‘Honour’ by Ritika Pathak (India)

Short story selected for the 2011 New Asian Writing Short Story Anthology

“Tell us about the events as you remember them, try and recount every detail, do not miss anything,” said the prosecution lawyer.

She just stared ahead in front of her. She had already told the story (as one crass policeman put it) umpteen times and she was weary. She was suffering. They did not understand it. She felt dead. She walked and talked, but still felt the pain and did cry a lot. A part of her had died with him. She was sure about it. Never again would things be the same. She tried to recollect her thoughts. The judge looked at her expectantly.

She remembered the day clearly. She had been so happy. It had been his birthday. They had planned it well in advance; she had planned each and every minute detail. They went to Appu Ghar first, for he loved the rides especially the splash ride. He never quite got enough of it. Hand in hand, she loved it when he would hold her, she felt so protected. She liked the way he cared for her, actually she liked the way he cared for everybody. They had planned their first kiss for the day. Unfortunately, it never happened.

She started crying. She was sure these people would never understand. For them it was just a sensational case. They were just robots, all of them. Did they not see? He was dead. Stone dead. Not coming back. She felt like screaming. She felt like tearing off their heads. What was the world coming to? She started cursing herself, cursing everybody and in a fit of hysteria jumped at the throat of the accused.

She then cried, howling as she was led out of the courtroom. She sat down outside on a bench; cried again and in a fit of anger and despair, started biting her nails off. They bled; it did not matter. Pain was good, a welcome effect, it numbed her thoughts and took her mind off him.

All for Ijjat! Society had won and she had lost but it had not been a fair battle. They would pay, they would suffer. She’ll make sure they would. Suddenly, she was filled with a delicious feeling of revenge.

The saddest part was that her own family had been the culprit. Her father and brother, conniving together. She could not believe it; at first she thought it was all a bad dream, even when he fell she thought it was all a joke. He loved pulling pranks and never missed an opportunity to surprise her. She thought he would get up and they would have a good laugh about it. He bled, it was then that it hit her. This was real.

The judge had summoned her again. She stood up. It didn’t matter now. She was tough. She would be strong. The judge asked her again, “Do you recognize these two accused? Were they present at the crime scene and did one of them shoot Chirag?” She wanted to scream, Yes!

Her mother was there. The one person who she thought would support her; she had gone and told her father everything, she had tried to convince him that caste did not matter nowadays and he should understand but he’d gone off in a fit of rage and this had happened.

Her mother pleaded with her, not to say anything. To save her husband, she’d begged him to deny. How could she also deny? Would it not be betraying him, his memory and his love?

The judge asked again, “Please control yourself and answer the question, your testimony is pivotal in this case Miss.”

She looked straight ahead.

Her eyes were red.

“No,” she lied.


Ijjat: Urdu word for Honour

Illustration by Alan Van Every

About the Author:

Ritika Pathak is the author of two novellas and many short stories. She is a teacher in an elementary school and lives in Shimla, India.

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