Never had the setting sun appeared so red and alluring to her. Radha had been gazing at it for so long. It looked all red in colour - red like the red round tikli on her forehead, red like the red clothes with ethnic golden and green patterns she was supposed to wear on that day and red like the red Arhul she had seen blooming in the corridor of her house months ago. She had waited for this day since months and years and had wondered ," Would it be the same like that of Kalavati and Kishorelal ?" . Kalavati and Kishorelal were a pair of bride-groom dolls her father had gifted her on her eleventh name day but now that her mother had told her everything about the perks of becoming a woman they now had been tied in a motari and enclosed inside the wooden trunk kept in a corner of her room.
Now, it had been quite a while for this meditation between the girl and everything that lied out of her window. The young girl with her long hair , brown at the ends , billowing in the mild breeze of the evening , had been holding two of the many rods attached to her window panel and gazing at the setting sun of the west. It acted as the only medium that separated her from her room and the world outside it, maybe conveying to her that she no longer had the right to go out and play with the other contemporaries of her village. This meditation seemed eternal until it was interrupted by her mother's call.
Radha's mother , a woman in her 30's had suffered the same fate several years ago and knew that being born a girl in itself was no less than a curse. She could very well recall the day when her daughter was born her mother-in-law had refused to see her face . Even within a fortnight the pious cow Gauri died giving birth to a calf and even for this the elders had blamed her, warning that the girl would bring misfortunes for the family. The mother had raised her girl facing numerous ups and downs in her life and knew that one day even Radha had to understand the ordeals of marriage. This had passed through the generations and she knew that with time and experience her girl would learn everything.
Radha barely responded to her mother's call. She had deep black eyes , clear and serene like every other girl of her age. Her mother appeared in her room and stood at a distance. She told her that the baraat and the groom were on their way and asked her to get ready. She started helping her with her clothes and the heavy golden ornaments that were enlisted amongst the demands of the other family. A fake smile bobbed up on her face. Her mother understood that her girl had already played a child's role in her life and that now she had to play a sequel where her role and liabilities shall be changed. She could do nothing about it.
After getting her dressed her mother started braiding her hair . Radha turned around to see her mother 's hands fluttering around a red ribbon to make a flower that was to be braided in her long hair. The red ribbon reminded her of the day she had seen the Arhul blooming in her corridor. The young girl found herself lost in the thoughts of that horrible day.
About one and a half years ago she saw her father planting an Arhul shrub in her corridor and asked him if she could take care of the plant. Her father agreed and asked her to water it everyday. She was too excited to see a flower blooming upon the plant and wondered that someday she would garland some of the flowers and even hook some of them up in her hair. After a few weeks the a bud had appeared on the Arhul and she felt happy that the next she would see it bloomed into a flower which she would hook up in her hair.
The Arhul had bloomed up the next day . Radha awoke in the morning upon a blood soaked bed. She couldn't understand what had happened to her. The shocked girl cried out in pain for her mother. Her mother came in for her aid. Where the girl felt nervous and was bumped for this terrible event in her life , for her mother everything seemed normal. The older woman observed her carefully and remarked, " Get used to it , you have become a woman now!" Radha still couldn't understand anything at all. The bloomed Arhul on the other hand flickered outside her window , smiling down at her .