The wedding music band was too noisy. My only reason to endure that exasperating experience was that I had to drive my mom to and fro. So, I was stuck there. The function hall was packed and lively with children running all over laughing, playing and bumping into the newcomers. While talking to mom’s friends, one of them mentioned that it was a love marriage and then proceeded to narrate her love story. We finally settled down in a seat as the groom arrived in the mandap. There was a lot of media coverage; I thought that some celebrity might be attending the wedding.
After a few minutes, the bride was called to the mandap. As if it was pre-decided, all the children were ushered to an adjacent room. It seemed a bit weird but I didn’t think twice about it; the ‘arrival of the bride’ part caught my attention. The groom had good looks and physique, so I was eager to see the bride who stole his heart.
But when I saw her, I was shocked. Her face was completely covered with burnt skin and she was utterly hideous. She seemed familiar but I was unable to place her. Meanwhile, a kid who stayed back saw the bride and started crying loudly. A woman, probably his mother, consoled him and escorted him to the dining hall.
The ceremony resumed after that small hiccup. The groom looked concerned, but the bride was at ease. One of Mom’s friend told me about the bride: she was a victim of the jealous attack of her stalker who tried to incinerate her. Some said she survived because of her sheer will power; others said it was just her luck.
When I later got the chance to observe the groom closely, I saw not pity in his eyes but love towards the bride. The groom’s love for the bride introduced me to a new dimension of love, a meta-love, beyond the realm of physical attraction and infatuation. I wish I would find someone like that.
I looked once more at the bride; she was sitting in the mandap along with the groom in front of the ceremonial fire, disregarding the hundreds of eyes focused on her, some in pity and some in awe. She had the look of a seasoned sailor who faced many storms and lived to tell the tale. I was among the few who noticed her holding the groom’s hand reassuringly.
When I looked at her, I saw someone who crossed many hurdles in life and who overcame the social stigma attached to female victims. Her smile, which looked beautiful on her disfigured face, seemed like something etched on a rock: it is always present and cannot be wiped off. Her strong will reminded me of the adage “the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire”.
In comparison to the ceremonial fire and the fire that tried to destroy her, her inner fire is unparalleled.