Lac-dye Vows

Not that I hadn’t seen her before,

I had seen her hidden behind the veil.

Not that she looked any different,

Her beauty, the veil could never conceal.

She is too shy for comfort. At times, I can’t even find a way to start a conversation. At the most, she would nod, maybe a smile in her boldest days. Leaning against the door, gripping hard on the ends of her attire, she would twist its ends in nervousness. I can notice sweat trickle down her forehead, as she talks. Talk? She mewls in a voice as slender as her being.

“What to cook for dinner?”  She would ask, making me feel like a guest at my own place. At times, I would say, cook whatever you like, in a bid to give her the liberty of being or a sense of belonging to these four corridors. After all, these corridors belong as much to her as they do to me.

I still remember the day, when we first met, though we never talked about it later, inside these four walls maybe we considered it taboo.

I remember sitting in the living room of her house waiting for peek-a-boo. Waiting for a glance at her face and getting accustomed to her air. Conversation flowed all around me. Chatters, laughter and queries, I was interested in none.  In between, they talked about her too. I could fathom when they nudged and laughed more, peculiar symbols to convey teasing. Amid the noises, I could hear the giant wall clock silently ticking up on the wall, a sound I never before paid attention to. More time passed, I finally enquired. My query was countered with a boisterous laughter, as if I asked, why fishes couldn’t fly. Someone said, she was busy gussying up. I started anticipating her even more. It was an anxiety like never before. I took a sip from the glass kept on the table in front and then put it down silently, avoiding further attention. I moved my eyes around, out of self consciousness to check if anyone was talking about me or my actions.

I heard a sudden clinking of sea-shells, coupled with that of bangles and anklets. I presumed, she was coming and those were the beats announcing her arrival. “Maybe the curtain is made of shells,” I thought. “No it should be,” I assured myself. Among the beats, that of the sea-shells’ attenuated, while the other two continued in sync with her gait. Someone removed the door curtains from her way. I started raising my eyes slowly from her hidden feet.  It was her attire, a combination of red and turquoise embellished with polka dots. I noticed a large tray of snacks and tea on those supple hands covered with ornamental designs. I gathered gumption to raise my eyes further and get a glimpse of her face, but failed. The same turquoise, red and polka dots covered her head and hid her face. Underneath the cover, I could feel the same anxiety that existed beyond it in my heart. Yet she didn’t or couldn’t move it away, couldn’t shed her bindings to appease her soul. She stood behind the sofa, upright, unlike the leaning stance she uses now. I kept on gazing at her covered figure, as the elders continued to chat. After, maybe, half an hour, they said it was time to leave. Attendants from both mine and her side, stood up, greeted and embraced each other. I too followed, without taking my eyes off her as she stood still, draped like a mannequin on display. I felt intrigued to know if the lips behind muttered and pouted, if the eye-lids behind twinkled in bliss, fluttered in surprise and bowed down in sorrow. Over the years, I learnt the lips did all except pouting and the eyes, even in happiness hid its twinkle.

It’s not that I never saw her before marriage. In fact, the day arrived pretty soon. That day, while the ritual of collecting water by the pond was being performed, I saw her face in the water’s turbulence. Even the frills of the surface couldn’t curl her beauty. She was prettier than I had ever imagined. I believe the water agreed too, as it played with her reflection. A hint of smile on her face, it showed in her eyes too and I envied the pond even more.

Marriage rituals followed as it does and we vowed never to part. She cat footed into my life with her lac-dyed paws and left imprints never to be wiped away.

Debojit Dutta

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