The mangled body was found in the communal garbage bin dumped carelessly in the stale, foul smelling, nauseating heap of dirt and debris. The face was almost unrecognizable, half charred and battered. The hair was shriveled and a streak of crimson ran through the middle parting where the head had been repeatedly and brutally bashed. It was a girl’s manhandled carcass which in deathly silence aroused shudders and shocks in even the most hard-hearted ones. Her red and gold embroidered saree and cream and gold bangles covering from arm till elbow was sufficient proof that she was newly wed. As rough hands tried to pull out the body the anklet bells chimed unwittingly with the laboured movements. Somehow, even in that obnoxious mess, the torn chain of black beads had managed to remain stuck to the hollow of her neck, a symbol of eternal marital bliss. Thanedar Mange Ram Chatwal, the most seasoned and principled policeman around the vicinity almost puked over the body. He had only six months left to retire. His eldest daughter, Kamla, was of the very age that this girl had been, around sixteen or seventeen. Kamla had managed to scrape through school but still wanted to get enrolled in the district college. She was an average student but with non-average dreams. She wanted to be a teacher and for that she wished to study further at least as long as she could given the fact that her father wanted to marry her off before his superannuation. At least one burden would be off his shoulder. He had two more daughters in the queue to take care of. Last evening, the father and daughter had had a heated argument on this issue. Thanedar Chatwal disliked the educated girls who debated, argued and raised their voices in protest against the conventional scheme of things. He had already given an ultimatum to her that by the end of the monsoon she should be prepared to move to her new home. Chatwal was to go to the next village in the coming weekend to finalize the date of marriage. Thanedar Chatwal looked at the body with something mixed with disgust and disdain. Disgust for those who had committed this heinous crime because crime it was to burn the new bride alive for nothing but a handful of gold and coin. Disdain for the girl’s family who had forcibly married her off to the vagabond of a boy who spent jobless days gambling and drinking. Yes, Chatwal knew about the whole case as it was a small village where nothing remained hidden for long though policy enquiry would take its own formal course and the well-to-do father-in-law of the victim would not hesitate to pull all the known and unknown strings to get out of this scrape. Thanedar Chatwal felt weak in the knee and sat down on the sidewalk. Kamla’s face kept on merging with the bruised and burnt face of the dead girl blurring his vision. Thanedar Chatwal knew that his would-be-son-in-law had a permanent job in the nearby factory. He also knew that he himself had limited resources and would not be able to fulfill all their demands if the boy and his family turned out to be greedy and parasitic. More importantly, after his retirement Chatwal knew he would have a tough time feeding all six heads of his family. Thanedar Mange Ram Chatwal of Thana Munglai, PO Haroli sat there under the blazing afternoon sun and thought ………………………..
I wish by the end of the day he would be able to take the right decision which might not be an easy one.