The Managing Director was fat guy with a pear shaped body who had chosen not to marry. The whole day he kept on shouting on one or the other employee believing that a nagging boss can extract more work from its employees than a pleasant one.
“So, you wanna to go home. And it’s for marriage. I don’t think you make a good choice. You loose on your career. And alas! You shall submit yourself to a man like a slave, who shall be of no worth to you. Jasmine the institution of marriage is a dying one. Why invest in it?” He advised me.
“I want to settle for a family. And I assure you I will be back and more professional. I promise.” I assured him.
I was granted leave for only fifteen days. I boarded the bus from Delhi to my home town two hundred miles on north. For fifteen days I would be away from the tedious mundane job of dealing with clients. It would be great time with my parents and indeed Charles.
I and Charles were engaged two months back at my hometown. We had dated only four times. He had sent shivers down my spine when he had hugged me on second date and planted a kiss on my cheek. My face was flushing. Within seconds the color of my face was crimson. He should not have done it. But I loved his warmth.
“I love you.” he had said lovingly while his arm rested on my shoulder. I shied but wanted to get wrapped around by his arms never to part with.
I looked in his eyes. They were glowing. It gave me immense pride to be his fiancée. On dates we found ourselves compatible and I fell in love with him, unaware as to when.
My parents were very happy that I was settling for a family at the age of thirty four which according to them was quite late. My father was twenty seven and mother twenty four when they had married. They were deeply in love even after thirty six years of marriage. My mother was very caring and loving. My father would start feeling restless even if my mother was away for a day. They were very possessive of one another.
The day of marriage was 20-06-2020 and it was to be as per Hindu Rites and Ceremonies. The most important part of marriage is going around the Holy Fire for seven times and taking seven vows. The time is fixed by priests after studying the position of planets astrologically. The time for solemnization of my marriage was fixed at 10.00 PM.
There were few guests due to pandemic scare. Those present were busy gossiping, taking drinks and entertaining themselves in their own ways. I had got ready with most expensive of my dresses specially stitched from the best designer of the City. I was decked with jewelry worth about thirty three lakhs.
The beautician came along with my mother to get me ready and found me so charming that she applied only bare minimum make up. She complimented, “You don’t need make up. You are beautiful, gorgeous, sweet and what not? I feel like falling in love with you.”
My mother was very pleased to see me as bride. Her eyes were filled with tears of joy. I had seen her photographs of her prime youth when she looked like me. She embraced me in her arms. My aunt came inside and smiled to see me ready.
My father knocked at the door of my room, “It is nine thirty. The ceremony will start sharp at 10.00. So be ready my princess. I am going to the priest.”
I loved his pampering and joyfully smiled, “Okay dad.”
I was going in to the washroom when my cousin came running, “Jasmine! you go the dressing room of your mother. It has mirrors all around. You will see yourself from each side.” She took me from arm to the next room of my mother.
I moved in to the dressing room attached to bathroom. I latched the door from inside for toilet. After having eased myself I started looking at the mirrors on all four sides. Ah! I was a treasured beauty. I smiled to myself, ‘My mom has good tastes.’
I realized for the first time I was much more beautiful than I believed. The black hairs formed a perfect background to my round face shown like a moon. I observed myself from tip to toe and fantasized to be the arms of Charles. While I was admiring my beauty in mirror I heard a giggle of a woman outside in my room.
“Not now, you asshole!” The woman whispered lovingly.
“Oh! Come on. There is no one.” The man whispered.
For a moment everything went black before me. The whispers were of acquaintances. I wished I was wrong. I opened the door instantaneously and I found my fiancée lying over my mother on bed with their lips locked. I was gape.
Both separated in panic. I had no words to speak. I was dumb. It was nine forty and twenty minutes before my marriage I find my mother and fiancée kissing passionately. What should I do?
My mother stood withdrawn to one corner of room and was sweating all over, “What are you doing in my room? I did not know you were there.”
