The Honor Among Families

Here is NK Sreedhar’s 2nd post. This time it is a real life account, with the names changed, of course. Please be generous with your comments to encourage him. – Sukumar


It was a brisk spring morning. The streets were painted yellow by the Cassia fistula tree in full bloom. You can smell the new season in the air. My friend Vivek and I were riding a bike on our way to class this morning. We were in our 2nd year in college and in a few weeks it will be our final semester exams. Needless to say, that wasn’t the thought on our minds.

As we rode through the entrance gate, the ever unhappy Somu, the security guard, greeted us with his stoic face. “College closed today, sir”, he said. What, now! We couldn’t be having a strike! “Why bother! It’s not like we attend many classes other than the majors”, Vivek suggested. Still, the thrill of ‘bunking’ classes is lost when college is closed.

As we got near our department, we saw all our friends huddled around and chatting in a low hushed voice. “What’s up, who died?” was the first sarcastic remark that came out of my mouth. I was only in my 2nd year and they were teaching ‘etiquette’, ‘how not to be a smart ass’, ‘avoiding foot in mouth’ etc. only in the 3rd year. There was widespread shock in all my friends’ faces. Raj said, “Angel passed away this morning”. I knew then what a blow to the head felt like. Angel is one of the sweetest girls in our class. She is down to earth, highly pious and a quiet girl, who kept to herself most of the time. Being in the seat right behind her for most of 2nd year, I picked on her a few times and she was always calm and collected. She always said, “Christ is with me. I don’t get annoyed”.

There were so many questions swirling in my mind. How did this happen? Why her? She was young and had so much to achieve. I was frustrated with how fragile life was. I wasn’t going to cry in front of my friends, but I was close to it multiple times. As we drove to her house, Raj pulled me aside and said “the news is, she committed suicide”. “Suicide! Why? She didn’t seem unhappy when we left her yesterday”, was all I could think about. You think you know someone well, but, looks like we didn’t know her at all. My mind was totally blank. This is the 2nd death to a classmate and I was too young to remember the first one (3rd grade).

Angel’s house was inside the church. Her parents served the church and lived in a house inside. As we tried to get in, most of our department was already there outside. We were told that there wasn’t going to be an open coffin as Angel sustained severe damage when she burnt herself down. Some of us were really furious. Why didn’t she talk to any of us if she had problems! We would have helped her.

After the funeral, we were all there in a friend’s house. All of us wanted to talk to Vicky, Angel’s best friend. If something was bothering Angel, Vicky would have known about it. Vicky was crying inconsolably. When she recovered, in between bouts of crying, Vicky explained to us that Angel was in love with Ed. Ed was in his first year of becoming a ‘brother’ in the same church. He was going to give it all up to marry Angel. Angel was going to tell her parents the previous night and get their approval. Apparently, Angel was scared about how the church and her parents would take it.

It was very hard to imagine the ever smiling, calm Angel going through this and not telling anyone. Did her parents not approve of Ed, was she worried about what others would think, was she worried about Ed being pulled from priesthood – we could only contemplate without knowing what happened.

If all this was all shocking and overwhelming, nothing prepared us for what was to come two days later. The police were investigating into Angel’s death. Apparently, Ed lodged a complaint that there was some foul play. They exhumed her body and found that Angel was pregnant. They also found that she was force-fed kerosene. Angel’s parents were arrested for killing her by burning her alive.

We were unable to understand why one’s own parents would do this! Why would someone kill their own daughter and grand child? – Just because she was pregnant! Was their image in society more important to them than their own flesh and blood? Why was it acceptable to be called a murderer rather than facing society for an out-of-wedlock child?

Many of the parents felt that it was better to go down for murder than to face their daughter bring ill-repute to the family name. As Angel says “Christ is with her”.


  1. Quote
    Ravindran Chellappa said March 10, 2008, 8:08 am:

    Quite a sad incident Sreedhar 🙁 These kind of incidents wouldn’t happen if and only if our people start thinking and living by themselves! And that, unfortunately, is still a long way off I guess

  2. Quote
    Sridhar N.K said March 10, 2008, 10:05 am:


    We do need society and to a certain extent of societies opinion. Otherwise, we could quickly go down the path of anarchy. The question then becomes, how much is the right amount of fear for society.

    I think that is a very fine line and more often than not, as Indians (and in many south asian culture as well), we cross that fine line and turn our life over to society or cross that line and meddle in others’ life unnecessarily.

    This is one such sad incident, but I am sure there are plenty where we made bad decisions because of what society would think about it.

