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Sorna’s Choice

Written by Shre Venkatesan | Edited by Kiara Bennett

Set in 1965, a small village called Sockanathapuram, in Tamil Nadu, India.

Your eyes wander to your mother’s hands as she scrubs the bottom of a charred, silver pot. 
It seemed just like yesterday- you were only five, and your mother was braiding your hair– 
it just seemed neater that way. 
Now, at thirteen, you struggle to hold your curly hair together,
As you watch the rest of your life fall apart. You wish you trusted your mother enough to believe in her lies. 
It just seems easier that way. 
She says you will make her proud. She says you are living her dreams. Maybe that’s what daughters do– give up their dreams, and live their mothers’. 
And so, you wave a teary goodbye to your family, your childhood, your home. You go on a journey you don’t want to. You become the first girl in your family to step inside a school. 
It just seems right that way. 
The school is old and the floors are too hard to fall asleep on. Your pillowcase is stained with your salty tears, as you cry yourself to sleep every night. 
When the only two other girls in the school run away, the fear in you becomes so much bigger than your mother’s dreams. How are you ever going to survive here for five years? 
You sit by the window and try to search for better things. You think about staying here. You think about running away. 
You think more about running away. 
It just seems better that way. 

Choice 1: Running Away. 

Your mother’s disappointment feels heavier than the sack of clothes on your shoulder. You try to pick up the pieces, only to realize it was also the family you broke, not just their hearts. 
It is harder this way. 
Your mother wipes her tears and with her dreams. The silence is somehow louder than your heartbeat, as you wait for your father’s verdict. 
There’s a man, he says. He is tall, handsome, and rich. He is 21, and he wants to marry you. He is eight years older than you. 
You nod. You can break your heart over and over, but breaking your father’s one is a crime. 
It is easier this way. 
You watch your mother become the happiest, you watch your father become the proudest. They spread the biggest feast, for a marriage you did not want. 
You watch yourself be the saddest. The future scares you. Is this all your life is going to be?
It is terrifying this way. 
Sitting on the floor, you hug yourself. You smile a little. After all, this is what you wanted. It would have been worse the other way. 


Choice 2: Not running away. 


You wipe your tears. Your pillow slowly gets used to not being drenched in your tears, just like you get used to with being in school. 

You write to your family every weekend. You miss them more on some days than others. You clutch their letters to sleep. You smell them, hoping to get a faint, lingering scent of the fish curry your mother talked about in her last letter. 

It is harder this way. 

A year passes by. 

More girls join the school, more friends join your room. You are no longer alone. You love being a caretaker, you love being taken care of. 

It is peaceful this way. 

Years pass by. You turn eighteen. You look back at little Sorna and tell her it’s going to be okay. 

You go back to what once used to be your home. You watch your mother at her proudest. She gives you a forehead kiss, and you feel thirteen all over again. 

Your father gives you one of his rare smiles. You smile back at him. 

Sorna, there’s a man, he says. He is tall, handsome, and rich. He is 21, and he wants to marry you. 

He declares, he doesn’t ask. Your smile fades. Is this what you studied for? Is there nothing beyond this? 

You only have a month left at home. You only have a month left, until you have to live with a man you do not know. 

It is terrifying this way. 

You look at all the little girls near your home. You think of your mother as a little girl. You think about how many dreams you have fulfilled, even if none of them were yours. 

Sometimes, that is all that you have to do. You smile again. You are glad you did not run away that night. It would have been the same the other way. 

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