Bonded in Bloodbymintabal3239©
Lunch was over. Srikala was clearing the table; her husband of a fortnight Vasanth was reclining on the sofa feeling pleasantly replete. It was a splendid meal. For his wife, one only recently out of college, to produce a meal of this quality was surprising. The biriyani was done just the way Vasanth liked it with the rice not discrete as professional cooks like to prepare, but overcooked to just that stickiness to fully soak in the spices; tikka chicken hot but not too hot, and the payasam to end the meal, thick but not creamy, with raisins and cashew not bothering you at every bite but appearing just when you need them. The dishes were his favourite ones too. In short it was a perfect lunch. He wondered if all this could have happened by chance.
"No way," said Srikala when he queried her, "Athai (Tamil for mother-in-law) not only told me your favourites, but also how you liked them done. And to avoid one more question let me tell you that I cook well because I love to cook."
"What more can a husband want?"
"There is more," she said.
"Much much more. You have to wait." It was all pleasantly mysterious.
It was a traditionally arranged match. Srikala was from the hill station of Coonoor four hundred miles from Chennai in South India. It was Vasanth's uncle from Coonoor who brought the offer. This uncle reckoned that Vasanth's father's distant cousin's daughter was a good match for Vasanth. Any friend or relative can bring offers, and most consider it a duty and a pleasure to do so. As the initiators they are made much of during the wedding. They strut about like peacocks, and cherish the success in the manner of big-game hunters after a successful shoot. The parents of the boy and the girl now have to 'process' the offer. Vasanth's parents were satisfied with the socio-economic status and the reputation of the family. The age of the girl at twenty-two was just right, and her qualifications were good too. She was a graduate in English language and literature. The girl's people were looking for much the same features in the boy plus the critical factor of the vocation of the boy. He was a mechanical engineer, and that was good. The uncle arranged the date for girl to meet the boy. The place of the meeting as per tradition was the home of the girl. Soon Vasanth and his parents were on their way to Coonoor.
Vasanth's parents liked the neat cottage the uncle took them to. Soon they were all comfortably reclining on sofas in the hall. The hall in South Indian middle class homes is the family room and living room combined. The parents of the girl and an uncle were there. Uncles are needed in such meetings for parents in their anxiety to do the best for their children are not usually able to balance the pros and cons correctly. The girl will not be present at his stage. She would come later. They talked about everything other than what had brought them to the place. After fifteen minutes the mother of the girl suggested that they have snacks and coffee. Snacks on these occasions are usually dry items. It is inauspicious to wash hands. Tension in the room was mounting for this was the time for the girl to appear carrying the tray with coffee. She came with measured treads for to overturn the tray may not be a good idea. The girl looked coyly down as instructed by her mother; the boy was at liberty to look, but his mother had told him not to stare 'for the eyes of her parents would be on you'. First she served the seniors and then finally the boy. She looked up and they made the first eye contact. The girl took a seat next to him on a chair kept vacant for her, and set at an angle so that they face each other and talk. They spoke a few words. Later both said they had no recollection of what they spoke. After another fifteen minutes of pointless chatting the visitors took leave.
People brought up in cultures where arranged matches are unknown would be surprised that a commitment lasting for life could be arrived at after so cursory a visit. It was not cursory by any means. Before the meeting the parents analyse the offer in great detail. Vasanth's father made extensive enquiries of everyone he knew in the Nilgiri Hills where Coonoor was located, and from his other relatives who knew the family. Srikala's parents, as parents of the girl, made even more searching enquiries. Later in the uncle's house where Vasanth's family was staying as his guest the following conversation took place:
"They are OK," said father. "The girl would suit our Vasanth."
"No encumbrances," said mother. "Their only daughter is married and has two lovely children. Srikala's mother showed me the snap. She lives near New York." Unmarried sisters of the girl belong to the category of encumbrances. Srikala had no brothers. If present Vasanth's mother would not have classed them encumbrances. "Quite a pretty girl," she added.
