Friday, August 1, 2014

Love Marriage by Rudy Ravindra

A misguided boy thinks he can hide his madness and abuse behind the social necessities of India's cultural traditions in Rudy Ravindra's graphic tale.

In the beginning Seshadri followed Vanita discreetly, and never spoke to her. After a few weeks he began to send her love letters in flowery language, describing Vanita's beauty, her gracious gait, her smoldering eyes, her long lustrous hair, her delicate nose, her luscious lips and such. Vanita shared those letters with her friends and they all had a good laugh.

Subsequently, one of the letters began, "This is written in my blood, to show you I'm ready to shed my blood to declare my undying love..."

Vijaya screamed. "He used his blood, his blood..."

Kamala, another girl in the group, snatched it from her. "Nonsense, this could be chicken blood, you can get plenty of it at the halal shop by the river." She looked at Vanita. "What do you think?"

Vanita said. "I don't know... I wish this fellow would stop bothering me."

Kamala said. "I'll get this letter analyzed, my brother's in the police department."



When it was ascertained that the letter was indeed written with human blood, it was no longer a laughing matter. Only a demented fool declared his love in such a coarse and hideous manner. Only a fool cut himself with a sharp knife, dipped the nib of his fountain pen into the fresh red blood and wrote such a hopelessly horrid love letter. Vanita's friends felt that if this dim-witted fellow thought he could win over the most beautiful girl in the entire town with such a melodramatic gesture, he was utterly mistaken.



Dharma Rao asked his daughter, "Vanita, do you know a fellow called Seshadri?"

Vanita said. "How come you know this crazy man?"

"Why do you say the boy is crazy?"

When Vanita told him about the bloody love letter, it troubled him. "Vanita, did you speak to this fellow?"

"Speak to him? No way. He has been following me, sending those dumb letters."

"Why didn't you tell me about this fellow?"

"Ummm... ahh... thought he might go away. I know you are very busy with the Vizag project."

"Seshadri wants to marry you."

Vanita said. "What? Marriage?"

"Yes, his father met me at the club, Seshadri is very keen on you."

Mr. Rao's discreet inquires pointed towards a well-educated young man with a good job and bright prospects. From every aspect this looked like a good match, and Mr. Rao thought long and hard about the proposal. A few weeks later Seshadri's father told Mr. Rao that there was no need for a dowry. Mr. Rao was concerned by this new development. No self-respecting family let their son to marry a girl, any girl, rich or poor, pretty or ugly, smart or dumb, without a proper dowry. It was almost a matter of prestige that a rich family demand a substantial dowry befitting their status in the community. If a boy's family didn't demand a dowry it would be automatically assumed that there was something wrong with either the boy or his family. There could be a scandal that was begging to be unearthed. The boy could be suffering from some horrible, incurable disease. Worse still, he might be impotent.

While Mr. Rao seriously considered the pros and cons of the alliance, Seshadri continued his barrage of love letters. He wrote how he would adore Vanita, put her on a pedestal, worship the very ground that she trod on, and other mushy mishmash. He also wrote that life without her would be empty and if she didn't consent to be his wife, he was contemplating suicide. First, blood, then suicide. This really unnerved Mr. Rao. If Seshadri really took his own life, it would make things difficult for Mr. Rao's family in such a close knit community.



The wedding took place next summer, after Vanita completed her final examinations. It was a grand gala event, and the bride's as well as the groom's side spent lavishly on food, entertainment, and gifts.

After the ceremony was over, it was time for the happy couple to consummate their marriage, and as was the custom then, the groom went to the bride's house. The bridal chamber was decorated with fragrant flowers, the air refreshed with incense and perfume, and rose petals were strewn over the bed. An assortment of refreshments were at hand - fruits, desserts, coffee, tea. The bride was groomed with extra care, all the strategic areas waxed to remove unseemly hair. Dressed in a resplendent silk sari and a coronet of fresh jasmine flowers in her hair, Vanita glided sedately into the conjugal chamber.

After a few minutes, Seshadri entered the room. Although she vaguely knew what to expect, Vanita was apprehensive. Her mother, Leelavathi, spoke of the pain, the blood and the soreness. In spite of it all, it was her duty to serve her lord and master; it was her duty to cater to his every whim and fancy; it was her duty to do whatever he demanded. All men wanted only one thing from their wives, at least in the beginning.

Seshadri examined Vanita from head to toe and smirked, "At last, after almost two years, you are mine. You know, you tormented me so much all this time. I was pining away for you and you never even looked at me. You never even acknowledged my letters. I think you are the most cruel, cold woman." He spoke with a smiling face as though he was discussing as innocuous a topic as the weather.

