You’re finally in that room that people have decorated for you with scented candles and loads of flowers. The fragrance is nauseating and heady. You try to peer through the many layers of flowers that surround your bed post but give up. You wait in silence and anticipation. Any minute now you’ll be privy to the secrets of the universe too.
The door opens and against your expectation your mother-in-law comes in. She’s an old and affectionate-looking woman who blesses you and then admires your beauty (or makeup) quietly. Frankly, this quiet adoration is a little unnerving so you try to make small talk. She hushes you and asks if you’ve brought a change of clothes in your overnight bag. Now this befuddles you. Why would you have an overnight bag? Aren’t you here forever?
The mystery behind this question is solved as your sister-in-law asks you upon entering the room if you have something more comfortable to slip into later. You blush and say you don’t know. She looks at you with some amazement in her eyes but then laughs like a hyena and leaves the room. You can hear her loudly discussing this nonevent with other women of her disposition as now there are several hyenas cackling in the background.
Mother-in-law welcomes someone into the room. It’s your husband. Contrary to what you had imagined, he doesn’t look like an impressive, tall and stately figure. If an animal could be used to describe him he would be like a mouse. Timid, unsure and withdrawn. You immediately feel sympathetic towards him. You realize that this is really his test. Some of your anxiety is now resolving.
Mother-in-law steps out. Your husband puts the latch on the door. Then he bolts it. Then he performs some more magic on the door rendering it impermeable to laughter and other annoyances tonight. Then he sits on the bed and hands you a box.
Surprised at his chivalry of bringing you a present you’re left speechless. You extend your hand to take it from him but your hand is shaking. He notices it and offers to open the box for you. Gratefully, you accept. He opens the box to reveal a measly-looking ring. He offers to put it on your ring finger. You oblige and again extend your hand.
Uh oh! The ring fingers on both your hands already have three rings a piece. If he has to slip another one, he’ll have to first remove a few.
Your husband has caught on and is actively looking for a free finger. Since all the fingers have the same configuration of rings, that is three to one, he starts to look for that eleventh finger that you store for such occasions. When none materializes he sets about removing rings from your left ring finger.
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Since most of these rings belong to various cousins and aunts and have been loaned to you for the night, none of them is your size. Your eyes water as he pulls at them. He’s awkward at your grimacing but seems determined to do this tonight, all the while maintaining an absolutely no eye contact policy.
Finally your finger is ring-free and naked. I mean, not naked! Bare! Well, not bare. Stripped of all rings. Oh for heavens sake! You try to tell your mind to stay away from metaphors of the sexual nature tonight.
He slips the ring on carefully while holding on to the three other rings in the palm of his other hand. Well if there was a contest for the smallest ring tonight, your husband’s present would’ve won it. This ring is barely making it past the nail. It’s so tight. Your husband apparently is oblivious to your face making painful expressions. He continues to push through until you scream and push him away and may be even curse.
He’s startled and flabbergasted at your sudden anger. He profusely apologizes because in the moment you pushed him he dropped all three rings that he was holding in the other hand and they have rolled under the bed.
Dismayed at how this night is shaping up you get down to the floor with him and both of you start to make sweeping hand movements under the bed to recover the rings.
You’re embarrassed and shaken by this whole debacle. He looks a little shaken too but soon you see him smiling as he finds all three, places them in your hand, announces that his gift needs to be readjusted at the goldsmith’s the next day and requests you to make yourself comfortable again.
You poise yourself back in bed, amidst flowers of various wild varieties and let him ask you about your hobbies and interests. You answer briefly. He asks you if you’re hungry. You say no. You both fall silent.
After an arduous silence of fifteen minutes during which you let yourself be slow poisoned by the supremely irritating fragrance of clashing scents he suggests that you change your clothes. He politely remarks that they look like a lot of cloth for a person of your size and therefore you should probably change into something lighter.
Something lighter? You panic. Something my size? You hyperventilate. You’re so petite and light that the only thing that has ever truly been created for your weight to carry is a sack. Or lingerie, you think with mounting terror.
But since he hasn’t brought any lingerie and you didn’t either you decide to wear a simple pair of pajamas that you’ve slept in for almost five years. It’s either that or a very crisp new set of pajamas that your sister got from the local underwear store.
You decide to undo your hair before changing your clothes. You excuse yourself and stand before the dressing table. You take the long head gear off and start to take the pins out of your chignon. You are taking the pins out but they’re never ending.
