A blood curdling shriek good enough to put the best horror movie to shame echoed from somewhere within the Sharma residence. Ahaan’s mother exchanged a perturbed glance with her sister-in-law whose pencil thin eyebrows vanished inside her elaborately coiffed hairdo. Her crimson lips cranked open but were forced shut by yet another ear-splitting rendition.
Meanwhile inside the said room, a broad palm clamped down hard over the source of the cacophony; “it’s me Mili! Please don’t make a habit of this. Shut up if you care in the least for your husband’s reputation!”
Her limbs temporarily abandoned their ineffectual struggle. Mili opened her eyes and stared in wonderment at the face of her handsome captor. For captor he was. One who had ensnared her into a well-designed trap just so he could exact his revenge. And in its execution he had procured the wholehearted assistance of her parents who had without a doubt fallen victim to his inordinate charm. Any fool could have seen it coming, except her of course. It all reeked of a perfect plan, from the casual proposal to the innocent courtship to today, when, dragged from her warm bed in the wee hours of the morning, she had been dumped unceremoniously into a lukewarm bath after being smothered with oodles of turmeric and sandalwood paste. Then, following hours of painstaking adornment, she had been deposited on the mandap where he was already waiting, regal in classic beige, in perfect contrast to her own red and gold attire. His eyes after widening ever so slightly at the sight of her face, had become all somber and businesslike and his manner ever so suave about it all. Then, he had guided her through all the rituals as her own mind had gone utterly blank. She saw him paying keen attention to every word of the priest. He even translated the vows spoken in Sanskrit for her benefit. And though she could see the tell-tale signs of sorrow in her father’s eyes when he gave her away during the kanyadan by placing her hand in Ahaan’s, she was incapable of erasing them. Finally, in culmination, when Ahaan anointed her with the symbols of his ownership by placing the sindoor in the parting of her hair and knotting the mangalsutra around her neck followed by them circling the sacred flames while swearing by the saat pheras, she thought she spied the smug smile of victory on his face. But she had been too exhausted to care, barely blinking even during the bidai though her mother and sister made up adequately by crying buckets.
Later she fell asleep the instant she was left alone in her room and her head touched the pillow on the conjugal bed. And she remained so until now when he, her husband, had roused her rudely back to reality–she was his prisoner and handmaiden.
Her anxiety riddled fingers and toes struggled but failed to find any support on the rose petal strewn sheets. Terrified, she wondered what mischief lay behind that devilish grin as he pinned her back to the bed. She wished direly that she could keep her limbs from trembling.
“Whaat…” She finally managed to croak out, “What did you do to me?”
His smile grew broader; “darling, I’m so sorry to wake you up. But I couldn’t resist the temptation presented by your exquisite back. Won’t you reveal the rest of your beauty to me? I don’t mind doing the honors.” He drawled with confidence then drew closer paralyzing her with his eyes; enamored and beguiled like a hunted prey, while his fingers worked to loosen the ties on her skirt.
A loud knock on the door broke the spell and drew a loud curse from his mouth. Grabbing the opportunity she pushed him away and stumbled out of bed but he beat her to the door. It was Mrs. Sharma, her mother-in-law.
“Is bahu all right, Ahaan?” She asked surveying Mili with concern.
“Yes, absolutely ma.” He smiled turning his head slightly in her direction, “It was just a bad nightmare. She’s fine, now that I’m here. Aren’t you love?”
Mili gave a cursory nod before turning away. Her cheeks burned with abashment. How dare he address her with such intimacy in front of his mother?
She waited for him to close the door. “How can you behave like this with me, particularly on our wedding night?”
He frowned as if in genuine puzzlement. “Wedding night? What’s so special about a wedding night? It’s like any other night. Or isn’t it?”
Mili rushed to the window and leaned heavily against it, assailed by a strange sensation of dizziness all of a sudden. She opened her mouth and took several large gulps of the mellow night air. But it offered little respite as his hands wrapped around her fingers and his breath tickled her exposed neck. And when she turned around she found herself completely hedged in.
“Tell me Mili, isn’t it?” the contours of his face appeared uncanny in the moonlight.
A pulse banged painfully against her throat, “I…I don’t know,” she blurted. “Just do what you have to do and get it over with.” The reason for her anxiety came tumbling out.
He gave her a blank stare before dissolving into a hearty laugh, “and what is this that I have to do Mili?”
She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling. “I…Whatever you men do on Suhaag raat.”
His amused expression underwent a sudden transformation, “You talk as though it is some kind of compulsion.” He said softly.
“It is …isn’t it?”
“It doesn’t have to be. Whatever it is, requires equal and whole hearted participation from both participants. And I’m willing to wait for you sweetheart.”
She began to shudder violently as a now familiar craving gripped her insides— “…I’m so tired!” she cried in vexation.
“But of course. It’s been a long day and I bet you haven’t had anything to eat.” He said misunderstanding her as usual. Then abruptly he hoisted her in his arms and transported her to the bed where he lay her down gently before turning away.
She sat up, suddenly fearful that he was going to leave her, “Where are you going?”
She tracked him with her eyes to the other side of the bed. He came back with the glass of almond flavored milk that she’d all but forgotten about. “Here, I think you need this more than me.”
She gulped it down while he sat on the side of the bed and watched patiently. She had begun to feel extremely guilty and nauseated at the same time. It probably showed on her face.
“Nervous? I’m not going to eat you Mili.”
“No,” she shook her head and grimaced.
“My head, it hurts.” She moaned and it wasn’t a lie.
Ahaan grinned. “I know why. Let’s take these off.”
Then with a gentleness that surprised her, he unpinned her veil and slowly removed all the ornaments that bedecked her hair. He also unclasped her several necklaces, slid off her bangles, rings and heavy bracelets and unhooked her gem-studded waistband—all part of the solah sringar or sixteen bridal adornments that her mother and sister had carefully arrayed her with that very day. “Anyway as you know quite well, I prefer my Mili without anything at all.”
She gazed dewy eyed at her husband. Her reservations had evaporated into thin air. All she wished to now was to surrender blissfully in his arms.
But he had other intentions in mind. “Lie down.” He instructed softly.
“Mili, please listen to me just this once.” He said and pushed her down on to the mattress with gentle yet firm pressure. He then asked her to flip over. She obeyed though somewhat bemused. Then she was startled by the feel of his hands on her bare skin but soon relaxed as they slowly massaged the length of her back easing the tension in her muscles. Nothing had ever felt this good. In no time she was fast asleep.
PS: Liked it? There’s more to this story. You can read it in my novella ‘Milan (A Wedding Story)’ available at these links. Happy reading!