While I was collecting data for a research project on what has come to be known as ‘bride burning,’ I came across the case at a Catholic missionary NGO in Bangalore. The NGO arranged for me to meet Shilpa – Neeti’s elder sister – and discuss the details of her sister’s case with her.
They had been informally helping her with resources to fight for justice. By the time I met her, she had been visiting the NGO for a few months to get legal advice, as well as some monetary assistance.
I conducted my interview with Shilpa in Tamil and later translated it into English. It took four meetings and interviews of various lengths to build rapport and obtain sufficient information for me to feel that the dataset was complete.
Neeti’s family had registered a case of dowry death against her husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law. The Shilpa’s FIR gave me a fairly detailed insight into the events that transpired up until the dowry death, but it did not reveal much about many of the issues I had hoped to study, particularly the interpersonal relationships that had existed up until the point of Neeti’s dowry death.
Shilpa explained that her father had just given a verbal account of the dowry death to the constable on duty, who had written out the FIR based on what was narrated to him. As it had to be done in Marathi, this presented a huge barrier. To get round this, another constable at the station who knew Tamil served as a translator.
It was only afterwards that Shilpa and her family were told that this had been registered as a ‘dowry death’ case. The police assured them that it was a strong case, and they would get justice. At that point, that was all Neeti’s family could hope for.
During my interviews, it became clear that the family had minimal knowledge of any laws. Thus, they could not have specifically asked for the dowry-related clauses to be used. Even today, they are merely looking for justice for the people they believe killed their sister, and not necessarily for punishment for dowry death – dowry-related crimes.
To get a more holistic picture of her life and her socialisation into marriage, I needed to understand what kind of background Neeti came from, what her childhood and teenage life was like and what values she was brought up with. I started to ask her sister about these things, and in the process she painted a detailed portrait of Neeti and her family.
Neeti was the youngest of seven children. She had three brothers and three sisters. She had completed her pre-university (‘Plus Two’) studies in Bangalore and had then gone to work at a small photocopying shop. She had studied in an English medium school and was able to read and write in English, which enhanced her work prospects.
Neeti had a certain amount of liberty with the money she earned. According to Shilpa, ‘she would give her earnings to my father and if she wanted some things for herself—clothes or something—then she would use some of that money.’
Neeti was shy and timid, but at the same time quite capable of looking after herself. She travelled to work alone on the bus daily, and was to some extent financially independent as she had worked for two years before her marriage proposal came. She was keen on good food and was a little on the chubby side. She was also fond of pretty clothes, on which she sometimes spent a part of the money she earned.
Relations at home were relatively harmonious. As the head of the household, Neeti’s father’s word was respected. Nevertheless, most decisions were made in consultation with the family members. Shilpa strongly denied the existence of any difficulties in the family. ‘There was no problem,’ she told me. ‘No restrictions, no problems. We all lived happily. Only after this marriage did all the problems start.’ In contrast, none of the other siblings’ marriages suffered any kind of discord.
Neeti’s family formed a happy, content unit, in spite of the hardships consistent with lower-middle-class living. Neeti was just another ordinary girl, whose life revolved around her work and family.
Timid and shy person
Neeti, as I’ve already mentioned, was a rather timid and shy person. After marriage, she lived in constant state of fear of her in-laws. Why did she feel this dread? Was it encouraged deliberately by her in-laws? I would learn the answers to these questions as the story unfolded further.
Shilpa became very emotional as she recounted the difficulties Neeti had suffered in her marital home before she reached out for help. Even when she finally did reach out, she held back from lodging a formal police complaint or from even questioning her husband and in-laws for fear of retaliation. ‘She was too scared,’ Shilpa told me. ‘She would never open her mouth to say anything to or against her mother-in-law. She couldn’t talk in that house—she felt like her marital life would be ruined if she tried to resist in any way.’
This highlights Neeti’s apprehensive nature, but it also shows how much she endured before finally breaking down.
Neeti was only 20 when she received her proposal and 23 when she finally got married. Her would-be in-laws spotted her at Shilpa’s wedding and liked her enough to ask for her hand.
What was it about Neeti that really impressed them? Neeti’s family could not say. It was not something they thought about or even questioned. The fact that Neeti was being accepted into the marriage market sufficed for them, even though they did not have any intention of marrying her off immediately. However, Neeti’s to-be mother-in-law then began putting a lot of pressure on Neeti to ensure that the union would happen.
