Bani felt her chest tightening; her heart heavy as if someone was tugging at it cruelly. Her pain was crushing her, abusing her very existence. Warm tears rolled down her eyes, she had been crying silently, sitting alone under the shade of the Chinar. The huge mountains, snow capped, seemed huger to her than ever before. She felt them closing on her, shrinking her world, crashing everything between them. She sat there alone, near the quiet Dal Lake under the Chinar where they had first met.
It had been a casual meeting, a set up arranged by the two families. Bani had been shy and timid having had to meet her suitor for the first time. She had dressed in a lovely baby pink gown graced in silver tilla embroidery on the neck with an elegant net dupatta on her side that had transformed the simple girl into an elegant princess. Manaan had come in a gray three piece suit with a black shirt. He was looking equally stunning and handsome. The two of them had clicked right away. They talked for hours and by the end Bani knew he was the one. They got married after 3 months of short courtship. A marriage that was blessed by the elders and celebrated in the most lavish manner, Bani, after all was the pampered daughter, an only child.
Little did Bani know what life she had signed for. The happiness in her marriage lasted for only 6 months. Manaan was a mature man, the one whose love made Bani feel like she was the luckiest woman ever to have walked on the face of earth. Yet he had to him, another side. He was a perfectionist, obsessed with how everything ought to be. And when things did not go as he wanted them to, his temper rose and unleashed a reign of terror on Bani.
At first it had been for small things, like keeping the house clean, keeping everything exactly where it had been. Bani had struggled but she had learnt to deal with it. She had gotten accustomed to the placing of everything in his house, as he used to call it. Never once did he say it was their house. It was always, “What have you turned my house into! That coffee table stays there! It is my house, that is how it has always been.” Bani cried herself to sleep on those nights. Next morning Manaan would apologize to her, the sweet emotional talker that he was. He would hug and kiss her, making up to her with his sweet words while putting his foot down on every word he had said. There was no room of discussion with him, ever.
On their first marriage anniversary, Bani had prepared a sumptuous, heart shaped chocolate cake for him. She had baked it herself nailing it perfectly for the big day. She had cooked him his favorite dinner, mutton biryaani and butter chicken with walnut chutney on the side. She set the floral decorated table for the two of them, his gift by her side. She had brought him a sports watch he had been eyeing for some time. She sat there waiting for him, fantasizing every move that she would make and imagining what his would be. She sat there alone; waiting for hours. He had promised he would be there on time. But he was late. When he finally did come, she was half asleep on the dining table. She woke up to his sound of slamming the door. He looked perturbed.
“What is the matter? Is everything alright?”
“What is the matter, you ask!” He shouted at her. Sarcastically he continued, “What is the matter she asks, huh!?”
“What is wrong with you? What happened?” She inquired unaware, quite timidly. She had lost her confidence around him.
“I got fired, you bitch! They let me go, downsized me! That’s what happened!”
Bani was shocked. She had never been spoken to in such harsh manner, ever. She was more shocked to hear it from him, the harshness and the bitterness of his voice came off as a rude blow. She let it pass quickly, thinking the obvious state of the man, who had just lost his job. That was one of her problems; her empathetic nature had always made her more vulnerable to hurt. Feeling bad she tried consoling him.
“It is okay, honey. You will find another job. There are many opportunities for an intelligent and a smart person like you. Don’t worry baby, it will be alright.”
Manaan sat down on the couch and for a moment she thought that the storm had passed.
“I will get you a glass of water she offered, when he turned back and saw the dining table.”
“What the hell is this? He screamed, his brows tightening in rage. Were you celebrating my fall! Is that what you were waiting for? My failure! What kind of a wife are you?”
Hurt by his accusations, she quietly replied. “It is our anniversary today. It was meant to be a surprise.”
“Ah! I spoiled it for you, did I? You are the victim here, isn’t it?”
“What are you saying? You know, I did not mean that.”
He twisted her left arm, while she screamed in pain.
“What the hell are you doing? You are hurting me”, she screamed in anger and pain.
“How dare you raise your voice to me?” He was now furious.
He slapped her, really hard, knocking her off her feet while her bottom lip bled. For the first time in her life, she had been slapped. It was not on her face, but on her heart and soul. He beat her after that mercilessly taking all his frustration out on the poor soul.
After that first instance, he started abusing her openly. The disguise came off. It was as if the demon on their first anniversary had been let loose.
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