Shuffling along the long, unyielding ramps, we encountered security every twenty to thirty metres into the hallways as we tried to make our way to the ICU. “Kausalya is in there?” I asked. “Stable,” he said. Managing to catch glimpses of her resting through bars of the window, it was really about talking to her now.
Details on her side of the story were sketchy to nothing. “No pictures, no phones stealthily positioned, and no talking,” – essentially a no. Access was free to Sankar’s relatives, who spoke to us extensively on his, Kausalya’s and her family’s lives. Aside from reporters sneaking in 2 am recordings, which the police earned a earful for, everyone had been able to gather little information about her. Her family, relatives in Palani – forget about it. They had become impossible to contact or track down. Speculation was rife on whether officials were trying to hide something.
The guards kept their eyes peeled. I asked if anyone came to see her. “No.” No friends? “She married a Pallar boy. You think people will come out in huge numbers of support over this?”
Kausalya’s own family had, according to reports from Sankar’s father and brother, become increasingly intolerant of their daughter’s choices. But the weight of being disowned by her own family, the death of her husband and the thought of life after this – the loneliness of it all can be overwhelming. The plight of living with the physical and emotional hurt, not having anyone visit during this time, it can take a toll. No friends to put this aside to show up after a young girl being struck on the head by a sickle? “Nobody has visited, it’s only you press people trying to break in.”
For her family, burning her clothes and chappals two weeks before the incident was symbolic of her ceasing to exist for them. Friends, relatives of Sankar are huddled up at the courtyard, scarfing down biscuits and tea after a long sleepless night, wearily answering my questions. “I think when you go out and do something like this, you burn bridges with everyone,” a voice in the crowd told me. “Who will come for you?”
Kausalya had left behind her life, which was soon dotted with threats and harassment back in Palani, to choose one for herself. Sankar’s friends, who met the couple regularly at their humble home in Udumalaipet, said it was unusual for a woman to come forward and make a decision for herself to be with him. Choosing to start a new life leaving behind the burden of caste or past ghosts, appear in broad daylight, celebrate her husband’s new job and her first salary – the autonomy she took back for herself to make these decisions, maybe that was her biggest crime.