Ilaa – The game changer
Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Ilaa. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season, and cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers and traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold and goods for barter. They would exchange what they carried for the cotton that the farmers grew. The bales of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!
But Ilaa was not to be found in the fields. She wasn’t working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari.
‘I am sick of this!’ she grunted loudly.
It was matter of few days when Illa would get married to someone belonging to same caste. They had to follow the rules of the society and she was persuaded to marry someone who was not only 15 years elder to her but also was suffering from a deadly disease which had grown for years now. Illa was not even asked but commanded by her father to marry Ishwar because of his social status and the fact that he was one of the richest in Sauviragaman.
Everyone in the village was aware that Ishwar’s life was no more than 3 years but none dared to raise their voice. Sati (the cruel practice of making a widow burn herself alive on the funeral pyre of her dead husband) was prevalent those days and Ilaa knew about the consequences when Ishwar would die one day. She too had a life for only 3 years.
“Why Should I suffer the consequences of someone else?” Asked Ilaa to the great calm Godavari. “Why are you silent now? Is this why you sent me to earth as a girl? Am I destined to suffer? Can’t I choose my life?” Ilaa was getting furious as her beautiful face started turning red with hairs flowing all over her face.
Ilaa remembered her childhood days when her grandfather had narrated about old Vedic days when women’s respect was the top most priority and were viewed no lesser than goddess. It was said that every women had venerating regard. They were not only given highest level of respect and freedom, but also protection and safety. Where has all this vanished? Why the society has changed? These were some question that needed more attention than the evil practices of sati. But no one had the guts to even have discussion.
Ilaa getting no answers apart from the serene sound of nature and chirping of birds, left Godavari bank and started walking towards the field. On her way back, she saw a man who was tall, fair, nicely built body with an innocent face. He came towards Ilaa and asked “Do you know Shravana? I need to meet him. I have come from a far country, sailing through the sea and need to buy cotton. I want to buy all of them. My name is Pieter and I know your language as I trade all over India.” Ilaa initially could not speak any words as she was only looking at his face and mesmerized by his soft-spoken voice and innocent look of his face. She suddenly felt a thrust when the man touched her shoulders and repeated the questions. Shravana was none other her father as she somehow felt a happiness in her heart without any special reason. The sudden anger had vanished by a sense of pure joy. The world around her suddenly looked beautiful and chirping of birds were like music being played by nature. She took him to her father and introduced as a trader for their cotton. As they spoke about trading, she kept on looking from behind the curtains. Pieter was also attracted by her beauty and smile. He kept his eyes rolling towards the curtains to catch a glimpse which he had never felt earlier. He decided to buy all cottons at a premium price. Shravana was very happy and excited as this was the highest price anyone would have offered till date in entire Sauviragram.
“Why is this happening to me? Why I am feeling happy and sad at the same time?” Ilaa questioned herself. “Why my heart beat is increasing when I am thinking of him?” Ilaa had never experienced the happiness and excitement earlier. Something had changed her. Her frustration was no more a concern. She started taking care of herself more. She wanted to look more and more beautiful for Pieter everyday.
Pieter started coming to their home almost everyday and most of the time to catch a glimpse of Ilaa. Their eyes started speaking the language of love. They would try to make out time for each other using cotton trading as their way of spending time.
Pieter was staying near to Ilaa’s house. One day, Shravana had to leave for Paithan city to collect big basket. This gave both a chance to express their love for each other. Shravana would not come until next day which meant a full day and night to be with each other. During day, it was difficult as any villager could see them but at night when everybody was asleep, they could express their love.
The night could not have been better, the sky was clear, lighting the village with romantic nature’s moon light. Ilaa was looking like an angel when her face was lighted up. Both were holding each others hand as they were sitting near Godavari bank. Ilaa’s long hair were touching the half immersed rock bed. The end of her hairs were touching the water as the calm river was playing music for them to be in love. Pieter held her hand as he was mesmerized by the beauty and innocence of Ilaa. Slowly, they hugged each other as they could feel a sensation in their body. This was a unique yet an indescribable feeling of happiness from heart. As Pieter held Ilaa by her waist and pulled her towards him, he continued rolling his fingers over her face, touching her soft skin and slowly moved his fingers between her long hairs. Heartbeat started increasing as they breathed heavily and they could hear nothing other than their deep breath of love. Soon they kissed each other passionately. As the night passed, they made love after coming back to Ilaa’s home. That night changed their future as they understood the power of love.
Finally the day arrived, when Ilaa will get married to Ishwar next day. It was a moment for her to decide her future – whether to die a sati after 3 years or spend her life with her only love. Both of them could not understand what should be the path to be taken. Sauviragram village was ready for the marriage but the disparity in Ilaa & Pieter was beyond description. Something big needs to happen before the tragedy hits them. Will the power of true love overcome the evil power of society. Can Ilaa and Pieter create a history? That was the question only they knew.
“Do you trust me, my love?” asked Pieter to a very scary Ilaa.
“I believe in you and our love” answered Ilaa
“So, be ready tonight. I will come when the moon is above our head. This is our only chance and we could make our life.”
“I will come when you want me to come dear. I am ready to die for you” Ilaa eyes got wet as they kissed passionately.
As the bright moon lighted up the sky, Ilaa was waiting for Pieter near a banyan tree. She was scared as well as happy. Pieter lived to his promise, he came to fulfill their dream. He had made all arrangements as they squandered through the village & field. Ilaa was in tears as she knew that this would be last time she would be seeing her village where she had grown up. They immediately took a cart covering from all sides. They had a long journey to cover. Pieter being a frequent visitor was acquainted with all roads and direction, guided the cart so that they could sail back to his country.
Soon they reached the port where they started their journey for togetherness and away from the country. The village woke up next day to a surprise and despair but it was little too late. They hardly could do anything apart from launching their search but to no avail. Ilaa had long left the place and was no more in the land of India. Ishwar was furious at the events and decided to take revenge by putting Shravana into prison. In next one year, his health deteriorated and he died but with no wife. Sati could not be practiced. In the following years, many stories started coming that girls are fleeing away with outsiders in a threat of being sati. The first step of Ilaa had given confidence and courage to other girls not only to Sauviragram but had started impacting Paithan. It took some years but the first step by Ilaa had started bearing fruits by creating a social pressure over the village to end the evil practice of Sati.
Ilaa unknowingly had done a great favour for herself and others. She lived a life, she had always imagined. She soon gave birth to twin girls who had no such evil pressure. Had it not been Pieter’s visit to her village, the life of many would not have changed. Ilaa was considered as the game changer for many years as the power of love had proven that every evil practice can be ended only by love.