"The only issue is they have no sons," said father. In the absence of sons the daughters have to look after the aging parents. As Vasanth was their only child the father did not look forward to the probability of spending his last days in the company of his son's father-in-law and mother-in-law.
"Of course if they get their green cards they can live in the States." It was Vasanth speaking.
"Vasanth likes the girl. He has already started defending his in-laws," said father and both husband and wife laughed. In due course the uncle informed them that the girl's party was willing too.
If Srikala was a Chennai dweller Vasanth would certainly have got to know her better by visiting her in her home, and may be taking her to the beach and even a movie or two; but Coonoor was too far away and they had to keeping in touch by emails. The uncle who brought about the alliance had more to do. He will be the conduit for information from to-be-bride's people to Vasanth's parents, and back to them. The marriage has to be in the brides place and the boy's people have to indicate the number of invitees for whom the bride's party must make arrangements. The parties have to discuss and decide about sari selection, jewels and many other details. Amidst these ancient customs there was a modern one that uncle promptly attended to: He gave Srikala's email ID to Vasanth.
Vasanth got the ball rolling. They had three weeks to fill. His opening email was formal, may be too formal. But he did attach his photograph and requested her to send hers. He of course had the photograph they had sent even before the bride viewing, but after seeing her in person he did not think that the photograph did justice to her. He hinted as much in the letter. The reply did not come as early as Vasanth could have wished, but when it did Srikala had her photo attached to it. Vasanth worked the picture in Photoshop and swiftly concluded that one cannot gild rose. Emails from once a day quickly shot to several a day, and nights too. It was mostly about themselves they wrote. Significantly no endearing sentiments found a place in these letters. It did not belong to the category of letters that wives in Western culture tie with a blue (or is it pink) ribbon and keep secure under the clothes in the dresser.
One afternoon Vasanth and his parents went to George Town in Chennai to select the card to print the invitations. There were scores of shops in one street all stacked from floor to ceiling with varieties of designs to suit every taste. Selection was difficult, but on Vasanth's insistence, father selected a simple design. Vasanth took it to the printer and from hundreds of samples the printer had in his albums he selected a neat font. Meanwhile the list of recipients was ready. Distribution was another difficult task. Both father and mother must personally visit senior members of the family and hand over the invitation. To some it is enough if one of them hands it over. To some postal invitation is adequate but a phone call reminder is necessary. The rest will be satisfied with postal invitations. Personal invitation is a double-edged sword; those so honoured have to attend, or to avoid causing ill feelings they have to furnish a good reason for not attending.
The arrangements went on without a hitch. As Coonoor was a small town the crowds were manageable, and Coonoor being a hill station had the added advantage that one can don Western style suit with jacket and tie with comfort.
It was past ten when Vasanth and his bride got into a car that was to take them to Mudumalai Wild Life Sanctuary Rest House on the other side of the mountain for a three-day honeymoon arranged by Srikala's father, a retired forest officer. The couple received a warm welcome from the hotel and soon they were in the room, alone and by themselves for the first time.
Vasanth watched with fascination as Srikala set about arranging the room. She opened his suitcase very much to his momentary surprise, and picked up a couple of shirts and pants and hung them in the wardrobe. She then opened her case and selected two saris and blouses and hung them besides her husband's. Vasanth was thrilled to see his clothes hanging by the side of hers. She did some rearranging of the contents of the two suitcases. She turned round and saw the smile on his face.
"What's that smile for?" she asked.
"Anyone watching you would think that we two have been regularly travelling together. They would not guess that we hardly know each other."
"Funny that the same thought should have occurred to me. Do you know why?"
"You tell me."
"That is because we are married with the active participation of our parents and relatives and friends. We may be strangers but we belong to each other and so we behave that way."
"I get your point," said Vasanth, "Westerners are never able to understand our arranged match system. How can one suddenly love a person one hardly knows they ask. The key as you said is that we are married. Arrange a match for man and woman from western culture and get them married in a church in the presence of friends and relatives, and I am sure they would behave very much as we do."
"It would be quite terrified to be a European or American woman."
