Fiction: Letting go

Rana Preet Gill

Rana Preet Gill

I only gazed at him, once before marriage, through the grimy screen of a computer. I could only acquire some hazy resemblance to a picture of a man I had been shown, on a video conferencing. That day I was surrounded by a gaggle of my cousins, uncles and aunts who laid siege to the office of the travel agent who had patched up this alliance at the insistence of my mother. It felt strange, awkward to chat with my would-be husband in front of so many prying eyes. The travel agent kept on giving me salacious glances, all the while, standing in one corner. I was sweating profusely in the dingy room that was becoming unbearable to sit in with the presence of multitudes of relatives, ever ready to claim their share of the pie. That I was going to be a passport for the rest of my family members to move to Canada was no secret. That I was going to be used as a ladder by the creepy crawlies of the family, who always needed something to hold on to, was a disgusting thought. Why me? Why not the little sister Satti?

On the way back home mom was ebullient with the success of the video conferencing, of the meeting that was successfully negotiated between two parties sitting in opposite parts of the country. Yes, this was an alliance they were patching up for their own sordid reasons. Satti was to be sacrificed at the same altar but she had already conveyed her idea of love and marriage that included dating someone and knowing him thoroughly before tying the knot. No one opposed her, no one suggested her to fall in accordance with their wishes. They only needed one girl from the family to move abroad. They only needed one sacrifice and I was the chosen one.

The groom arrived a day before the wedding. I did not even get a chance to meet him or see him properly. At the pheras in front of the Guru Granth Sahib, our holy book, I was bedecked in the chosen finery and asked to lower my head, my sensibilities in front of the Guru. While I sat with my would be husband I looked at his hands which held on to the ceremonial sword with an elan. They looked aged and gnarled indicating a life of hard work. I looked at my gentle hennaed hands and wondered if this was going to my fate. I dare not look at his face. I did not want to know if it looked as extinguished as his hands! Not now! Not in front of the Guru who was watching my actions and must be berating me for finding faults with my groom on the day of the marriage.

When he came into my room, that night, his breath stank of cheap country liquor. I shut my eyes tight for I did not want to see him, face this reality that I have been married to a middle-aged man. A man, who might be a little less aged than my father, a man who was not swathed in the luxury of youth, a man who will always exercise his superiority on me, a man before whom I will always have to act deferential as a bride, as a woman and as a human. That night passed in blur. There were no sweet nothings, no introductions, not even gentle kisses on the nape of the neck as I imagined love must be like. It must have been the love he was accustomed to. A few violent thrusts and a searing pain inside me. He lay spent on one side and I walked out of my room for a whiff of fresh air.

He took me for a honeymoon but rarely exchanged a word with me. He was always on the phone laughing, chatting, conversing with someone. I had a nagging suspicion that it was a woman on the other side. He would seek me a few times in a day. His only conversations initiated with my body, he never touched my soul. After a few months of merry making he left me with my parents. I waited for months but he never came back. Perhaps he got all his answers and now there was nothing much to seek for!

The reconstruction of a life that recommenced after my marriage, which was termed as a sham by many, was painful. That I was a Holiday bride, that he only came to seek me out for timely comfort made me angry and bitter. I felt resentful towards my family who led me towards this unholy alliance for their own selfish reasons. My mother, who would not stop exaggerating about her son-in-law would cast her eyes down in shame. She must have been disillusioned by this terrible blow of fate towards her foreign destination plans for the entire brood.

 I held on to this grudge against my mother for a long time. I lived in the same home but I stopped communicating with her which pained her to no extent. Most of my anger was only reserved for her because it was my mother who was supposed to be my protector. My childhood bears subtle imprints of existence of my father, who worked in the Gulf, throughout his youth. It was all about mother taking in charge of me and little Satti. It was she who donned the mantle of the man of the house in the long absences of my father. And though she rarely travelled to these countries where my father was employed as a mason she did acquire those grandiose and shiny dreams of settling abroad.

She walked in the home like a zombie now. I have put up a fight against my absconder husband by joining a forum which routinely fights such cases. I go and meet the officials, and political leaders, along with other debased women. We are united in this fight against men who lure people like my mother to marry their faceless, indeterminate daughters to them. I do not tell my mother anything about the goings on. I am just so angry with her for letting all this happen to me.

“Mothers are the saviors, protectors of their daughters. They do not rush them into hell just because they see it decked with flowers and promises.” I shouted at her one fine day. She collapsed in the middle of the courtyard whereas I rushed outside. She had a mild heart attack that day. I came back to find her in a hospital room. She looked frail and withered like the crumbled wall that had battered intense storms but was merely able to hold on to itself by a timid push. The doctors told me that her heart was failing her. That she had been under tremendous depression and this stress has made her vulnerable. A little more trauma would debilitate her condition and may even wipe out the essence of life from her. Something broke inside me. My wails echoed in the hospital corridors and I had a hard time composing myself. The hurt, regret and the bitterness which had scalded me and her, melted down with long gusts of tears.

It has been years now. I did not choose to marry a second time. It is painful even to think of getting into the embrace of a man. I fear my own father some days. He realizes it and disappears in the shadows of the house to let me be. Satti got married in the neighboring village and is living her dream life. When she comes home with her kids, I play a second mother to them. I give him all I can ever give to a child who will never be mine in entirety.


 The anger inside me was enough to keep the flame of self-immolation burning bright but it singed my loved ones more than it did me. I had to learn to let it go. I had to forgive and move on. It was the only choice I had to exercise to save my mother. I know things will never be same but I am taking baby steps towards making a new life in ways that matter to me. And I hug my mother tight every night to let her know that I love her more than ever. The warmth of her body seeps into the corners which are still coated with resentment. As I keep on holding her, the sun seems to shine inside me in the dearth of night and all the anger dissipates in the vicissitudes of unspoken pleas. Every night a little of hurt, let’s go of itself. 

2 comments :

  1. Worth reading... A Punjabi writer peeping into other states magazines.Congrats Dr.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Writer used beautiful words in her write up.e.g. Gaggle, Prying eyes Ebullient, hennied, searing, salacious etc. I had to use dictionary while reading it. Article increased my vocabulary. Give more space to such writers.

    ReplyDelete

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