I wrote this story for one of my creative writing classes at U of T. The assignment was to write a story that must be told, that the world should know about. I was inspired by the stories of many girls around the world, especially in India, whose futures are often dictated by society’s expectations. This is the start of young Kamini’s journey.

“Kamini, jaldhi karo!” her mother shouted from the room down the hall. Kamini’s little eyes shifted to the direction of her voice. Hurry up, her mother was saying, a phrase she had heard countless times before. She didn’t want to hurry. She wanted life to carry her to a better place. From the kitchen she heard the clatter of pots and pans, relatives bustling about, in preparation for the big day. She was getting married.

She stared at herself in the mirror. Her short black hair, dark skin, and skinny frame stared back. She couldn’t believe this was happening. She had just turned fourteen, and like all the girls in the village, she had feared that her parents may arrange for her to get married. Her fears were confirmed when her parents announced at dinner one evening that she would be marrying Sukhdev, a boy from a nearby village who was only a few years older than her. She had broken down in tears, but her pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears; it was as if she didn’t exist. Her parents and relatives ignored her and busied themselves with wedding arrangements.

Now it was the morning of the wedding, and she felt a knot in her stomach and emptiness inside. She didn’t know what to do. In the mirror, she saw her red wedding sari laid out neatly on the bed behind her. Any minute now, Lina Aunty would arrive to put it on her. And then she had an idea. If there was no sari, she couldn’t get married. Without thinking, Kamini grabbed the jewel-encrusted sari and went outside. The cooking fire was still burning from the morning, and there was no one around. Impulsively, she threw it in.

As she watched the flames consume the red silk, it dawned on her what she had done. Her parents would be furious, and most of all, humiliated. She had to leave before they discovered what she’d done. The only person who had shown outrage about this wedding was her aunt, her father’s younger sister who was an unmarried woman that had brought shame upon the family when she fell in love and moved to the big city.

Kamini ran back to her room and quickly grabbed her favourite doll, cotton dresses, and under-garments. She knew where her parents kept the stash of money in their bedroom. She quietly snuck into their room and found 2,000 rupees in a small box under the bed. She heard her mother’s footsteps approaching, and as the sounds grew closer, she quietly ducked through the window. She would go to Bombay and find her aunt. It was the only way.

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