The nimble frame of her body does not fit the brocade kameez well . It hangs loosely about her shoulders and chest . The fact that it is ill – fitting is made less conspicuous by the stiffness of the cloth . Today , She is all tassels and intricate borders , fake red smiles and henna painted hands . Like a small gift , waiting to be snatched by crooked fingers with golden rings and hairy wrists with Rolex watches . The golden embroidery on her brocade kameez is spiralling in coils and loops around her body . She looks like golden vines upon purple cloth or like an embellished patchwork of sequenced embroidery magically moulded into the buxom figure of a woman . At least that’s what she feels like : a dehumanised patch of artwork . She’s shining like a flame in a dark , cavernous cave although she Likes to think of herself as a small dot of light , bobbing like a firefly , at the end of a long tunnel . like the receding headlights of a car on a deserted road on a night without a moon , she chugs forward in thinly spaced hiccups . She can feel the sartorial gaze of the onlookers wearing her like a cloak . She cannot undress nor can she hang the cloak on the peg . The roof of the tent is a baroque amalgamation of violet and baby pink . The men and women look like multicoloured stains of paint splashed on enamel white cloth . The air is dry and cold . Were it alive it would look like frosted pearls wrapped in dabs of cotton . The biting frost stings her like a bee upon the parts of her that are bare . It bites her knuckles and toes , digging its icicle shaped fangs into her tender flesh . Today , Everything is the colour of a wan pastel shade . Pallid and pale . Misty and nebulous. Barring her nothing is florid or garish . The faint hum of a harmonium floats like a mellow breeze . The shamiyana flutters and flaps like an elephant’s ear . The arabesque of mango leaves upon intertwined branches appears like a monster with gnarled branches for limbs , upon the roof of the tent . The bride groom is already seated in a cross legged position . The turquoise sapphire sitting atop his turban is all she can see of him above the mirage of multicoloured men and women seated in a grid of bright colours upon a stark white background . A whisk of jasmine swivels unencumbered inside the tent , caressing the inner lining of her nostrils with its diaphanous wings . The smell of jasmine pricks her like a needle , engendering a succession of dry coughs . She has “ jasmine – allergy”. She tries not to breathe through her nose , opening and shutting her mouth like a fish . Each time she takes a step , her jewellery clanks against her like millions of steel utensils and her throat jumps up and down , like a restless child jumping upon a trampoline , in coughs and sneezes .
She can hear the glittering aunties gasp and sigh , like deflating balloons . They take in the air through imaginary straws in gestures of amusement as they suck the air through the red and pink dots sketched upon their faces . She thinks she feels the air from their lipstick stained mouths brush past her as they comment upon “ the beautiful bride” . She does not look up . All she can see is golden anklets and intricate borders upon multicoloured salwars giving way to chipped nail paint upon bulbous and slender toes . The glistening edges of her own toes peep out from under her sequence spangled skirt from time to time . The armour of jewellery rests like a massive brick upon her body . She can hear somebody calling her a medieval Rajput princess straight out of “a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film .” That does not feel like a compliment . Another piquant voice says “ Jai is so lucky , I wonder how he trapped her into his web !” . Is marriage another name for a web ? That was news to her . However , She intended to be no entangled fly . Jai , the spider weds Rhea the fly . She bites her tongue just in time to stifle the urge to laugh out loud , lest it may look unbecoming or ludicrous on a day that would otherwise be known as the happiest day of her life .
Her star spangled lavender skirt unfurls into a purple coloured puddle as she sits down and waits for the priest to recite the vows . Someone sniffles in the background . Throttled sobs lend cadence to the otherwise unmodulated voice of the priest . The reel of her childhood is boomeranging upon the palimpsest of her mind in rapid succession. She feels like a blank cheque. Empty and banal or like a garment drained of its original colour , a colour that it had hitherto worn with pride . She was going to be written upon in someone else’s handwriting , partly , at least . These subtle reminisces well up in her eyes . The hinge of her throat feels heavy and tight . The thought of leaving ma weighs like a paperweight upon the sheet of her soul . Suddenly , the world around her quivers like a rippling lake . She can feel a drizzle of water upon her cheeks . Her eyes drain themselves off the reservoirs of water , sheltered in their depths . With the tears , The mascara too , drips from her eyes like tar . The blood red fabric of her veil sequesters her tar – ridden face . She feels like dirty walls , tainted with black coloured murals , raging across its otherwise white surface . Panic grips her like a noose around her neck . During the pheras , the tears commence to flow like endless streams of water flowing from a tap with a loose knob . She can taste the cosmetic flavour of her Lakmé mascara , tinged with a hint of salt upon her tongue . She pictures her face , smeared with black cavernous lines running like dirt paths upon it . By now the drizzle has turned into a cloud burst . Her eyes feel like tipping edges of a cliff as the steady stream of tears becomes a gushing waterfall in no time .
