The day finally came. The long wait was over. Twenty eight years of not knowing the secrets of “sex-es”. All the curiosity will now end. The dam that was built since puberty which stored suppressed and repressed urges will finally be broken and emotions will swell in fulfillment. Nature responded by a chill shower. The sarie pinned perfect, the veil creating an illusion of covering and protecting, the whiteness that surrounded screaming “chaste, perfect, virgin”. And the ritual begins. Somehow the society must grant permission for consummation of a relationship. But it was only later Ribsthiya realized that even her mother-in-law must also give her authorization. For Praful never knew her as he should.
Stepping outside the house. These are the final moments: her final walk as a bachelorette. She would never return. If ever she did it would be as a land ploughed upon. As she got into the car that would take her to her final destination, her mind raced to the past, picked up a few snippets of faded memories, evaded the remaining painful ones and reverted back to the angelic form that she adorned. As the wedding car approached the Church where the ritual would be performed, her fish like eyes scanned the view that would in her next visit receive her sight as from a wife- perhaps with a swollen belly. She cast aside these thoughts. How much did she know? How much was she allowed to know? And an athlete does not lead a delicate life. They don’t tip toe around protecting their hymen. Will the man she is going to entrust her life understand? The marriage is so arranged that they were not allowed to talk or see each other.
“Has the bridegroom arrived?” Her mother asked someone. And the answer she will never forget in her life because her mother-in-law would keep reminding her forever that they were the first to arrive, that they keep up the time and that they are unlike Indians who do not keep the time. The glamour of marriage began from the moment the car entered the church. Photographers requesting her attention as she was in her full blossom, the videographers positioning the lights directly at her face so that she cannot recognize the world beyond herself, strange and new relatives and acquaintances trying to relate to her as though they had known her all along, the artificiality of decoration and presentation. The only thing that was real was the hunger in each person and the wait for the completion of the ceremony so that the hot and fresh mutton birynie and its accessories can be consumed with committed passion.
When Here Comes the Bride was being played the bridal train progressed slowly through the aisle and Ribsthiya beamed with a smile of having accomplished the ultimate purpose of her being created. From the moment she was brought next to the man of her dreams (at least that’s what is commonly assumed until the dreams turn into a nightmare) until the following night, her heart, soul and mind dwelt on Praful Aditya- the software engineer earning 60k. Just as every cell in her was conscious of his presence and yearning for his warmth, so also, he made sure that he did not stand too close to her least he would touch her and thereby desecrate the law of the land. Legally before God and man they should be declared as eligible to begin loving each other. O but he did not mind holding her hand while exchanging vows as it was not he who unlawfully pulled it towards him.
It was Ribsthiya’s father who responded to the call of the priest, “Who is giving this girl in marriage?” The same hand that once held her so secure, took her to school and taught her to write: the same hand now has entrusted Ribsthiya into the hands of Praful. An exchange of hands, vows and rings. And finally the rituals came to an end when the priest pronounced them “man and wife”.
Now comes the fun part- the reception. Not that the wedding dress is tainted, but to show the difference that once she was a Miss and now she is a Mrs. The toast. This is when the bride and the groom’s families compete with each other in terms of who is more popular, who has a higher status, whose ancestry can be traced back to the farthest and whose family has propagated the human species far and wide. But none of these mattered to Ribsthiya as she was boldly holding the arm of her man, who is all hers now, whom nobody can steal away from her, who will always be there for her. Why should she bother about the fact that the wedding cake toppled over when it was carelessly taken away after the cake cutting, or that many people presented her the gift and went away in a hurry without even staying for the photo, or that instead of being taken to the place where they had to spend their first night together she was taken to her mother-in-law’s place just for a formality. No. None of these mattered as she was only conscious of the man who had her in his possession. Everything else she was oblivious to until the next day.
“Can you please remove those pins?”
These were the first words she uttered to Praful. Without saying a word he slowly removed each pin adorning her hair. She carefully collected and put it in the dressing table draw as a souvenir of their first night together. And then he went to shower. She waited outside. What now? They were conscious of each other’s presence and were clueless as to what to do about it. Her heart was racing. She felt the rushes brimming and waiting to overflow. She was ready now. Ready for his embrace. Ready for his lips to read hers. For his strong manly arms to explore her secrets. And more than anything to feel secure in hearing his loving words. Like a flower hiding its fragrance from the sun, her amorous self in perfect coyness gave a fleeting glance at the piercing eyes trying to call her.
“I want to be different from other men ok. I want to get to know you first.”
“We are going to begin our journey together. We will pray now.”
All that she remembered about that night was how he scolded her for not uttering the prayer loud enough.
“Now can you turn off the light?”
She turned off the light. He was lying on the bed like a stiff corpse. Only his hands instead of being folded to his chest were pillowing his head.
There was darkness all over. It swallowed her. And inside it she could find a deep vacuum. Sound cannot travel through a vacuum. This is science. But she could hear a piercing wail. Where from it originated? From her expectation turned to a disappointment? From her insecurity? From that fact that she wanted to be loved? Or was it her loneliness? These feelings created a deafening storm. But nothing was heard outside except her silent sobs. Also nobody could hear the words of advice given to the son by his mother, the night before his wedding. He was trying to remember. Was it yield, or shield?