My dad told me this story last week. It has been going around in my mind. He got it on whatsapp in Bengali and read it out to me.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was very distraught. All his efforts at abolishing Sati were coming to naught. Nobody wanted Sati to be done away with. It was the only thing that united people across classes and castes, this whole philosophy that widow burning was heroic and courageous. It was as if the women would be declared chaste and devoted to her husband only and only if she immolates herself on the funeral pyre of her husband.
Raja ji thought of giving all this up. He didn’t want to protest any longer. Nobody wanted any reform, they were all happy living with social evils. That decided, he stayed back at his home for days on end.
One day a Brahmin visited his home and refused to leave without meeting him. Distraught as he was Rajaji first refused to meet him. But then moved by his persistence, he met the Brahmin. The Brahmin was there to narrate his story.
He once had a happy family, comprising of his parents, his wife and his daughter. His daughter Radha was 6 years old and already he was being pressurised to marry her off because the neighbours had begun to ask about her “unmarried” status. But he was a poor Brahmin and there was a dowry ask of Rs 100 at a minimum in those days. How was he to find a decent groom for his precious princess in that tiny an amount?
But then he heard of another Brahmin who visited parts of the country and married daughters of other Brahmins for a small dowry of Rs 50, by standing in as proxy for the “future groom” and then found them grooms in other parts of the country. That way, the girls were spoken for already and the eligible men/ boys in other parts got access to a larger pool of eligible girls.
With Radha spoken for like this, their life went back to normal as she continued to thrive at her parents’ place- going to school, playing with dolls, and having fun. One day he came home to see that she had burned her hand. Her mother had told her to manage the kitchen and the poor child had injured herself. The Brahmin explicitly forbade his wife to ever let Radha into the kitchen, also going on to say that we will tell the groom’s family that she will not cook.
A few months later, a letter arrived for them. Radha’s groom had passed away and the letter was a directive from their village’s priests to prepare for Sati. The whole village burst into celebration at this! Their house was done up. He himself got a new sari and new jewellery for Radha who was just as excited to be adorned and dressed up. There were guests at home who they fed with the choicest delicacies and who blessed little Radha. Radha on her part was obsessed with making sure that her Baba ate well. He had been looking under the weather through all this.
And then the procession to the funeral pyre started on its journey. Radha was in the arms of her father. He was holding her close. As they reached the pyre, the heat reached Radha and she clung to her father tightly. She told him, let’s go back home Baba, I don’t like this fire. Her Baba told her, I need to adjust my dhoti, I will just put you on the ground for a minute. As soon as she let her arms go from around his neck, he flung his Radha into the fire.
All he could hear was “Baba.. Babaaaa… Baabaaa…”.
The Brahmin fell at Rajaji’s feet saying that it is you and only you who can save our daughters. I couldn’t save mine. I couldn’t save myself.
With renewed vigor, Rajaji went onto fight this evil practice of #Sati. By the end of the 18th century, the practice had been banned in territories held by some European powers.
Just wanted to share.
PS- putting it in black and white, doesn’t make it hurt less.