for a span of three days when they got their periods, they had to wash their hair every Friday, cut nails on specific days, braid their hair all the time, learn to sing, dress traditionally and even smile elegantly in public gatherings like a ‘lady’. Though Shruti disliked these rules as much as Shreya did, she never resisted and always took the side of her parents. Her most common words were, “The reasoning behind these traditions is beyond our scope of understanding and following them doesn’t harm anyone.” and these words were no different from the words their father often told them. On the other hand, Shreya often felt her parents or at times her sister didn’t have solid reasoning considering their concluding statement. In the worst case, they threw in the argument about rishis and Vedas being the eternal source of wisdom that cannot be comprehended by a single human in a lifetime even if they tried too. To put it simply, you cannot defy a tradition even if you could argue its demerits crossing over its merits. After Shreya got married, both the sisters only met during the Pongal vacation at their parents’ place once a year and for the rest of the year, they communicated via calls. However, this year, Shreya just showed up at Shruti’s place in June without even a phone call all by herself. For about two days, Shreya didn’t say a word about her visit and their mother informed Shruti that the couple fought over something. On the third day, Shreya finally opened up. After the children left for school and Shruti’s husband left for his work, the sisters sat at the dining table to have breakfast. Serving her sister two idlis and a dosa from the hot pack alongside coconut and tomato chutneys, Shruti asked, "I don't know what happened but if you prolong your silence any longer, our parents will be here soon." Tasting the Ravva dosa, Shreya could certainly agree that her sister was a better cook. Meanwhile noticing her sister’s silence, Shruti probed, “Did you guys fight?” When she heard the word fight, Shreya relived the humiliation for a moment before she spluttered, “Yes!” Knowing her sister too well, Shreya even clarified, “Not just argue, Sweety. He hit me.” Without a moment of thought, Shruti asked, “What have you done?” and that hurt Shreya. She could not help but think, “Why for once can’t my own family believe something bad could be done by the husband too?” Controlling her frustration, Shreya patiently replied, “I defied sex whenever he was drunk thereby making my chivalrous husband to force himself on me. When I resisted, I got a good beating for it.” “I’m sure there is a reason for him to get drunk, Shreya and I don’t think this will happen again,” said Shruti, trying her best to get the situation in control without even wanting to know the truth. On the other hand, her response baffled Shreya. She couldn’t believe that this was her sister’s response after she told her about being molested and raped. She couldn’t believe that her sister presumed there is a justifiable reason to defend the assaulter. Hoping to see if there is any sanity left in her, Shreya confessed, “This isn’t the first time.” and even this statement didn’t change anything. For the first time, Shreya felt she was all by herself. She knew her parents wouldn’t back her. They would say “There isn’t even the system of divorce in our faith.” but seeing her sister being so accepting of this couldn’t be any more painful. It was unbelievable for Shreya that her family would back a man whom they knew nothing about except for the fact that he comes from a ‘respectable family’. A chill passed down her spine, her eyes were filled with tears and she could for the first time feel how loneliness felt. Noticing her sister’s eyes, Shruti held her hand. She knew it was painful but what could she say? She knew walking into the fire would be a better deal than defying a providing husband. Everyone around them will tear them into shreds through insults and even their parents would be disappointed in the last few years of their lifetime. Helplessness is the worst enemy for a dependent and insecure being. The moment they walked into their marriages, both the sisters gave up their choice to work obeying their parents’ demands. Now their degrees weren’t serving them anything except for giving them a tag of being called educated. The husbands understood that the sisters’ dependency is their best advantage. So now it is all up to them to choose to be good or bad and as they always say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Not wanting her sister to suffer the horrible fate, Shruti warned, “I know what you are thinking but if you do it, you would be an outcast once and for all.” As much as she loved her sister, Shreya couldn’t accept giving in and submitting to an abuser. She didn’t want to empower him even more and she didn’t care about being an outcast.
This flash fiction is available in paperback & ebook.