The family’s first reaction was to reject the proposal. According to them, Mumbai — where these people lived and hence where she would have to move to after marriage — was too far away. They did not like die idea of their daughter settling so far from Bangalore. Neeti’s father, especially, was unhappy with the proposal for this precise reason. They had also just concluded one wedding in the family (this proposal came just a day after Shilpa’s marriage into the very same family), and he felt that the family did not have the means to get another daughter married immediately.
When I asked about the prevalence of dowry giving and taking as a custom during marriages, Shilpa told me that it’s a popular feature of weddings in their community. Neeti’s family recognised dowry demands as a negative aspect of some marriages. They were firmly in favour of giving whatever gifts they could readily afford to their daughter — demands from the groom’s side, however, were unacceptable.
I was also told that the groom’s side had made a point not to ask for dowry before the marriage, fearing that it would be called off by Neeti’s family. ‘My sister’s mother-in-law had just asked us what we were going to give, how much jewellery,’ Shilpa recalled.
So we told her. She said, ‘Give what you will.’ She was afraid that we were already unhappy about this marriage. She thought we might stop it if she asked for more jewellery or made any other dowry demands, so she quietly agreed to whatever we said.
Discussions on dowry harassment were not even a part of the scene when Neeti’s family originally decided against the proposal. In retrospect, they feel the dowry harassment was not something that was given any importance at the time of the wedding. Neither was it something to consider when deciding whether to accept or reject the proposal. But it became an integral feature of Neeti’s dowry death case, as it was added to the FIR that her father lodged.
There was another reason why Neeti’s family was not looking to get her married at that time. This is because they were looking for girls to marry off Neeti’s brothers to first. Since Neeti was still quite young, they were not in a hurry for her marriage.
Still, while Neeti’s father was not at all in favour of this match, the boy’s mother would visit their home often to make acquaintance with the family. It was during one of these visits that she convinced Neeti to agree by telling her that she would take good care of her and that her son liked her very much. ‘Neeti told us about how that lady had spoken to her and promised her of a good life,’ Shilpa told me, as she dwelled on how this had happened.
She said, ‘Which other mother-in-law will do that for me? She is willing to help me, take special care of me—I think I’d be happy there.’ Even then, we all said, ‘It’s too far, don’t.’ Everybody said the same thing. We told her, ‘If you get married that far away, it will be difficult to see you often.’ Both my parents were really against this.
‘That lady had also tempted Neeti by saying she would buy her a lot of gold jewellery,’ Shilpa went on.
Like a chain and whatever else she wanted. All this, and yet we barely knew anything of the boy. After she showed Neeti a photograph of him, she started telling us she’d like to get married into that family itself. That lady spoke so nicely that we all began to think she .really would take care of Neeti. Finally, we agreed because my sister became so insistent. She’d been told, ‘my boy really loves you.’ Now which girl would not like that?
Had the boy really felt love for Neeti at this stage? What did this ‘love’ mean? Neeti and her family may have hoped that it might be expressed in the form of financial security, provision of a comfortable life and a houseful of children.
But could the boy really have known enough of Neeti to say he loved her, I wondered? Was her idea of ‘love’ what she had seen in the movies and in the media?
Whatever was the case, she chose to believe in his love and insisted that her family accept the proposal. This was not so uncommon, yet it would prove to be the root of many great upheavals in the couple’s life.
Around this time, the family had also received another proposal for Neeti. They were in fact keener on that one, as the boy was settled in Bangalore itself. However, her eventual in-laws did not stop pursuing them. They insisted Neeti was the girl they wanted, and that this match would be good for her. They even sent messages saying she would be marrying a ‘good boy’ who didn’t drink or smoke and held a government job.
This information was superficial and, one might argue, should hardly have proven significant in making such an important decision. Nonetheless, it was accepted in a positive light. Indeed, a lot of people do use such simplistic criteria to guide them towards agreeing to a particular match, despite its apparently shallow nature.
Shilpa now believes that one of their biggest mistakes was not making a more detailed enquiry about the boy before accepting the proposal. She also says that when his mother had initially asked for a photograph of Neeti, the family had given this unsuspectingly. This was before the formal proposal came, and they did not think it a big deal to give her a picture. They now believe that the boy’s mother performed black magic on it to draw Neeti closer to her son and make her agree to the match.
