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Happy Birthday
Mousumi Biswas

THE BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT

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. It was too familiar. Out of curiosity Priti opened the profile page . Yes , it was Sambhavi memsaab , her 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 . 

     "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 . 


""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 . 

" 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 .  


" 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 .  

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 .


" Radhika , please reach this address with your team. We need to rescue this girl and her daughter from her barbarian husband and in-laws. " 


 " Sure mam . I accept your offer" . Priti felt her dreams coming true. 


 


Sambhavi helped Priti to connect to an NGO which rescued physically, emotionally and mentally abused women . They helped her to legally leave her abusive and alcoholic husband . 


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 .


        She  completed her teachers training course from a reputed university . 

She worked in a private school as a primary teacher . By her perseverance , discipline and hard work she rose to the position of a principal . 


Her daughter , Sughandha , was as bright as her mother. She excelled not only in studies but also in Co 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 .  " 

" Thank you mam . I am really indebted to you . All this could happen just because of you ." 

"Happy birthday Ma , 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 dear . This is the best birthday gift any parent can ever get . I am proud of you ".


Mousumi Biswas

Delhi

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