#Trending: This photo series about Avani's courage will give you the chills
A riveting photo series titled 'Avani' has taken the Internet by storm. Here is the story as narrated by the talented photographer Arjun Kamath
Photographer Arjun Kamath has broken the Internet with a gripping tale of a woman's journey through a series of captivating images. Depicting the life of Avani, Kamath, who also produced, directed and photographed the artists, highlights the tale of many married Indian women who suffer at the hands a patriarchal society.
Set in a fictitious Indian village, the story follows the life of Avani, a beautiful and educated young girl who dreams of opening a school for girls. But succumbing to the pressures of marrying off a young girl, her parents arrange for her nuptials with Aadisesha.
Read on to soak in a glimpse of this brilliant story, as narrated by Kamath:
It was Avani's big day. Her parents, the Mistla's, had left no stone unturned in the search for a worthy groom for their beloved daughter. Although Avani was against marriage, she had never openly expressed her own feelings on the matter out of respect for her parents’ wishes.
When Aadisesha saw Avani, he wanted to own her and have her to himself, and he thought that, maybe, she could lend a hand in the Sayan household. Initially, Guru Tai rejected the Mistla’s proposal, but at Aadisesha’s request, she reconsidered.
The wedding was arranged to take place in the middle of the Kashyapi Forest, at the border of Pravadh and Bandhunagar. The Mistlas slowly escorted Avani, taking her up to a point and then stopping. Avani continued hesitantly, constantly looking back at her parents as she inched closer to the mantap.
Anxiety twisted in her stomach, and she could feel her cheeks getting hot. Aadisesha, Guru Tai, and Sumedh Rara stood silently by the sacred fireplace, waiting for Avani to arrive.
Despite having sold their sweetmeat shop and cattle, the Mistlas were overjoyed that their only daughter would be married into the most reputable family in Pravadh. Little did they know that Avani wanted a different life, and that the marriage threatened to make her into a caged bird with clipped wings.
Although hesitant at first, Avani mustered the courage to surrender herself physically and emotionally to this auspicious moment, and as she did so, she felt like a huge load was removed from her chest and she could now breathe freely. Her future husband now stood before her, and she only wanted to entertain good thoughts in her mind and heart; she would love and respect Aadisesha dearly and serve him to the best of her ability.
Guru Tai and Sumedh Rara stood a few steps behind, calm and composed, as they watched young couple exchange vows.
Avani wanted to run back and throw her arms around him one last time, but Aadisesha had gripped her hand tightly, and Avani was afraid to free herself. She had to start a new life, and she was prepared, but the sight of her father sobbing inconsolably on her mother’s shoulder broke her heart.
She had never seen him so frail, so weak.
Time flew. On her first morning at the Sayan home, Avani was up and about early, before anyone else. She took a hot bath and took a moment to pray to the Lord. Just as Avani was about to enter the front yard with her aarti thali, her arm was grabbed from behind. Avani quickly turned her head, and realised it was Guru Tai, who reluctantly released her grip and stared at her.
Tai walked Avani through the shadows of the ancient arches, all the way to the front yard, in silence. She sat on the top stair at the entrance to the Sayan home, looked at Avani, and pointed to her legs. Avani understood what she wanted right away. She knelt down and started massaging Tai’s misshapen feet.
Aadisesha had quietly observed Avani all morning; she accidentally woke him while getting dressed. Once awake, Aadisesha could not go back to sleep. He witnessed how his mother had prevented Avani from performing the Tulsi puja. Taking her to the front of the house, she asked her to massage her legs. Avani had agreed without the slightest hesitation, kneeling with a cheerful smile and massaging Guru Tai’s legs with vigor.
Avani was like no other woman he had ever met. She was selfless, polite, and charming. Most beautifully, despite his mother’s rude behavior, she carried herself with dignity and grace all morning. As Aadisesha stepped out of the Sayan home to visit the woods, he followed behind her.
A huffing wind rose, stirring the flags in the Sayan home as Guru Tai lunged for the Aarti Thali, taking Avani by surprise. Fatigued and emotionally drained, Avani, released the Thali, thinking that Tai had already grabbed it, but Tai, who was screaming furiously, hadn't quite gotten her hands on it yet, which sent the Thali crashing to the ground.
Shell-shocked, Avani stared at the floor as large pillows of cloud formed in the sky, blotting out the old, gold color of the sun. Adisesha, who had ventured deep into the woods, noticed a wall of clouds, grey and sad, standing over him as though in mourning.
Avani clutched her Mangalsutra tightly and walked out of the Sayan home as she tried to make sense of everything. Avani, although delicate and sensitive in appearance, was a courageous woman. She would do anything to protect her family.
Oxblood-red toadstools littered Aadiesha’s path as he walked deeper and deeper into the Kashyapi in search of a tall tree. Little did Aadisesha know when entering this part of the forest, a hungry mother wolf was searching for its next prey.
