The streak of horror refused to leave my face, even after I splashed it with cold water. I wanted to comb the loose strands of hair that fell over my swollen eyes, but I didn’t carry a hair brush. My eyes were filled with wrath. An ocean wouldn’t be enough to extinguish it. I was hurt in every possible way a human can be. My throat was sore from all the screaming. My heart was numb. There was an agonising pain all over; the kind of pain that I couldn’t pin point to any doctor. My fairytale prince had turned out to be a demon.
I pulled out the fine jewellery that hung from my ears and neck. The sight of the blue sapphire engagement ring on my ring finger made me throw up. “Damn! Damn!, why did you have to be so stubby,” I cursed my slender long finger. The ring was stuck. My body was feeble, I couldn’t gather more strength to remove the sapphire. I stopped trying.
My tan hand bag lay open on the washroom counter of the hotel suite. I scurried through it for a sharp object. The dim lit washroom made it difficult to search through the items in it. I didn’t carry a blade, but a crochet hook would do the job. I would have to thrust the hook deep within my flesh. It would take a couple of sharp jabs, before I would see darkness forever. I slumped on the edge of the white bath tub, with my eyes shut tight. I wanted to prepare myself for death. I had heard elders say that people would see their childhood memories before they died, but images of the events that followed after Ravi’s phone call this afternoon flashed infront of me.
Ravi had put forth his last bachelor wish. He expressed his strong desire to meet me in the evening. “Come on Chitra, my Jaan, didn’t anyone tell you that it’s your duty to fulfil your to-be-husbands wishes,” he said in his usual flamboyant style. “Yes..errr…No,” I had said. He made me so nervous. The elders had drilled it into my head that it was inauspicious to see each other before the wedding. “Can’t you wait for one more day?” I asked. “Not even a minute.” he replied. “I am sending Manav, my cousin, he’ll bring you to me,”
“But…but…” He hung up. Ravi would never take a no for an answer. It was a tough job to leave a house full of relatives. The house was no less than a fortess. I had climbed down from the broken, rusted spiral staircase from behind the house.
“Where are we going?” I asked Manav.
“Ravi has booked the hotel suite room for two nights,” he said. His voice was grime.
“Manav, I will be skinned if my family gets to know about this.”
“Chitra, I am not sure if I am doing the right thing by taking you to him today, but for a person who wants his peace its best to do what Ravi orders.”
“I’d rather be with Mithoo today,” I said aloud. I was shocked with myself as I wasn’t used to speaking my thoughts aloud. “You have a pet?” he asked
“Yes, it’s a talking parakeet, been there with me for over twelve years now, he is old, so I had to leave him at the animal hospital,” I said. My eyes filled with tears. I missed Mithoo.
I had learnt to contain myself. An orphan child, especially a girl child, got to see the real world much earlier and closer than the lucky ones who had their mummas and papas. No one wanted to know anything about me through all my growing years. People showed interest only when I was ready to invest in them. Emotional investments didn’t count. It didn’t take me long to realise that my so called family of aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces spoke well with me only a couple of days before and after my salary day. The rest of the days they would dissect every word I’d say, every dress I’d wear and every morsel that I would cook. It’s only after Ravi’s marriage proposal things changed for the better. They called it “The Million Dollar” proposal.
No matter how things changed, my past had taught me valuable lessons of life. 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’s who I am. Despite the challenges I had faced, I had dared to dream of a better future.
Manav studied my sullen face. “You better take care of yourself, Ravi and his friends have been drinking all afternoon,” he warned.
“Alcohol?” I asked. My eyes widened.
“No water, “ he laughed. “I am sorry if I sound foolish, but Ravi had told me that he had never touched alcohol.”
“Really?” he gaped, “Then it must be the alcohol that comes running to him,”he said. There was anger in his voice.
We were engaged for six months, and I thought I knew him fairly well by now, but now I felt like I didn’t know him at all.
“Ravi is a charmer, he could charm a dead woman!” Manav remarked as he swivelled the car in the hotel porch.
“I shall wait here for you, Chitra,” Manav said. He bent his head low enough to see my face. He was genuinely concerned about my well-being.
“Thanks,” I replied. The well-built security guard opened the glass door for me. I walked slowly in to the foyer of the hotel. It was majestic. The sight of a beautiful floral arrangement underneath a large chandelier made me forget my purpose of being there.
