That one dream which usually comes true for most bachelors came true for me too that day. Here I was, seated on the pedestal, waiting for the woman of my dreams – my to be wife. The priest chanted verse after verse and thanks to the times, I only had to add ladle after ladle of ghee into the sacrificial fire without knowing why.
The posse of gift-bearing guests sporting an engineered smile, the aroma of food wafting from the kitchen and the many unclear rituals helped me remain in good humour on a day that gets most people worked up. I sat fidgeting with the ladle, the ghee and the garland and in a while the moment I had waited for arrived. My wife (isn’t she?) was approaching the altar, clad in a beautiful saree and sporting a smile that trumped the ornaments that adorned her. She was as slim as ever, and looked enviably young like the mothers in some soap ads do. I was reminded of the day I first saw her in her house, welcoming us with steaming cups of coffee and some confectionery. I remembered how I didn’t need more than a moment to decide she would be the one for life and letting everyone know without an iota of shame. I on the other hand had a pot belly and a receding hairline, even before being married. Blame it on stress.
Although we had known each other for a while and we had managed to roam the length and breadth of the city together before this day, she looked beautiful in a very different way – the kind that words usually fail to describe. She walked with the gait of a seasoned bride, accompanied by a posse of women who must have looked like a basket of woolen balls of grey, black and white from above. The sidekicks laughed aloud, joked about the wedding and the kids that were set to come without any regard for place or occasion. She simply shook her head, wore a smug smile and walked along minding the only business she had for that day – accompanying the bride.
The bride was perhaps the only one that looked better and was dressed better than my wife. It is unfair to my wife of many years, I know, but I couldn’t help think that way. After all, I was the groom and my wife was bringing my future wife to me.
Just as time went by until then- seeming both excruciatingly slow and too fast to fathom at the same time, it did for the remainder of the ceremony. Before I knew, we were happily married and back home.
My wife, wife and I were back to where we could start being ourselves, living a normal life, far away from the cacophony of musical instruments, priests, cooks and guests. My wife, being new to the household was busy getting used to her new in-laws. she sat surrounded by my mother, her sisters, my father, his sisters, my sister and all their husbands. I was keen on being there, but was in no mood to be trolled for already having become my wife’s caddie.
So,I decided to go into the kitchen so I could help my wife. I couldn’t muster the courage so far, as my mother and grandmother seldom allowed me to assist in household tasks. They considered it below their dignity to allow men to assist them and for generations the men had to remain content with sitting in the living room and dumping the contents of the vessels into their bellies so they were ready to be washed.
This was my fat chance to earn some brownie points with my wife while my wife was busy winning over the rest. And so, when I walked into the kitchen and found my wife crestfallen, all my enthusiasm left me like an amateur unarmed robber flees at the sight of a landlord cocking his shotgun.
“What happened?” I asked her after a few moments of uneasy silence.
“You know…” came the typical reply.
“Come on. Aren’t you happy?”
“How can I be happy when you are married?”
“What? Haven’t we been married?”
“Yes. But this is different.”
“Come on!” I said, exasperated. “You are the one that insisted I get married and you even found the bride. And I nodded my head as I always have. Is it my fault that I did what you wanted me to?”
“So I am at fault, is it? I know. You are married. You have a wife. Who am I to come in between you and your wife? I am just your wife. I come from another family…” She usually goes off on a tangent at this point and that’s when I lose her. And it was all going on the predictable path. My wedding hadn’t changed my wife even a bit.
“No dear,” I wrapped my hands around her shoulder. “See, you said a wife is like a second mother and so you were entitled to get me married, remember?”
“Now you have a step-mother also. That’s what has gotten me all worked up. What prevented you from telling me it was a bad idea to start with? You don’t love me anymore.” Her face started reddening. I peeped from the kitchen to see if my wife and the others had caught wind of our argument. Thankfully they were all engrossed in admiring the mehandi on my wife’s hand and so none knew what was happening between me and my wife, except my wife and I.
“Sweetheart,” I said as I turned from my wife towards my wife and froze in place. My wife was breathing heavily, held a curd-beater in hand and was approaching me. “See. You are already trying to take a peek at your wife, when I, your wife am still here. You will soon abandon me and I will not let that happen.” She was now heading towards me at breakneck speed and I suddenly found my hands up in the air. As I tried to move one hand between me and the advancing beater, I felt I couldn’t move my hand, as though someone was holding it. The other hand was by then behind my back, as though someone was wringing it from behind and it was already half-numb. I tried to run, but felt I was only frantically beating about like a person who is about to drown. The beater was coming closer with every passing millisecond and in a flash, the bright interiors of the house transformed into pitch darkness. I let out a wail as it met my forehead that was now drenched in sweat. And then, the inevitable happened.
I woke up. My elder daughter was sleeping on one hand, while the other hand was tucked behind my back. You see, the night was cold and my other daughter had pulled half my blanket away for herself. The bed sheet lay in disarray, revealing the sagged mattress beneath. The only semblance of any continuity of the events of my dream was my wife sitting up and giving me a death stare from the far end of the bed.
“Why do you have to wail like this at this time of the night? Go to sleep. Or I will beat you to death,” she said and rolled over to the other side.
I don’t think she would’ve slept well. She must’ve stayed up all night wondering why I said “Thank God you are alright,” despite her telling me she’d bludgeon me.