He volunteers and you accept again. He starts to pull the berets out quite mercilessly. Midway through this exercise you recall with a sudden wave of fright….
YOU HAVE THE STUFFING IN.
Whatever a woman or a man may choose to show or not, a stuffing is a pseudo body part that we don’t recommend for you to show ever. The results and reactions are never good.
You stop him abruptly. He stops. You tell him you’ll take it up from here. He obliges. You step into the bathroom and carefully search for the stuffing. But here’s another place where you strike out. The stuffing is buried deep and your tiny fingers can’t even pull it out effectively.
You pull at your hair without any mercy. You try to get the stuffing out, dead or alive. Finally the stuffing is out. When you look up in the mirror a frightful sight awaits you. Your hair is sticking out in a million directions and you look like the bride of Frankenstein.
You want to cry. Whatever your expectations from this night were, this wasn’t one of them. You quickly scan the bathroom for shampoo so you can just wash your hair. You finally find some soap and set about to wash your hair. Unfortunately the soap slips and finds its final resting place in the drain. You’ve lost all hope.
Someone knocks on the bathroom door. You hiss at him. What does he want? He has already taken your pride, dignity and dreams for tonight. If he’s knocking for your virginity, well he can have that too!
You step out after putting your years old pajamas, you hair sopping wet, your make up not clearly removed and therefore blotchy and streaky, your whole self defeated.
Your husband stares at you. He asks what happened. You briefly explain what happened. He looks like he would laugh any minute. You couldn’t care less.
Then he asks, unexpectedly and unassumingly,
“Have you been watching Game of Thrones?”
You think you misheard him. He repeats his question as you’re staring at him.
You shake your head.
“Well I had always wanted to watch Game of Thrones in the silence of my room and now that my mom has put a TV in our room, why don’t we watch the episode that aired tonight? Would you like that?”
You nod your head in bewilderment.
He jumps in bed and motions for you to sit next to him. He turns on the TV and somehow finds what he was looking for.
As he’s watching the show he explains the story so far. He explains the different houses, dynasties and everything else about the show. He tells you of his liking for this show, his other favorite shows and asks you of yours.
Slowly you open up. You tell him that you’re more of a reader. You tell him that you’d been working on a novel but then you got married.
“So? What about that?”
“What about what?”
“Aren’t you gonna work on your novel?”
“Well, I’m not sure if I’d be so free as to write a novel. It takes a lot of time”.
“You’ll find time”. He says causally, while munching on peanuts that he has uncovered from a nearby drawer.
When the show is over he turns off the TV and turns to you,
“Are you disappointed?”
Your face is on fire.
“Why would I be disappointed?”
“Just cuz I’m not showing you how much I’m attracted to you”.
You blush and smile. You realize you were waiting for him to say something nice.
“The truth is you’re insanely beautiful”.
Huh? Insanely beautiful? You wonder why he’s the first person to say it .
He continues to talk,
“I don’t want to have a first night that we won’t remember because we were too busy trying to hide body parts while dying to explore them. That’s not something I can do. I can’t have sex with someone I don’t know. It would be an insult to our intelligence and our relationship to have sex just because everyone sitting outside our room is counting on it. We got ourselves into an arranged marriage. It was against my better judgment really. But I love my mom and she liked you immensely and I couldn’t break her heart. When I saw you, well, I thought why not her? Did you have any feelings for me?”
You want to lie and say that you had been lusting after him but something about him tells you that he’s only interested in the truth.
“No! I mean not romantic or sexual feelings. I didn’t know what to feel for you”.
He looks at you with a knowing look. You’ve heard that he’s seven years older than you. You had thought it was a giant difference but in this moment, he’s like a soul partner. He has known about you in two hours what your entire family didn’t try to know.
“I think we should get to know each other. I’m attracted to you a lot. Don’t think I’m holding out. I want this to be a little more natural. I want this to be consensual”.
Consensual sex in a marriage? But your mom always said that a wife should be forever available. You feel a spark of respect for him.
Finally you voice your biggest fear,
“But what if someone asks me tomorrow? People asked my sister too, you know, whether she had it. What if they ask me? What would they think if I said we didn’t…..?
You trail off.
He puts his arm around you. You lean in. He gently touches your face.
“When people ask you tomorrow if something happened, tell them that your husband fell in love with you. There’s nothing bigger than love, trust and respect that can happen in this relationship.”
You feel warmth and contentment. It’s like the sky clearing after a storm. It’s like coming home. It’s like feeling loved. But most of all, it feels like being respected.