She stirred and moaned, enjoying the sensation after the act of love. She had eloped with Benay three days ago but these days had just passed off in a wink of an eye. According to their custom, on the third day they were supposed to go to her parental house seeking forgiveness for the mistake committed… but for an assassination of a local politician that could not be done.
Who cares, now-a-days customs and traditions are just considered to be mere formalities, which can be completed at one’s own convenience.
Maya turned and looked at her husband who was now fast asleep. She was nearing her forties and her husband was just in his late twenties. How strange, but didn’t they say that love was blind. Age didn’t count, she loved him, and he loved her, was that not enough?
She had once been married to a man, but that was a long time ago, maybe… about fifteen years back. He was the son of a family acquaintance and her parents had chosen him for her. He was an officer in a government department. He had a quarter in Darjeeling town. His parents lived in one of the tea gardens on the outskirts, where they worked as teachers in a Government Higher Secondary School. They also had land in a remote village in Kalimpong. Everything seemed to be fine about him and his family. The marriage took place with all necessary grandeur. Relatives, friends and well-wishers came from different places to grace the occasion. After the rituals, the groom took away the bride. For many days Maya’s village talked about the marriage. Her family was happy and satisfied. The other village girls aspired for a similar kind of marriage and prayed for an officer husband.
But all was not well in Maya’s life. Only after marriage did she come to know that her husband was an alcoholic. Almost every night he used to come home drunk, quarrel and beat her for every other reason. Good services went unnoticed. Days slipped by, months passed and at the end of the year it had become very hard for Maya to tolerate him. Words of love seldom came from his mouth, and abuses started and ended Maya’s day. She grew thin and pale. Her body was covered with bruises. As a new bride, she was determined to help him be a better man. However, with time, all her hopes vanished. When she could not tolerate him anymore, she came back to her home caring little about what the society would say. Her in-laws pleaded but she had made up her mind.
With time, she had developed a kind of hatred towards men. She started working in a private school and earned enough to look after herself. She enjoyed her work. She had made up her mind not to get into a relationship with another man. Yet fate had other things in store for her.
One evening she bumped into something on the sidewalk, lost her balance and went staggering into the middle of the road. The speeding driver slammed onto the brakes but it was too late to avert the accident. She was taken to the hospital. Among those who had helped her was Benay, a guardian to one of her students.
During her stay in the hospital Benay visited her regularly. They came to know each other better. For her, Benay was the other side of man’s character… something that she had never known before. Never in her life had she met someone who was so caring and loving. Their friendship grew deeper and neither of them knew when it had turned into love. A passion to live life again rekindled itself in Maya’s heart.
After sharing a year’s togetherness they had decided to get married. She felt content and happy. After all those years of tears this bliss was truly divine.
Next morning the couple discussed the details of their wedding and later in the day, Maya walked the narrow path that led to the banks of Teesta river. On the way there she met an acquaintance. When asked about where she was going, she simply replied that she was going to the river to send an invitation to Mother Ganges for her wedding ceremony.
… Half an hour later, a woman’s body came floating down the river.
Illustration by Alan Van Every
Norden Michael Lepcha is originally from Kalimpong, Darjeeling district of West Bengal in India. He is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Other Modern European Languages at Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal. His research area is aestheticism in the poems of John Keats and Charles Baudelaire. He also likes writing poems.