Bhats are the priest class among the ‘Gauda Saraswat Brahmin’ in Mangalore District in Karnataka.
When the second child also turned out to be a girl, Ravindra Bhat has decided to let her follow the dream once her mother had.
Ravindra Bhat was a high school teacher in a Govt school, in ‘Kodiyal ‘village in Mangalore. Everyone in the village respected him and called him ‘Ravi Sir’. He has moved to his home village long back, and opted to remain in the same school, though he knew that it will affect him in terms of promotion. Not just that, the move would tend him to get retired just a senior teacher, and never as a head master.
Vimala, originally an educated nurse, remained his life partner and a house wife, for past 28 years. They had two daughters, with three years of age difference. Nayana, the elder one, followed her father’s footsteps and went ahead to become a teacher. She got married to an army personnel and lived in north India.
It was the day of Meera’s departure to Bangalore, to pursue her Nursing study. Meera is youngest of the two sisters. Ravi, who got up very early on that day, was feeling restless, as it was the first time he was about to part with his sweet daughter. Don’t know why he was not so much bothered emotionally even when his elder daughter parted, on the day of her wedding. It was absolutely a melodramatic scenerio at home, while leaving Kodiyal. Few of Ravi’s friends too came to the railway station, to see them off.
Meera felt really excited to come out of their village for the first time. The only time she went out the Mangalore was for an educational trip to Mysore, when she was in the high school. The train journey to Bangalore gave her a beautiful view of ‘western ghats’ on the way. The overnight train reached Bangalore in the morning. Nagaraj (Ravi’s brother’s son) arrived on time to pick them up from Bangalore railway station.
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Joining formalities at the Nursing College commenced by 10.00 AM, and Meera went through the process. She and her father had to wait post-lunch till 03.00 PM, to get the hostel room allotment.
Girls’ hostel was next to the academic block in the same campus. There was high wall surrounding the premise, blocking view of the pedestrians walking through the road close by. Students at the second floor and above could see the road from their rooms.
Meera got room number 304 allotted for her, and noted names of her roommates as Jency and Jyothi. They went towards the hostel and met the hostel warden Jane Fernandes. Her name was fondly shortened, as everyone addressed her as Jane-Madam. She asked them to wait for some time, and later explained the rules and regulations of the Hostel. She asked Ravi to wait in the reception and went upstairs, with Meera.
Being a hospital/college run by Christian missionaries, Christianity was everywhere in the hostel and college premises. Meera met her roommate Jyothi in the room. A small room for three girls, on a sharing basis. A single bed, one study table and one cupboard were allotted to each of the girls. There were common wash rooms towards both end of the hostel floor. Five toilets and five bathrooms, and a few wash basins in each side.
Jyothi was from the other part of Bangalore, to whom daily commute would have taken more than three hours, and hence decided to stay in the hostel. Meera learned from Jyothi, that her third room partner, Jency, will be joining them on Monday as she has gone back to Kerala, after taking the admissions.
Ravi looked so worried, as Meera, Jyothi and Jane Madam were walking down the staircase.
‘Don’t worry sir, I will take good care of your child here’, said the warden, ‘They do not need to go anywhere outside for anything. Even in case it’s unavoidable, there is no worry since Jyothi, her roommate, a localite knowing the city very well, is happy to accompany’.
‘I do not want her to go outside anyway’ – replied Ravi.
‘As a policy, they are not allowed to go out except on Saturdays. Saturday classes will get over by 12.30 PM, and they need to return to the hostel by 09.00 PM’ – Jane Madam retorted, looking at the girls.
‘And Saturday is the only time visitors are also allowed‘ – she said.
‘And when can she come home? What is the holiday calendar?’ – Ravi asked.
‘It is there in the student hand book – generally five days before exams, and 12 days after exams are holidays. This is a nursing college and hospital. if it’s a peak season, post-exam holidays are generally cut short for more practical exposure‘ – Madam Jane replied.
‘Of course, it benefits them if there could be more practical exposure‘ – Ravi opined.
Ravi said a good bye to Jane and came out of the reception. He and his daughter was nearly on tears, as it was time for Ravi to return to their village.
Ravi controlled himself and smiled, took her daughter towards a corner, and said, ‘Dear, take care of yourself. Call when needed. Study well. You know that your Amma gave up her Nursing, just to provide care for you both. We will visit you on every second Saturday’.
Tears rolled down Meera’s cheeks by this time, as father, who could not cry, tried to console her.
Madam Jane and Jyothi came for her rescue. They took Meera back to hostel, as Ravi waved his hands, said ‘bye’ to his daughter and began to walk away from the building. His eyes too were filled with tears. He wanted to turn back, but did not, and walked towards the main road.
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First day of the college just went in chairman speech, introduction and other induction activities. They just had two theoretical subjects in the afternoon and classes got concluded by 03.00 PM. Girls were back to hostel by 03.30 PM. Jency entered the room, while Meera kept checking the uniforms which were issued on the first day.
