He looked at his daughter, who entered his house, after five long years. She entered with all the dignity of a brave woman, who has seen horrible things in life and fought it with every ounce of strength. All because of the one decision he made for her. He looked into her eyes which were full of questions and a drop of unshed tear. He turned back unable to face the question that filled her eyes.

The single question that was blurred by her tears.

Why?

Why?

Why?

"Why?" he asked himself and closed his eyes, trying to rewind the 5 years that had passed. His eyes riveted back to the day, where her daughter stood livid, with her hands clutching her cheek, tears running down her cheek.

“Do you understand the situation Menaka?”

“What is the situation Appa?” she had asked, her voice trembling with her tears.

“We are not rich Menaka. To get away with a love marriage. What will our relations talk about us?”

“The relations who we meet only during the marriages and other purposeless functions?"

His daughter’s question had angered him.

“How dare you question your father’s judgement?”

“You don’t want to believe your daughter’s judgement Appa?” she had asked, her composure never slipping. “Santhosh is a software engineer from a well-educated family and he is in US now. More than those mundane qualifications, he loves me. He loves me with all heart and he is such a good man. What more do you want Appa?” She had asked in her usual silent tone.

“His Caste? What about his Caste? He does not belong to our caste. How the hell am I supposed to tell that to people? How would the people of our caste agree to that?”

“You are ready to think about the 10,000 strange faces that belong to our caste, but you cannot consider the heart of your own daughter Appa?”

His daughter’s question had sent him to the heights of reckless rage and he had slapped her again.

“I got Rs. 20,000 as loan from Shailaja aunty for your studies. She helped us in that situation. Now, she has brought this Groom. How could I say no to her now? You owe her your education. If not for her, you wouldn’t have studied and you wouldn’t have got this job. It’s only right that you marry this Doctor Groom she recommends for you.”

“I paid her back double the amount with interest Appa. She helped me for my education. Does that mean she owns me?”, Menaka’s voice had raised a notch.

“We are middle class people. People who gives us money, owns us you idiot girl. We have to be afraid of all of us around.” He had shouted in desperation.

His daughter stood looking at him, with defiance in her eyes. He had applied his last weapon, with desperation.

“If you really had any love on me, If you really have any respect towards your father, If you don’t want to see him hanging in a photo with a garland around him , you’ll marry this doctor“.

That had been his final statement five years back, and even back then, his daughter had stood with the same expression of betrayal and question.

“Why?”

“Why?”

Her silent question, echoed around him and haunted him.

Five years back, his daughter had beauty, liveliness and sweetness. Today she was just a shadow, her body bearing the marks of ill-usage, her heart bearing scars of the past. Her father looked at the regal, broken woman walking into his house.

He searched reasons for her daughter’s plight. Society? The curse called Middle Class? The ever judging crew of relations? Unnecessary fear of meaningless talks? Or his own lack of bravery? He could ask only questions, because there were no answers that could solve this equation. The miscalculated and reversed equation, called his daughter’s life.