  3. Quote
    Subba Muthurangan said March 10, 2008, 4:14 pm:

    There are tens of thousands of Angels got killed because of society fear and conservatism. Society is obstacles to one’s success, who ever tied with society and its rigid rules are not going to succeed his/her life. We can find countless number of successful person, who broke the society rules and come out and found their own way of reaching high in their life and career. What ever you described here in this story, very familiar one for most of us. We also came across this kind of stupidity in our real life, there were lot of love birds got killed because of “casteism” or “religionism”. I think that it would take another century to stop this. Thanks for sharing this story with us.


  4. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said March 10, 2008, 7:36 pm:

    It is hard to read this without becoming sad and your eyes becoming wet. Great piece of writing. Subba is right, there is atleast one such story we hear everyday about our youth being murdered for casteist and other reasons. Heck, girl children are not even allowed to be born, let alone allowed to be married to someone of their choice.

    100 years may not be enough to get rid of such societal dogma.

    I wish Bharathiyar were there alive with us to write “Endru Madiyum Indha Madamaiyin Ookkam”.

  5. Quote
    sujatha said March 10, 2008, 8:54 pm:

    It always hurts to think of the fate of girls like Angel’s and Malini’s in the society. They lost their valuable life to the society set norms. I really get mad on the society when i read stories like this. When will all these change in our country.

  6. Quote
    Meenaks said March 10, 2008, 11:16 pm:

    It is very sad that there exist such people with misplaced priorities and misguided intentions. It is only when we start respecting individual choice and freedom that such evils will go away.

  7. Quote

    It is a moving post.
    I see similar social false prestige in many minorities (particularly Christians) in India, While many from this community are educated, their social customs are very rigid. They fear the community and Sunday school a lot. I personally met few from this community (in our town Nellore), who are against love marriages (even within their religion and denomination).

    One of my friends (hope his father doesnt see this), married a girl in USA and never told his family back in India. Can you believe it. He still did not reveal this to his parents. I got shock of my life when I came to know this. He is a PhD!!! Every person from his family are highly educated. I dont know how it ends, but his fear (since I know him so well) is definitely to do with his Church.

  8. Quote
    Sridhar N.K said March 11, 2008, 12:23 am:

    Subba, Sukumar, Sujatha and Meenaks,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I doubt if things will change that quickly in the next few decades. It might take a while. Hopefully, there will be enough work for everyone to not interfere in others’ business and there will be enough awareness to not make grave decisions to appease society.

  9. Quote
    Sridhar N.K said March 11, 2008, 12:30 am:


    Thanks for your comments. I don’t think it is specific only to minorities. I have a few stories (not this grave) that’s similar to this even in my extended family. Sad to say this, but if we all think about decisions our own family members made, I am sure some of it will be based on fear of society.

  10. Quote

    NK – Angel’s parents couldn’t think of an abortion?? How could they kill their own daughter? “Honor Killing”? Where’s the honor in being a murderer? Of your own daughter? The irony here is, a heinous crime was committed in the name of honor.

    Why wouldn’t they agree to the marriage – Ed belonged to the same religion. Or, did they have a problem with Angel making her own choice? Was it simply about control?

    I hope they got the death penalty.

  11. Quote

    Agreed Sridhar.

  12. Quote


    It wasn’t about control. Ed was going to eventually become a father. They must have felt that if their daughter is involved in Ed not getting through, then they’ll earn the bad name for it.

    I think it was all about how they would be perceived for/by it. I don’t think they spent a moment thinking about their daughter. They were more worried about their name not getting spoiled. In the end, you are right. They did spoil their name by committing a murder (which is far worse, but in their minds, far higher stature)

  13. Quote
    Jayalakshmi said April 4, 2008, 9:32 am:

    I felt touched while going through your blog. I was one of the many recipeints back in 1956-60 when that mid-day meal scheme was started. I am proud to say that along with the country’s progess, I also got to whre I am , but never forgot those meals.

    Unfortunately, now , in Govt.Schools in A.P. , wehn i tasted the meals given now, I felt tears in my eyes. It is so bad , children are not able to eat it!.

    But I see hope when I see young people taking up good work . All the best.

  14. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said April 4, 2008, 11:35 am:

    Thanks Jayalakshmi. It is really great to receive a comment from a recipient of the program from the 60s. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    Yes, it is sad that children in AP are given bad quality food. I am sure it will be happening to an extent in TN also.

  15. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said April 6, 2008, 8:48 am:

    Even in tamilnadu, its more or less same.. Another point is that the food materials are smuggled outside for sale by the employees… its happening in my village too.. no one could question, as the vigilance officer themselves are part of this nexus.

    My father being civil engineer voluntarily took up projects under Sarva Shiksha Abhyan with enthusiasm in our village and neighbouring.. But before he could finish the first one, he was fed up with the corruption happening at every level.. He received the bill only after being deducted of some commission amount (i think 15%)..