She didn't know how to respond to his allegation. From her point of view she behaved as she was supposed to. It was unheard of, at least in the circles she moved, for a girl to engage in any sort of dialog with a stranger. It was simply not done. Surely, Seshadri was aware of the rules. After all, he had two younger unmarried sisters. He looked at her, probably expecting her to rebut but she kept quiet, and wished he would talk about something else. After what appeared like an eternity, he picked up an apple, tossed it from hand to hand, took out a knife from his pocket, with the flick of a button flipped it open and peeled the skin and cut the fruit into small pieces, taking care to remove the core and seeds. He placed them in a plate, and gave them to his wife. She accepted them but kept the plate on a side table. She wasn't hungry, just very tired, longing to go to sleep. She hoped the night would end soon.

He walked towards her with the sharp knife, and told her to remove her clothes.

Eyes flashing, she said. "What do you mean, remove my clothes? Aren't you ashamed? Are you mad or what?"

He looked at her sternly and pointed the knife to his neck. "If you don't do it I'll cut my throat and bleed to death. Everyone will blame you for my death. How would you like that?"

Vanita didn't like the way the night was turning out. If she had thought she would submit to him and go to sleep, she was very much mistaken.

He put the sharp tip of the knife very close to his neck and repeated his order, in a quiet, calm voice. "Remove all your clothes. If you don't do it immediately, I will plunge this knife into my neck, sever the carotid artery, I will die very quickly. Do you want my death on your conscience?"

By this time Vanita was very scared and rattled, really believed he would indeed carry out his threat. So, burning with shame, and angry at her impotence to stop his crazy behavior, she removed her sari, petticoat and blouse.

He said, "Get rid of your bra and panty. Remove everything, or else."

Vanita thought for a moment and said to herself, He will one day see me nude anyway. What's the big deal, let me keep him quiet, go along with him tonight. Hoping that after seeing her slim, sensual body he might be aroused and put the menacing knife away, she got rid of her bra and panty.

"Good, now you are coming to your senses. Come near me, my love. Let me look at you. All those months I could only imagine your curves. You are like a firm Bangenapalli mango, ripe and ready." He smacked his lips. "Turn around, my temptress. There, now I can admire your firm hips. No, no, the show isn't over, don't move, don't move."

And then suddenly, he bent her over. She screamed, "Not there, not there, not there." He clamped her mouth shut with his hand, and when she tried to wriggle out of his grip, held her firmly at her waist with another hand. She was hurting and bleeding and crying silently with excruciating pain. He wasn't bothered at all, went on ramming relentlessly.

He growled triumphantly. "Now that's the first part. Stand up straight, face me." He threw a towel at her. "Wipe yourself."

Suddenly he became very solicitous. "That was just an appetizer, to get your juices flowing. I'll make you pregnant tonight, you'll deliver our first child in about nine months. After that you'll bear many more children. With so many pregnancies you'll lose your shape and beauty. Then you'll be like any other ordinary house wife, and lose your hoity-toity ways."

With the knife in hand he said, "Now for the next part of the exciting night. I'm sure you know about cow-branding."

When she didn't respond, he went on, "We protect our cows by branding them with a hot iron, so that even if they wander away, people know the cows' owner. You are my cow, I'll brand you now. Don't worry, I won't use a hot iron, that's too barbaric. No, no, hot iron isn't for you, you are such a delicate darling. I will simply carve an 'S' on both of your thunder thighs. For a such a slim girl you do have fleshy thighs, although I find them quite sexy. I guess all that going around in the car made your thighs flabby. Too bad you didn't walk to college like all the other girls."

He went down on his knees, and with the sharp knife, carved an 'S' on her left thigh. Although the cut was not very deep, it bled profusely. She felt like crying and shouting for help, but was momentarily paralyzed, unable to get over the shock.

Still kneeling on the ground, he looked up, "Don't worry, I won't let it bleed too long, I'll stop the bleeding and stick a Band-Aid. But not before I operate on your other thigh. A beautiful cow like you should have everything symmetrical."

As he was about inflict another cut, she picked up the heavy fruit-laden tray and hit him hard on his head. He fell backwards, his head hit the marble floor, and he passed out. She quickly put on her clothes, ran all the way to the other end of the house, and burst into her parents' bedroom.

Her father asked. "What's the matter, is anything wrong?"

She hugged him and cried. "He is cutting me with a knife. He is very mad."

"What, a knife?"

Vanita looked at her mother as if she had something to tell her. Leelavathi signaled her husband to leave the room, pacified Vanita, and learnt all the gory details. Leelavathi was shocked, how dare he do this to her daughter? In all those years of marriage, Mr. Rao never even touched her there. Only the most depraved of men behaved in such a barbaric manner. She cleaned Vanita's wounds and dressed them as best as she could. She let Vanita rest and went to her husband's study.

Once she was alone with him, all her resolve to stay calm vanished, she broke down and cried. Mr. Rao was angry, but knew how to control his temper. Immediately, he called his family doctor (who was also a good friend), told him briefly about his daughter's condition, and sent his wife and daughter to the doctor's clinic.