"You go out with a young man whose intentions are quite unknown. Hovering constantly in the background of your mind is the worry that he may be just using you and would flit to the next flower soon. To me that is quite terrifying."
"What about this. Two hours ago your father was responsible for you. Now I am. Does this not appear strange?"
"It does. Quite out of the blue you are all-in-all to me and..."
"And what?" said Vasanth smiling as if challenging her to complete what she had started to say. Srikala was looking down coyly, and then she looked up firmly into his eyes and smiled.
"And our children," she said, and fell into her husband's open arms, and they kissed fiercely. It lasted quite a while. Finally they separated—as lovers. It takes only a minute or two for husband and wife in an arranged match to become lovers.
"You go for your bath, darling," she said. Vasanth did no linger over his bath. He was out in quick time wearing a light blue lungi and matching shirt his wife had selected for him.
"I have coffee ready for you," she said. "Drink it while I have my bath."
"Coffee at eleven thirty in the night?" His eyes were twinkling with mischief. Srikala was fully up to it.
"If you want I can mix Ovaltine. I believe it gives one a dreamless sleep." Such a spirited response demanded a hug and a long kiss. Vasanth attended to that. She went in for a bath.
Srikala was conscious of the fact that she was seeing her body for the last time as a virgin. She soaped her vulva and poured warm water over it. It glistened after the early morning shave. She blushed when she thought of the polishing she had given her vulva in readiness of the first-night. Mothers do nothing at all to prepare their daughters for such a critical event in their lives. Every since she can remember her mother has been telling her that 'gentle ladies keep their thighs together'. Now suddenly she was singing a different tune. The last thing her mother whispered into her ears as she got into the car with Vasanth was, 'Do as he asks you to,' which would be to open out her thighs. The first time since Srikala came of age a man would be seeing her vulva, and she in turn would be seeing a naked man for the first time, and not just a naked man but one flaunting an erect penis in front of her eyes, and to cap it all she, though still a gentle lady, would be spreading her thighs as wide as they would go and he, with her whole hearted assistance, will be inserting his penis into her vagina. Can any turn around be so abrupt?
She wiped and put on a nightdress her sister had got for her from New York. In that land of the consumer, for the consumer and by the consumer they had clothes designed for every occasion. Even though the concept of the first-night is an anathema to Americans their shop shelves have nightdresses for that event—thin, semi translucent and opening at the front. Srikala had tried it on earlier and found the front flaps can be dangerously clumsy. She walked out carefully lest she display her treasure ahead of the designated time. Vasanth whistled and she, in spite of her best efforts blushed. But she responded cleverly.
"The timbre is certainly not that of a first wolf whistle," she said. He was not behind hand in his reply.
"When I think of those occasions I can kick myself for wasting such quality whistles on those poor specimens."
"Has the coffee revived you?"
"It has done more. I do not think I can sleep a wink tonight, "he said. "You have to fill up to keep pace with me." She poured a cup from the flask she had filled up earlier and sipped it. He waited for her to finish and then he took the tumbler from her hands and placed it on the table. Then he gently hugged her and holding her head against his chest he squeezed her cheek and then bent his head down and kissed her on the lips. His hands went to the large buttons on the nightdress. The top button came off at his touch. The buttonhole had clear signs of tampering.
"I like these wide button holes. They give no trouble at all," he said.
"My sister widened the buttonholes," said Srikala.
"I must thank her."
"No need to. I have done that already," said Srikala.
Every Indian man expects to find his bride coy and uncooperative. Instead to their surprise they find them quite the reverse. Socially segregated from men they are, and untrained by their mothers in matters concerning sex, but either by instinct or from inputs from their friends or both they are quite ready to meet their husbands more than half way on the first-night challenges.
"It does not seem to merit a whistle."
"One can't whistle when one is breathless," said Vasanth surprised at his own cleverness. "Now let us see if your sister has been doing stretching exercises on the second button hole also." She had, and if the first button left him breathless the second got his knee wobbling. The flaps of the gown opened out to reveal two magnificent hemispheres. The half areolas were perfect. The nipples were still in hiding. He touched one hemisphere and spread his hand to cup one breast. It was incredibly soft under his palms with the nipple a spot of firmness. Srikala's eyes were open but she was looking away. He pressed her against his chest.