Shilpa regrets her decision to support Neeti in this marriage. She recounts how they all got taken in by the ‘sweet-talking’ mother-in-law. ‘We believed everything that this lady said, that was the main mistake we made. We had never seen the boy, but then we were only hearing good stuff about him, so we said, “ok.” Who could we ask in Mumbai about this?’ They were, they felt, helpless in many ways.
I should point out that the family’s pre-conceived notion of mothers-in-law is in fact something widely shared by many across Indian society. They are often assumed to be the main causes of marital rifts. The power relations between two women in the household often impact on the relationships couples share. The question becomes one of factions and loyalty, and men feel torn between their mothers and wives. Yet it is important to note that even this is too simple an explanation or analysis of what plagues marriages such as Neeti’s. Each case deserves its own situation-specific examination.
It took almost three years for the wedding to materialise. Since not all were happy with the union, a lot of time passed between the proposal and the marriage. In the end, Neeti’s immediate family agreed to the union, but the extended family was neither convinced nor happy. Their disquiet was largely derived from their superstition that two sisters should not be married into the same family. Many of them chose to boycott the wedding and even insisted that Shilpa should not attend. The astrological signs were not in favour of the union either, and hence it was decided that a court marriage should be held.
Another of the Indian family’s many distinguishing features is the manner in which the wider family feels it is justified in getting involved with the affairs of even those who are less than immediately related. When Neeti’s closest family members went against the general opinion of the extended family, they had to pay the price of this decision.
Socially, the wedding had been outcast. When this story reached its end, there were many voices saying, ‘We told you so, we warned you against it.’ But these warnings had not been against the boy or his family. In fact, only good things were said about the boy. About the mother-in-law, Shilpa reports that ‘it was said, “she shouts and screams a lot,” but nothing else.’ The point was that they had simply disapproved.
Neeti’s marriage took place under very strained conditions. The usual festivity that is characteristic of Indian weddings was distinctly missing in this marriage. Was it doomed to fail from the start?
Shilpa explained the circumstances under which the wedding took place further to me.
Because this was an unlucky month to have marriages according to the Hindu calendar, we had no other option but to have a court-registered marriage. We would just have tali (wedding chain) tied in court, and both sides agreed on that. None of the relatives came. After that, we had a reception in Bangalore. This was a joint function and the cost was shared equally by both sides. There was no problem at this time.
Dowry transactions are commonplace in India, being a culturally approved feature of marriages in spite of their prohibition by law. However, as Neeti’s family itself admits, the issue had not come up at the time of the wedding. There was no conflict over monetary issues.
When we were discussing these matters, Shilpa did not even mention any dowry harassment until I made specific queries. This caught my attention. If dowry harassment was so central to the case, then why did she not even mention it until I asked?
Shilpa now explained that the mother-in-law had asked for more jewellery right after the wedding had been completed.
She said, ‘My son has a government job. You should put more jewellery on your daughter.’ We said, ‘No, it’s not possible, we cannot afford any more right now. Whatever we could, we have already done.’ Then she started arguing with us. ‘If I’d got my son married elsewhere, I would have got much more jewellery. He has a government job, after all.’ She said all this only once the marriage was over. Before that, in fact, she had said, ‘You give whatever you want.’ That was during the wedding, and after that she started asking for more things, especially jewellery.
Neeti’s family believes the mother-in-law knew that once the marriage was solemnised, they would have no choice but to bend to their demands. The demands and harassment thus started after the marriage.
The power equation between the girl’s family and the boy’s family is very clear in this situation. Large sections of Indian society are still overwhelmingly patriarchal, and girls are seen as paraya dhan, to be rightfully given away in marriage. Divorce, on the other hand, is a social taboo. Divorced women are often ostracised. Under these circumstances, married women and their families can come under great pressure from grooms’ families to accede to a variety of different types of demands, not just financial ones. Frequently, they may feel they have few other options but to fall into line.
Neeti left for her marital home a few weeks after the wedding had taken place. Initially, she would call her family once in a week or in ten days. To them, she seemed happy. It was of great comfort to her family to know that she was being well looked after. But this situation did not last long—soon, her mother-in-law’s emotional and verbal abuse began.
