PART I - HER MARRIAGE
It has just been a month since Preeti graduated. Rather than applying for an engineering job, she preferred to attempt the bank exams as she failed to succeed in getting placed in a multinational company. One morning, her father said, “I haven’t told you but I have been wanting to get you married, and finally, I found a boy who is completely suitable for you.”
Looking at her shocked face, he continued saying, “The boy is attractive and earns around ninety thousand a month in InfoTech, a software enterprise.”
Preeti was terrified while listening to her father. She had many fears ever since her adolescence but the marriage wasn’t just fear. It was terror. Her father paused for a response while she was digesting what she just heard. He understood that she was unprepared for his proposal.
However, since he considered it to be his responsibility to get her married, he continued, “I know it is hard for you to accept to get married. However, considering the circumstances, you must get married someday. So I have taken utmost care in selecting this boy and so I assure you that every aspect of him is perfect!”
Preeti could do nothing but nod her head. She firmly believed that she couldn’t share her problem. Even if she tried to, she knew that her parents would not be supportive as it is taboo in India. She also knew that even if they agreed to her request, people in their neighbourhood would look down upon their family for a lifetime.
Unable to express her problem, Preeti replied, “Father, I have never thought of marriage. I would need some time.”
That afternoon after their lunch, Preeti and her mother were chit-chatting about various family issues and her mother randomly brought up the marriage topic. She wanted Preeti to accept it and assured that the boy was well disciplined and fairly religious. She thought that he was the perfect groom for her.
Preeti was a bit taken aback after the chat and wanted to confess unable to hold it anymore. However, just before she started, her mother continued, “Your father’s health is deteriorating and in the recent medical tests it has been confirmed that he has both diabetes and blood pressure. Moreover, your marriage issue is making him tense.”
Listening to her mother, Preeti didn’t utter a word. Realizing that her father was hoping to get her married at any cost, Preeti decided to express her problem to the boy himself on their first meeting. After planning her course of action, she accepted to get married and her father’s happiness knew no bounds.
Within two weeks, both the families met. After an hour of formal talks, Preeti and Rahul were given some private time to talk. Both of them went to the lawn and Rahul honestly admitted, “You look beautiful, more than you did in the photos.”
This made Preeti slow down in her confession. However, since it was her only chance, she ignored all the consequences before spitting out, “Rahul, you are truly handsome but I have always been only interested in girls!”
PART II - DEAL!
Preeti felt Rahul was subdued and stood still silently for a few minutes. Immediately afterwards, he said, “That should not be a problem. Even after marriage, your freedom will not be curtailed. Your girlfriend can keep visiting you and I will not touch you until you give me your consent.”
Preeti could not believe what she just heard. She expected he would make a scene of the issue and would reject the marriage at any cost.
Soon enough, Rahul walked back to the drawing-room before interrupting all of the family members by declaring, “We agree to get married as soon as possible!”
While getting congratulated, Preeti could not understand where exactly Rahul was heading to. Without a clue or a proper justification for his actions, Rahul married Preeti. However, Preeti tried to convince Rahul many times not to marry her but he assured her that everything would be fine.
After marriage, as promised, Rahul did not touch her. However, he was no different from any husband. He was, to Preeti’s surprise, a good cook. They often hosted parties, watched movies late at night and visited the beauty parlour every month.
As days passed, Preeti felt bad for being unfair to her husband. She could see Rahul was chivalrous while she was clearly not even satisfying his needs. Soon, she started to think more about him and as days passed, she made slight changes to her course.
As a first attempt, she wanted to make lunch for him and presumed it would be their date. Travelling to Rahul’s office the next day, Preeti enquired the receptionist about Rahul’s chamber. After inquiring as to who she was, the receptionist soon called Rahul but got no response. So Preeti waited for a while before requesting the receptionist to tell her the room number.
Failing to disobey her boss’s wife’s command, the receptionist gave her the room number. Preeti first visited the washroom to freshen up and then with great enthusiasm reached the room.
She adjusted her dress, hair before opening the door without knocking. She was awestruck witnessing Rahul kissing another man. That very moment she understood as to why he always kept saying, “It is alright!”
PART III - CONFESSION
Looking at Preeti who just opened the door, Rahul yelled, “Shit! She saw us.”
As he glanced at her, Preeti stormed out. Rahul followed her and finally reached her at their car. Just before she opened the door, Rahul stopped her. He could see the sheer disappointment in his wife’s eyes and knew her heart was shattered. He acknowledged to himself that it’s time to confess his motive to marry her.
So, he got into the car along with her and on the way back home, Rahul said, “Preeti, let me tell you what happened.”
Preeti was driving the car paying no heed to him and hoping that silence is a partial acceptance, Rahul continued, “It all started three years ago when I first met Arvind.”
Observing his wife’s eyebrows raised, Rahul hesitantly continued, “For about two years, our relationship was a secret. However, when we graduated and started working, our families started pestering us to get married. Unfortunately, not with the ones we wanted. I was scared.”
