Morning announced itself through the perching of birds on the branches of trees. It had been 6 a.m. now and I was getting delayed to reach the airport. I woke up rather reluctantly out of my bed and went to the basin. I looked at my face in the mirror which was morose. Today was supposed to be the best day of my life. I was to get married and get the status of someone’s wife.
Only in this case, it was a runaway court marriage.
Preparations for this day had been made since many months. Today was the best day when I could sneak out of the house for a day. I was supposed to be wearing a sari as decided by myself and Shashank. Bangles shone in my wrists and flowers adorned my hair. I stood in a red saree in front of the mirror. When I now look back, I see a young, restless, bright mind standing haplessly looking at herself.
Somehow, all this hype surrounding my marriage did not get to me at all. When I left the house, I had a thousand odd things running in my mind. I kept thinking all about the possible future, about my life, the “new house” I was supposed to “adjust” into, as I was told by my father in-law.
I was just eighteen then, and didn’t know much about the intricacies that life held. All that grappled my mind was thoughts of running away from my house and to escape the harmful clutches of my step mother.
I reached the airport and in a flurry kept passing by each counter and finally reached mine. Whatever was happening didn’t really seep through my mind. There are so many instances in life, where, you don’t feel what actually happens to you. This was perhaps one of those.
As I boarded the flight to Delhi, I anxiously looked outside the aircraft. Something within me said that I should get up and run away. The very thought of me having to be in an entirely different set up haunted me.
Two hours flit by and I reached Delhi. I hurriedly walked outside the airport and saw Shashank standing there. He was his usual self, tall, with a lanky frame. For a minute, all this hoopla surrounding the aura of my “marriage” dispersed into me looking into his eyes. He escorted me out of the airport and I was bought to his house. He had most of his family members and I had none but him. I thought he understood this fact somewhere down the line, fully self-conscious of the fact of my love for him.
Finally, five of his family members and we were taken to the court of law. There, the final seal on our marriage had been put. I feel none, the excitement or the happiness a bride should feel. But I do admit, my heart leapt up to Shashank on seeing him so happy.
I was brought to his house and everyone greeted me with a smile. Elaborate meals were cooked and people had surrounded the house as honeybees surround the honeycomb. Amongst all this chatter, I felt completely left out. “Trapped,” was it? Many a times, in so many weddings I realize the bride and the groom remain objects. Objects to be looked at and then people estimate the “approximate” price of the party given. Love somewhere down the line sneaks away out of this circle of fake enthusiasm.
I’d been terrible all day with the hectic court procedures and traveling. After people left, I was left in my own element in a room. I was told by my mother-in-law that Shashak would come to the room later.
And this was the worse thing to do me thought- leave a young, sad girl all alone on the night of her wedding. The night when she’d meet her husband and tell him how much she loves him, the expression in the eye which expresses how a thousand moons give her solace when she hugs the man she loves. I’d felt none of this, all I could feel was loneliness. My heart ached and my mind moved from one image to another. I could see, somewhere in Chennai, my step mother filing for a police case for me missing. I could see the image of the neighboring children I used to play with and sing songs; I could feel the anger of my step mother, the anxiety of the children. Surprisingly, I couldn’t feel any joy that a newly wed bride is supposed to feel.
I felt like running out of the room, removing all the unnecessary jewellery that I’d wore and go and melt in Shashank’s arm. I felt like crying like a child to him, laughing like a lover to him, and loving him as a wife would yearn to.
But I could do neither. It was night, about 2 a.m. I think. I heard some crackling sound and woke up. I saw Shashank right there, wanting to drink some water. He saw me open my eyes and took me in his arms. For some reason, I’d wanted to cry and tell him how much I loved him. But, something prevented me from doing so. Why can’t I cry and tell him how I felt, I don’t fathom.
Night passed and I was unable to speak anything. He made love to me, and I felt an emotion taking me higher than where I was.
But, sex is only a temporary relief.
That night clouds had gathered and I lay awake in a now fast asleep Shashank’s arms. I quietly go up and went outside the verandah. I felt the sky curling to form a ferocious array of clouds. I stood there, my eyelids battling the drops of rain. It was now that I’d started crying too.
Morning again arrived, and a lot had changed within a day. My identity had changed, and so did my life. Shashank went to office as usual and I was kept in the house the entire day. This episode kept repeating itself day-after-day.
Months passed and I’d started feeling the need to do something. I’d been cooking in the house and looking after Shashank’s family. He did the jig that a dutiful husband is supposed to, but I realized I looked for much more.
Shashank kept coming late to the house and the tantrums of my mother-in-law increased. I was feeling like a bird which had been locked up in a cage, which looks golden from the outside, but is as hollow as any other cage. A cage after all, is a cage.
One day, as I was ironing Shashank’s shirt, I found a bill. It read as a bill given by a lingerie shop, and I’d been in a state of horror. If there was something that he had to give me, it should have been given by now, and I have never known any instance when Shashank had bought me a gift.
That night, I felt like a robber doing this, but I checked his phone and noticed many short messages he’d sent that read-,
“She is a dutiful wife. She takes care of my house and parents. But I do love you. Don’t worry, even if I wouldn’t be able to marry you, I’d love you and only you. Love you my princess.”
I’d realize the loops in our marriage and I also could now see the futility of being into a relationship when all is lost.
I’d discovered the path I wanted to now tread on. I confronted Shashank that night and asked him about what’s going on in his life.
“What nonsense are you talking? Do you realize,” he screamed.
“This isn’t nonsense Shashank. It’s about our life,” I explained.
“Look, Priya (this was the first time someone actually calls me by my name, I thought) all you are reading is not true. Ok , tell me, even if it is true , what can you do. Where will you go? Can’t we live with it,” he asked.
“Live with it? Live with what Shashank? This life, which is futile and which binds us to a relationship we’ve long lost?” I thundered back.
“Fine, go wherever you want to. I won’t stop you. But do realize, you have no where to go,” he told me.
By this time, I almost had tears in my eyes. I took a decision in my mind that this is over today. There isn’t more I can bear.
My walking had led me to the railway station and I’d enough money to board a train to Allahabad. I waited in the waiting room of the train department. There, I felt like contemplating suicide, but something within me stopped myself.
It was again 6 a.m. of the next day and I stood near the steps of a temple All I could see is flashes of little lightning across the still black clouds, which looked like the same night. Lightning looked as though it’d would fall on me.
As I tried breaking this day that awaits me peace, I saw a priest doing the funeral of a old woman. She had many other relatives of hers who were crying. Somewhere, something deep inside me cried too.
After about an hour, I heard the preist say,
“Shantam. Shantam. Shantam.”