People kept coming in. The whole of our corridor was covered with footwear of different kind. People who I have never seen, People who I don’t remember. I recognized a few faces that I saw in my marriage album. All of them looked at with me sympathetic eyes. The few faces I knew and loved were tear- streaked and sad. The one face I’ve come to love in the 5 months duration of my marriage was calm… Silent
I kept staring at his face, willing him to wake up. It’s my routine. He used to have his eye mask on, and I go near him and stand silently pleading him to wake up, he would remain the same way, a smile being the only difference. He would then grab me by waist, pull me on top of him, smell my hair with an appreciative grunt and plunder my lips with a slow, long kiss. Why was it not happening now? Why is he wearing a white bandage to cover his eyes instead of his navy blue eye mask?
He was covered in white all around. I don’t know how he could stand that now. He hated white. Why is he not shouting about the white piece of cloth that’s wrapped around him now? I kept looking at him, asking him to explain, asking him the questions that were raging in my mind.
“Shiva ! Why the hell are you not responding?”
“Shiva ! Why are not shouting about your white colour bed sheet?”
“Shiva ! Why the hell are these people around crying and bawling like lunatics?”
“Shiva ! Why on earth is your mother gripping my shoulders and shaking me hard?”
“Shiva ! Why are you sleeping inside a freezer box?”
“Shiva ! Why are you covered with flowers?”
“Shiva ! Why did you leave the house when I was having a bath?”
“Shiva ! Why the fucking bloody hell did you leave behind your helmet?”
He did not answer any one of the damn questions I asked him. The older men of the family nudged the ladies and they started staring at me. My mother and my mom-in-low took me inside our bedroom. I was trying to ask them what was happening, but the words refused to come. They asked me to undress twice and proceeded to do it themselves.
They took out my wedding saree reminding me of the first time I draped it around me. That was the first time Shiva gave me that look. That look of pride, followed by pure male admiration. I was draped in this very saree when we made love for the first time after one month of marriage. Maybe they want me to wear it to see if he wakes up from his unnaturally long sleep.
They combed my hair and pinned a long garland made of jasmine flowers. I took me back to our first night room where sat and spoke till the wee hours, ridiculing the absurd jasmine decorations. He might remember it if he saw this. But the damn bastard didn’t want to open his eyes. They made me wear two dozens of glass bangles. I wore glass bangles every time I was in bed with him. He liked them jingling in rhyme to moans. The soft tingling sound was intimate and beyond erotic. I remember the time I wore only bangles for him. May be he would give me his handsome smirk when he sees the bangle. But the idiot is sleeping there like he was deaf.
They finally reached my Bindhi stand and took out the kum-kum. My mother was crying earnestly as she placed a big round dot on my forehead. I wanted to stop her. It was Shiva’s thing to do. He did it religiously every morning, followed by a kiss to my forehead. The goon was lying down there without arguing with my mother.
They took me back to him and the sound around increased a few decibels. What is the problem with these women? They made me sit in front of him. They took my hands and started smashing my bangles. What the hell were they doing? We’ve made love hundreds of times and we’ve never broken a single bangle. I wanted to withdraw my hands, but my hands felt like lead. They wiped off my kum-kum and removed the flower from my hair. Why are they doing all these in front of my husband? I couldn’t understand. I just wanted them to stop it.
I felt a hand near my neck; the hand was lifting the slender gold chain that adorned my neck. I shouted NO! But the word didn’t come out. I hated Shiva that moment. What kind of a cold-hearted bastard was he, to just lie there in an ice box and see me getting humiliated this way? And there was the final blow. They took Shiva away from me and the rude, arrogant, son-of-a bitch didn’t give me his usual kiss. Didn’t tell me “I’ll miss you at work “. He didn’t tell me that he’ll come back soon. He just left me standing there without any emotion.
I was left bereft, empty.
1 month later:
Life was a routine. Work, work harder, try to eat, try to sleep. Today there was a disturbance in the routine. I threw up. I’ve been feeling funny for the past few weeks and now this. I went around the bathroom noticing my sanitary cupboard. I haven’t touched it for a couple of months now. I opened it with shaking hands, groping around looking for the box Shiva bought me long back. I took the strip and peed.
And I cried.
I cried despising the world; I cried despising my late husband and the cruelty of fate. I sat on the bed and started bawling out loud, making my parents rush in. They were waiting for the day I did it. I stared at the helmet on top of the cupboard, cursing it for not going with him that fateful day. My mother tried to hug me and noticed the two lines in the pregnancy strip with increasing shock and sadness. My father saw it too and shouted no.
“Why are you doing this to yourself Pavithra. This is not the end of your damn life. You have to marry again! And live happily again. It’s killing us to see you like this dear.”He looked at my mom between tears.
” Call our doctor and fix for an abortion. It’ll give her more pain and complicate life more.”
“NO!” I shouted at my father pushing him away from me with all my might.
“Don’t you dare do this to me!”
Don’t you dare!”
1 year later:
It was a huge fight that I won. Here I am sitting and writing this story while my little Roshni dozed off. I named her Roshini like her father wished. The thing happened on the fateful day one and a half years ago changed my life in every way I did not imagine, but for the world it was just another accident like the millions that happen out there.
I look at the forgotten helmet sitting on the cupboard, and it looks back at me with a similar reaction of regret, anger, resignation and peace.
This is dedicated to all those neglected helmets that sit on top of cupboards, waiting to be used, waiting to protect.