“You must be Jyothi” – enquired Jency.
“No, I am Meera, Jyothi has just gone to the washroom” – she replied.
“I am Jency, I am from Kerala, I kept the luggage here in the room” – Jency said.
“No, I didn’t see them” – Meera.
We must check up the warden to know where it has gone” – Jency said with anxiety.
“How did you get the room keys?” – enquired Meera.
As they spoke, Jyothi entered the room. She said, “I have kept your bag inside the cupboard. What is inside it, it was so heavy.”
“Yeah, I came late today morning, as the train got delayed. I just took the key from warden and kept the luggage. I didn’t even take bath today” – said Jency.
Meera felt bad to hear that her roommate went to the class without taking bath. She told herself, ‘My roommates are not used to take bath in the morning’ remembering that even Jyothi did not take head bath in the morning. She herself woke up at 5 AM in the morning, knelt before her favorite deity Krishna, offered prayer and performed Pooja, in the room.
“The luggage mainly comprises of my cloths, some books and certain food items. Do you people eat non-veg? I have got fish, beef and chicken pickles with me” –Jency continued.
Meera felt like vomiting, by hearing the beef part of Jency’s explanation. She moved out of the room and walked down the corridor. She could see that the building opposite to the road is setting up some green colored boards – it looked like a new shop coming up over there.
Meera inquired with Jane Madam about the procedure to change the room. Reply she got was discouraging, as it made her understand that more than 80 percent of the students here are from Kerala, and all of them were non-vegetarians. She would land up in the same situation, even if she changes the room, citing her vegetarianism as a reason for it! Jane tried to argue that even Meera herself would start eating non-vegetarian food over a period of time!!!
Meera moved towards the hostel mess, to have evening tea. There were more surprises queued up for her to explore in the hostel, as well as in the city. She got to know the haunting news related to a happening in the corner room on fourth floor of the hostel, where a student committed suicide during an earlier year.
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Years passed by. Your environments and people you live with affects you a lot. Madam Jane was right. Meera has now reformed her out to be a non-vegetarian after a few months. She is now a true Bangalorian. As most of the bangalorians, she has now learned to tie the scarf around the face to save her from dust and pollution. She visited her hometown once in that avatar, and people around her at home made fun of her telling it as a “Hijab”. Jyothi, Jency and Meera are very close friends now. Their favorite eating-out to be the ‘Asian Fried Chicken (AFC)’ near to their hospital complex. The new shop that was opening on their first day in college has turned out to be Starbucks Café. Though they wanted go there many a times, Meera did not go even once during the course.
Though nurses are not supposed to perform surgery, they have practical classes on surgery and its procedures. She was surprised to learn that doctors and nurses take turns, smoke breaks and lunch breaks during long surgeries. How to hold the knife, how to perform the cut without leaking the blood, art of clinical cutting, how to stitch it back altogether, and all of it would have been a nightmare for Meera, if the ‘world of meat’ shop was not next to the AFC chicken near their hostel. They kept on watching how meat is being handled in ‘world of meat’ shop, whenever they visit nearby shops and AFC.
Anatomy practical class was just about to finish, there was an announcement that, there will be special session the next day about placements abroad. Placement abroad was the topic for discussion in the hostel that day evening. Jency explained what she understood about the Nursing opportunities in Ireland. They talked about the girl who committed suicide four years ago, just a week before she was supposed to fly to Canada. Her photo is kept in one of the room in Academic block.
Meera met Sherin in AFC one day evening, while she was having dinner on a Saturday. He came close to her and asked where her friends are. How does he know that she is with her friends? – She asked. Sherin have been observing her for some time, and asked if she could take off the Hijab. She smiled and said that it’s to save from pollution and she is not a Muslim. Sherin smiled and said, “I wish you were one”.
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It all started like that and got extended to a deep relationship later down the line in few weeks. Sherin was a well built, handsome gentleman. He was in his mid-twenties when they first met. He would come in stylish dress, and has a shiny bike. Sound of his bike was a little different compared to the normal ones. He was so nice, well-mannered and soft-spoken. He said he was running a food-processing chain, and supplying meat. Soon she found herself spending time with him on Saturday evenings. One of those evenings, when she was getting dropped by Sherin to the road near college hostel, Jyothi saw them from the third floor.
Jyothi asked her about Sherin, as Meera usually said that she goes to Nagaraj’s (her brother) place in the evening on Saturdays. Meera explained about the new developments to Jyothi. Jyothi was shocked to hear that Meera is in a strong and deep relation with him, that even went ahead up to being physical.
“So, you are going to marry him?” – Jyothi asked.
“Yes” – Meera replied.
Jyothi could not believe her ears.
“What is his name?” – Jyothi.
“Sherin Yusif” – Meera.
“A Muslim?” – Jyothi questioned.
“Yes Jyothi, I have decided to convert- as his parents wont agree for our marriage otherwise”.
“What do you think? Your parents will agree?” – asked Jyothi.