She broke out, “I told him not to do it. But he laid me. I never wanted it.”
Charles was speechless. He apologetically pleaded, “It was my fault. Your mother was resisting it. I forced upon her. You see, I am sorry. I apologize from my heart. Forgive me.”
By this time my eyes were filled with tears and heart with vengeance. I knew both were telling lies. My mother wanted to shift blame over to Charles, who to save her and so took all the blame over him.
I with clenched fists in low voice, lest it was known to all, said, “You both rascals, trying to befool me. I will shout out to everyone what you had been doing.”
I looked towards my mother heartbroken. She was my icon.
“You didn’t find someone beyond the fiancée of your own daughter. I should not say that is disgrace to myself, but still I must say you are a bitch!”
The eyes of my mother were flooded with tears but I had no sympathy for her. Charles was pleading that the matter should not be made public. The time was short and evolving a workable solution was must. Someone knocked on the door.
Charles replied, “Jasmine is here in the room. She is almost ready. We both will be there for marriage at nine fifty sharp. Nothing to worry.”
My mother was sitting on bed, “Jasmine, if you broadcast, you know the consequences. Your father may or may not leave me. But our relationship will be ruined. At least it will lose trust.”
Charles interrupted, “And I will be devastated.”
I did not believe him. He was again lying. My mother was trying to save herself.
“But why should I marry this scoundrel. Once in house, you both shall have fun. Cheat on me and papa. How pious and satisfying?”
Both had lowered their heads in ignominy. If I was twenty five I would have broken the head of these two but my age had taken over the rage of young blood. If I break open the incident it would be a scandal in the city. That would ruin the reputation of my family. The whole family would be standing joke.
My mother with tears in her eyes tried to shift blame over to my father, “Jasmine, it is unfortunate that I fell for him. I am ashamed of it. But your father, he is a gentleman. He is not a lover; I hardly remember for years if he ever loved me. All he loves is his books. He lives a boring and mundane life.”
I was not ready to hear anything about my father, “Stop lady. It is enough.”
My mother was faking emotions. She got up and fell to my feet, “The time is very crucial. Just get married for once. We can work out later on. I will never come between you and him. I swear, I promise. For God sake don’t say no.”
I in fury replied, “I can’t live with this man now. I hate him. I hate you. I hate both of you.”
Charles folded his hands, “I pray you let the ceremonies take place. Once the function is over and guests are gone we can work it out. It will be as per your wishes. You may go along with me or we may part ways after some time. At this moment it will be suicidal for your mother.”
My mother had tears rolling down her face, “He is right Jasmine. I won’t be able to live with the stigma.”
I was in anguish. “You should have reasoned it. You could have parted ways with dad and gone with him. Why cheat on in this way?”
“Jasmine, it is no time to argue. We are short of time. Everyone is waiting. I don’t know how your father will take it. Will he be able to bear the trauma?” My mother hit at my weakest point. Even a thought of any pain to my father put me I distress.
“I will not speak till the marriage is over. Thereafter I don’t want any explanations, reconciliations or middle paths. It is over. It is over for now; it is over for the coming times. You both bastards! How foul my language has gone!” I furiously proceeded towards the door.
I was weeping at the time of marriage. Whom am I marrying? The lover of my mother! Can there be someone more cursed than me? The scandals I read about love affairs of son-in-law and mother-in-law, which I doubted to be fantasies, was enacted in my house.
My aunt was consoling me, “Jasmine, why do you weep like this? You are in modern times. Why feel so sad to leave your family? You are otherwise living separately at Delhi. Now be good child.”
To whom should I share my plight? How do I tell them what for I grieve? I was wronged and further voluntarily committing another sin to save the honor of the family at the altar of my happiness.