“Ah! There you are, my Jaan!” Ravi said as he walked with his arms open towards me. He looked handsome in his red checkered shirt. His hair were gelled and he wore an expesive watch on his right wrist. He had a great collection of watches as opposed to the only one black leather watch that I owned.
“ We weren’t suppose to meet today, why don’t you understand?” I asked.
He turned himself to face me, here was love and need in his eyes. I lowered my eyes with shame. He looked at me as if he was ready to eat me up. “You are mine now, to-be- Mrs Kapoor,” he whispered. I could smell the alcohol. He had mint in his mouth, but the stench of liquor pissed me off. I turned around to leave, but he caught my hand. “I need you,” he begged. He went down on his knee, “How can you refuse a bachelor’s last wish?” he said aloud.
The next thing I knew was that I was squashed between the suite room’s wall and Ravi. He kissed me with passion. The kisses slowly turned to bites. I screamed in pain as his teeth gnawed into my skin. He bit me here and there, all over. His hands hovered around the edge of my kurta, but I stopped his hands from reaching there again and again. He was annoyed and hit my hand hard. I screamed again. Just then my phone rang. I tried hard to push Ravi off me, but he was heavy. I found it difficult to breathe. The moment I could catch my breath I shouted “Ravi stop, My phone is ringing.” He moved a bit. I stooped and elongated my hand to reach for my phone from the study desk. My limbs shivered, my fingers trembled as I answered the call. It was the vet.
“Yes Doctor Saheb,” I answered.
“I have some sad news for you,” he said with a heavy voice, “I am sorry Chitra, we will have to put Mithoo to sleep today.”
“Nooo…Nooo…Doctor Saheb, don’t do that,” I cried.
“Beta, he chokes on his food and his frail body isn’t responding to any drugs, it’s best to free him from his suffering,” he said, “ I can’t wait much, maybe an hour at the most.”
There was a lot of commotion and Doctor Saheb’s voice broke. I could barely hear a few mumbles.
Ravi tried to grab me again. But I flopped on the floor, my back brushed against the wall. I folded my hands and pleaded Ravi to let me go. “Ravi, my Mithoo is going to die,” I cried.
“Oh, come on, Chitra! It’s just a parakeet, I’ll buy you a new one tomorrow. It will be my honeymoon gift to you.”
Nothing can replace my Mithoo, the thoughts remained within me. My slience resonated in the posh hotel room. Everything looked blurred. I got up to move towards the door, when I felt a hard kick on my calf. I stumbled and fell.
“So your parakeet is more important to you than your fiancé, huh?” he growled. He pushed me away with his feet to clear his way.
I dragged myself to the washroom, and here I sit preparing myself to face death. Mithoo’s sweet voice echoed in my ears. We would sing Happy Birthday songs together. I looked up at my imaginery god to tell him about my final wish. I wished to see Mithoo for one last time. I heard Ravi talk over the phone. “Can’t you follow one simple order, just drop her off home, Manav!” he shouted. “I haven’t done anything to her, she wouldn’t let me!” he screamed before he banged the door shut. I heived a sigh of relief and got myself to look as normal as possible.
Manav was waiting in the porch. He jumped out of the car and ran to open my side of the car door. “Shit! Shit! What did he do to you?” he asked. I didn’t know what to say. “Let’s go to the doctor and then to the police.” “No! I want to meet Mithoo please, he is in the Safdarjung animal hospital, if you don’t mind,” I requested.
Doctor Saheb was outside with Mithoo in his arms. He gently put him in my arms. My beautiful Mithoo was defeathered. “Mithoo..Mithoo..” were the only words I could manage to speak. He was too weak to open his eyes. But I could tell that he heard me. He feebly tried to move his right wing. I kissed him, “I will always love you,” I whispered to him. I wept as Doctor Saheb took him inside.
“Let’s go home,” Manav said. “No! I’d rather die than go home, they will force me to get married to the demon tomorrow,” I said. I raised my finger to remove the blue sapphire ring again. ‘Let me help you,” Manav turned it around a bit and it slipped off.
“You are going home to pack your bags, you either die today or learn to live,” he said with a stern voice. “Mumbai wil teach you the value of life and freedom, what happened today will soon be your past, it might be tough, but it’s better than dying like a coward.” He held out the ring to me, “Throw it, right now.”
As always I decided to shrug my past. I threw the ring in the gutter. I watched it sink beneath the algae waters. ‘It’s a matter of time, everything disappears,’ Manav whispered. I nodded to agree with him. I turned around to open the car door, but before I could, Manav held it open for me.