Murder of the Brides - contd
by Sanjoy Dutt
(Portland, OR, USA)
Back to Page 1 of the story
Tara was playing with her four-year-old grandson Hemal while Ragini was cooking dinner. The local news was on television in the background.
"Grandma, look you are on TV," Hemal shouted.
Tara looked at the television, it showed a sketch of a lady disciple that looked like her, while the announcer said, "In the past six months, two women have been found dead at different temple complexes poisoned by cyanide. Police suspect they have been murdered by this woman. Please inform the police at the following phone...."
Tara turned the television off.
"What happened, mom?" Ragini shouted from the kitchen.
"I turned it off I have a headache," Tara said.
"Grandma was on TV!" Hemal said.
"He's just babbling." Tara waved off her grandson’s comment.
"Mom, you shouldn’t go to temples so far away to pray. Consider your age, we will go to the doctor tomorrow." Ragini said.
"I will be okay; I don't need a doctor." **
Tara was born in an upper-caste family. From childhood, the word “curse” followed her around. When she was five or six, she remembered her mother would often say, “I don’t know my sins, why did god give me this curse? How will we get her married?”
As a kid, Tara thought the term curse was nothing. Her friends in school kept themselves isolated from her. When she turned twelve her father announced, “Tara from tomorrow you will not go to school.”
“But dad I like to read, please don’t stop my schooling!” she cried.
“Will you become a collector? Your ultimate place is the kitchen, help your mother so you learn your duties. I don’t know how much I have to spend on your dowry.”
She watched her brothers go to school as she assisted mom in the kitchen. She was not even allowed to go play with the neighborhood children.
After she turned sixteen often she wore silk sarees, put on jewelry and sat in front of guests. She knew the guests were there to settle her marriage. All would go well until they noticed her ugly black birthmark on her cheek. The curse would get her rejected every time. She turned nineteen and had still not been chosen by any family.
Rejected by her community, she met Ballu. He was a trader who sold gold plated jewelry in the fairs and they developed a liking for each other.
The first time they met Tara uncovered the veil and showed Ballu her face, “Look. For three years, grooms have rejected me. Will you like me after seeing this?”
“I love you, not your looks,” Ballu replied.
They embraced each other.
Tara and Ballu met secretly. Tara knew her father would never accept Ballu because he belonged to a lower cast. Tara eloped with Ballu and they married in a temple. They started their own family in a town miles away. Soon after their daughter, Ragini was born. They lived happily, but Tara was quick to apprehend happiness is a passing phase. Ballu fell sick, and the doctors diagnosed him with an advanced
stage of leukemia.
Tara was desperate for a job, but her weak education was of no help. At last, she got a job as an assistant in a goldsmith’s factory. Her earnings were not adequate to survive and pay for Ballu's expensive treatment.
In desperation, she went to seek help from her father.
"You were dead the day you married that low caste boy. Get out and never come back!" With that, he drove her out of the house.
After Ballu's death, Tara's only aim was bringing up Ragini. She worked tirelessly at the gold factory. She would often get dazzled by the elegant jewelry, but her meager earnings never enabled her to buy an earring for herself. She formed an opinion that the laziest people have all the money, luxury, and jewelry which they have no right to own. Sparkles and extravagance should be seized from them.
Ragini grew up to become a jewelry designer for a big jewelry workshop.
"You have worked hard all your life. It is my turn to work and for you to enjoy life and play with your grandson," Ragini said.
An idle brain is a devil's workshop. Tara visited the local temples where she found the dull housewives would do anything for peace and wealth.
No one knew that her passion for owning jewelry had grown so strong. During a visit to Ragini’s workshop, she stole a small bottle of cyanide. She took care in making her plans. She would make her move far from home and hide her identity with a wig and saffron clothes.
Her first victim came at night, as instructed, dressed in her marriage clothes and jewelry to perform the secret prayers. She was told to inform no one at home.
Tara took her to a lonely spot, "Drink this holy water to purify your body for the prayers."
She drank the water not knowing it had cyanide. The rest was easy. She took all her jewelry and sneaked off into the dark.
In two years, she had three victims and took care to hide her identity each time. She wondered how her face had been seen and stayed inside until the case grew cold.**
Inspector Jacob had a map spread over his table. He studied it while muttering to himself, "I am sure the murderer stays somewhere in between the two temples to remain unidentified."
Just then the phone rang, "Inspector Jacob."
The voice from the other side could not be heard.
"Yes, doctor....Yes, yes. Where does she live? ..... Thanks for the information."
Jacob's face shone as he put down the receiver. He called the others into his office.
"The announcement on the television has paid off. Our criminal is hiding only fifty miles away. I want her alive, so be careful, she had cyanide." **
Dressed as social workers looking for a donation, a team of women police stormed into Ragini’s house and handcuffed Tara.
"What's going on?" Ragini looked puzzled.
Tara yelled, "Ragini I said I don't need a doctor."
Police searched the house and found all the jewelry hidden under Tara’s bed. ****