Flash Fiction: ‘Kanyadaan’

(The below 500-word story is for Artoons Writers Room event

Five00-20 | Where have you been all these years?

Write a story incorporating the sentence ‘Where have you been all these years?’ in it.)

The offbeat chanting of the Vedic mantras blended with my heart’s pulsating rhythm, on the brink of bursting through my chest confines.

Raghav gripped my sweaty palm even as I held myself with a fragile thread of sanity, adjusting my Kanjeevaram saree. I loved Raghav and yet the rising cacophony of the people around only fuelled my anxiety.

The pandit declared it was time for the ‘Kanyadaan’*.

I stood on quivering legs even as Raghav supported me while my relatives had a field day witnessing the shenanigans. Oh, how I wanted a quiet court wedding… but Raghav wanted this and I eventually gave in.

Inhaling the soot from the holy fire blended with myriad scents around me, I looked up towards Dheeraj Kaka and gestured him to come for the ritual. The lean-bodied septuagenarian walked towards the dais looking dapper in a lemon-yellow kurta and pyjama that had seen better days. The slight hunch due to ageing notwithstanding he could give young men a run for their money. But all I could see was the unshed moisture in his soft eyes… eyes that gave me hope in the darkest phase of my life.

“WAIT… WHAT IS HE DOING HERE…?” Appa’s loud baritone boomed cutting through the reigning chaos and suddenly everyone decided to be silent at once. He strode angrily along with an equally angry Amma and their entourage of innumerable cousins all dressed in traditional Iyer attires.

Raghav’s grip tightened as he sensed my turmoil. Kaka halted as Appa walked up to him. Though shorter in height, Appa’s ego engulfed Kaka’s soft demeanour.

He turned to address Amma and others. “Do you see, Sarla? The audacity of this girl? It wasn’t enough that she was marrying this orphan… but to ask the housekeeper to perform the holy ritual…? This is blasphemous.” He turned towards me, his eyes blazing with fury.

“Nitya, what do you think you are doing, calling this low-caste man on the dais? Your Amma and Appa are still alive…” He gestured to the shimmery entourage.

That’s it… the dams burst.

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL THESE YEARS, Appa…? Where were you when your high-caste brother-in-law violated your teenage daughter…?” I couldn’t stop anymore. Raghav’s grip tightened. “…Amma, declared those vermillion stains were the monthlies… and not your daughter losing her virginity… NONE OF YOU TRUSTED YOUR GIRL… It was Dheeraj Kaka who understood all that transpired without even being told….”

“Stop it, Nitya. Enough…” Amma was livid.

“You still don’t believe me, do you, Amma? Your brother and the family honour always took precedence over your daughter’s misery…” I lamented. “…Why do you think Mama stopped coming home 7 years ago?”

Amma and Appa looked at each other, disbelief written all over their face camouflaging the underlying rage.

I smirked. “That’s because Dheeraj Kaka threatened him with dire consequences. All these years, Kaka stood steadfast as my guiding light on the tempest of PTSD*… his belief in me unwavering. He truly deserves to perform this ritual…”



Kanyadaan: Kanyadaan is a symbolic Indian wedding ritual that means “giving away the bride” in Sanskrit. It’s performed when the bride’s father gives his daughter’s right hand to the groom

PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a psychiatric condition that can develop in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.

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