Despite the thorns pricking the soles of her feet, Avani continued to run, even when she stumbled over the fallen branches on the forest floor. Occasionally, an odd low branch would block her path or hit her in the face, but she pushed on. As Avani cleared the view, only a few feet away, she saw a ferocious huge wolf with razor sharp peg-like teeth, inching closer and closer toward a helpless Aadisesha. Her husband had frozen with fear, his axe dropped to the ground.
A surge of courage gripped Avani’s lean body when she saw her husband inches away from the foaming mouth of the hungry wolf. Disregarding the fact that a pack of wolves could be nearby, Avani let out a blood-curdling scream, her face contorted in an all-consuming anger. Lunging forward to come between Aadi and the hungry wolf, Avani selflessly put her own life at risk and attacked the beast’s head with the sharp dagger.
Come what may, Avani insisted that Aadisesha tell everyone that he beheaded the dreaded Kashyapi wolf to protect his pride in the conservative Pravadhi community.
The Pravadhi men danced, threw colors in the air, and drenched themselves in alcohol as Tai lovingly applied a tilak to her son’s forehead. Although happy for her husband, Avani left the celebrations midway, feeling disturbed and deeply hurt after Tai asked her not to stand next to Aadi. Bordering on despair, her head bowed down in sorrow, she walked past the Tulsi plant and straight into the Sayan home.
Days turned into months, and Tai still refused to allow Avani to perform the Tulsi Puja. While Avani attended to the regular household chores every morning, Tai performed the daily ritual. Every morning, was the same routine –wake up, wash the dishes, press Tai’s legs, prepare the meals for the Sayan household, and complete whatever other chores Tai had delegated.
Since Tai wasn’t around, Aadi decided to help Avani with her morning chores. So, while Avani bowed her head down in prayer to the Tulsi plant, Aadi swept the front yard to lessen Avani’s burden. However, within minutes of Avani starting the Puja, her vision grew blurry, her head started to swim, and a darkness descended over her, clouding her eyes.
Aadi’s frazzled nerves jumped all at once as he saw Avani staggering backwards with the Aarti Thali in her hand. Anxiously, Aadi sprinkled water on Avani’s face from the water pot resting next to the Tulsi plant. As the warm feeling faded away, Avani stood up with a gentle smile pasted across her face, savoring the memory of Aadi’s care and gentle touch. The feeling was a blissful reminder of the love that had grown between them.
What Avani whispered in Aadi’s ear was insurmountably beautiful and something he’d never expected to hear in his wildest dreams.
Continue reading to know what happens next.
A surprised Avani giggled like a little girl as she looked at Aadi’s smiling face. Her bright eyes followed Aadi as he leaped with joy repeatedly, just how a mother’s observant eyes would watch her child in a playground; she had never seen him this happy and free.
“You’re going to be a daddy soon!” Avani had softly whispered in Aadi’s ear, much to his joy.
Guru Tai had shrewdly sensed what was transpiring in the front yard of the Sayan home the moment Aadi and Avani embraced. Quickly realising that Avani was pregnant, Tai sent a messenger to Mukaddeswar, Pravadh’s chief astrologer, requesting that he grace the Sayan home with his holy presence.
The pregnancy had brought joy and nervous anticipation. As Baby Surya grew, the light tickle began to feel like a finger flick. It was an exciting phase for Avani and Aadi; the constant kicking was a sign that Surya was getting healthier and stronger each day.
Avani was just over eight months pregnant, and at Aadi’s insistence, she had been indoors the entire time. However, she needed a break from the dreary hallways and ancient arches of the Sayan Home.
Unaware that Aadi had some workers erect a swing in a safe area of the majestic Kashyapi forest, the doting Aadi carried Avani over a little hill; the trees at its edge were alive with birds and squirrels, and the lake in the valley below was abundant with fish. Avani, Aadi, and Surya weren’t alone at all, yet the solitude she felt in nature washed away her stress.
Little did Avani know, the pain she had ignored to escape the dark hallways of the Sayan home would come back to bite her hard. As Aadi continued to push the swing, Avani’s stomach started to tighten. An acute pain, lancing through her, crushing her, squeezing her, like an implosion of bones and muscle engulfed her. Tears welled up in her eyes.
Her insides hurt so much that it made her take leave of herself, totally stripping away her modesty and embarrassment.
Sweating profusely and in distress, Avani continued to push while Aadi offered his comfort and support as best he could. She could feel every stretch, pull, and tear, the burning unlike anything she had ever experienced. Then, suddenly, she heard a gentle cry and looked down to see Aadi cradling his little girl in his outstretched arms.
Guru Tai had kept her silence all these many months as Mukh Baba had advised, but she was growing more restless with each passing minute. The news of Avani and Aadi’s newborn baby girl had spread across Pravadh like wildfire, and while the elated young couple were rejoicing in the birth of baby Surya, a distraught Guru Tai was, yet again, sending one of her trusted aides to summon Mukh Baba.