That’s when Jency entered the room with the good news – “Girls, we are all going to fly, seven of us cleared for New Zealand. Warden has just got the list”.
Jyothi wished all the best to both of them – as she already chose her path to marry her cousin (cousin marriage is common in Karnataka) and settle down in Bangalore itself. Jency and Meera took their phones and started calling to their respective homes. Meera looked through the window to the Starbucks Café, from the corridor of the hostel. She initially thought of calling Sherin and stopped herself. She decided to tell him in person, when they meet next week.
It was at Sherin’s first floor flat, where they met on Saturday afternoon. She told him about the New Zealand offer that she got. “So you will go away from me. Isn’t it?” – He asked. She could not control herself and hugged him deeply. They went on the bed – Sherin gave her a very long deep kiss on her lips. She closed her eyes and fell on the bed. Sherin took off his shirt and came to bed. Sherin’s phone sounded differently, on receiving a message. He took the phone and looked at it, while on the bed itself. He got up immediately and said, ‘I will just be back’, and went out of the room. She never knew why did he go. She got up and went to the washroom. She heard the sound of Sherin’s bike from bathroom – she came out of the bathroom and went to balcony to see what happened. She saw him rushing out of the apartment gate, and at the gate a police Jeep stopped him and took him away. One of the policemen drove his bike following the police Jeep. She rushed out of the room till gate running to find what had happened. She could learn that he was picked up by the police for something connected to “Love Jihad”. She just did not know what to do, She took her phone and called up Jyothi. Jyothi and Jency were not picking up her call.
Meera didn’t believe what the people over the streets said. First she thought of going back to hostel, but realized that she left her purse in Sherin’s flat. She went back to the flat to pick up her purse.
There was a file and album kept on top of Sherin’s wardrobe. Albums and pictures arouse curiosity, as you know. There were occasions in the past, by getting curios about the album and the file above wardrobe, Meera expressed her intention to see those. Sherin kept on saying that it’s his office file, the album belongs to his family, and he’d show those later. He looked at the album whenever he missed his family in Hyderabad, according to his own statement.
Meera decided to find his parents’ contact number in the album and inform them. She got a diary from his study table. She took it out in anticipation of getting some contact details. For her surprise, photographs of a bunch of girls fell off from the diary, and one of those was her own photo! She did not understand the tick marks on each of the photos and a question mark on her own photo!!!
Then she saw another photo inside the diary, which didn’t fall at the first time. It was shocking for her to realize that it was the photo of her college girl, who committed suicide four years ago. She immediately turned over to see the mark to be a cross mark, and below it a sentence, ‘I was showing her the way to heaven, but she chose hell. Go to hell, bitch’.
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Five weeks later she got a call from Sherin, saying that police caught him by a mistaken identity, now they have freed him fully and he wants to meet her. She didn’t know what to answer. But she was sure that something needs to be done to stop him. At least a dozen girls including her, were misused by him. She was in Bangalore, preparing for her career New Zealand. Her flight was scheduled for departure next day early morning.
He asked, “Shall we meet in Starbucks?”
She said, “I will come to your flat, and from there we will go”.
They met at his flat. As soon as she opened the door, he just grabbed her close and started being intimate with her. He took her to the bed room as it is, and started kissing her from bottom up.
“Sherin, stop, enough, I want to talk to you first” – she shouted.
“I have been starving my love all these days, I just need you for today, I can’t hold it anymore” – Sherin pleaded.
“Ok, ok, just drink the orange juice I have brought – just make yourself little cool. I promise, I will be with you … Me too want to take these sweetest moments with me to New Zealand”.
She stood up and handed over the orange juice bottle to Sherin, after removing the bottle cap. She also took another bottle of Minute Maid pulpy orange juice and started drinking. She sat on the chair nearby, as he was gulping the juice inside him. She saw him fainting, down to the bed, after he gulped the entire juice the bottle had in it. She stood up and went to close to him to check. He has fallen in a deep sleep. She opened her hand bag, took out her anatomy box and said, “This one for you, all the girls.”
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She sat down in the Starbucks Cafe sipping her coffee, and stared out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. The knife read mediline, as its brand name. She took the knife and put it inside anatomy box, inside the hand bag. She remembered that the full kit was a gift from Sherin, on one of her birthdays. Just then she saw Nagaraj (her cousin brother) coming down to the road. She called him up, to pick her and drop at the airport. She came out of the Café, boarded the car, and they drew away.
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Two days later, Sherin woke up from his sleep. He opened his eyes slowly, was not able relate to what happened to him. Just then he saw all the photos of girls fixed on the wall in front of him. There was a note below, “I have done this for all these girls, especially the one who suicided. The one that you are looking for is already flushed in the toilet. By now it must have gone away with the sewage. Effect of Anastasia will be there for another two hours after you wake up. After that it will start paining and itching. Prescription is on the table. It will take four weeks to heal. I have added the tubes for urination. With Love – yours always – eyes behind the Hijab”.