By Thiyam Ningol, Dr. Nalini, Africa
“Leave me alone. I am not hungry. All of you get out from here.”
The newly wed bride was screaming at the girls who came to call her for lunch.
It was the second day after her marriage. Asha had not eaten anything since morning. The last proper meal she had was at their marriage reception.
She was only 16 years old. Her parents had arranged for her marriage. Most of her friends had also gotten married. She had a glimpse of her future husband; handsome, cute, good looking, so she did not object to the marriage.
On the first night of their marriage, she gave-in to her husband Saidi willingly, though she was a bit surprised that he did not utter a single word. But then she also did not utter a single word. “May be next time”- she consoled herself.
The next day, during the whole daytime, Saidi had not come close to her. He was always surrounded by people of different ages, marry making. The elders were congratulating him, the younger folks were teasing him and he was always smiling. Once/ twice Asha stole a glance at him, their eyes met and the eyes spoke a lot. Asha herself was always accompanied by a group of obedient young girls. No chance to go near him.
The second night, they had the usual relationship. Still no words spoken by him. Asha took the first step “I am so happy. Are you also happy with me?” No answer came, instead he showed some strange gestures, which she did not understand and did not try to understand. She gasped with horror “You are mute, isn’t? Tell me the truth, you are mute isn’t?” Saidi tried to calm her down, but she refused to be touched by him. She screamed louder and louder. Saidi’s eyes were wet and he was pleading her through the wet eyes. Not successful. She ordered him to leave.
When one of the girls who were accompanying her the previous day, came to invite her for breakfast, Asha asked whether her husband was mute. The girl simply answered the truth “You didn’t know?”
Saidi’s parents heard the commotion and by looking at Saidi, they understood things had gone not the way they expected. His mother came to console the daughter in law. She informed her that they were equally surprised that she was not told about Saidi. The agreement between the parents were to tell the truth and if she was still willing to go ahead with the plans of marrying him, then a handsome dowry was to be handed over to her parents, which they did.
The two sides tried to solve the matter but Asha was adamant, she would not stay with a mute husband. Exactly after one week, the marriage was dissolved officially. Later Asha found out the truth- the deceit was from her parents.
She tried hard to forget all about the night mares of that one week’s episode, but every time she tried, Saidi’s picture came in front of her eyes- the silent pleading, the tender loving care he offered to her and most of all, the understandings Saidi and his parents expressed towards her family. They accepted their fate and apologized for the misfortune happened to her.
Her parents deceived her, they never apologized to her and she punished Saidi for that. As the days passed, she felt more and more guilty. Instead of helping her to overcome the misfortunes, they started looking for another groom. Her parents arranged for her a second marriage to an elderly man, who despised his age and frail body. She became more aloof. The old man could be even his grand father’s age. He could not walk without the help of a walking stick. His body stooped, skin folded like an unironed bed sheet. He had many grown up children with their own families. He was married countless times but no wife stayed longer than 5 years. His last wife deserted him 5 years ago. She never got pregnant which was a blessing to her. His youngest child was 12 yrs old. Asha was sold to him.
Asha was a matured lady already with a heart full of Saidi’s sweet memories. She was not ready to be used as a pawn again and tolerate another deceit.
She knew Saidi had refused to marry another time again.
She collected all her courage, left behind all the shame and decided to run towards Saidi’s powerful arms, ask for forgiveness and seek for his love again.
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