When life seems to come to a full stop but still makes you live, you have to either take it away yourself or go ahead on an uncharted path. Shruti was peeping down from her building terrace. It was unusual of her. It was not a very tall building but Shruti was usually scared of heights. She kept staring at the vehicles and people moving down the road. They were looking small and insignificant. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Now jumping from this terrace was no small adventure but to move on and live ahead was the difficult choice. At this moment, life offered nothing. Shruti’s mother Gita died when she was young but she did not feel her mother’s absence due to the presence of her caring aunt, Savita, who lived next door. Her uncle Santosh looked after her studies and all her needs.
Her dad Krishnan was an ex-serviceman and had retired early from Army as he got crippled during a railway bridge building operation. But he was a strict disciplinarian. Shruti never spoke to her Dad. Her family too never dared to either, except her uncle.
Santosh. It was always a one-way command. Her uncle was her best friend. Shruti excelled in studies and sports. Her dad wanted her to apply for National Defence Academy. But she was least interested in it. A week long argument between her uncle Santosh and dad finally went her way and her uncle finally convinced Krishnan that she’d take up medical seat on Defence quota. Krishnan was a stickler to principles and did not want his daughter to take advantage of any quotas. But he had to relent. Shruti happily got inducted in a prestigious college but her joy was short-lived. Within two weeks of her joining, Shruti was sent a show cause notice and sent back home on grounds that her seat was invalid due to false domicile certificate. She was required to produce proof of continuous residence in the state for becoming eligible for the medical seat. Krishnan was fuming at Santosh who tried to pacify him but Krishnan was at his wits end. Santosh had done everything right for Shruti. His only mistake was relying on an agent for procuring her domicile certificate as he had promised to do it fast. Instead, the agent cheated Santosh and Santosh’s eagerness to get his niece a medical seat went in vain. Santosh was ready to take up this matter before the High Court despite Krishnan’s reluctance.
Santosh checked with the Tehsildar and came to know that the domicile was fake. But Shruti had all eligible documents for a valid domicile and that she could apply again though it may take time. Santosh immediately applied for the domicile and made a plea before the High Court. A notice was also served to the Medical institution regarding the same. To his dismay, Santosh found out that Shruti’s seat was got immediately filled up. It was a ploy by someone connected to a local political party for getting his relative’s son admitted for medical seat as he had missed out on merit.
Like a mad man, Santosh started making rounds of the High Court pleading for stay and early hearing. The Court was busy in other issues like women’s right to enter places of worship. A gathering of protesters kept blocking the roads leading to the Court holding placards of #MeToo movement which had gathered lot of media attention.
Back in the house Krishnan was angry and fuming. He saw his daughter sobbing at the corner of the home.
“Look Shruti, I am not going to beg before anyone. You leave these aspirations to become a doctor and do something else.” Krishnan thundered.
Shruti broke down but her Dad’s words were always final and she knew what he meant. She nodded her head and quietly slipped out of the house.
Krishnan went inside and opened the fridge and poured for him a glass of scotch. He switched on the TV to watch his daily news.
He came to realize that it was “Surgical Strike Day” and the Army men were being felicitated for their brave deeds. The Government was stressing on how the role of the Armed forces was important and dubbed the activists speaking against the system as anti-nationals.
Krishnan kept guffawing as he watched the news reel like a piece of satire. He remembered his wife Gita. In his love for nation he realized how he took Gita for granted. He did not want to lose Shruti.
Meanwhile Shruti continued watching from the terrace. Everything looked small, even life. Her gaze was unwavering and she was bereft of any emotions. Her phone started ringing. She slowly took it. It was her Dad.
“What are you doing up, dear?”
Krishnan could sense the heaviness in her voice.
He had already watched her going up for the terrace through CCTV feed in his cell phone.
He knew Shruti was a brave girl and will overcome all challenges.
“Don’t worry my dear. Your country may have let you down. But your Dad will be there for you.”
Shruti was in tears. She did not even bother to take the lift and rushed down the stairs to hug her Dad. Krishnan made her lie on his lap and they kept talking as if they were long lost friends.
Shruti felt like an alien in her own land which denied her a Medical Seat on grounds of domicile. Her father too felt like an alien in the very land which he served for a lifetime but which brought grief to his daughter.