"The buttons are hurting me," she said.
"Sorry," he said rather abashed that his wife had to tell him to undress. He unbuttoned. His shirt buttons did not yield as readily as her nightdress buttons had.
"I wish I had a sister to attend to these button holes," he said trying to make the best of an embarrassing moment. Eventually his shirt was off. But he did not have the courage to let down his lungi. He held her against himself. He could feel her nightdress slipping down. To his surprise she made no attempt to hold it up. She was now quite naked. It was his turn. He loosened his lungi. It dropped. They hugged, their naked bodies rubbing each other exquisitely. They moved to the bed. She lay back. He was in a daze with no clear appreciation of what was happening. He was on top and she was lying with legs apart. He had to penetrate of that he was sure, but his penis was flaying about and there was no way he was going to align it to the vulva that he was vaguely able to discern. Srikala was in better control of events for she nonchalantly caught hold of his penis and gently plugged it into her vagina. Power was once again flowing into Vasanth. He pumped and he ejaculated. Srikala made responsive moments but Vasanth knew she was not experiencing any orgasm. He rolled over. They lay side by side hugging each other.
"Darling we are now truly man and wife," he said. She shook her head vigorously in agreement and buried her head on his chest. He held her head firmly between his hands and kissed her on the forehead.
She snoozed, but Vasanth lay awake. He liked to grade himself. His recent performance he had to admit was not worth more than five in a scale of one to ten. His wife's score he reckoned must be nine or even ten. He was amused rather than annoyed. Her face as she slept was innocent like a baby's, but she had enough spirit to catch hold of his penis and quite casually guide it in. He felt tender toward her. He kissed her on the cheek. She must have been half aware for she hugged him tighter. He held her in a tight embrace and snoozed. He woke up with a start. The hills were very cold in the night. Srikala must have covered them with a blanket. He felt her body. He felt her back and then her shoulder. She must have been awake for she turned round. He felt her breasts. He felt like uniting with her once again. But first he had to go to the bathroom. He washed himself and it was then that he noticed a sheet that was hanging to dry. Stains on it were visible. 'Blood,' he said to himself. He ran out.
"Have you bled darling," he said in an agitated voice.
"Nothing to worry dear, a little more than the usual."
"What usual?" he said still agitated.
"Come under the blanket. It is cold. " She pulled him in. "You are a sweet creature. Don't you know what it is?"
"Yes, I do now." He was much relieved and then quite smugly pleased. "Did I cause pain?"
"No, only pleasure. Still sleepy?"
"No way." He had to improve his grades. He got under the blanket and sought one nipple and started working on it. Srikala must have enjoyed the sensation for she was tenderly rubbing his cheeks. She moved him to the other nipple. On his own he went down on her, rubbing his lips and nose on the vulva and finally kissing it. Srikala pulled him up and as she did so she spread her thighs. She held his penis and once again inserted it into her vagina. This time they established some sort of rhythm to their movements, the pressure, and the counter pressure. Soon he ejaculated, and while he was doing so she held him tight and thrust her pelvis upwards to his rhythm. He rolled over. Soon both were soundly asleep.
When Vasanth awoke it was day. Srikala was no longer by his side. After her bath she was busy at the kitchenette. Get ready soon Vasanth we are going into the forest at nine. After bath they had breakfast. The jeep was ready at nine sharp. Vasanth was much impressed that the sanctuary staff still remembered their former chief, Srikala's father, with respect and affection. The forest ranger himself drove the jeep. Srikala knew this senior person from her childhood days; she called him uncle. They saw wild elephants, deer by the score, and guar, the largest of the world's cattle (wrongly called bison just as the true bison of North American is wrongly called buffalo).
"A tiger would round off our visit nicely uncle," said Srikala. But unfortunately even rangers cannot arrange tiger sighting to please a favourite niece. The ranger did the best he could. He took them to a dried pugmark near a stream.