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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Arrange Marriage

Part One
“We need milk” she had said. That’s all that she said but still somehow it made me angry. Maybe it was the way she said it. There was a very faint tone of resentment in her voice and it made me angry not because she resented me but because I resented her as well. Her resentment seemed to take credit away from my resentment. I was the one who had resented first. I was the one who had realised that our marriage wasn’t going to work. And I had seen it even before we got married. I knew on that very day when we first met. Well we didn’t really meet each other we just saw each other, and that too under strict supervision of our parents. I took one quick, shy look at her with her bowed head and lowered eyes and the small steps she took carrying the tray of tea cups, and in just that single look I realised that we weren’t meant to be.
Of course when my parents asked me back at home I said yes. I was starting to earn enough now and I had rented a good 2 bedroom flat in the city. At 30 I wasn’t getting any younger either. I knew that this was probably one of the last proposals I would get for marriage from a good family. Once you cross thirty you were out of the market and the only proposals would come from widows or divorcees. I wished I had said yes to the one that had come when I was 26. It was one of the first proposals and the girl was really pretty, but I was too young and earned less and I thought if I increased my value a bit then I would get an even better girl. But that didn’t happen and I had to settle for her.
Now just two years into the marriage I was starting to realise what a big mistake I had made. “We need milk” she had said. Of course I knew we needed milk. Who doesn’t need milk every morning? I got it everyday, didn’t I? I knew she said it just to rattle me up. And the fact that it did, rattled me even more. She could have said it nicely while I was still in the house but she said it hanging from the window as I was walking in the street. As if to show to the world that she controlled me. She always tried to control me. Even on our wedding night she had tried to control me. She said she was tired and turned around and closed her eyes. I sat there on the edge of the cheaply decorated bed, trying to think what to do. Wasn’t a man allowed to have his new wife on the wedding night? Wasn’t it the tradition? She had challenged my manhood. I knew that today if I just let her sleep then she would have won control over me for the rest of our life. I couldn’t allow it. I turned her around and without saying anything kissed her. She said “please” but then stopped and just lay there. As I was undressing her I knew I hated her. She had tears in her eyes while I penetrated and it made me hate her even more. How dare she try to show pain and disgust when I was the one who was hurt and disgusted. I was hurt because she should have understood that it was important for us to sleep together on our wedding night. I was disgusted because she made me do this to her. My hatred grew with every thrust.
That night had decided our future. If she had any sense she might have done the right thing that night but she didn’t, and because of that we resented each other today. As I walked on down the street I couldn’t help but think about her face on that night. Her eyes closed shut, with black watery lines made by tears mixed with mascara, dropping from her eyes to her ears as she lay there, holding her breath as if afraid to inhale my odour. I couldn’t get that face out of my mind, even as I bought the morning newspaper and the two packets of that stupid milk that had rattled me this morning.
I was so mad that I thought about not buying the milk. I would just go back and tell her I forgot, just to let her know that she doesn’t control me. But I realised soon that it would just make her lecture me even more. I couldn’t bear her nagging sharp voice anymore. It was the voice which had been nagging me about everything I did and everything I didn’t, for the last two years. It was the voice which said I could have booked a better hotel in Manali on the first day of our honeymoon. No wonder we spent the days going on tours with other newly wed couples and the nights sleeping with our backs to each other. That’s how we had spent most of our nights in the last two years. I used to let her sleep because she disgusted me but some nights I had to teach her a lesson, I had to ascertain my manhood. On those nights she stayed still with her eyes closed and her body stiff. Oh how much I hated her. I made two decisions standing right there outside the milk shop. One; I was going to buy milk and two; I was going to kill her.
 Part Two
The desire to kill her had been hiding somewhere deep in my heart for a long time but it wasn’t apparent to me till I actually decided to do it, and in that moment it became obvious to me that I had always wanted to do this. I tried to think about the moral righteousness of it all and even though I couldn’t find a reason to justify it except that it just made sense to me. This was how it was supposed to happen. We had met so that someday I could kill her and end her misery on earth. It was destiny. Her life had been full of misery all along, just being born in India as a girl means that her life was doomed to be full of misery. I was sent to free her of this misery. I could see it now. It made sense and it made me feel peaceful for the first time since our marriage.
Over the days I thought of ways to kill her and not get caught. It is pretty easy in India, especially if you are going to kill a family member. You can just make it look like a suicide and mourn like you mean it in front of the police and they won’t ask a question. If I knew it correctly I don’t think they would even investigate unless someone files a case. I knew my in laws would never suspect me. We had put up an image of a happy couple for the benefit of the world and that would help me get away easily.
