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It is Aditya’s wedding night, and he is expected to act as a man. He overpowers his wife until something brings back memories of the past.
Content/Trigger Warning: The short story The Wedding Night, has descriptions of violence, rape, coercion and child-abuse.
Aditya sat surrounded by his friends. They were drunk and laughed away the night wildly. Aditya as the groom, in his cream colored silk kurta looked handsome. The women sat huddled together in a room, some gossiping about the dowry received and others putting night creams on their sagging faces, still trying to reclaim what was once young; each one still trying to figure what the other used and if it had a better effect before retiring for the day.
Huge mattresses had been brought in from the local handloom shop, to accommodate the relatives. There was a commotion everywhere one stepped. The entire house had turned into a min field, as people had to move precariously to avoid bumping someone sleeping on the rented mattresses that sprawled all over the house, occupying every inch.
It was almost midnight now, after a grand reception at the local community hall. Aditya and his new bride had just come back home. He was already exhausted, with the long hours of standing and welcoming guests, maintaining a smile that made his cheeks hurt and posing for innumerable photo sessions, which ofcourse no one would remember; may be just the young ones who would post it on facebook with a earth shattering caption about how great they felt and wait for likes.
All he wanted now was to collapse on his bed. But his friends, who had joined him home, would not let go of him. They teased him endlessly and shamelessly pulled his leg, for tonight was the much awaited First Night. All his friends were still bachelors, and they seemed more thrilled than Aditya over the prospect of the first night.
Almost as if she had read his mind, Aditya’s Mausi came to his rescue, “Its so late and you boys still look energetic enough to go for another wedding. Stop this banter now! Aditya, tomorrow is the Satnarayan Puja, and you better wake up before the Panditji comes. Come on, get up now. Go to your room.”
She kept standing there until Aditya finally got up from his seat and followed him to his room. The friends teasingly shouted, “Best of luck” and began to look for places to sleep.
Halfway to his room, Mausi left for her own room and joined the group of giggling and snoring ladies. A few steps away from his room, Aditya felt a strange feeling overtake him. Entering his own room, where he had spent almost all his life, felt different today. It actually felt uncomfortable. With his heart pounding nervously, he entered his room.
The bride was sitting on the corner of the bed. She had changed from her crystal embroidered heavy lehenga into a red silk saree. Aditya, closed the door behind him, and kept standing next to the door, without moving a step. He did not know what to do now. What should he say, it all seemed so awkward.
But he had friends to answer the next morning and return victorious smiles to inquisitive eyes. Without thinking much, he switched off the lights. Darkness gave him the confidence which he lacked in the light. Fumbling his way to the bed, he reached for his bride. He held her shoulders and drew her close to himself.
The bride felt as dead as a corpse; she swayed whichever way Aditya took her.
He began to take off her saree while the bride lay still. He kissed her on the forehead, but still, the bride reciprocated only with a still coldness. Aditya was about to enclose her into his arms, when the bride pushed him away.
Aditya, was shocked and felt insulted. In a fit of rage, he slapped his wife and authoritatively pulled her near him. The new bride, frightened like a doe, started sobbing silently. Aditya could feel his chest getting wet, with her tears; yet, he continued to explore her.
“Please leave me,” cried the bride softly. Aditya stopped suddenly. He rolled over from her. Hadn’t he heard those words somewhere before. Why did those words affect him so much?
Aditya tried to think hard, and he felt a sense of deja vu overwhelm him. Had this happened before? Then, as if the floodgates had been flung open, the memory of that night came rushing back to him. The memory that he had blocked all these years, to escape the horror of it all.
As a young boy, Aditya often saw his father misbehaving with his mother. Sometimes, he would throw away the plate of food she would give him. Just because he did not like what was being served. And at other times, he would scold his mother for small things, such as laughing out loudly.
To Aditya, this was normal male behaviour that he had come to accept. Over time, although it made him shiver within whenever his father mistreated his mother, he would let the two alone, before quietly slipping outside the room.
Then, there were those nights, when Aditya would be lying next to his mother in deep sleep. But he would be woken up by the soft murmurs of his mother, protesting in a low tone. He would hear the heavy panting of his father against the face of his silent mother and the sound of the disgusting desire would turn Aditya into a stone. He would lie there on the bed, pretending to be asleep, without moving a limb.
