Sneha, 20, lives in Patna.
Big city, bigger dreams
Sneha was always good at her studies. She was a class topper throughout her school years. When it was time to go to college after class 12, her father got her admitted to a college in Patna for a better education. She lived in a hostel, soon made friends and started enjoying her time there.
She loved her life and the city too. It was a whole new world for her - newfound freedom of doing whatever she wished to! Soon she met Akhil. He was in the same college, but on a different course. They met through common friends and started hanging out together.
Falling in love
Sneha and Akhil fell in love with each other. Akhil lived with his friends in a flat, where Sneha would often stay overnight. After a couple of months into their relationship, they decided to have sex. They both were now in their second year of college and had only one more year left together, so they wanted to make the most of it.
Sneha often tracked her periods and had sex during her safe days because Akhil would often avoid using condoms, however, he would always pull out before ejaculation. There was no trouble with her periods and they enjoyed making love almost every day.
Just one drop!
One day as they were making love, Akhil lost control and ejaculated a little semen inside her vagina. She was scared. ‘Sneha, it’s just one drop. Nothing will happen. We have been doing this for so many months. Did I let anything happen?’
‘No Akhil, I trust you,’ she said and they both forgot the incident, cuddled together like other nights and slept.
Their last semester exams started so they decided to meet less and focus on their studies during the nighttime. The studious Sneha got so busy with her exams that she forgot that her due date for the periods was long gone. Her period was now 15 days late. Worried, she called up Akhil.
‘Don’t worry, it's just stress. Let's meet tonight and we will do the pregnancy test. I will get a kit,’ he said.
Sneha was so worried that she could hardly study for her next exam. She went out and bought the kit and did the test herself in her hostel room. She was pregnant. The shock and horror of two positive lines on the test made her dizzy. She went to the bathroom and threw up.
She immediately dialled Akhil’s number and informed him. First, she blamed him for everything, for not wearing a condom and for being careless; shouted at him and then cried. Akhil was dumbstruck. He kept saying sorry. They both were silent for a while before Sneha uttered, ‘Let’s get married Akhil’.
‘Are you mad? Let’s get an abortion. I am not even a graduate. I have no career. We are only 20. How will we raise a baby?’ Akhil said.
‘You don’t love me’
‘It’s ok, you can study after marriage. I will drop out and raise the kid,’ Sneha said.
‘But what about your career, your studies? You have been a class topper. Why give up everything for a mistake?’Akhil said.
‘What mistake, Akhil? It’s our pyar ki nishani. I will not do such a heinous crime. I will not take an innocent’s life. That means you never loved me and only wanted to have sex with me,’ Sneha was emotional.
She said this and cut the call. Akhil never wanted Sneha to feel this way. But at the same time, he did not want to get married. Not yet. Not like this.
He met Sneha in the evening and she again convinced him to talk to his mother about their marriage. She did not want an abortion and would get angry at the mere mention of the word.
Akhil loved her, so he told her that he will talk to his parents, just for her sake. He was close to his mom so shared everything with her. She called him home and they both talked to his father.
Akhil’s father got really furious and outrightly rejected the idea of their marriage. ‘Whatever happened was not good. Take her to a hospital to get the abortion. I will give you the money. Focus on your studies,’ he told Akhil.
No one on his side
Just as he was returning home, his mother told him to elope with the girl and get married. ‘She has your baby. Don’t abandon her. Marry her. I will manage everything,’ she said tearfully.
Akhil was in two thoughts - should he listen to his father’s sane advice or his mother’s emotional appeal? He decided to take Sneha to a doctor for an abortion the next morning. It was his exam but he skipped it. So did Sneha. She resisted, she cried and did not talk to him en route.
When they both reached the government hospital, the lady doctor scolded Akhil and told him to get married and avoid abortion. She refused to listen to him. Akhil had no choice but to get married without his own consent. Much to his chagrin, they both went to the temple the next morning with a couple of friends and got married.
Sneha’s parents were too furious with her to come to the marriage or even talk to her. Akhil’s mother wanted to come and meet her daughter-in-law but she did not want to annoy her husband, who was angry with his son for going against his wishes.
At what cost?
Akhil did not have any funds to rent out a place on his own. Sneha had to shift into the flat, which he shared with four of his friends. While all their classmates passed and were promoted to the final year of their course, Akhil and Sneha were now behind by one semester.
Sneha’s nausea and vomiting did not allow her to attend college and her attendance became short. She decided to give some time to herself and took a break from her studies.
But with Akhil gone to college, and coping with the lost study time, Sneha was alone in her flat all day.
Akhil had no job and his father too stopped giving him money after their marriage. Akhil called his mother and asked her to send some money to pay rent and take care of Sneha’s health. But how long would it last, he thought? He planned to work part-time in the evening or give tuition to kids, but he had to take exams in the next few months too. He was extremely stressed but couldn’t share it with Sneha.
They no longer went on dates or to movies because they were not even sure if they would be able to pay the rent and manage the ration next month.
He does not say anything to Sneha but she feels his stress. At times she cries and thinks - What if they had used a condom? What if her parents were there with her? If she had not married in a hurry, what kind of ceremony would it have been?
And in her calmer moments, when she is staring at her college books, she wonders what if she had not gotten married at all? What if she has listened to him - to go for an abortion? Would life be better? Would she be still attending college with her friends and enjoying Akhil’s company more? Would they have the money and time to build the life they really wanted to build? Who knows? Also, for now, she had another daunting task - to cook for herself, despite feeling lethargic all the time.
Editor’s note: This story has been compiled on the basis of eyewitness accounts. This story is a part of Love Matter India’s series documenting abortion experiences in rural India for Global Day for Safe Abortion 2022. Sneha's story shows that abortion is a need for many women whose pregnancies have been caused by heartbreaking circumstances and even while it is a legal option available to women, it is often not an easy service to access.
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model and names have been changed.