“Sunny Side” Up!

She looked at her bloody hands. She remembered the last time her hands were this bloody: It was on the day of her wedding, when she had applied red colored alta*. It was a bright day of her life: the day as bright as her yellow lehanga**. She still remembered what her friends told her, when they saw her blush at her groom, “So, Sunny has indeed got your sunny side up.” Thinking all those happy memories now, tears gushed from her eyes.

She met Sunny 5 years back in her cousin’s wedding. What initially seemed to be a mutual attraction, turned out to be a marriage proposal. As they say, in India, “Marriages are decided in heaven, but fixed by parents’ in other people’s weddings.” After a generous courting period or the so-called post-engagement period of nine months, she was married to Sunny.

Her wedding to Sunny was the biggest celebration in her family. While her friends and she danced till their feet ached, some of her relatives were gossiping on how bloody-lucky she was to marry such a handsome and rich guy. Tall, rich, handsome guy: the perfect Mills & Boon material – her best friend Aruna playfully told her. Later on the wedding night, when he caught her alone, he said, “pack your bags, in two days we leave for our honeymoon.” “Where to?” she asked excitedly. “Shhh!” he smiled.

The Shhh turned out to be Venice. Venice and a handsome guy who was all hers – what else would she need. The Venice honeymoon was continued by not-so-long-but-luxurious ones in Maldives, Kerala, Bhutan, and what not. It has been five years, and she & Sunny were the first names that popped out of every person’s mouth when there was a mention about happy marriages. Why wouldn’t they, when Sunny’s Facebook account was flooded with them posing in different exotic places, when she wore a brand new dress and jewel in every social event they attended, when they never left each other’s arms, and above all when she covered her neck up to hide those love bites.

While her wedding to Sunny had all these perks that her friends envied off, what they felt bad was the reduced time she spent with them. Every time they try to reach her, it would be either the automatic voice message or she hurriedly cutting the call. While her friends cribbed about this to each other, the fate was no different to her parents.

The phone rang with shattering noise in the otherwise calm room. She came out of the shock, she stared at Sunny’s lifeless body in front of her and started weeping. Her weeping coupled with the phone’s ringing shook the whole place, literally. After few minutes, she took the phone and dialed back. It was her mom, who chirpily said, “Happy Anniversary, beta.” She cried and wept. She longed for her mother’s lap. She cried like a baby. The next thing she remembers was her younger sister coming dragging her away from Sunny’s body and sound of ambulance.

When she woke up 24 hours later in the hospital, she saw all the familiar faces except Sunny’s. She didn’t feel anything, neither the physical pain, nor the mental pain. Her parents who flew down from Delhi, her friends who drove from Pune, and her sister who lived 20 kms away from her home where all next to her. Far away from them were Sunny’s parents who had flown down from Australia.

“If you don’t mind, can I have a word with her?” asked a gentleman who just entered her room. “But, my daughter is still in shock,” her dad rebelled. “We will help you, leave my daughter-in-law alone, she is still not out of her beloved’s loss,” her father-in-law pitched in. “No, I will take it,” she said. The policeman walked inside and requested her relatives to leave. She insisted them to stay. “There is nothing more to hide. Whatever I know, all of them also should,” she said plainly.

“Okay madam. So do you know who did this?” he asked politely. “Didn’t you guys figure it out yet? The knife was lying right next to his body.” He calmly replied, “Yes, ma’am. It has more than one set of fingerprints and that’s why we are here to talk to you.” She closed her eyes for a minute and opened it. She took a deep breath and said, “I did it.” There were heavy sighs and glaring glances from all over the room. Her mother-in-law was the first to react, “You moron! I treated you like my own daughter.” She held the bed, stood up, and said, “Paa, Daddyji, close your eyes. Sir,” she faced the policemen and said, “you too.” She didn’t wait for them to close their eyes, and she removed her nightgown. Now the sighs were louder and heavier. Her mom rushed next to her and covered her with a bedspread. The policemen stood and dialed a number on his phone and said, “This case seems more complicated that what we thought. We might need a lady inspector too.” She disconnected the call, and said to no one in particular, “I will come back after a while, but please all you stay inside the hospital premises.”

She narrated her story of how behind those fancy dates were his equally fancy and cruel fetishes, of how behind those inexpensive trips were his intolerable abuses, and how the verbal abuse developed into physical and slowly sexual abuse. All through the narration, she didn’t shed a single tear, maybe she didn’t have tears left to shed. “Why didn’t you tell me?” her mom asked. Before she could answer, her sister asked, “I was in Mumbai all through these five years. Your friends were here. Why you never told us?” Her mother-in-law said in a monotonous tone, “I can’t believe even an ounce of what you told, but if it was true why didn’t you speak before. And, even if he abused you, why the hell you murdered him?”

Her father seeing the pain in her eyes asked everyone to wait outside and give her some rest. After some initial ordeal, he managed to make them wait outside. He kissed her on her forehead and said, “Whatever it is, it can’t be undone. Take rest, for now.” When she was alone, she the day when Sunny first slapped her in Venice. He slapped her so hard that nose pin hurt her nose and made it bleed. He had profusely apologized, but she never knew that it was the beginning. Initially, she bore his tantrums and abuses for love, later he convinced her with expensive gifts and cajoling. She thought it was his way of expressing love. After a while, when she couldn’t take it anymore, she spoke to him about how she is unhappy, and he told her, “You are not even beautiful. It is such a luck for you to be married to me. If you rebel, and if I divorce you, you won’t even find a place to live.” As if to prove his words right, her parents were all praises for their son-in-law, and her friends whenever they spoke mentioned to her how lucky she was. Slowly the inferiority complex overpowered her confidence.

Most of the times, when he hit her she kept silent praying that he would stop hitting her, but day-by-day it got worse. He started to spank her, rip her clothes off, and forcefully had sex with her. During one of such painful intercourse session, she gained strength to tell, “You are raping me. It’s a crime.” To which he guffawed at and said, “Rape is not a rape when done to own wife, baby.” She gave in. She gave in when he striped her, when he burnt her navel with cigar butt for wearing a low hip saree to the market, when he spanked her feet for trying to run away, when he pressed hot iron on her neck for trying to tell these to her sister, but she gave him back when she told him she is pregnant, and he still kicked her on her tummy.

That was her last hope, she thought if she told him about her pregnancy, he would change, he would respect her, or he would repent, but he didn’t. The worst was he tried to terminate her child the tribal was by pressing iron on her tummy. She couldn’t take it any longer, in an adrenaline rush she poked him with a butcher knife. It wasn’t intentional, it wasn’t cold-blooded, and it wasn’t pre-planned, but what can she do, when she lives in a country where murdering a rapist and an abuser is a heinous crime, but marital rape isn’t.

What she failed to understand was, “Love never hurts. In the end, it doesn’t matter who is the most handsome, richest, or whom you know longest. All that matters is who treats you with the respect you deserve.”

*Alta: Alta or Mahawar or Rose Bengal is a red dye which women in India (specially Bengali and Oriya women in Eastern India) or Bangladesh apply with cotton on the border of their feet during marriages and religious festivals.

**Lehanga: a full ankle-length skirt worn by Indian women, usually on formal or ceremonial occasions.

Stand up against abuse!

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