    The root cause is the politics.. (people is only second..).. but we are not ready to question them (including me) because, everything would be futile at the end..

  16. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said April 6, 2008, 9:14 am:

    /** Was their image in society more important to them than their own flesh and blood? **/

    Yes. Honor and image was considered above all, in traditional families. In big cities and metros, getting pregnant before marriage may be considered normal.. but not in other areas..

    Honor is a collective social values.. when every other family around us believe in traditional values, it builds pressure on any particular family, that had violated that virtue..

    In this particular incident, lack of guidance and counselling is the root cause.. lack of some third party to step in for the support of both the girl and her parents to tackle this situation..

    What the parents did was wrong in terms of law, and what the girl did was wrong in terms of social values held by her parents and her community.

  17. Quote
    Sridhar N.K said April 6, 2008, 10:41 am:


    Honor is collective social value – where’s the honor in killing? that too your own daughter? I think what her parents did was not only wrong legally, but wrong morally and should have been wrong socially as well.

    The trouble we have is, we consider killing more of an honor and socially acceptable in this scenario! Therein lies the root of the problem.

  18. Quote
    Sridhar N.K said April 6, 2008, 10:53 am:


    I am assuming your comment is not related to this post.

  19. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said April 6, 2008, 9:57 pm:

    Thanks Senthil. Given that corruption is endemic in our country, it is not surprising that Tamilnadu is also part of the corruption circus.

  20. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said April 6, 2008, 10:01 pm:

    First of all, no where in the world, even the most sexually liberated countries, is a young girl getting pregnant before marriage is seen as normal. There is probably no stigma attached to it, but no one generally considers that as normal except when the woman in question is older and seen as a responsible citizen making her own informed choice.

    Sreedhar is right. What is shocking is that we consider this convoluted sense of honor to be so important that we will kill our own child? This is beyond any reason or justification or logic. It is plain wrong – i would say it is “galactically stupid” of the parents to murder their own daughter.

  21. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said April 7, 2008, 11:05 am:

    Sridhar.. my comment 2833 is in response to jayalakshmi.. it was about mid-day meals corruption.. nothing related with this post.

    About honor killing, i just expressed some understanding of mine, w.r.t to events that i witnessed personally.

    The problem is that we never understood the issue fully.. Its not that the parents consider killing more of a honor.. Rather, they resort to this extreme ways, because they lost the honor.

    I do not support honor killings. I said, lack of trustable third person intervention, aggrevated the situation, both for the girl and her parents..

    I will just quote with my personal example.. some 10 years back one of my relative got a fight with his wife and his wife went to her parent’s home, with a vow for divorce. My grandmother, and some few other women, intervened, and went to the wife’s family, repeatedly, reached an agreement, convinced her, and now they remain together as a family, with their two daughters..

    If no one has intervened at that time, it would have collapsed both my relative’s family.

    So, this type of social support is absent in cities, which takes its toll, during critical situations, because of isolation.

    There are more serious situations i witnessed my life.. One of my (cousin) sister, went away with her lover, and married him, throwing her parents and relatives away by insulting them. The next day, her parents and other two sisters, remained inside the home for the whole day, ashamed of coming out, because of that incident. No one blamed them, or teased them… but the undue attention because of this news and the need for facing relatives and neighbours, put a heavy pyschological pressure… It was a great disgrace for them to face such unfortunate situation..

    They had lot of affection towards her.. But, the incident left a deep hurt, that they did not see her when she had a child, or call her for her sister’s marriage (although they cried heavily)..

    here too, the situation was brought under control, when relatives stepped in and supported their family..

    Marriage is an important life time function in any family.. Loss of honor in such areas has a devastating effect.. particularly, in more orthodox and religious families as in angel’s case..

    What’s the solution for such problems?

    Counselling, creating social cohesiveness, creating awareness among young people to behave responsible, etc, are some ways to tackle such situations.

    Its not that parents have to adjust.. the children should also realise and understand the sensitivities of the parents…

  22. Quote
    Jaskirat Singh said April 9, 2008, 2:01 am:

    Shocking! I dont think anything can justify this kind of an act…. I really wonder what the parents were thinking.

  23. Quote
    Sridhar N.K said April 9, 2008, 12:53 pm:


    You’re right. It’s shocking. I don’t think the parents were thinking at all, in this case. Had they been thinking a little bit logically, they wouldn’t have done anything like this.

    I am sure in their mind the perceived value of ill-honor brought on by Angel was many times over than Angel herself. However, they failed to realize that the ill-honor brought by Angel’s actions gets combined with the ill-honor they bring on themselves by their act of killing. They didn’t realize that they can’t deal with ill-honor by committing an even bigger one.

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