Shilpa told me that dowry harassment was regularly an issue in these episodes.
After my sister got married and started living with her mother-in-law, that woman asked her for a lot of things, pressurising her with lots of demands. Whenever this fight came, she said, ‘What have they given in your house? Hardly anything they gave you. Go, go back there and ask for some more. Tell them to give you some more.’
According to Shilpa, however, dowry was not the principal reason why the fights and dowry harassment took place, even though it was something her in-laws used to harass her with. This, again, was deeply intriguing. I had been presented with Neeti’s case as one of ‘dowry death,’ but here was one of her closest relatives telling me that it was not dowry-related concerns that generally sparked off the trouble. Instead, there were other issues of jealousy and power equations in the house that lead to abuse and maybe finally even death.
To my mind, the question now became this: at what point did dowry become an issue, if at all? How strongly did it act as one of the causes of Neeti’s dowry death? My refraining of what I had been presented with was not to claim that the harassment and torture Neeti had faced was any less, nor did I intend to sideline this ill-treatment as an issue of concern on the grounds that it may not have been directly related-to dowry. In fact, this realisation helps us understand the changing face of so-called ‘dowry violence’ in urban India today. It allows a broader scope of analysis of the problem still faced by thousands of women. It also puts the roles of India’s lawmakers and police in sharper focus.
Though dowry harassment did seem to emerge soon after the marriage, they were largely used by Neeti’s in-laws to taunt her and insult her family for other reasons. This was a tool used by them to assert their respective positions, while keeping Neeti at a lower rung. Her mother-in-law in particular feared that she would secure her husband’s affection and would eventually also gain a strong bothold in the house. This was not acceptable to her, and it was important to her that her son’s loyalty should not shift to his wife. The emotional and mental harassment this meant for Neeti was one of the biggest disturbances of her life.
Neeti’s in-laws constantly derided her for either doing insufficient housework, or else for not doing it to their satisfaction. They also tormented her about her physical appearance and chided her for being overweight. ‘After they got married, the couple would go out sightseeing,’ Shilpa told me, as she recalled one specific incident Neeti had mentioned.
Her husband would show her around the city, they would spend time together. But her mother-in-law didn’t like that and one day she told Neeti, ‘If you keep going out like this, who is going to do all the housework? The cooking gets delayed, so if he calls you out with him in future, don’t go. Say that you have work at home and can’t just leave it.’
When Neeti said this to her husband, he replied, ‘I married you and brought you here, will you listen to me or my mother? You must do as /say. If you want to listen to her, go, live like that, don’t come to me.’ So Neeti went out with her husband, and her mother-in-law shouted at her again when she came back. From that time onwards, she felt that Neeti had taken over her son.
In this matter, Neeti’s mother-in-law’s expectations were quite different to what her son and daughter-in-law had in mind. She wanted an extra pair of hands for the housework, which she had assumed would be implied in getting her son married, but when this expectation was not realised to the extent she had wanted, she put the blame on her daughter-in-law’s shoulders and tried to enforce her control over her. Between mother and son, Neeti felt stuck, not knowing who to please and how to assert herself.
‘She was expected to do everything,’ Shilpa went on.
Cook, clean, wash vessels and clothes. The only thing that her mother-in-law did was make tea and chapattis, that also because they didn’t like the way Neeti did it. When Neeti was pregnant and had morning sickness, she wasn’t able to eat much, so her husband would bring juice and other things for her. Because of that, her mother-in-law would get upset. She would say, ‘Look at this, he brings her all these fancy drinks and she drinks them and becomes fatter. See how much he pampers and spoils her?’
At every stage, Shilpa emphasised the emotional trauma Neeti was made to endure. Through it all, we see a strain in the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law based on one factor: the elder woman’s jealousy. ‘If some fight came up, Neeti’s husband would beat her,’ Shilpa told me.
I don’t think her mother-in-law beat her, but she was the main one who instigated him. It was like giving an injection—she used to periodically fill him up against her. She only stayed there for seven months. In that time, their treatment of her was so torturous. She had been very happy about this marriage, but this lady spoilt everything.
