(Short story on the given word: Prison. For the facebook platform, Did you write today, Kuch toh likho)
The clash of cymbals pierced through his ears.The tympanitic pulsation of the assembled percussions and the cacophonic indulgence of the humbled ‘tutari’ set his heart pacing. The throbbing inside his head was a time bomb ticking both figuratively and literally. Kartik Deshmukh was sullen on his big day.
The Pandit began to chant the ritualistic mantras trying to bellow over the existing discordance, and Kartik tried to zone out. The tight pheta adorning his head with the floral mundavalya thankfully obstructed his vision. Everyone assembled would otherwise know how dismayed he was. He was the groom… the man of the day, the lone heir to the Deshmukh conglomerate. His bride-to-be Namita was not only from a family equating to his social status but also his best friend since childhood.
He couldn’t understand why Namita had agreed for this. She knew him… everything about him. Why was she so determined to ruin her life and his in the process, to fulfill archaic norms? She knew he was shackled to tradition, to patriarchal beliefs, and he had accepted his destiny. Yet, she sounded excited about her future with him….especially when she had purchased the bright vermillion material embroidered with the golden thread for her trousseau. Was she insane?
The glimpse of the holy matrimonial fire through the fragrant mogra armoring his face resembled his turmoil. He was burning too… a slow burn. Expectations from all spheres encumbered him. Would marriage with Namita liberate him? Would it change mindsets? He knew Namita would understand, and that was the only silver lining.
But then what about Rajat? What about the two years of coital and emotional bliss he experienced with the guy? What about the promises they made to each other?
His father had threatened to harm Rajat if he were to revisit him. Hot tears cascaded down his cheeks as he inwardly moaned over his helplessness. His chest constricted, and he feared an anxiety attack before the entire taluka who had gathered to witness the wedding of the year. No… he couldn’t create a scene today. At least Namita deserved better. She was an IPS officer and had an image to keep too. He couldn’t do that to his bestie, the only soul who understood him, his paradigm shift, his preference… and Rajat.
He inhaled deeply and tightened his fist in an attempt to calm his heart.
“the bride may now be escorted to the dias…” The Pandit declared, and Kartik’s heart skipped a beat.
No… no… no… Despite his rationalization, Kartik felt the walls of the massive auditorium closing in on him. No defense mechanism today was proving its worth. Instead, the metaphorical prison had him completely in its clutches.
The musical notes reached their strident crescendo amidst the populous din.
Suddenly there was silence… pin drop silence.
What? What was happening… he wondered.
He moved the floral strands and stared wide-eyed at the sight ahead. Rajat stood resplendent in a bright Vermillon Sherwani… it was the same material Namita had shown him, a perfect contrast to Kartik’s off-white. Rajat was flanked by Namita and a group of their common friends. The blinding clicks of the assembled photographers provided the right strobe effects to soar Kartik’s emotions and hopes.
But his heart resumed its plundering when his father bellowed.
“What on earth is going on…?” The man stood to his burly form with eyes blazing in rage. “… what is that wretch doing here…? I had warned you, hadn’t I?”
Before Rajat could speak, Namita walked ahead, and Kartik watched in awe as she stood up to his father.
“Kaka, with due respect, keep everything aside and just think like a father… your son’s happiness lies with Rajat and not with me or any other woman. Why don’t you accept that Kartik’s orientation is different from yours? I hope you disenthrall not only him but also your own imprisoned mind that refuses to accept him the way he is. I hope better sense prevails….” She then turned towards the gathered crowd. “…Does anyone have an objection to this union? If you do, then please leave….”
Kartik was stunned by her demeanor. At that moment, she was not only his friend but a thorough police officer in every sense of the word. He knew she was going beyond the realms of her duty since same-sex marriage was still debatable in the court of law.
No one moved. Kartik’s father tried to object but was restrained by his mother and Namita’s parents.
The ceremony proceeded without any further obstacles amidst murmurs and gossip. As Kartik began the traditional circumambulation holding Rajat’s hand in his as the latter followed him, he blinked back tears of joy.
He knew there would be gossip and ridicule, and probably, he would be abandoned and disinherited by his father. But nothing mattered anymore. Not only was he united with the love of his life forever, but he was liberated.
He was set free…
Disclaimer: this story is only meant to increase awareness of the ‘right to live’ for the LTBG community.