The Ritual (A Short Story)


It was at one of the five star hotels, Marriott I think, the fancy one in Juhu. Thank heavens it wasn’t at his home.

The room was cavernous and daunting with creepy shadows all over created by the hidden lighting everyone is so crazy about nowadays. I was led there by two of my new husband’s giggly cousins. I’d have loved to smack their pretty faces but that’d have invited a ruckus. Besides, I was preoccupied. I was terrified. Terrified of doing it with someone I didn’t know anything about. What little I did could be googled on the web. But then was my lot different from other women. Examples were all around me–my mom, aunts, cousins, friends.

Maybe it was because everything had happened so fast; because I had no clue of the future; because the ghost of Rohan still clung to me like my own shadow. Because. Because. Because.

The elaborately made up bed; the cloying scent of the jasmine; the dudh on the nightstand—they sent me into a state of panic. I felt sick. We Indians talk so much about sanskars and morality and then a single ritual authorizes sex between perfect strangers. Madness!

I was desperate to make a run for it. But my Indianness held me back. The scenes from the aftermath played in my mind. People searching all over for me. The terrible shame. I didn’t really care. But my parents would. Besides where would I go? No lover was waiting for me with open arms.

It was depressing but not worth dwelling on. I was, am a practical woman. I spied my overnight bag standing discreetly in a corner. Someone had been thoughtful. I yanked at my jewelry, not caring when it caught on the fabric of my neon pink brocade saree. I quickly changed into the new red silk nightie I had bought on an impulse a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know what had prompted me to do so. It seemed so silly now. Anyhow, the fine fabric felt cool on my skin. I took the left side of the bed as it was closest to the window. That would give me something to stare at while… I couldn’t bring myself to think about it.

I lay down and almost immediately was seized by a violent shiver. I tugged the cotton sheet loose and wrapped it snugly around myself and tucked it under my feet. Then I pulled the subtly perfumed heavy patchwork quilt on top. Maybe it was the weight or the warmth but it helped me calm down.

I was almost about to drift off when I heard the door click open behind me followed by the creaking of new leather sandals. The  muffled sound of running water in the bathroom was almost drowned by the pulse banging in my head. I held my breath, waiting, hoping for a miracle. They say if you wish really hard for something you can make it happen. But no.

The bed sank under his weight. He slipped his arm around me. It was icy cold. I wrapped mine tight across my chest as he spooned my length with his body and nuzzled into my neck.

I squeezed my legs together and closed my eyes.

His breath was extra minty. He was trying too hard. “Are you asleep?”


His thing rubbed into my backside. I had felt it before. In the local bus, as a schoolgirl; as a teenager and a young adult, victimized by the random sexual predator. The memories came back in a rush. I wanted to throw up. Instead I tried to squeeze myself tighter and sink inside. He tugged at my shoulder and tried to roll me over. I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Please Suraj!  I don’t think I’m ready yet.”

It’s fair to say he didn’t force himself on me. For that I was grateful.


PS: Like it? Read part 2 of this story in my new book Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree. Buy Links here. 

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