Meera sat in her pallid, square room with bright yellow walls, Italian furniture and imported furnishings.
What more could she have asked for? Life had been her worst nightmares come true, as she had been installed in this well furnished apartment, as one of the other mahogany study tables or teak-glass showcases or the artifacts that decorated the entire room giving it the finish of a rich and elite bed room. Meera, however, was fascinated by none of the above mentioned‘material’ things.
She sat on a meek wooden chair at her wooden study, thinking about her life that was no less wooden as the furniture around her – wooden, listless and dead; of course not literally but then what is more pathetic than a living, breathing body with a dead soul inside.
In one hand she held her mobile phone, a brand new iPhone, and her other hand-held a bottle of sleeping pills. Her grip on the small bottle was way too fierce with her fingers reddening around their turnings and her broken, bruised nails of a pale white colour, other than the usual pink. She had bite marks on her neck, severe bite marks, not the ones given in the passionate yearning of love, but the ones forced upon her in a passionate rage of violation. Her arms bore deep red finger marks, turning blue as the blood clotted inside her, simultaneously clotting the thoughts in her mind, hindering her thinking process. There were other marks on her body as well, but now she had learnt not to care about them. She had conformed to the habit of not caring about the wounds that did not show; it was these surface wounds that she had learnt to conceal. Of course, concealers were not much trouble for she had stocked bottles of them on her dressing table.
Meera was subtly dressed for a Friday afternoon, the calendar showed May but who cared, each day was the same as before, there was nothing left to look forward to, except dread, except humiliation and except an anticipating, all engulfing trap. A trap which had been laid down for Meera, not by some contriving enemy, but by society, the very society she was born into. It was this prison that had trapped Meera, the day she was sold off in a nuptial bond to a middle-aged man of thirty-five, while she was twenty-eight. This man was Rajat, her husband to be. Correction: Her master to be. Of course Rajat was the perfect match or rather he had been purposefully projected as the perfect match because he had a degree of MBA from some college in the States and an international job which paid him in dollars, enough to run four middle class families, but here were just four people – Meera, Rajat and his non-existent parents. The injuries that Meera bore on her skin, that were embedded deep within her, were oblivious to the eyes of her new parents, levied on to her due to her slave bond with Rajat. Their eyes were blinded by a number of factors – Money, most importantly, and then their love for their overgrown-man child-son, and of course the overarching concern of the society; ‘What will they say?’, without ever defining who were these they who stuck their noses into other people’s lives. Meera’s biological parents had ceased to exist after her marriage to Rajat, and were unaware of what they had subjected their daughter to. They boy had truckloads of money and that had been basis enough to speak for his character, which of course had to be good, after all he earned so much.
Meera’s fault was that she had been silent on the issue of her marriage may be more when after that. Such a thing was hardly to be expected out of a writer. Yes, Meera was a writer but for now she had ceased to be one because her ‘modern’, rich, elite husband thought that writer wives were far too progressive and hence not good homemakers, in short, unlikely to take to be servile.
The fact that Meera was a PhD holder and had wanted to become a lecturer was again tossed away as a joke; “What was the need for her to work when her husband earned so much?” they said and they envied her for all the pomp and class that she had acquired after marrying Rajat.
“How lucky”, they would say for Rajat had enough to let Meera spend lavishly on herself everyday.
They don’t realize that when someone jeopardizes your very conscience, it becomes hard for you to lead a normal happy life, more so love yourself. These thoughts kept running in and out of Meera’s mind, speculating whether to give up or give in. For the past two hours, her life had been projected in front of her, and numerous scenes had struck her memory, as it should in case of a normal human being but she was confused over what her mother in law had said to her after she had confided in her, expressing her predicament. Meera had found it very absurd to hear her hollow laughter as she looked at her daughter in law with empty eyes.
“Meera, that is why girls must be married at young ages. Women at your age tend to over think everything. Don’t look at me like that, you know it happens in every marriage and I’m sure you’ll get used to it. I mean everybody learns it the same way”, she said to her as she nibbled away a biscuit along with tea, served in gold-rimmed tea cups, in the evenings.
