“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain” ― Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience
She grew up reading romance novels and watching romantic movies. She considered life to be a bed of roses without thorns. To a large extent, her life was like a bed of roses without thorns. Youngest daughter of indulgent parents, she was never introduced to the harsh realities of life. She grew up, believing rosy dreams to be realities.
Academic activities were never her cup of tea. She somehow completed her BSc with a I Class. She told her parents that she would like to be a homemaker. The tough, challenging life of a career woman was not for one as gentle and quiet as her. She preferred the quiet life of a homemaker, which would allow her to pursue her hobbies of gardening and reading.
The indulgent father did not force his daughter to pursue her studies. He set about looking for a suitable match. The boy he finally chose for her was a not-so-handsome yet not-so-ugly software engineer. The two families discussed the matter and the boy’s family finally settled for a dowry of five hundred thousand and a quarter kilogram of gold. They promised to shower the bride with gifts of gold and clothes. The girl blushed and agreed to the match and the parents promptly began preparing for her wedding.
A month after the wedding, the bride was seen trudging towards her parents’ house, the very picture of sorrow, confusion and disillusionment. Her eldest sister, successfully married for six years, had also come with her children for a visit. They met her at the door, embraced her and exclaimed over her.
“You have lost weight,” said the mother.
“He must be keeping her busy,” laughed the eldest sister.
The bride burst into tears and the family was horrified.
“What happened, dear?” cried the mother.
The father was upset and annoyed. He did not take kindly to daughters who came home one month after their weddings and burst into tears. Sensible daughters, he felt, came to their parent’s house, wreathed in smiles and bursting with stories of a happy married life. He had not paid five hundred thousand as dowry for nonsense of this kind.
“Take her inside and find out what the matter is,” he ordered his wife brusquely and promptly went out of the house, meaning to return when peace was restored.
The mother and the eldest sister took the bride to the privacy of the mother’s bedroom and closed the door. The mother looked worried. The eldest sister, successfully married for six years looked smug and absolutely confident that she could help her younger sister solve any marital problem.
“Does he beat you?” asked the mother, softly.
“No,” she sniffed.
“Does he drink?” whispered the eldest sister.
“No,” the bride replied with yet another sniff.
The mother and the eldest sister heaved a sigh of relief. If the bridegroom was a non-violent teetotaler, he was a good man and an ideal husband. Something must be wrong with this foolish girl.
“Then why are you crying?” demanded the eldest sister.
“It isn’t what I expected,” said the bride.
“What did you expect?” asked the mother.
The girl thought of all the romance novels and romantic movies she had devoured and fell silent.
“Speak, you silly girl,” said the eldest sister, shaking her. “Do you know how much you have upset father?”
“Tell us what your problem is, child,” said the mother, exasperated.
“You see, mother,” began the girl, blushing. “He is so dirty. Every morning without fail he farts loudly and I wake up with a start.”
The mother and the eldest sister looked at each other and burst into squeals of laughter. The bride burst into fresh howls.
“Silly girl, is that why you are crying?” demanded the mother.
“You don’t need to use an alarm clock,” teased the eldest sister.
“That isn’t all,” said the bride, sulkily. “Sometimes, he forgets to flush the toilet.”
“Don’t make that a problem, girl,” said the eldest sister, pompously. “Men have many things in their minds. It is up to the wives to maintain peace and order in the house.”
“He doesn’t have a mind,” said the bride, bitterly. “He is not like the men I have read about.”
“Oh, no!” groaned the eldest sister. “You shouldn’t have let her read all those romance novels, mother.”
“Well, how was I to know they would twist her brains?” demanded the mother. “Her habit of reading seemed so harmless.”
“He is ordinary,” said the girl, stubbornly.
“And what are you?” scolded the eldest sister. “A princess?”
“At least I have ideas,” said the bride. “I can think of things he doesn’t even know exist.”
“Oooooooooooh, I see,” said the sister, sarcastically. “And what does our little princess think?”
“I think he is ordinary,” said the bride, fiercely. “His kisses fail to move me. His words lack poetry. He can’t create a romantic atmosphere. He has never paid me a single compliment, never told me how much I mean to him, never made me feel wanted or special. For one month, I have done nothing but give him water and coffee whenever he orders it, carry his bath towel to the bathroom whenever he yells for it, flush the toilet whenever he forgets it, find his shirt whenever he hollers for it, crawl under the bed to get the dirty, stinking socks he unwittingly kicks under the bed………..”
“Stop it, girl, stop it,” said the mother, tired. “What do you expect? I don’t understand what you expect.”
“He is ordinary,” repeated the bride. “He talks to me whenever necessary but we never share our innermost feelings and opinions.”
“Don’t you have us to talk to?” asked the mother.
“Don’t you have your mother-in-law and sisters-in-law to talk to?” demanded the sister. “Your mother-in-law is not strict, is she?”
“No,” said the girl. “She is not the type that burns brides.”
“Listen, child,” said the eldest sister. “This is life! You will be happy when you become a mother.”
The bride did not think so but kept quiet.
“How was the first night?” asked the eldest sister, softly.
“I suppose I shouldn’t complain,” said the bride, coldly. “He did something. I felt absolutely unmoved but he was terribly excited. Then he asked me, ‘Did you feel happy?’ and as I did not want to upset him, I lied and said, ‘yes.’”
“He provides, doesn’t he?” said the mother. “That is important for you and your children.”
“Yes, he gives me some money,” said the bride. “He also tells me what to do with it. He also gives me gifts which I have to like.”
“Oh, you are impossible to please, daughter,” cried the mother. “Look at your sisters! Do they complain?”
“I wish he drank and beat me and did not provide for me,” cried the bride, passionately. “Then I could leave him!”
“Oh, shut up, girl!” cried the mother, furious. “I have had enough of your nonsense. Consider yourself lucky that you have a good husband who provides for you.”
“It’s those books she has read,” said the eldest sister, who hated reading. “She will come to her senses if we don’t encourage her.”
They left her to herself. She was sad and perplexed. Her tears had dried up. Could she be at fault? Was she expecting too much? Should she consider herself lucky? Were her mother and eldest sister right in refusing to sympathize with her? Could the novelists and the movie makers have lied? Was life really as bland and ordinary?
“But what if the books spoke the truth?” cried her agonized soul. “What if there is romance in the world? What if such heroes who sweep heroines off their feet really do exist? Have I missed out on it? Don’t I deserve such romance? Must I stick on to this boring, ordinary man who provides for me just because he doesn’t drink and beat me?”
The answers eluded her. The gods she had believed in kept quiet and looked the other way. The young bride mourned in silence and solitude for the romance which either didn’t exist or had eluded her.
Three days later, her husband appeared at their door, scratching his stomach and looking sheepish.
“My mother told me to go and fetch my wife,” he told them.
“How is married life, son?” asked the father of the bride, over a cup of coffee.
“No problems,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
The father was relieved. He slapped his son-in-law on the back and laughed heartily.
“Have lunch with us, son,” he said. “You can take her home after lunch.”