Whenever a girl is dressed like a bride, she is sent away. First, from her parent’s home. And, the next time, for her final journey. The protagonist says, “I am to be married again…. The ceremony of my leaving my house again. Now for the last time.” Madhumita tells us a heart-wrenching story of an unattractive and perhaps neglected person, on her final journey, in the voice of the dead. Here’s an interesting story, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
I am to be married again. It is my wedding day one more time. I move around, unseen, seeing the preparations. They have gathered, friends and family, kith and kin, to be a part of the ceremony. Of sending me away. The ceremony of my leaving my house again. Now for the last time.
“Bring the water. No, no, not in that. Bring out the brass pitcher,” the eldest lady present there, called out to a younger one, in a hushed voice.
“Yes, this is perfect. It has to be red,” the eldest said, with a tone of finality.
“Where’s the jewelery box?”
“Yes, keep it ready.”
I could hear it all. The conversation. The words sounded at a distance. Echoed all around; from the walls on the two-storied building that was my home for five years. I could hear and see it all, the proceedings, from the mango tree in the garden next to the courtyard. It swayed, its leaves rustling echoing the hushed voices, as I sat still. I saw it all. The urgency, the hurriedness, the concern, the care. People walked in and out of the several rooms, fetching this and that, sundry objects required for the all too important ceremony. This was a much awaited, hoped for event. I was the cynosure of all eyes. The center of attraction in this significant event.
Someone brought in a chair. I was made to sit on it. Two people held me from both sides, so that I did not fall off. They smeared turmeric paste on me. On my face, my neck, my hands and my feet. Turmeric has a lightening effect on the skin. A dark dusky I would turn fair. Would I? And yes, they touched my feet too. Something no one had ever done to me in these five years. Not even the young ones. To show respect during festivals and New Year, as they usually did it to all elders. It was the custom in this house. A custom to be ignored, a gesture of reverence to be waived in my case. I could not tell who smeared the paste on my feet and legs. I was far away and could not see.
“Bring the pitcher. Hold her tight, will you two?” The elderly voice was loud now. “Can’t you girls see she will fall off?” Another voice piped in. I did not feel the cool water pouring down on me. On the head, flowing down my hair, my shoulders, my flat-chested front, my legs, onto the cemented floor of the courtyard. My body was already cold.
I never looked so beautiful. Draped in a red and gold Benarasi saree, adorned with jewelry, earrings, necklaces and bangles, I looked like a queen. A big round red dot of vermilion on my forehead and the red powder in the middle parting of my hair completed the look. The ugly woman, with no assets physical, or of monetary value brought from her previous home, looked on, mesmerised, at the beautiful bride of death.
I am dead. Have been released from my marriage of five years four hours ago. I am happy, at last. And in peace. My throat no longer chokes. My insides no longer burn. The brief nightmare, of fear, pain and agony have been eased with a heart that rests and lungs that no longer have to breathe. Now, bejeweled and decked with flowers, I am on my way to my wedding arena. There will be people there, many of them. My family members. They have not had food for the last four hours. After they bid me goodbye and see me off on my final journey to my abode of peace, they will bathe and eat. I have known the pangs of hunger and how painful it is to starve.
Pix from Net.