He sat at his desk and thought of how to deal with Seshadri. He knew that if he went to the police, Seshadri might get off with just a slap on his wrist, nothing more. Mr. Rao called his friend, Jaganmohan.

After a few rings a sleepy voice answered, "Hello, who's this?"

"Sorry to disturb you at this late hour. I am Dharma Rao. I need your help. Can you come to my house now?"

When Mr. Rao went to see Seshadri, he was still out cold. Mr. Rao looked around the room, found the fruits strewn every which way. He picked up the offending knife and put it in his pocket, came out of the room and bolted the door from outside.

He sat on the cool concrete bench in his front yard, smoking a cigarette. The summer night was a little warm, although there was a breeze about.

Mr. Rao was a relatively young man, just turned forty five. He had studied civil engineering and gone into the construction business. An exploding population's insatiable demand for housing helped him prosper, and he became a much sought after contractor, building many apartment complexes as well as grand houses, not only in Mysore, but also in other parts of India. When he heard a vehicle, he went to the front gate.

Jaganmohan asked, "How can I help?"

"Thanks for coming, Jaganmohan. Sorry to wake you up."

"My friend, I owe you my life. You saved me from the brink of disaster. But for your timely loan..." He put his hand on his friend's shoulder, "No formalities between us. Whatever you need, I'll take care of it. So, what's the problem?"

"It's my son-in-law... he... he..." He had tears in his eyes. "I made a big mistake. Her life is ruined... Don't know what to do." Jaganmohan was distressed to see his friend's condition. He guided to him to the bench, and offered him his flask. "Here, have some Scotch, it'll calm your nerves."

Between sips of whiskey, Mr. Rao told him of Vanita's ordeal.

Jaganmohan said, "Where is this despicable man? Lead me to him. No one will see the fellow again. Nothing to implicate you."

"No, no, no, I don't want that. Just teach him a lesson, something he'll never forget."

Jaganmohan said, "Dharma Rao, we can't let him live after what he did, can we?"

"I agree with you. But bigger punishment would be for this... this... man to live with a disfigured body for the rest of his life."

Jaganmohan smiled for the first time. "Okay, I see." He went out of the front door and called his assistants, three big burly men.

They went to the bridal chamber, and Jaganmohan signaled Mr. Rao to keep out of sight.

Seshadri was lying on the floor trying to wake up.

Jaganmohan kicked the fellow. "You coward! Hurting an innocent girl! I'll make sure you'll never lay your dirty hands on any woman again."

Now completely awake, Seshadri stood up, holding his stomach, yelled. "Hey, hey who are you? Why are you hitting me?"

Jaganmohan slapped Seshadri hard and punched him in his stomach, "You good for nothing bastard." Another punch on the fellow's chest sent him reeling against the wall. Jaganmohan signaled to his assistants and they gagged Seshadri, tied up his arms and legs, carried him out of the house, and drove to Jaganmohan's warehouse, away from the town.

Jaganmohan's assistants worked on Seshadri, systematically broke his legs and arms with solid iron rods. Then they broke Seshadri's jaw at several places, and with a sharp knife made several deep cuts on his face.

Jaganmohan got a cricket bat from his office and gave it to one of his men. The assistant examined the bat's handle. "Yeah, this should do it, long enough."

They dumped Seshadri's unconscious body at the front door of his house.

4 comments:

  1. very interesting and well written story. an eye opener for me into a unique
    society, with its own special mores and traditions. and an extremely brutal lesson somebody will never be able to forget.

    Michael McCarthy

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  2. Excellent writing and gripping suspense. The cultural claustrophobia is palpable. However, I felt let down by the ending, which seemed forced and unnatural. It was as if the story could only end with the villain being punished; so once that’s out of the way, we write the final period. Were there any consequences to the Rao family for what they did? Could the couple possibly get divorced under these circumstances? Too many unanswered questions.
    Gabriel Dumas

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  3. It's nice to see justice served in fiction every once in a while, since it never seems to happen in real life. Mr. Rao should feel a little guilty though, the signs were all there. I agree with Mike that it was a great peak into a society where good people can find themselves handcuffed by tradition. A very enjoyable story.

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  4. I agree with Gabriel in that I wanted to see a more inventive (and probably humane) ending, but the answer to that is in the genre; 'real life story.' So life it is! We think we are so clever and sophisticated in the West but scratch our population and you'll find it's full of folk baying for 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth....' The guy needed 'help' not being taken within an inch of his... How many eyes and teeth does Society have? Anyway, enough of my moralizing I found the story compulsive reading and Rudy's skilful 'Lawrence Housman' style of narrative gives it the strong feel of a fable.
    ...Love the phrase '...and other such mushy mishmash.'!

    Brooke Fieldhouse

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