It seems almost like the jealous mother-in-law was adamant that she had to bring her son back to a position where he loved and respected her first, before any other, as she perceived he used to when there was no other woman in his life. She seemed almost paranoid about losing her position of importance once the new bride came to the house. She appeared to think she could only regain this importance by turning her son against his wife. The methods she used were blaming her for not working hard enough, chastising her for bringing shame to her husband in public for being overweight, taunting her about the lack of dowry she brought and, eventually, as we shall see, arousing a suspicion in her husband’s mind about her fidelity.
Loyalty had become the overarching issue. The mother-in-law expected her son to stay by her side as he had done before marriage. As she could see his loyalty shifting, she blamed her daughter-in-law and tried to reverse it through abuse. After a point she managed to regain control of her son and turn him against his wife, leading him to become party to the ill-treatment, and even to physically abuse her.
After some months of marriage, Neeti became pregnant. From this point, her mother-in-law’s emotional harassment worsened. This was possibly because she perceived that Neeti’s position in the family would rise further once she became a mother. Eventually, it got to a point where Neeti could not bear the way she was being treated any longer, and she told her family. They responded by coming to Mumbai to collect her and take her back with them on the pretext of her delivery, saying that she would not be able to travel in her later months of pregnancy.
While Neeti was back with her parents, her husband occasionally called her, but her mother-in-law never enquired after her. After her child was born, the contentious issues seen till now became further magnified. ‘We called Neeti’s husband at his office and told him about the delivery,’ Shilpa recalled. ‘He told his family, and he said he would be leaving for Bangalore the next day to see the baby. When the time came for him to depart, his mother was asleep, so he did not inform her he was leaving for the station.’
Even for that, she made a huge scene,’ Shilpa told me.
‘See, you just went off to see your wife, leaving us here,’ she scolded him. ‘They are more important than us now, we have become nothing to you.’ Because of this one thing, she caused such a big fight. When we called later, she fought with us too. ‘He doesn’t care about his mother, only cares about his wife,’ she complained. How was it our fault if her son hadn’t told her?
The point was that Neeti’s mother-in-law could feel her son’s love and respect for her deteriorating. Of course, she blamed Neeti for this change. The jealousy-and loyalty-related problems now intensified. At first, even though Neeti’s mother-in-law would—as Shilpa put it—’fill her husband’s head’ about Neeti constantly, he remained loyal to her, and this riled her intensely.
For five months after the baby was born, Neeti remained in her parents’ home. Although her husband came to see her that once, soon after the baby was born, he never returned. Shilpa was sure she knew why.
She went back from here and poisoned this guy’s mind, saying that ‘this child was not born at an auspicious time, fathering this child is not good for you. Are you even sure it’s your child? You were on ayurvedic medication at the time, how could you possibly have made her conceive?’. All this, she put into his mind. And doubts began to form there. So after that, he never called. When Neeti tried to call him, he would just claim he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t talk.
In this manner, Neeti’s husband avoided speaking to his wife and coming to see her. Thanks to his mother’s efforts, he now doubted his wife’s fidelity and hence loyalty to him, even though he didn’t have any proof that she had cheated on him.
Neeti’s mother-in-law seemed to be winning the ‘loyalty war’ if we can call it that.
Finally, after five months, Neeti’s husband called to say he was unwell and asked her to return to Mumbai. Her travelling back there alone after childbirth did not conform to the general practice in Neeti’s community. A woman’s husband is expected to come and take his wife back. But Neeti’s family gave in and said they would bring her back.
‘We assumed he must have been seriously unwell,’ Shilpa reasoned.
We didn’t realise what was on his mind. So we said, ‘Ok, she’s been here for five months now, it’s time she went back. Maybe things will be better if she goes there now.’ So we were ready to send her. We didn’t give him, not coming to get her, too much thought.
Neeti’s nightmare worsened after she arrived back in Mumbai with her baby. To add to the taunting of her mother-in-law, she now had to deal with the suspicions of her husband. It appears that he never accepted the child as his own. On many occasions, Shilpa said he attempted to harm the baby and sometimes even tried to kill him.
Neeti knew the situation was bad, but she still held out a hope that somehow things would settle down. Over time, though, she became increasingly scared about what could happen to her baby. Out of desperation, she eventually sold some of her jewellery to get money to support herself and the child. Only when the situation got really out of hand did she call her family.
