Today I will be married, and the entire village is invited. Is that why my mother cries? I have seen her wet cheeks and swollen eyes. Yet she pretends it’s the dusty wind that bothers her. Is she overwhelmed? Saddened to lose her eldest daughter? She has six more to care for.
The married women have encircled me. A thin sheet covers my fair body. Hands, some soft some rough but none impatient, spread a yellow paste on my arms and legs. The women sing bridal songs in dissonant voices. My face shows nothing, but my heart feels everything.
I resemble a yellow flower. My green eyes stare intently at my feet. The widows finally arrive. I catch glimpses of white in the corners of my eyes. Shunned from such occasions, their presence implies an unstated significance. They chant tongue-twisting mantras while pouring cold water upon me. They wash out the yellow, but a beautiful glow remains.
I am taken inside. My mother waits in a corner. Her arms barely support the weight of my wedding dress. She will not help adorn me. It is forbidden. Only the purest of the pure are granted this honor. The girls are young, just children. But they have practiced for this special day. Tiny fingers push, pull and tuck, transforming me into a blushing bride.
I can hear the men’s voices. The palanquin is here. The auspicious hour is upon us. I am carried to the temple. Crowds, my mother among them, walk alongside, cheering me on. The temple doors are open. I see my soon to-be-husband.
He’s not a man but a god.
I am seated beside the stone idol. They close the doors. Here I shall live before I die. A sacrifice.
May the rains finally return to our parched lands.