A dress she would never wearThe room was a complete mess—a pile of clothes on the couch, makeup kit on the table, and clutter all over. The floor looked like it had never known cleanliness. The bed looked like it had never been made.
The room was a complete mess—a pile of clothes on the couch, makeup kit on the table, and clutter all over. The floor looked like it had never known cleanliness. The bed looked like it had never been made.
Right at the centre of all this mess was a beautiful red dress embroidered in gold. A dress that cost a fortune. Almost. And staring at the dress was a 23-year-old plump young woman—Lakshmi.
Tomorrow would have been it—her big day. Tomorrow would have been the day she got married (off) to a man she felt nothing for. Tomorrow would have been the day that she would have officially become the Lakshmi of another household, bringing prosperity to her husband’s family.
But tomorrow had nothing in store for her anymore, except rumours, accusations and gossip, for her fiancé had left her.
“But why him? I don’t want to get married to an alcoholic who is on the verge of destroying his own career. And I know he’ll definitely destroy mine too.”
“He is head over heels in love with you since the first sight. If you marry him, his father will help clear off your Baba’s debt too. You don’t need a career. He has enough fortune to provide for you and your future children.”
“What about my happiness, Aama? Does it mean nothing to you and Baba?”
“We are your parents. We only want the best for you. We know this is good for you. Baba has already given his word. This engagement is taking place whether you like it or not.”
There was not much that she could do. It had always been this way. Trying to revolt was useless because her father had always made decisions for her. The school she went to, the friends she made, the degrees she acquired, and now the man she married—everything had always been her father’s call.
But her fiancé left her. He died in a road accident two weeks prior to the wedding.
One month ago, she had gotten engaged to a stranger like she was instructed too. It did not matter that she did not like him as a person, let alone love him.
When he got into an accident—a drinking while driving case—it didn’t come as a shock to her. By the time she was rushed to the hospital, her fiancé was already breathing his last. The doctors had already declared that he wouldn’t make it.
When he died, it didn’t shock her. This was bound to happen, one day or another. Everybody mourned, everybody wailed, but she didn’t shed a tear. It would have been unnatural. Yes, she felt sorry for him and his family. But no, she didn’t feel the loss or the pain.
“Just look at her standing there unaffected!” One relative had remarked. “She’s probably just shocked.” Another exclaimed.
“Could she have brought on this ill fate?” And the suspicions and rumours started surfacing.
Her could-be mother-in-law suddenly became angry not at her son, who was reckless about his life, but at Lakshmi, who had nothing to do with the accident. “She is responsible for his death. Nothing has gone right since the engagement. We should have never got them engaged!”
But what could Lakshmi have possibly done, and why would she have done anything? She couldn’t even tell how she felt—she was probably relieved. As she stared at the red dress in her room, she wondered what was to be done about it now that she wouldn’t (or couldn’t) wear it.
Ideally, she could have saved it for her marriage (with somebody else), which would eventually take place one day. But the society—including her parents—had already deemed her half-a-widow. She was not allowed to think of love, or marriage, or happiness anymore. She was supposed to drown in her sorrow and accept that she didn’t deserve good things in life anymore.
She was no more the ‘Lakshmi’ that her mother-in-law wanted her to be. For no reason at all, she was this black cat that had crossed her fiancé’s path. She was the ill-fate that had taken his life.
She couldn’t tell what she felt more: humiliation or anger. She was expected to give up every chance of happiness because her parents had made the wrong decision. She was expected to plead guilty, because her careless fiancé had taken the wrong turn.
She took a moment to reflect on all the people that currently surrounded her. They were too conservative, too stupid, too hypocritical. She could stand up for her rights, but it would go all in vain. She could never knock sense into any of them, not even her parents.
But she had had enough. She was not going to punish herself for something she had not done. Something inside her-a flame of sorts-pushed her to shove it all aside; both the mess in her room and the mess in her life.
It was time to move on with her life, and the people in it. It was time for her to chase freedom, and make her own decisions. No, it wouldn’t be easy, but she had to give it a shot. She had to get out of the rut she was in.
She cleaned the clutter in her room, took out her luggage that would have accompanied her to her in-law’s house otherwise, and packed everything she’d possibly need to move out of her parents’ house.
She checked for possible damages in the dress and upon finding none meticulously packed it in the luggage. The dress could be sold for a fortune. It would be her ticket to a better life.