Drip , drip , the crocodile tears flow in succession . Plop , one drop falls upon the enamel white sheet . A black spot emerges dramatically upon its exquisite whiteness . Drip , another one falls and unravels like a mystery upon the pearl whiteness of the cloth . Almost immediately her eyes become leaking holes of black water . The reverberations of the make up artist’s soprano voice in unending praise of the beauty of her doe eyes gallop like black stallions around her . She is swimming in the whirlpool of black water . Tar , coal and black markers seem like villains , mascaras like murderers , directing their black wrath against her . She weighs her options . Either she hides behind the veil , throughout the course of the banquet , embracing the Medieval Rajput princess corollary . She could induce Ma to tell everybody that this “remaining hidden till your wedding night” was a family tradition and that on the first day of marriage it was customary for girls to remain hidden until bed time . No , This was too incongruous and ridiculous , besides nobody would believe this considering that Ma herself had hardly conformed to such “ hidden” family traditions , in her heyday . Or she could tell him – who – she – was – marrying about her predicament , but then again she hardly knew him . Ma had strictly forbidden any extra meetings . Ma could be very feudal in her ways . He hadn’t been permitted to court her , nor she him , so they were as good as Two flies caught in the same web , against their respective wills . Since Ma had said , the first impression was also the last one , there was no way she could show him a face splotched with patches of black paint staring like black holes at him , for fear that this might become his “last impression”. It would scare him away . By now she was sure she also had a black eye . What would the aunties say ? They would likely gasp and sigh like deflated balloons once again . Only the underlying feeling would not be the same .
After they have been recognised by God as man and wife , They proceed towards the banquet hall . She is still veiled . Covered in star studded fabric from head to two . Not an inch of her is visible and it is stiflingly hot . She can almost smell the pungent odour of her own sweat . By now the lines of mascara have likely corrugated like frozen blood upon gaping wounds . She can feel the air getting heavier . Through a gauze of red netted fabric ,she can see men in bright turbans staring at her . People have started to wonder and sniff . They have started following the trail of her veil . She can feel them feeling like something is wrong . She has always believed in her hidden clairvoyant powers . They will do anything to sniff “ out” the thing that is wrong . some of them are here for that very aim – to sniff out skeletons in cupboards or to pluck out tarred faces from behind beautiful veils . Oddly , her husband does not batter her with formalities or questions . He leaves her be . Ma had said he was shy and reserved . So much the better for her . She blesses her stars . Then people come in flocks to congratulate her . The wings of the butterflies in her stomach flutter against its inner lining . The feathery end of her nervousness tickles her . At the same time the oddness of her situation pinches her like a tight shoe . She replies from behind the covers to there florid blessings and their “ may -you -both- be -happies ” . It takes a lot of effort to spit out words at them . For a moment her voice fails her but then rises from its death at the critical moment like a corpse springing out of a coffin . She thinks she sounds strange . Her voice seems manly and heavier than it is from behind the red curtain of her veil . Surely , they must be thinking she is mad or worse still possessed , speaking thus from behind a red veil in a century that has largely shed off such antiquated customs . She does not want to lend credence to their speculations so she remains under – cover .
Then suddenly , she does not know why or how , she throws back her veil and lo and behold the great expose comes to pass . “A bride with black lines trickling down the length of her face , zigzagging and traipsing upon her cheeks like winding paths , boldly confronts a flock of nearly two hundred immaculately dressed people .” If society had a mouthpiece for flippant news , these would be the blaring headlines of that days newspaper . She feels like female Mowgli or better still bagheera , the panther in a cage , poked at by people .
The world freezes . Then it cracks . They stand cloistered around her , gaping at her , open mouthed . She can look inside their open mouths , right down to where the lining of their throats begin . Ma shrieks , then sways and falls like a detached pillar uprooted by an earthquake, upon the carpeted floor . The world shifts quite literally from under her feet . That is exactly how Ma would put it to her later . Poor ma . The banquet hall is eerily silent . An expression of disgust , horror and fear culminating in a contorted grimace settles like dust upon each face . Judging from their faces , she must be all black like a massive greyish – blackish cloud .
They must be thinking witch , Dayan , Churail and the like . Quietly she gathers herself and walks away without a word to anybody .
The devil bride does not stoop to look back .