Nevertheless Meera had not failed to notice that momentary flicker of terror in the eyes of her mother in law who quickly shoved it under her hollow laughter. Did she suffer the same thing, Meera pondered, but then why did she hide it, why did she suffer for all these years, how did her conscience let her?
Of course Meera knew the answer, she also knew that this woman’s reaction had not been instinctive but a framed reply that maybe she had received from her society. The question that ran through Meera’s mind was about how could Meera conform? Though she had been doing that for the past three months, struggling against herself to find love in this forced, one-sided, husband centric marriage where Meera’s essential role ended after a struggle of fifty-six seconds on the bed. Yes, Meera had counted each moment of those fifty-six seconds, moments where each thrust had left a scathing mark on her memory, on her conscience. Each day, each morning she had felt an utter disgust at herself; she had refused to look at her body in the mirror because that reminded her of the previous night’s filth; she had scrubbed herself to scratches while bathing, to rid herself of the scum that her husband proudly deposited over her, to wash away the touch of his horrid hands and his scent that she absolutely abhorred with each passing day of their marriage.
Initially Meera had tried talking to him about it, she couldn’t believe that a well-educated man could behave in such a way.
“Don’t you think you’re rushing things too much?”, she asked him, trying to conceal the hurt in her voice,one evening while he was at home making a drink for himself.
He shot a scathing glance at her, looking straight into her eyes, “Who told you to think so much?” he snapped.
Meera was taken aback, “Sorry?” blurt out of her as she looked at him and wondered how much his demeanor had changed drastically in a week’s time, after their marriage.
“Yes, you should be sorry”, he continued, sin and lechery dripping from his face.
Rajat believed he wasn’t at fault but he had to make her realize how wrong she was in daring to question him, “You know this is the problem with writer wives, they look for matter to speculate upon, they live in a fantasy world of their own and believe that the world runs on their ideas,” he rattled along endlessly, one drink over, another in preparation, “Do you want me to bring home a hooker till the time you’re mentally ready to accept the law of nature?”.
Meera was sick with disgust for this man whom she had to call her husband. She even thought about conforming to his ideals, wondering if that would make her get used to it over time and maybe even he would loosen the grip a little.
But Meera could not, she just could not and that is why she sat in her room her eyes gushing with tears, baggage of three months of humiliation and violation on her head as she contemplated suicide to end the conflict within her. She thought of the time when she was unmarried and working on her first book, she remembered how strong-willed and optimistic she had been as an individual but, more importantly she realised what strength she had acquired through her writings. She was uncertain about what she wanted in the future but what was certain was what she didn’t want in her future; she did not want that palpitating fear in her heart each time her husband entered their bedroom; she did not want to experience more filth and humiliation in the name of ‘intense’ love making, he had already scarred her for life, in those dark nights; she did not want a man like Rajat in her life, a man who had killed her pet gold-fish last night and had left it to wither away gasping for air and suffocating to death, all this in his beastly urge to ravage Meera on bed. It was that dead gold-fish that had given Meera the courage to end this filth and eliminate Rajat from her life. She opted for two ways out of it – Death or Divorce. Death seemed easier.
‘No’, her mind interjected, ‘I need strength’ she thought.
Involuntarily she kept the sleeping pills and mobile phone aside, took out a blank sheet of paper, clasping a pen in one hand she began to write, “All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am..“, her pen had stopped. She gave a deep sigh of relief, ‘That was strength enough’ she thought. She was reminded of a book she had once read, “How Blue is my Sapphire?”, she knew hers was as ‘Red as Blood’. She snatched that paper, took her purse and mobile phone and walked out of the apartment, her Prison Garden. Next stop: Police Station. She knew she was right because her heart confirmed it.
The above story was written for a writing competition issued by TOI Books, in response to the prompt given by author Anita Nair. The words in bold and italic are the prompt that was supposed to be used anywhere in the story.