The next day, Aditya would behave as normally as he could, to avoid embarrassing his mother. On some nights, he would hear his mother tell his father, “I have my periods.” Aditya, could not understand why his mother talked about the periods he had in school, in the middle of the night. But in the morning, he would see blood spots on the sheets, and wonder how they came there.
As a child he did not understand the relationship a man and a woman shared. Neither did he know that what was being done to his mother was wrong. But he always felt that it was wrong, for his mother never looked happy after one of those nights.
Aditya dreaded those nights; he had tried unsuccessfully to convince his mother to let him sleep separately. But she did not think he was old enough. The poor woman was unknowingly exposing her son to a much greater danger; the danger of losing his innocence, too soon.
Every night Aditya lay restlessly on his bed, and prayed to be fast asleep before his father crept up to his mother. But one night, he could not sleep. His mother too was awake and waiting for his father to come home. Aditya was reading a book when the door bell rang. By the time he could get up and go towards the door, his mother had already opened it. Aditya could hear his father scolding his mother and he sounded drunk. In a short while he saw his father enter the bedroom where Aditya lay. He scolded him for being awake so late.
His mother came in with a glass of water and gave it to her husband. Aditya’s father threw away the glass in rage and abused her for no reason. Aditya understood that it was better for him to keep away the book and quietly slip under the sheets. But as he prepared to go to bed, he saw his father pull his mother towards himself, right in front of his eyes. Aditya felt a wave of shame and anger curl up in his little heart. Before he could blink his eyes, his father had started forcing himself on his mother.
His mother screamed, “Please leave me” in pain and disgust.
“What are you doing? Adi is watching us. Atleast have some regard for his presence. He is only a child. Please leave me.”
Suddenly, his father let go of his mother, and came pouncing upon Aditya. He caught him by his arm and dragged him to the attached bathroom. He threw Aditya on the floor, and quickly shut the door and locked it.
Aditya was trapped in the dark little bathroom. He was shocked and did not understand what would happen now. His small body did not give him enough courage to shout for help. He managed to stand up and get close to the door to hear what was happening in the room.
Putting his ears close to the wooden bathroom door, he could hear his mother begging, crying, and howling in pain. His father would sometimes hurl abuses at her while sometimes, he go quiet for a long time. He would hear his mother utter, ”Please leave me” again and again.
Aditya spent the entire night praying, crying and waiting. The ordeal lasted many hours. For many hours he could hear the sound of panting and sobbing. Suddenly, it all went very quiet. It would have been close to dawn now. Aditya could see dim blue light spreading across the sky from the glass window. As if God too was slowly opening his eyes. That night, Aditya did not sleep a wink. He did not have to pretend to be asleep.
In the morning, he heard the door knob turn, he waited for his father to again pounce on him. But to his relief, it was his mother. She was blue and red all over. Her hair was matted with tears. There were bite marks on her cheeks and neck, as if she had been chewed up by dirty looking worms all night.
She did not look at Aditya in the eye – she could not. She just took him in his arms and very softly said, “Everything is okay. Don’t be afraid”
Together, they walked out of the bathroom. Aditya saw his father sprawled on the bed, lying on his stomach. He quickly ran out of the room so as to not to awaken him.
Aditya went through that day and many other days to come, by putting the memory of that night, buried deep in his mind. Just as someone buries dead bodies in the ground, to forever remove any evidence of their existence.
Up until this wedding night. All his memories came rushing back. His escapism had abandoned him today. Leaving him as vulnerable as his new bride. He could not physically exploit someone the way he had been mentally exploited years ago. He slowly went towards his wife and hugged her close. He whispered in her ears, “I would never do anything you don’t like. Please forgive me.”
The bride slowly sunk deep in his arms. No word was said. And both of them remained like that, till somebody knocked on the door in the morning.
Aditya slowly moved out of the bed and tiptoed out of the room. Leaving his sleeping wife, who looked serene and blissful.
When one of his friends mischievously elbowed him and asked, “So how was everything?”
He answered with a broad smile, “Everything was beautiful, we became one; one in soul”.
And moved away to meet his mother.
Image sourece for the story The Wedding Night: Wedding symbol image via Shutterstock, edited on CanvaPro
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I recommend reading Manjiri Indurkar's Origami Aai alongside her memoir to have a fulfilling and enriching experience of telling one's story with grace.
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Ah, no prizes for guessing the infamous “itni bhi feminist” or “too much feminism” phrase, a classic eye-roller for me, and I am sure for many more of my tribe, in the realm of gender equality discussions.
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