Agnipariksha in 21st century
“You never get bored while travelling on a train”. This rather enlightening discovery
was made by me while returning from a field trip from the outskirts of Delhi. I
overheard a co-passenger who was sitting next to me narrating a story to his friend
about some incident that had taken place in his locality. And I found their little gossip
to be rather hilarious, but insighful. And naturally, “philosophical” questions started
creeping up the walls of my mind pondering over the insanity of human beings. Can
human beings be such preposterous? Maybe only human beings have the ability to be
There was an emerging and young social worker in the narrator’s locality. He was
a very honest man, and his activities had got him quite the attention of everyone.
He, with great responsibility, cleansed the whole locality from antisocial activities.
A few months back he got married. And eventually the newly weds went for their
honeymoon. But somehow, their life and finally their relationship, took a new turn,
once they got back.
Being a social worker, this man used to stand up against various elements, obviously
more powerful than him - in money and contacts. Unknowlingly, he had gained for
himself a lot many enemies who wanted to avenge their losses. One such element, a
local goon, got his wife kidnapped within a few days of their return from honeymoon.
Her husband filed a missing report with the police and started searching for her
frantically. But even in the midst of this mishap, some peers of the family started
suggesting that the girl had eloped with someone else.
With the police, thankfully quite active and under immense public pressure, tightening
their noose around all the local goons, it would be a few more days before the wife
would have been rescued. Realising that all escape route was blocked, the wife was
left behind at her doorstep gagged and in an unconscious state, with a threatening
letter of dire consequences next time. The man, along with his family, were all relieved
to get her back and she was gradually nursed out of her trauma. The woman, who
had actually gone into a state of shock because of the entire episode which lasted
for around 5 days, also responded to the therapies and was slowly returning back to
normal life. But everything doesn’t end well. Within a month’s time, she was detected
pregnant during one of her regular check-ups. The woman was thrilled and excited
and shared it with open heart with her in-laws, only to realise that the initial euphoria
amongst one and all has mellowed down to a state of shock and dismay. She could
read the body language of her kins, who seemed to avoid any eye-contact with her and
maintained a distance from her – all these, quite suddenly!!
The theories that the girl had eloped with someone, and returned when she had her
share of fun; or that his kidnappers ravished her and then threw her away were suddenly
the topic of discussion among the elders in a hushed and cold tone. And the news of
her pregnancy added the required dry woods to a dying fire and reignited it further.
One day, she overheard her mother-in-law speaking with someone over the telephone,
acts of misadventure of this woman and how she has brought embarassment to the
family name. This shell-shocked her. She soon realised how her husband was also
sailing in the direction of the current as he had also started distancing himself from
her upto the extent of shifting to another room to sleep at night.
She soon realised that people cant be kept in the dark anymore. They all have the right
to know what happened with her in those 5 days – that she was physically untouched
and she had only copulated with her husband during their honeymoon, a few days
before she was kidnapped. All her attempts were turned away by sneering remarks
that pierced through her heart and made her weaker and ill.
Her husband, being a sensible man, demanded her to get a DNA test conducted on the foetus, and this girl, though
having no fault on her part gave into this idea of “Agni Pariksha” of the 21st century. When the DNA report came
in, it was proved that her husband was the fact-of-the-matter father of the child being reared in the woman’s womb.
Suspicions and prejudices are hard to rub off, once they have formed a thick layer in one’s brains. Her in-laws were
not ready to accept the results as valid and authentic. Even her husband questioned the authenticity of the test and
even went to the extent of questioning whether the woman influenced the test results to suit her needs. The husband
demanded a retest from a different clinic and once again the obvious was revealed. He was indeed the father of the
What were they thinking? In the 21st century, where science and technology have attained the status of God, where
death thinks twice before taking his prey away, lest the dead is brought back to life, where medical science has been
creating miracles day in and day out, what drove these people, the in-laws, to question the authenticity of such a
conclusive test like the DNA test, was something that I failed to decipher. Was it too hard for them to remove the
layers of prejudice from their eyes and see the world as it is? See that they were becoming more inhumane than the
goons? Feel that they shouldn’t make true innocence face such trials? Human beings behave in the most mysterious
and unusual ways and they are incorrigible. It was all very hilarious in a very twisted way. I tried to laugh to myself a
bit seeing the ignorance of these people, but couldn’t, because such stupidity was disrobing the honour of a woman.
Leaving these questions to roam freely in my mind, I strained my ears to know the rest of the story.
After many such tests and retests, still her husband and his family couldn’t believe her and continued to suspect
her of infidelity, and branded the child to be illegitimate, born out of sin. Their rough edged words, poisoned with
the bitterness of their heart, punctured the woman everytime, pushing her to the dark alleys of her thoughts, while
crippling her mentally. They even threatened to throw her out of the house. Still she patiently and with all due
respect to everyone tried to make them understand that she wasn’t wrong, neither she had deceived her husband
nor the DNA tests were fake, but her attempts to reason with them were of no avail. Gradually, matters worsened
and they started torturing her and her situation became worse; and all her trials to prove her innocence were of no
Feeling dejected and really pestered at this uncivilised behaviour, she decided to leave her in-laws’ house and went
back to her parents. There she gave birth to her child, filed a divorce against her husband where obviously she won,
as the court didn’t question the authenticity of the DNA tests, and started her life as a single mother. She started
working and bringing up her child away from the shade of these narrow-minded people who were once her family.
My journey was coming to an end. As I stepped out on the platform, I was faced with some harsh questions in my
mind. What has literacy gifted these people other than eternal ignorance. We are now facing the “Sita” of the 21st
century, whose plight is not a bit different from the plight of “Sita”, the wife of Lord Rama the most enlightened
being to have walked the world in the Satya Yuga. Maybe the name and process of “Agni Pariksha” has changed
but the views of the people around us have remained the same. There is no sympathy for someone who has been
kidnapped, no happiness in the fact that one’s wife is bearing his child, his love in her womb; only the gory fangs
and claws of suspicion is present laying bare the true nature of the society. This monster is slashing and tearing apart
all the humanity present in this world, showing that we are not better but maybe worse than animals. In Ramayana
and in our present day society, it was the anger against their husbands that brought doom upon their wives. But the
ultimate price was paid by the wives, who were disbanded and their lives were destroyed because of the grudges of
men. And sadly, none is “masculine” enough to acknowledge the price paid by them.
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