I was thinking of ways to kill her when she came in with a cup of tea for me. As she bent down to put the cup on the table her dupatta slid over her shoulder and I had a moment where I felt like this would be the best moment to do it. I could just grab her dupatta and choke her right here. She would struggle a bit and then it would all be over. I could hang her to the ceiling fan afterwards and then scream and shout to attract the neighbours so they could start telling the story of her suicide. I grabbed the end of her dupatta and got ready for the moment but then backed down. She started going back but her dupatta was still in my hand. She turned around and looked at me quizzically. I froze and had nothing to say. “What?” she said with a tone of mischievous laughter hidden under false anger. “Nothing” I said as I let her dupatta go and picked up the newspaper. As she left I think I saw her smile a little. She might have taken all this to mean that I was flirting with her and when something like this happened I usually got mad but this time it was different. I felt sorry for her coz she had no idea that I could have killed her at that very moment.
More days passed as it became my favourite pastime to dream up ways of killing my wife. These thoughts not only made me happy but also made her more bearable. Her annoying high pitched voice didn’t feel annoying anymore when I imagined her screaming for help with that voice. Sometimes she would be in the middle of one of her nagging sessions and I would drift off into my private dream world, imagining slitting her throat, her warm blood oozing out on to my hands. “God knows what’s gotten into you.” She would say realising that I wasn’t even listening to her and just shake her head and walk away. On times like these I saw a faint smile on her face. Maybe I was imagining it but it made her look beautiful to me for the first time since our marriage. She was like a defenceless dear or a rabbit with innocent eyes and it made me feel powerful. I could have killed her at anytime I wanted to. I could have, but I didn’t. Months had passed since I had decided for the first time to kill her but since then I had gotten used to her. Her nagging didn’t bother me and her anger seemed adorable. I started to like her. I thought that there was hope for our marriage after all. All I had needed was to look at her differently.
But as soon as I realised that I had started liking my wife some of the anger came back. I could see that she had sensed that my feelings for her had changed and she was trying to make it work in her own way. But this made me angrier. I started to stay away from her and hardly talked to her anymore. With time though I realised that this anger was not towards her but instead towards my parents and her parents and maybe even at the society for making us marry each other. I hated this tradition of arrange marriage. I realised that what’s done is done and decided to make the most of the situation anyways. I applied for a week’s vacation at the office and booked two train tickets to Goa. I thought that a holiday was what we needed; to talk about stuff and get to know one another once again. When I got home I wanted to tell her immediately but then I decided to surprise her instead. She had made all my favourite dishes that night for dinner. We sat together and had dinner and for the first time I turned the television off. “Why did you turn it off?” she asked. I wanted to say that I wanted to talk to her but instead I just made a little excuse about a headache. I guess something this emotional would need a lot of time and courage to get said out aloud. That’s why this holiday in Goa was perfect. As we slept that night after months for the first time I didn’t turn my back to her. As she got into bed I had started feeling a little drowsy. I tried to keep my eyes open and watch her fall asleep but it was too hard. Just before I fell asleep she turned around and I saw her face. She was looking straight at me and I think I smiled. And then I fell asleep. 
Part Three
“We need milk” I shouted out the window. He always forgot and then blamed me for not reminding him. We had been married for almost two year now. And I couldn’t take it anymore. About a month ago I decided to kill my husband. That was the only way out for me. It is easier to live as a widow than a divorcee. Although I had made up my mind long ago but I couldn’t find the courage to do it. Meanwhile he started behaving strangely. When I got angry he would just stare at me. One day while I brought him his tea he just grabbed my dupatta and won’t let go. He was acting like a child and I could see he was falling in love with me. That made it hard for me to do it and I even started hoping for a miracle. I started hoping that maybe there was still a chance for our marriage to work. But that hope was also crushed after only a few days when he became rude again. It was just a phase and I realised he could never change and I could never be happy with him. I had only one choice. The day I decided to do it I cooked all of his favourite dishes. That was the least I could do for his last meal. My heart was beating very loudly as we sat for dinner and on top of that he turned the television off. I was afraid he might hear my heart beating that loud and realise something was wrong. As he ate I kept waiting for him to taste the poison in the food but he didn’t. He went to bed and I felt a whole mixture of emotions. I was scared and nervous and excited and happy and sad at the same time. A million questions raced through my mind. What if he didn’t die? What if someone found out? What if I got caught? I got into bed and he chose this of all nights to face towards me. I couldn’t look at him so I kept my back to him. I tried to hear his breathing. It was getting slower and weaker. After what seemed like hours to me I turned around to look at him. I was shocked to see that he was still awake. He looked straight at me and smiled for a while and then slowly closed his eyes for the last time.

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