Jyoti walked along the road. Her handbag on her left shoulder and her blue scarf tied around her right hand. It was 9 am. She had never been out at this hour or this place. She had seen these cafes and shops from far whenever she went out. They weren’t many occasions. Then she saw it. It had been a long time since she had been there and had her favorite! That had been the first and last time she has stepped inside and blessed her taste buds with a new flavour.
Today she would have one.
She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. Jyoti looked around smiling at the ecstasy she felt, a strange peace engulfing her. There was no fear, no remorse, no regret. She had done it and was celebrating it in her own way. She just wanted some time in peace, after she survived a sickening year in hell.
As she sat sipping her coffee, her mind seemed to have a recap of all the events of her life. Since that dreadful day. The day when everyone celebrated the approaching disaster of her life.
She had returned from college one day and saw her parents grinning ear to ear. The reason was, a proposal sent by the “respectable and rich” Samanth family. Her mother’s friend, Padma, had brought word from them. The mother of the to-be-groom had seen her in Padma aunty’s son’s marriage and inquired about her. All her efforts to convince her parents for Masters were in vain. There was not a single reason to reply negatively.
The Samanth family was one of the rich families of Jaipur. After the death of the father, the cloth manufacturing business was handled by the eldest son. The second son was away in Canada where he had set up his own firm. He married there, against his mother’s wishes and had no intention of returning. The youngest, Jai, had completed his MBA and was in the family business. What was wrong in being married into this family! Everything was perfect! Everything?
After a few casual meets, her marriage was fixed. Jyoti felt, Jai was too good-looking for her. Tall at 6 feet, hazel brown eyes, wide forehead, a face like a Bollywood star and the family status oozing off him.
Jyoti was often nervous in his presence. Her mother convinced her that it was pre-marriage jitters. Theirs was a middle class family, while the Samanths were high society, yet they were understanding and agreed for a mediocre arrangement. Something affordable by Jyoti’s side but less for their status.
Being from a conservative family, Jyoti wasn’t allowed to meet Jai out alone. Their meets were very few and monitored. He seemed to be a decent person. Slowly Jyoti started liking him. That ended up being her first mistake.
Their marriage was scheduled after her B.A. final year exams, two months to make arrangements. Wherever she went, people congratulated her less and advised more. “Be good, Jyoti. Keep mother-in-law and husband happy, you lucky girl”; “You must have done something to please the Gods, they’ve sent you their blessings” the words kept pouring.
Jyoti saw her father take loans. She saw her mother check the jewellery everyday. The jewellery she had collected for Jyoti since her birth. Jyoti was worried how they would manage after her marriage. Her mother was a retired teacher and took tuitions for extra money. Father had been in the Railways, where he was known for his honesty and dutifulness. Both had toiled hard for them. And there was her little sister Kiran, in tenth grade, studying at a residential school in Jaipur.
Jyoti tried to make them control expenses for Kirans’s sake but none would listen to her. She was apprehensive for them but they were joyously preparing for her marriage.
The marriage was a beautiful event. Her parents had done all that they could. Her friends and cousins looked enviously at her. She thanked the Gods and hoped that now her parents would be at peace. Marriages of girls always make parents so anxious.
With lot of hope, Jyoti entered the threshold of Samanth family. She was ready to do anything for her parents and for Jai, the man she had begun to love, secretly, for he seemed to be her knight in armour.
Sitting in the red expensive lehenga, surrounded by the family, Jyoti felt like a princess. She was beautiful in her own way. Fair complexioned, a sharp nose and deep brown eyes with thick eyelashes, the dress added to her beauty. Everyone was in awe with her. She saw her mother-in-law smile appreciatively. There was a tenderness in her which made Jyoti feel at ease.
Slowly all the rituals ended and the younh girls took her into the bedroom. Teasing her about the special night ahead. Blushing under the veil, they left her on the kingsize bed which was covered with the soft fragrant petals of roses. She kept waiting!
Jai, came into the room. He was wearing brown silk sherwani. He was mumbling something which Jyoti couldn’t understand. As she saw him struggle to stand, she realized he was drunk. She was horrified. She never saw father drink. Rather she was afraid of drunkards. She had heard stories that men did the most horrific things when drunk. She saw him fall on the sofa and fall asleep.
She got down the bed, still adorned with jewellery and in the expensive dress. She slowly stepped towards the mirror and started removing her jewellery. When she was done, she had to change her dress. She couldn’t sleep in such a heavy dress.
She searched for her clothes. There they were in a small cupboard near the huge mirror. The cupboard given by her parents. It looked just like her. Out of place in that room. She took out a nightie from the cupboard and moved towards the bathroom. She saw Jai’s feet hanging in the air. She thought that he too must have waited for the day and his friends might have made him drink. Tomorrow he would feel sorry and apologize.
She removed his shoes and placed his feet properly. There lay, all drunk, the love of her life. She touched his cheek. His face was emotionless. She got fresh and came out. She lay on the bed and watched him.
She didn’t realize she had fallen asleep, till she felt hands on her body. She was shocked. She was unable to move. Jai was on her. She tried to push him away. But his strength was too much for her. He started tearing away her dress. “Jai. Stop. I am your wife. Stop it,” she shouted.
He raised his head. It wasn’t the Jai she knew. His eyes were bloodshot red. His smell was pungent. He was naked. He moved a strand of hair from her mouth. Slowly he caressed her hair and then with a jerk he pulled them and raised her head. His mouth near her ear. “You are my wife? Then you give what I want. You poor little bitch”, he said. “Don’t make a sound or I will throw you out of the house”, he warned.
Jyoti was shocked and scared to death. She felt like a trapped animal. Her parents’ happy faces came into her mind. She lay motionless.
Her skin burned wherever he touched. He bit into her breasts and on her arms. When he entered her, she cried out in pain. He devoured her like a predator let loose. It wasn’t love, it was sheer desire of another body. When he was done, he shuddered and moved away from her. She rushed to the bathroom, in pain, in tears, blood staining her. Her husband had raped her. She now believed that drunk men could do horrifying things. She returned to the room and sat on the sofa, in a fetal position and cried silently.
She hoped it was just an accident. The sun would rise and her nightmare would end.
When morning came, she woke up to see Jai getting ready. She was cringing in pain, when her eyes fell on him. He saw her awake and came close.
“Slept well? That’s a better place than that hut of yours, isn’t it? Costs more too!” he said sarcastically.
“You were not ready to marry me, then why did you? Why did you spoil my life?” Jyoti asked angrily.
“Spoiled your life? You’re lucky to be in this house. Thank God for that!” he barked at her.
She started crying. “Why did you marry me?”
“Blame my old hag for that!” he retorted, “She threatened to throw me out penniless if I didn’t marry according to her choice. You were her choice. But don’t you dare tell her anything. You do that and I’ll make your life miserable. Your parents will die out of shame and curse themselves.”
He came closer. His breath on her face. He pulled her hair back again. “Whatever happened or happens in here, stays here. Otherwise…. You have no idea what I can do!” he threatened.
While closing the door, he smirked at her and said he had an amazing night.
Just then she heard a knock. “Bibiji, maa ji is asking you to join for breakfast”.
“I am coming in sometime” she replied back, controlling the shiver in her voice.
The life in hell began.
To be continued. . .
[PS: This was a story I wrote for a contest. There was a prompt (a short paragraph) given, which had to be used. It didn’t seem good enough to the organizers. So, I thought to share it here. 😋😋]