The Panchayat6 min read
“What a disgrace to her family!”, overheard the girl from a crowd of around 50 people surrounding her. She noticed few familiar faces. Her vision was slightly blurred by her tears but she could see her parents sitting right opposite her. The center of the attention though was the man listening to both sides, the Pannch (judge) of the day – her uncle. People decided to choose him for the job as he was a respectable person in the society and quite experienced in handling matters like these.
Silencing the murmurs, he stood up and started talking in his familiar high-pitched voice, “These children, I tell you… This new generation has no respect left for their families, community and the society. Blinded by the fancy world of cinema, the vulgarity depicted on TV is misleading our youth. It is, thus, our duty to bring them back on the right track or else…”
Rest of his words seemed to have vanished in the sound of wind shrieking in her ears. She could literally hear the world ‘vulgarity‘ echoing again and again in her mind. For her, the words cheap, vulgar, and lust always pointed to those dark few months of her childhood. Before that
Her mind suddenly drifted to 8 years ago, when she had just turned 16 and badly wanted to live like a little girl of 10, behaving childishly with anyone she thought loved her like his/her own child. Being raised in a family where fights between parents are more common than the daily primetime news has certain losses. That anger and all kinds of negative emotions in the environment often reflect upon the behaviors of children raised in it. She would jump at the slightest chance of being treated well by anyone elderly without being scolded and shouted at.
Her uncle seemed like the father she had always dreamt of, for the way he treated her like a little doll. She could give anything to have him as her father in next life, if not in this one. She wouldn’t miss a chance to visit her uncle’s house for anything because that was the only place she could live her childhood all over again, which she had always missed. He was much more than just her favorite uncle.
This fantasy world shattered that one day she doesn’t like to think of now. She was alone in the kitchen bringing water at the request of her favorite uncle and ever body else was busy gossiping in the living room. Her uncle followed her to the kitchen for reasons known to him. When he was sure he was alone with her, he suddenly hugged her from behind in what she could describe as the creepiest hug of her life. He uttered some words that were not vulgar or cheap in their meaning but were more so in the way they were spoken. The only person, whose mere presence in the room filled her heart with joy suddenly became the reason for a scar deep in her heart. She was stunned and her legs felt like giving up.
After this incident, she tried to gather some hope and somehow decided to give him the benefit of doubt. Maybe she was judging things too quickly and in the worst way possible. Her favorite uncle removed all her doubts when he behaved the same way once again and then again every chance he got. To say she was shattered would be an understatement. The loving smile of that uncle started to seem like a cunning smirk at her helplessness, for he knew her parents were too involved with their own issues to care. She was literally left alone to deal with this situation and there really was no help.
She managed to live with this experience for a year or two and then one day, decided to share her emotional ordeal with her mother. She was angry and in a state of disbelief at the same time because she also couldn’t believe that such a respected person could do something like this. At some point, her father also came to know of this who, for some weird reason, thought she was the one responsible for all that happened. What else could she get for being too close and treating such man like a father?
It was probably his anger, frustration, and jealousy coming out in the form of those harsh words. His anger issues really helped him ignore the fact that the girl in question was his own daughter. “She was served what she deserved!”, he concluded. Finally, the parents agreed on: “If this were true, she wouldn’t have taken so long to tell us.” They didn’t care to find out her hidden agenda behind taking so long, so she had to move on.
She was still lost in the past when the last words of the judgment of the Panchayat‘s judge echoed in her ears. She looked up and her eyes suddenly met the eyes of that respectable man, the Pannch. Her heart helplessly cried seeing the familiar smirk on his lips. There he was, the respected man of the society, her favorite uncle defining the rules of morality and respect for her to follow.
Everybody was happy and satisfied with the judgment. The girl looked at her parents who were still not able to look straight, obviously too ashamed of their daughter’s immoral act. What can possibly be more shameful than choosing your own life partner?
She was heading home behind her parents thinking, “I wish there had been a Panchayat that day to punish that uncle for his actions, who just did a mockery of the word ‘morality‘ in front of 50 people including her own parents. Or maybe there was one, it was just busy punishing some others who did the mistake of choosing their own life partners. What about the parents? We
She looked up at her parents and everyone else walking with her. They were all looking down in disappointment, except one – her uncle, the only respectable man. His head was still held high with pride – all thanks to her parents, the people, the society and of course, the Panchayat!