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The gang forced all the occupants to come out of the Maruti at gun-point and immediately their attention fell on the sparkling new bride.
Raghu stirred restlessly amongst relatives. He hoped the thick coat of that intoxicating spray lived up to its intense hype, though he could feel a tiny drop of sweat trickling down. He was the groom and his gaudy Sherwani was beginning to cut into his skin and the jasmine garlands were already fading. His loins were now burning. He didn’t want to smell for his bride Janki. He wanted to whisk his bride and consummate the marriage right away. But these never ending wedding ceremonies…He was beginning to get fidgety.
Seeing his agitated state, his bride smiled coyly. She was nervous to say the least. She smiled shyly at the sly references of the relatives, to the impending sanctioned romp and nodded politely at the instructions by the veterans. The mother of the bride hugged her daughter and sobbed uncontrollably while dad looked lost. Finally the wedding party was on it’s way home, on the highway, into the badlands of lawlessness.
The bride, the groom, the mother and father of the groom and the driver squeezed into a tiny Maruti – A gift from the bride’s father. The rest of the extended family, had been crammed into a Tata Sumo.
The driver of the Maruti led the way. He was in a hurry to reach home and crash into his cosy bed with his comely wife. He dove at breakneck speed, with the Sumo gamely following suit.
“SSSSQQQQQUEEEEAAAAALLLL”. Suddenly there was a flat tyre and they all did their best to hang on, as the driver of the Maruti, remembering his wife’s and children’s faces, brought forth his years of experience to keep the vehicle from cartwheeling or crashing. Finally they came to a halt, after many minutes of utter agony, when they had stared at death and managed to beat it.
As they all breathed in deeply, there were gunshots ringing the air. The highway bandits had swooped in and started banging on the Maruti. Sensing danger, the Sumo’s driver reversed and sped past, before the gunshots could reach his car.
The gang forced all the occupants to come out of the Maruti at gun-point and immediately their attention fell on the sparkling new bride. With one swoop, she was pulled aside by the leader of the gang. The driver of the Maruti chose silence, the mother and father of the groom pleaded with the gangsters, while the groom tried to wrestle for his bride’s freedom. But few ominous shots in the air and threats to end it all, then and there, all fell silent and simpered. The gang then collected the gifts, jewellery and the cash from the mother, flattened the tyres, smashed all the mobiles and took off with the bride. No protests followed. The victims simply watched the car sped away with their newest member of the family.
A terrible hour passed with not many vehicles going that way or even if they did, none would stop.
Suddenly a car came, stopped next to them. The door opened, the bride was pushed out and the car sped away again, before anyone could make sense.
All the occupants of the Maruti, gave her a quick head to toe scan. She seemed intact, with no visible signs of any forced physical attack. She seemed to have returned in the same state as she was in, earlier.
The mother-in-law screamed, “What happened? How did you come back? Did they..?” While her son nodded vacantly. He needed the answers before he could even look at his bride, let alone touch her. Consummating was simply out of the question.
“They didn’t! I pleaded with them. I cried, I begged. I told them, I was just married and I had a whole life infant of me. They somehow understood and empathized. The leader was the first one to melt to my pleas. So they brought me back.” The bride was emphatic!
“Without even touching? You want us to believe this nonsensical story! Where is the proof?” Said the groom, whose words drove a thousand daggers into the girl’s heart.
“Because I say so! That should be proof enough! My word should do. Trust is what we need between us. You are my husband. You swore to protect me and take care of me, which you never did! What about that?”
“Already, you are talking back to your husband! In your position that too?” Mother-in-law glowered.
“Sorry! I cannot take you with me. What will the village say? That, I brought back a woman, who was held captive by thieves for an hour? And still she claimed, she was chaste? Everyone will laugh at me. This cannot work. I can never come near you now!” The groom thought he made a solid point.
“Do you think that is fair? That too, for no fault of mine?” The new bride was indignantly tearful.
“I think it is better, you go back to your parents. It is about to be a new dawn. Soon buses will come from other side! Go back. Best for all.” Father-in-law had the final say.
The girl then stared hard at all, got up and started walking back. She then crossed the road and walked towards the tracks.
One could see a train huffing into the station.
Did she choose to get in front of the train or into the train?
Well! we will have to wait for the next day’s papers to know…No, wait.
It is time to change the moth-balled narrative of the protagonist killing herself.
It is a new generation with new thinking, that heralding newer changes in our social mores…
So Siya the bride, got onto the train in search of her destiny.
Image source: By Prakhar Amba from Grenoble, France (Bride) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons, for representational purposes only.
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Anupama Jain is the author of 'When Padma Bani Paula', a breezy novel about second
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