In the morning the guests started leaving. I wanted to tell my father about the incident but feared he might not be able to bear it. The fears in my mind which are product of exposure to crime news, spread their wings clouding my thoughts. The lovers in order to keep their affair secret do not hesitate in eliminating the potential hurdles. If I did not confide in someone, the duo might frame me and even go to the extent of eliminating me.
I pondered, ‘I must create fear in the mind of the two and they must be convinced that the affair was no more discreet.’
Charles entered my room and latched the door from inside.
Charles was first to speak, “Jasmine what do you decide now?”
“I have given my mind. I will part ways.”
“But that will not be good for your mother.”
“That is not my concern.”
Charles was losing his temper. He was turning red. He proceeded slowly towards me. I was cornered in the room. He left no escape for me.
I warned him, “You get back, or I will shout.”
Charles scowled, “Shout? For what? There is no one outside.”
“My father is there.”
“He is away; on morning walk and with your mother.”
I had suspected that Charles had evil intentions and those were manifesting itself.
“My apologies Charles!” I scorned, “I have taken a step in breach of trust. I have broken my promise of last night. I have informed about the whole incident to my two friends in the Company. I have given them five numbers of relatives. I have instructed them to forward the message of incident if anything happens to me or my father. I hope you will co-operate with me and advise that bitch to be nice girl.”
I noticed panic on his face. He stepped back.
“Jasmine, you are misunderstanding me. I wanted things to settle. I wanted you to be my wife and I love you. You can call a blunder on my part and punish me. Your mother was seductress. She was first to push things.” I started believing him. The love I had for him, which I did not want any more, starting rising in my heart like a phoenix.
I was sitting on bed by now. He bends down before me and put his hands on my knees and started crying, “Jasmine I resisted your mother. But that lady threatened me that if I resisted, she would not let the marriage be solemnized. I was terrified. I never wanted to lose you.”
My heart was melting at the tears flowing down from his eyes. I composed myself and knocked on my faculties and asked myself, “Whom do you trust? The man who had been sleeping with your mother or the mother? The bitch that is cheating on my father, poor soul!”
I strongly resolved to part ways the deceit. At least that would take me out of the relationship plagued with sin.
“Charles, let me be clear. I don’t want to hurt my father. You won’t leave that bitch. I can’t live with you. It is better we amicably settle things. I am going to Delhi and will be back after few days. Then on incompatible grounds and irretrievable grounds we get divorce.”
Charles was speechless. He was expecting my stand on those lines.
I got up and moved towards the door, “It will be better if you leave my mother as well. Because if anything goes wrong with my father, the blame shall lie on you both and that will be visited with not very good upshots.” He noticed my stern tone.
He did not speak.
“Now to keep things discreet, you must leave. I will say to my father that you had left for some urgent meeting. To my father you can fake our staying together at Delhi. I will also make up same story.”
Charles got up and with his head down he left the place. I wept for about ten minutes and then gathered courage. “I had not committed any sin. I am the victim. Why should I cry? Why I should not fight back? Life is not for surrendering. Let me move ahead.”
My father and mother returned from the walk. My mother behaved as if she was the most loving wife in the world. She noticed me and came to me with her arms open. She embraced me. She was pampering me as never before for obvious reasons. I looked at my father who was oblivious of acts of his cheating wife. But he was happy. I realized how the secret affair could ruin his happiness.
“Dad, Charles will be coming to me to Delhi in a day or two. I will leave tomorrow. Mom will take care of you.” I looked at my mother who lowered her eyes.
I wished I could tell her, “How for your honor, I had to submit in ignominy; a sinful relation.”
She affectionately, I do not know whether it was fake or real, came to me and put her hands around my shoulders said, “That is nice for both of you. I wish you a happy and married life.”
I removed her hand politely, “And mom I wish you also same.”
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Arvind, this is a good story about cultural obligations to the family and to the family honor. It was very insightful for anyone not aware of the nuances of an Indian marriage ceremony. A bit of clarity on some of the sentences gramatically and it was perfect.
Thanks, I will be careful on grammar.