Ayesha Dwivedi sat before the mirror, observing and appreciating her beautiful face adorned by the alluring make-up and gorgeous gold jewellery. The gold jewellery accentuated her beauty by multiplying it a thousand times. She smiled at her reflection in the mirror. Her smile was deep, and it was a risk to gape at her smile for a long time since you could fall for her, or perhaps read what was hidden behind it. The henna on her palms, arms, legs and the lower legs was getting darker with time, and for an Indian bride, it was a good omen, but she did not seem to be too happy about it.
Just then, her window pane smashed just in front of her as someone crashed into her room through the window. She almost fell off her chair, as she had not expected anything even close to this to happen. How could someone enter her room, that too, through the window on her wedding day? Weren’t there enough people around? Or were they too busy with the preparations to not see two masked men dressed in black climbing the pipes which led to her room?
She quickly gathered herself and looked at her unwanted visitors. Two masked men, with only their eyes, nose and lips left open. One of them had blue eyes, but she hardly had the time or intent to notice their eyes at the moment. She was so scared that her knees were shaking and she was shivering. She considered screaming out loud but she was too late to put her thoughts into action. By the time she tried screaming, one of the masked man had already placed a gloved hand over her mouth, leaving her gasping for breath, let alone scream.
Her mother had been worried when she did not open the door even after continuous knocking. She feared because Ayesha had not even been responding. Her elder sister tried calling her too, but she did not receive the calls. Maybe she’s in the loo, they thought. Only twenty minutes later did she opened the door, sobbing slowly. She was breathing heavily and inching towards them, dragging her beautiful red benarasi saree which was now completely off her petite figure, her blouse torn at places. There were marks, dark and brutal, all over her body, evident of the struggle she had gone through. As she cried softly, everyone present at the wedding function looked at her in horror. The groom had already arrived a couple of minutes ago and he seemed stunned by her appearance. She continued to cry as her parents ran up to her, horror-struck to see her in such a condition. There were loud whispers already amongst the crowd and questions were raised.
She had been raped by two masked men dressed in black.
“See, I told you,” said one of the guests to another.
Shrujan, her best friend, did not like people talking about her, because it was raising questions on her dignity and purity. Most of the guests behaved like she was not the victim but the accused, and considered her a black spot embellished on her father’s face. The mind-set of the people and the way they see rape has to be changed, Shrujan thought. As he was thinking of speaking for her, the groom stood up from his seat, and said out loud that he would not want to marry her.
As if the rape of their daughter was not enough, the groom’s refusal to marry was another blow to the mother and father. People began to blather, passing comments on the bride as well as the groom.
“Even if it were my son, I would not have let him marry her. Who would want her son to suffer with a rape victim?” A woman with a staunch belly whispered into her friend’s ear.
Ayesha’s father overheard it, but did not say a word; after all, he too belonged to a community which looked at rape victims in contempt. Just that he now understood that in India, the rape victims are treated as rape accused and are considered to be a disgrace to the family. He wanted to say something, but then, he was shut by the groom’s father who said that the wedding will not happen and began to leave with the entire set of relatives. The groom surely was not worth it, and it was for good that it all happened before she got married to this moron who blamed her, instead of standing by her side when she needed him the most.
Her parents, especially her father persuaded them to stop, and tried all means to make them thing again, but to no avail. Standing amidst the crowd, Shrujan quietly witnessed whatever was being said and done.
There is a limit, he told himself and walked towards her family.
“Let them go, uncle. Everything happens for a reason, and maybe, this did too. You now know how this coward would treat your daughter who has been a princess for you. Do you still want to give her away to a loser like him?” Shrujan asked, furious at the behaviour of the groom and his family.
“See Shrujan, we are making efforts to set things right. Please don’t interfere and ruin everything.” Her father told Shrujan.
“Seriously Uncle? You still wish to set things right, with people who don’t even care about your daughter?” Shrujan looked into his eyes.
