Things I Learnt About a Dead Woman by Megha Nayar
CW: physical abuse
… from visiting her Facebook profile:
That she described herself as a pluviophile.
That when it rained, she yearned to go for long drives.
That she loved the sight of big, fat raindrops on windows.
That she also loved a man, often posing for pictures in his arms.
That she had been married to this man for eight months.
That her husband worked with the local passport office.
That he usually wore Ray Bans, expensive watches, and a frown.
That he took her for car rides often, buying her a spicy corn cob every time.
… from her friends, in whispers:
That her husband owned the car they went for long drives in.
That the car had been a “gift” from her father after they’d exchanged rings.
That the car had been an object of proud display at their wedding.
That after he said the cash and gold weren’t enough, the car was given to assuage him.
That he drove the car to work every day.
That he did not, however, particularly like the car.
That he believed he deserved a bigger and better model.
That he regularly nagged her about all the things he believed he deserved.
… from the local newspapers:
That he did not stop at nagging his wife about the cash, the gold, and the car.
That he routinely, without a shred of shame, thrashed her for more.
That after the beatings had begun, she’d complained to her parents.
That her complaints had been regular, graphic, profuse.
That her parents sympathized with her and worried for her.
That they did not sympathize or worry enough to take her home.
That they decided to stuff their mouths with cotton wool and silence.
That her death was not an accident but a choice – his, and theirs.
… from reading up on her and others like her:
That twenty women are killed for dowry in this country every day.
That none of the women go down without crying out for help.
That many are victims of sudden-onset deafness in their birth-givers.
That it is perhaps easier to bury a daughter than it is to defend her.
That some men in suits are beggars. Just without bowls.
That these men look strangely normal to the undiscerning eye.
That these men expect to be bribed to own their wives.
That fathers of girls might do well to hold on to the cars, cash and gold,
and let their daughters drive into rainy sunsets alone.
Megha Nayar is a communications consultant and fiction writer from India. She was longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2020. One of her stories was showcased at India's prestigious Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2021. She is currently a mentee-in-training on the British Council's Write Beyond Borders programme. She tweets @meghasnatter.