When that call came, Shilpa said they felt she feared not only for the child’s life but also for Neeti’s own. Because she feared what her husband or in-laws would do, she would never oppose their torture or take any legal or police action
acainst them. By now, she could see no other route but to leave her husband’s house – at least temporarily – until, she hoped, things would settle down.
At the very least, Neeti strongly suspected that her husband planned to divorce her. This further increased her fears and insecurity. The threat of divorce had come mainly from her mother-in-law, and Neeti was all the more worried about this because she believed that this woman was capable of making her son do anything she wished. In fact, by now Neeti believed that she was keeping ier son under her control using black magic. Her conviction about this was so strong that she feared both for her marriage and for her life.
‘Neeti was simply too scared,’ Shilpa told me. ‘She would never open her mouth to say anything to her mother-in-law, or against her. She had threatened that her son would divorce her and all this. Now, in that situation, why would this girl risk opening her mouth?’
In spite of the severity of the situation, divorce was the last thing Neeti wanted. She could not face the shame, the stigma that it implies. Neither did she want to become a burden on her parents. Going home for a few months was fine, but living her whole life as a divorcee in her father’s house was simply unacceptable to her.
To add to all these tensions, Neeti now learnt that her husband had been having an affair with another woman, alleged to be one of Mumbai’s notorious ‘dance bar’ dancers. Shilpa told me that no one in her family knows whether this was true, or whether it was merely a means of further intimidating her.
Neeti first heard about this from a neighbour. Then her mother-in-law also told her the same story, threatening to get her son married to this other girl if she didn’t bring more dowry. She couldn’t do anything, she had no support there, she was alone and she was scared that she would be given a divorce. She never asked her husband or created a problem about that. If she had, he would have beaten her more.
Right till the end, Neeti remained desperate to keep her marriage intact. She was even willing to risk living with a man who was unfaithful.
All the maltreatment eventually led Neeti to return to her maternal home in Bangalore again. This time, however, her husband came to take her back after a few months. He apologised for his behaviour and promised her that he was now a changed man. He guaranteed that they would now have a good life together.
When they heard his words, Neeti and her family believed him. This was all they had hoped for. They were delighted by their belief that she could now safely go back to her husband and lead a happy married life. In their minds, Neeti would finally have peace and happiness in what they considered her ‘rightful place’, her marital home, by her husband’s side.
In spite of all that had happened before, no one in the family even dreamt that things would turn out the way they did. Given the circumstances and the history of Neeti’s disturbed marriage, they were, perhaps, being naive. Nevertheless, they held strong hope that this would be the end of her troubles, and did not want to place another hurdle between the couple by urging caution. Neeti too was more than happy to be returning to Mumbai with her husband. Social norms and family values have long trained women to believe that this is the right choice to make under such circumstances.
‘The last time when she went back to Mumbai,’ Shilpa recalled,
We took the precaution of giving her some extra money so that she would be able to speak with us frequently. We were a little scared, but what could we do? He came here and laughed and played with the baby. He behaved like everything was just so normal. He said, ‘I did all that having listened to my mother. I did wrong, I’m sorry. Now, I will look after you well. We won’t live with her anymore, we will live separately. I should not have listened to her and done all this to you.’
‘She was really happy,’ Shilpa insisted. She said, ‘His mind has changed,
he really loves me.’ We did not want to be the obstruction, so we let them carry on. We were happy for her.’
In retrospect, Neeti’s family believes this was the prelude to the plan to finally remove her completely by killing her. Why would her husband want to go so far? This is a question they have no answers for.
I wondered if Neeti’s husband really did feel the regret he spoke of for his treatment of her. Could he really have said those things about recognising his mother’s hand in his behaviour otherwise? In that case, perhaps he really had come to Bangalore with the hope of starting a new life with Nreti. Her death, then, could perhaps have come about as his mother reacted desperately to this, believing that she had finally and completely lost the loyalty of her son.
Or was it really suicide?
Either way, why was divorce not an option? How would Neeti have reacted if her fear of being a divorcee had come true? How would her family and society have reacted to the social taboo? I could, at this point, only make guesses at the answers to these questions.
The only thing I felt certain of was that the entire matter revolved around mother-in-law’s jealousy and her struggle for power and her son’s loyalty. Neeti’s family, for their part, are quite certain that her tragic dowry death was no suicide or accident: for them, it was cold-blooded murder.