The groom’s family was already rushing through the door, in a group, all together. Her father began to plead and beg, and Ayesha couldn’t see her father going through such humiliation, just to get her married to someone who was leaving her for no mistake of hers. She screamed, “Let them go, dad. He does not deserve me.”
All the eyes turned towards her. She continued, “I am happy because I wouldn’t be spending the rest of my life with a person who could not stand for me when I needed him.”
Her father looked at her, and he realized that Shrujan was right. Shrujan wondered why the crowd still hadn’t dispersed, but then, that’s what people love doing; listen to the gossips, witness things like these and spread the rumours.
When her father and Shrujan tried persuading her to file a complaint, she hesitated, and denied. Even on consistent demands, she did not wish to file a complaint. Probably, she just wasn’t ready to be harassed by the police and the doctors in the name of investigation and check-up.
The crowd had left, and the only person other than her parents, elder sister and her brother-in-law in the house was Shrujan. Her parents did not mind because he was not like the others who were interested in gossiping, but was there for her, for real. In the kitchen, as her mother prepared coffee for them, Shrujan overheard her dad telling her about how worried he was about Ayesha, and how he believed no one would marry her.
Ayesha was in the drawing room, being consoled by her elder sister. Shrujan entered the kitchen without thinking twice.
“Uncle, you should not be worrying about her or her marriage. I assure you that she would be totally fine. It may take a little time, but she would be fine. About marriage, there would be a better person than the one she was getting married to, who would love her the way she is, and who would marry her not as a martyr but because of his love for her.” Shrujan butted in.
Although her father did not like Shrujan much, he had now begun to like him.
“Are you referring to yourself?” Mr. Dwivedi asked him.
“Uh, no, uncle. I mean, there might be someone out there, and I am sure there is.” He replied, stammering.
“Why do you stammer?” Mr. Dwivedi awaited his answer.
“Uh, no, nothing.” He said.
“Do you love her?” Mr. Dwivedi asked, concerned about her daughter.
“Yes, uh, no, I mean, yes, but no.” He just could not speak.
“You aren’t sure of your feelings? Would you marry her?” He asked, his voice, much softer, and less scary.
“I love her like I haven’t loved anyone, and I would do anything to marry her.” He replied, confidently.
“That was an answer I was awaiting.” Her father smiled, for the first time after that entire incident.
“Sir, but aren’t her feelings important too? Would you not ask her before me?” He asked her father.
“Of course, they are. But I have always known what she feels for you. She preferred you over her fiancé. Even Archana told me about what she feels about you. It was me, who was against your alliance, but I hate to say that I stand corrected. Forgive me son” Her father sighed, sadly.
A month later, Ayesha and Shrujan tied the knot at the family court with their parents’ blessings. Her parents realized how everything happens for a reason, and how amazing a person Shrujan was.
It was their first night. As they slept next to each other, looking at the flowers hanging from the four poster bed, they began to laugh.
“It worked, you idiot.” She said.
“It had to. After all, I was the mastermind behind it.” He raised his eyebrows.
“Yeah right, I wish you left lesser marks on my body, loser.” She punched him, pointing at some of the marks from that incident which still hadn’t faded away.
“It had to look real, silly. Or else, we could have got into trouble.” He said, making some sense.
“Whatever it is, I am glad we are together now.” She smiled.
“Me too,” he said, and hugged her tight.
Slowly, they fell in each other’s embrace and the night took over.
Shrujan and Ayesha had been dating each other since past six years. But since her father was too keen on getting her married to a person from their own community, her repeated requests were turned down by her mom, and she had to oblige the rules made for her, and marry the guy they had selected for her.
However, they changed their destiny
Shrujan and Aman, his best friend had crashed into her room through her window on the wedding night. No sooner did Shrujan pulled open his mask, Ayesha had ran and embraced him. He opened the bathroom, and pushed Aman inside.
“Have fun, guys.” Aman gave a naughty smile.
After locking Aman inside the bathroom, they made love to each other, for the first time, wildly and passionately. It meant to look like a forced affair, rather than consensual. It was, after-all, pre-planned.
As they say, everything is fair in love and war.