Married at 12 to her own brother-in-law, pregnant and widowed at 13, gutsy P Savitha and her sister Savithri finally take charge of their lives, says Nandini R Penna
Call it destiny or just pure bad luck… P Savitha was married to her brother-in-law at 12, she became pregnant on her wedding night itself and before her baby was born, this little girl found herself a widow at the tender age of 13. But if you think this harsh sentence of fate deterred this spunky girl, think again…
Around 250 kilometers from Hyderabad, in a remote village of Rudrur in Nizamabad district, Andhra Pradesh, 12-year-old P Savitha, an eighth standard student at the Zilla Parishad High School for Girls, was like any other giggly girl her age. Until one day, she was forced into marriage with her brother-in-law, P Lakshman, who was in his late 30s. Lakshman, who was married to Savitha’s elder sister, P Savithri, remarried because Savithri was unable to bear him a child even after 10 years of marriage.
Says Savitha, “I wanted to study further and the very thought of marriage was shocking. But my eldest sister was having problems in her marriage and my aunt convinced my parents to give me in marriage to my brother-in-law as she insisted that if he married any other girl outside the family, my sister would be ill-treated or deserted. Incidentally, I was only five years old when my sister had got married.”
Her sister, Savithri, adds guiltily, “My husband was threatening to marry again as I was unable to bear a child. The only way I could save my marriage was by getting my sister married to Lakshman. I know I spoilt my sister’s life by doing so, but my parents were anyway not in a position to get my sister married to anyone else, as they were very poor and had not yet cleared the debts they had incurred for my marriage. So I bore all the expenses for Savitha’s marriage.”
In May 2003, Savitha, who was barely 12, was married to Lakshman. She got pregnant within a month of the marriage and within six months, found herself widowed too. Says she, very matter-of-factly, “My husband, Lakshman, was a hamali (porter) at the lorry stand, and one day, he slipped and fell on his head. He died instantly. It was shocking, as we had just had a ceremony to celebrate my pregnancy. As is customary for a widow, my sister was made to remove her bindi and flowers. But I was spared as I was pregnant.”
Savitha gave birth to a baby boy, whom she called Ganga Sai, in February 2004, after which she was made a widow as per the customs. But Savitha could hardly come to terms with the catastrophe that hit her, more so as she watched girls her age, giggling and going to school. She too wanted to adorn her hair with flowers, wear a bindi, and dress colourfully. But she was told that she was now a mother and a widow, and there was no more joy in her life.
Savitha recalls despondently, “I would sit in a corner and weep. Life was so depressing. Also, I was worried about the future of my sister and my son. My sister would work in the fields to bring home the money. But that was not enough. I wanted to study and be independent.”