Sai Pranati, 27, died in suspicious circumstances at her home in Rajkot on 25 April, 2019. She was married since October 2015. Her mother, Brahmaramba, a teacher in Hyderabad, suspects hanky-panky and alleges there were constant demands from her husband and mother-in-law.
In this extremely emotional column, Brahmaramba writes about her Pranati, the girl she fondly called `Ammulu’ and wonders if instilling values of obedience and giving respect cost Pranati her life.
It is two weeks since I last spoke to my daughter. It is two weeks since she left this world. Why and how that happened, who is responsible, I still don’t know. Hardly a moment has passed without that question gnawing and tearing me up.
Sai Pranati was the name we gave to our daughter when she came into this world 27 years ago. Our only child, she was always Ammulu to me and Papay to her father. Yesterday, he broke down, crying aloud, I have lit my daughter’s pyre, I have burnt Papay down, what is left?
Ammulu grew up as a soft-natured girl, with traditional values despite being progressive and modern in her outlook. After a post-graduate degree in Chemistry, she worked with GVK Biosciences in Hyderabad for a couple of years. When a `good’ alliance came and we got her married, she resigned her job to join her husband in Rajkot, Gujarat.
The prospective mother-in-law had said Pranati would be her daughter. She had brought up her only son after her husband passed away 28 years ago. An educated family, with an affectionate nature, we didn’t think too much when they asked for a dowry of Rs 6 lakh.
Everything I earned as a teacher at a private school in Hyderabad and what my husband earned as a Railway employee (retired in 2013) was after all to see our daughter happy and well-settled. We agreed to give a dowry of Rs 2.15 lakh and bought all household items to start their home in Rajkot.
Initially, we were told, don’t buy a cot, since there would not be space in the apartment bedroom, only beds would do. Within six months, “You never paid us for the cot” was a complaint. We as parents, sent across Rs 50,000 to buy a cot. But till date, no cot was bought. Our daughter slept on the ground. The money went into the husband’s bank account.
When we bought an almirah for our daughter for Rs 20,000, her husband was once again upset. “You should have handed over the cash, what a waste to buy an almirah”. We should have recognised these as dowry harassment demands. We were naive enough to tell ourselves, these are passing clouds.
They had got married in October 2015. After the first six months, the rest of the three years of marriage for my daughter was a torture. Things apparently got worse after her mother-in-law retired in January this year as a cooperative bank manager in Hyderabad and shifted to Rajkot to live with her son and daughter-in-law.
From a so-called daughter, Sai Pranati became not just a daughter-in-law but an unpaid domestic help who was expected to do all household work. She was not allowed to engage any domestic labour as help. She was expected to hand over the salary she earned as a lecturer and be answerable for where she went at any time and for every rupee spent.
They wouldn’t allow her to give her clothes for ironing since that would cost money. We bought an iron box for her. They wouldn’t let her iron her clothes over the weekend, saying it would increase power consumption and an inflated electricity bill. They wouldn’t allow the purchase of a washing machine. Our daughter learnt to adjust and survive.
When our daughter became pregnant last year, she was not taken to a lady doctor. Instead, the mother-in-law argued that according to her horoscope, she would only give birth to a daughter and that they did not want. Sai Pranati suffered a miscarriage.
Our daughter was bright and was selected to do a Ph.D at R K University in Rajkot. She had stood first in the entrance exam whereas her husband fared poorly and wasn’t able to get a guide for his Ph.D.
Ammulu died on 25 April. The day before that, I am told she made a presentation at the University, which was much appreciated. Her friends subsequently shared a video. At 3:30 pm that day when she last spoke to me, she excitedly shared details about her work, her Ph.D guide and college.
At 7:30 pm, I got a call from my son-in-law, saying your daughter has locked herself up in the bedroom after drinking something. Later he said my daughter had tea. But I have not known Ammulu to drink tea. The FIR however, says the incident happened between 7:15 pm and 11:30 pm. The police, according to the FIR, was informed at 11:30 pm.
So when did she die?
The post-mortem report given by the Forensic Medicine Department, Government of Gujarat, revealed a poison had been ingested. Her husband and mother-in-law said she had killed herself. Why would my daughter do that? She was happy and excited, despite some domestic issues. She was looking forward to coming home next month along with her husband for a two-week break. What went wrong? I have no answers.
Was she forcibly poisoned? Did she think life had turned so miserable that she resorted to suicide, without even once speaking to me?
The police have registered cases under IPC section 306 and 498A and the Dowry Harassment Act. These am told are non-bailable sections but I understand the mother-in-law is already out on bail.
I need answers. I need justice. More than anything, I need to know the truth about what happened to my Ammulu. Till then I can’t sleep. I can’t look her in the eye even in that photo that she shot as a selfie with me last year.
Did I not bring up my daughter with the same love and care and affection as how her mother-in-law brought up her son? Then why is it that in the name of marriage, my daughter had to make all the sacrifices? Did I err in teaching her so-called family values, of being obedient and not questioning? Did the girl I brought her up to be ultimately cost us her life today?
Or is it about greed and violence, about patriarchal values and expectations that says even an educated girl like my daughter can’t escape shackles. Despite being a woman in the 21st century, does she have to hand over her salary to her husband or mother-in-law who will then decide how that money will be spent, whether at all it will be spent. Does she need to serve without questioning, otherwise she would be called a haughty girl who is not well brought up. If she complains, she will be told to get out. She will have no freedom to decide what she would like to buy or what she would like to do, without the permission of the family she serves?
Is this what we would call an equal world? If that is the case, let us stop lying to our daughters.
(As told to Filter Kaapi Bureau)
Categories: Guest Column