With the worst of the pandemic year’s lockdowns seemingly coming to an end in India, the first day of summer was a rather run of the mill typical day. The literal season’s change emphasised the spirit of hope after the difficult first half of the year. But any high-minded idealistic dreams quickly dissipated with the discovery of the body of Vismaya. The twenty-two-year-old student, in her final year of study of Ayurvedic medicine and surgery – an alternative traditional medicine practiced in India – was found dead at her in-law’s house in the small town of Kollam in the state of Kerala. Vismaya had committed suicide by hanging in the house owned by her husband of thirteen months, Kiran. Considering all social standards, Vismaya and Kiran’s match was perfectly respectable. Kiran, an assistant motor vehicle inspector, had been reportedly unsatisfied by the dowry from Vismaya’s family. He had supposedly expressed unhappiness with the new car gifted the couple by Vismaya’s father, worth 11 lakh rupees. The car was accompanied by the additional gifts of 1.25 acres of land and 100 sovereigns of gold. The assistant motor vehicle inspector’s expressions of disappointment were made evident by WhatsApp messages of photographed welts and open wounds on Vismaya’s body that she sent to her cousin the day before her suicide. Kiran had been habitually harassing his wife for some time, arguing he ‘deserved better’.
On the same day, on the other side of Kerala, the body of nineteen-year-old Suchitra was found hanging in her in-laws’ house. For three months she had been married to an Army Jawan, junior infantryman soldier, who was often away from home. Alone, Suchitra was subject to the harassment of her in-laws over the modesty of her dowry. Still on this same solstice day, only a few miles away, at Venganoor in the Kerala State Capital of Thiruvanthapuram, only married for one year, the body of another recent wife, this time twenty-four-year-old Archana, was discovered. It is alleged that she self-immolated. Her parents told police that her husband, Suresh, had been quarrelling with her, demanding more money in the dowry from her family.
Just another day in Kerala.