So when the jubilant couple approached Tai to seek her blessings, to Avani’s utter shock, her response was to curse her, calling her an evil witch. Tai simply could not contain herself any longer; she was the matriarch of the Sayan home and it was time that someone had the nerve to speak the truth, or so she thought.
Aadi who was horrified to hear his mother’s words, was so distraught and hurt that he immediately grabbed Avani’s hand and rushed out, trying with all his might to hold back his tears.
As worried as Avani was about Aadi, he was equally upset about the way his wife had been treated by his mother. Aadi knew then that he would do anything, as long as it brought Avani and Surya happiness.
It was now high noon and the sun beat down with unrestrained brutality, as a few withering trees cast patches of pathetic shade onto the smoldering Kashyapi floor.
As the sultry heat pressed in on Avani, she began to feel woozy and lightheaded. Her mouth was parched and her palms were no longer sweating. Every lungful of hot air robbed more water from Avani’s body. Unable to bear the thirst any longer, Avani turned to Aadi, but before she even had a chance to ask him to bring her some water from the nearby pond, Aadi kissed Avani on her forehead and said gently, “I’ll fetch some water from the Vimala. Rest here under tree until I get back. I don’t want you to waste any more energy, okay?”
Unbeknownst to Aadi and Avani, there were greater dangers than wild animals to fear for; Tai and her men were quickly descending on them. Tai went into a rage when Aadi left the Sayan home holding Avani’s hand, all for the sake of that damned child, she thought, and damned it will be after I get my hands on the little piece of muck.
As they closed in on Avani, she gestured to her men to surround Avani from all sides. But, as soon as Avani heard the sound of a branch breaking underfoot, she opened her eyes at once and clutched Surya to her chest.
Avani jumped to her feet the moment she saw the swords in the men’s hands. The men pulled and grabbed Avani’s shoulders, trying in vain to release her clutches from her child, while Tai stood there grinning like an evil ogre, relishing the pain and horror she was inflicting.
Inexplicably, they were tiring and Avani was ready to make her move.
The revolting sound of Tai and her men shook Avani to her very core. She knew they would soon be upon her if she didn’t pull herself together quickly. Wounded and terrified, Avani collected herself, and scrambling to her feet with Surya in her arms, she began to run through the Kashyapi as fast as her torn bloody legs could take her.
For a brief interlude, there was silence; not a man to be seen. However, Avani could still hear the distant screams and wails of Tai’s men. She wondered if Aadi was in trouble; confused and scared, she ran up and down the river’s edge, but before she could decide on her next move, Tai’s men, who had been standing on a little hillock, spotted her. Avani ran a few hundred meters, but Tai’s men descended the hillock from various directions, capturing her like a pack of wolves after their prey.
Little did Avani know that as she begged and pleaded Tai to spare the life of her child, Aadi was tied to an iron cot and on the verge of death from being beaten repeatedly until he lost consciousness.
Tai marched away with Surya. Standing only a few feet away from Avani, she placed Surya on the hard Kashyapi ground close enough for Avani to see. As Tai stamped the skull of the baby with her giant foot, a sharp, stinging pain pierced her leg like a bolt of lighting. She stamped the baby’s head again, and this time her heel cracked open, sending fountains of blood onto the cold Kashyapi floor.
To her surprise, instead of baby Surya, there were only sticks and stones, the same kind of stones Avani had used earlier to attack Tai’s men. “You will never find my child, so don’t even try!” Avani gasped, spitting out blood as she spoke.
Then, in a fit of rage, Tai raised her sword above Avani's head and brought it down hard against Avani’s slender neck.
Tai’s men bowed their heads and followed Tai as she marched away, leaving Avani and her blood behind. As Tai walked farther and farther, Avani’s breathing became slower and slower. Within minutes, she stopped breathing completely.
After Avani had attacked Tai’s men with the sharp stones, they had tumbled to the ground in a heap, wailing and screaming in distress and pain. That was when Avani had taken advantage of the distraction and turned sharply to hide behind a huge boulder. For a brief interlude, there was not a man to be seen.
But Avani could still hear the distant screams and wails of Tai’s men. In panic, and fearing for the life of her child, Avani hugged Surya to her bosom with one hand and then quickly filled the cloth in which Surya had been wrapped with sticks and stones so that it would seem as if a child was still in it.
As Avani breathed her last on the Kashyapi floor, Surya safely reached the banks of Bandhumati where she was picked up by a fisherman and his wife. They were a childless couple, overjoyed to find Surya on the riverbank; they welcomed her into their lives, thinking that she was a blessing from God.
(Images courtesy: Facebook)
These excerpts have been taken from a writeup originally penned by Arjun Kamath.
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