Mary was fifteen when she got married. A day like any other she got ready for school after finishing her morning chores, one foot out of the door and her father called her back, “No school today” was all he said. At twenty she lay on a ratty iron cot alongside her mother, both in labour side by side.
“We loved our cows. I remember all their names still- Amini was my favourite. She had the sweetest brown eyes. In those days we never had treats like chocolates and sweets, her eyes reminded me of that one time when I was ten and my Ippapan had returned from Bombay. We had never before him known anyone who had left our hometown. Such adventures he had, such sights he told us- that was the first time I had chocolate.”
Mary had been named after her maternal grandmother. Everyone who knew her would exclaim how much she took after her, they had the same big scoop-with-a spoon eyes same stubby fingers same tiny gnome feet. She never knew her grandmother till she turned fifteen. A customary end-of-holidays visit before flying out to the city where they lived, ended up being Mary’s first encounter with death and her grandmother.
“Did I know the boy I was going to marry?” Mary had seen him once or twice, a glimpse there a glimpse here-in the family shop, in church, walking with his father passing by her house. She had never noticed him before, even if she had she never would admit it. “Did I like him?” Mary blushed and murmured a shy, “He didn’t have any faults as such to not like”
She was carried out of her room-leaning on her grandson and son-in-law, feet grazing the floor. A ragged doll so delicately dragged. Her mouth drooped to a side, a trail of drool at its tip as she tried to wave and babble some words of comfort. The panic in the room was broken by her aunt’s keening and her mother’s soft cries. This was the first time Mary saw her grandmother, her age, her frailty, her life she saw. She wasn’t just an old person who hugged her and held her hand uncomfortably long without saying a word, only then she realized how much she loved her and how little she knew her.
“I remember when I was thirteen, I saw a boy and a girl kiss on t.v. My mother changed the channel then itself and told me not to see such “bad” things.” Mary saw ‘sex’ everywhere scratched out on the benches, on the walls, drawn on the dusty windshields of the most feared teachers’ cars, on t.v, in the newspaper-everywhere, everything was all about sex. Then came ninth grade and with it ninth grade biology and Mary’s very first very precise introduction to ‘sexual reproduction’ in the short, clipped tones of Pushpa Miss, her bulbous nose with its old wrinkled whiskers below would shriek and curl up seeing an enthusiastic tamil song itself let alone an item number. Unsatisfied with the biology explanation of it all, she went to the one place that always had had an answer for her questions, her mother’s old paper thinning browning convent school mandated dictionary, eager fingers trailed the words on ‘se’, saucer wide eyes darting up every few seconds to make sure no one saw her.
“I got so scared when I got my periods. I didn’t know what this was, why I was bleeding nobody told me. They just stared at me. I sat in my white mundu, in the wet, red stain that pooled on the bench I sat. I was so scared I couldn’t move-then Annamma a girl elder to me by two years gave me another mundu to wear and took me to her house which was the closest to school. It hurt so much that first time and every other time after, but that first time it hurt even more because I didn’t know. I thought I was being punished by God. This was my punishment for not being a good girl.”
She had had a stroke. She lived. Mary’s grandmother. But she was bedridden for months and the left side of her body refused to move. Mary had never seen a sick person before-when her grandfather died she had been too young to know, when her other grandfather was close to dying she had been shielded from it. Everyone had decided she was too young to see him lying in a sterile white bed connected to tubes and wires, breathing with a machine. When he died Mary grieved him like everybody else but in an abstract vague manner as if it were a part to play, appropriately sober appropriately sad.
“Sex was never spoken of, not before my marriage, not after it. Sex was a function, a duty that’s all. Its only nowadays that people have started to revel in it so much. These young people are so shameless. It is not good to be so open about such things. Sex with my husband was painful and quick, after the first few times I got used to it, he would thrust and thrust and then fall on me when he was done. I hated it, his entire weight on me, his nails clawing into my shoulders. I don’t ever remember kissing him. We were married for sixty years and I can’t remember kissing him, hugging him, loving him even once. I loved him, don’t get me wrong but I didn’t need him. I didn’t want him. He was my husband how could I not love him?”
After three years of studying non-stop for that most desired board exam result and entry to the best schools for her plus two, Mary found herself with two months of no tuitions, no pressures, no obligations. Both her parents worked and she was often left alone in her house all day, left to her own devices. This was the time when Mary discovered porn. This was also the time when Mary, shy sweet Mary whose friends were all girls was convinced that she might just be gay.
Mary had seven kids before she turned thirty five- four sons, three daughters. The district doctor did a hysterectomy on her thirty-fifth birthday, told her how it was the healthiest and safest option for. “How like a man to tell a woman what is best for her even if it is about her very essence her womanhood.” Mary had never given that essence of her any importance, any notice until it was cut out of her. In that time there were no pills to ease the hormone fluctuation, even if they were the practice was to suffer and to suffer quietly through your lot.
The first time Mary masturbated was after some nudie picture stories online- waking up my boyfriend for birthday fuck, secretary working late, girls having too much fun together, She saw it all wide eyed fascinated. A ear stretched out to hear the key in the door or the telephone ringing. After seeing her fill, she stretched out on her bed, right below the most saintly picture of St Joseph and Baby Jesus and she tried to touch herself, the same way they did it on the internet.
“When did I first know my vagina could pleasure me? I never knew it. Pleasure wasn’t accepted then. It was sinful, to suffer, to work hard to not complain and be satisfied with your lot-that was what was accepted. But I remember one hot, humid afternoon I had just finished up with all my household chores, all the children were in school and my husband at the shop, I sat on my veranda, fanning myself with a newspaper. There was nobody around so I sat with my mundu raised till my knees. Right then a cool breeze broke through the stifling heat, it tickled my toes, teased goose bumps on my thighs. I felt it break out all over, my body felt liquid so deliciously so for a minute or two. And then the spell ended”
Two years later Mary left her house, her family, her school, her friends, her city for college. She left for college as an even messier bundle of sexual anguish and confusion. Everyone in her convent school ere whispering about it, giggling about it, talking about it- it was okay to have a boyfriend, to kiss, to make out, for bras to be taken off all okay but beyond that and it was a strict no- no. Then you were entering slut territory and nobody wants to be a slut.