“Beena’s mother is the man in her family. I found that out within a month after our wedding”, Sabu began relating his experiences during his short-lived marital life. “We had one week of bliss soon after the wedding. On the day after the wedding, Beena’s uncle took us to his place in Thekkady (a resort place) near the lake. He runs a sort of ‘Home stay’ unofficially entertaining visitors from the Northern part of India as he is fluent in Hindi. It was a wonderful time. We talked and talked. Beena told me everything about her life. She was a bright student who knew how to stand up for her rights and was not easily bullied. She beat up a slimy boy who played up to her and touched her improperly. She used her Tiffin carrier to dissuade the boy and he made away with a crack in his right middle finger. She said she lived up to the reputation of the family, which at that time I did not comprehend. She had a bicycle on which she was an expert. The Inclines and dips of the ‘High Ranges’ were flat ground to her. She could ride without her hands on the handlebar. Catcalls were sweet to her ears. She wore flared ‘Kurti’ because she did not want everyone to ogle at her substantial physical endowments. Her female classmates made fun of her saying she looked more like a teacher than student.” Sabu took in everything she had said, without any feedback. He enjoyed the listening and every word was sorted and stored up. After a week of heaven as they were returning to his home, Beena insisted that they spend two days at her parents’ home, as they would not be coming back once Sabu returned to work. Sabu was on cloud nine. Beena’s home was also in the ‘High Ranges’. Sabu did not mind being amidst the lush vegetation of the place; red, pink and white Oleanders, vivid Musanda, red and yellow; overgrowing clutches of ‘Jemanthy’ (Marigold), ‘Dancing girl and ground orchids’, Crotons exploding in variegated colors. It was part of paradise; beauty filling every branch of the stately Mahoganies and regal Goldmohar, (flame of the forest) Jacaranda with chirping, singing birds and butterflies. Sabu’s heaven was complete with a pitch black Labrador bitch with four frolicking puppies running all over the place. Yes! Heaven indeed for Sabu; the nature lover! He loved people too but never was good at expressing his love observably. He detested expansive demonstrations of love and loving concerns to the point that some people believed he is a proper misanthrope. He preferred vegetarian food; with special preference for sprouted grams and lentils. Knowing his liking for sprouted pulses, Beena put some green grams in water for soaking as soon as they reached her home. After few hours of soaking she packed them in damp cloth for germination knowing he would love it. The Next day for supper, she made an elaborate salad with onion, capsicum, carrot and the sprouts and curds, garnishing it with coriander leaves. That was good. Sabu loved going to church but would leave earlier before others came out of the building. It was more of a practice which he could not shake off. He had a brother and sister; both younger. His younger brother was bigger built than Sabu, an exact opposite of the only sister who was almost skin-and-bones. She too was not a communicative person but made an exception to her brother Sabu who was her confidant. She would talk for hours with Sabu, her sunken eyes riveted on his face. One has to come right in front of her to see her eye balls which had only suggestions of white. The large eyes were almost all black. It could have belonged to a dead flat fish. Sabu and Beena returned to his home after their honeymoon and life was normal and joy filled; for two days. On the third day Beena was not up by 7.30 am; an unusually late time for the rural place. Sabu mother mentioned to Beena “Mole, girls should get up early enough to get on with the breakfast things. Everything will get delayed if you get up late”. Beena did not say anything but went back to the bedroom shook up Sabu and gave him an earful and more ending up with “That lady should know newlyweds get up late. If you want a slave for a wife, start searching elsewhere” In less than two hours Sabu got a call from Beena’s mother ordering him to go to her home the same day with Beena. He didn’t like the tone of her words and said he would think about it as he needed to ask his parents first. She said “Right, you do that. Beena is coming home right now!” Beena left. Beena’s mother mentioned to a neighbor of ours “I retrieved my daughter from that spineless bastard” That was three years ago. “I do not know whether she reached home. I have not bothered to find out” “Now my mother says “Eda mone, (dear son) how long will you go like this? Are you not bringing home a wife?” “Should I?” “If I do, will it be my fault?” Can this marriage be revived? If that is possible, where will you begin? Is another marriage the solution? Will it be? Think

© Alex Mathew


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