Realising he was no different than her, Preeti slowed down as Rahul confessed, “However, six months ago, I came up with the idea of marrying you and Arvind marrying Manisha. We presumed that by doing so, we would neither be socially accused of sinister behaviour nor would we betray and destroy two girls’ lives.”
Hearing him, Preeti hit the brakes and looked at Rahul stunned. For her, it was way too much to digest in one day. She was stuck in-order to respond since she could not curse her husband, or agree to what he just said. The rest of the journey and the date which Preeti planned finally happened, but mutely.
When they finished their lunch, Preeti broke the silence declaring, “I understand that you were trying to do us both a favour but I presumed you meant your marriage vows. Now that I know you didn’t, I am going to find my lover back.”
To her surprise, Rahul was relieved. He even said, “I knew you would understand. Win her back and let’s have a happy life. I’ve always believed that both of us were destined to get married.”
PART IV - FOR SOCIETY
Two days later, Preeti left to meet Manisha and on her way, she spent hours thinking about how they met and how Manisha first proposed. Preeti smiled as she recalled how she rejected the proposal even though she admired her greatly.
For about four months, Preeti didn’t agree but after that, she could no longer stay away. Preeti liked the way Manisha fondled her while showering her more love than what her husband even showed after marriage.
When she reached her hometown, it was 8 pm and though it was late, Preeti did not even call Manisha. She wanted to surprise her but found the house locked. So, she ended up calling Manisha but she did not receive the call. Not wanting to return home on the other side of the city, Preeti called Manisha’s mother and that call was not received too.
Not wanting to give up, Preeti called Riya who was their mutual friend in college and to her surprise, Riya attended the call. Soon enough, both of them met in her home which was three lanes behind Manisha’s house.
Preeti asked Riya as soon as she got refreshed of Manisha’s absence. Riya was shocked to know that Preeti didn’t know as to what happened. Until then, she presumed that Preeti had come to support Manisha’s mother.
Facing each other in the drawing-room, Riya said, “I don’t know how to say this... but Manisha has recently... committed suicide.”
Preeti didn’t believe it. She stared at Riya who sat silent for a moment before saying, “What? Why?”
Before Riya even spoke a word, tears flooded out of their eyes and before long, she didn’t realize but she collapsed to the floor. With the help of Riya, a few minutes later, Preeti was back to her senses to hear Riya shouting for the fourth time, “Are you alright?”
Preeti nodded her head indicating a yes but was still crying. Riya was herself in grief since the last three days and she cried so much that her parents were worried about her. They even stopped her from going to the funeral but for Preeti, her life took a huge turn in the past few days. She could no longer remain silent any longer.
Leaning back in her chair, Preeti shouted, “What the hell happened?”
Controlling herself, Riya said, “Just a week after your marriage, Manisha returned from the United States. As soon as she returned, the first person she asked for was you. When her mother informed that you got married, Manisha couldn’t believe it. Even though Manisha’s mother was supportive of your relationship, she advised Manisha to move on. Manisha disapproved of the suggestion stating that you would in no way live staying away from her.”
Preeti couldn’t feel anymore worse as Riya hesitantly continued, “In order to prove her point, she travelled to your city. It seems she followed you for a few days and was taken aback when she found you enjoying movies and beauty parlours with your husband. Later one night, she came here after returning to tell me everything. She sobbed while saying that she was replaced and that you hold no more of your feelings towards her.”
Riya looked at Preeti who still sat weeping. Observing her shattered, Riya said, “I’m sorry, Preeti. Even though I understood that Manisha couldn’t accept the change. Never did I think that she would kill herself in the pain.”
The following day, Preeti went home. As she arrived, she could find her father in the living room, watching television. Surprised, he rose to hug her and after embracing each other, they sat on the sofa. Preeti asked him about her mother and he told her that she had gone to the temple.
Not intending to hold it within her, Preeti confessed everything that has happened in the last few days alongside informing about her sexuality. When she finished, Preeti’s father wasn’t surprised.
Holding her hand, he replied, “A few days ago, I got a call from Manisha’s mother. She cursed me as my actions have claimed Manisha’s life. I wasn’t informed until then and Manisha’s demise will always be on me.”
Recalling her, Preeti started crying and her father continued, “Though I knew you were attracted to girls even before your marriage to Rahul, the reason I asked you to marry him because he was himself attracted to boys. I knew he was gay and I gave in to the pressure of the society without accepting your choices and not valuing your relations.”
Observing her father’s eyes filled with tears, Preeti heard him say, “I’m sorry, Preeti. I’m sorry for not standing up for you. Though I did want to be respected by everyone around me even after your marriage, I never knew the price of it would be the death of a child. Forgive me! Neither did I think of the consequences nor could I imagine that a parent would lose her only child for my pride and respect.”
This short story has been published in an anthology of eight stories titled “Casket of Tales”. Our artists would benefit if you could order a paperback to show your support. Order your copy now!