Red is intense. Bold. I feel it’s empowering me. I’m an Indian woman, I need empowerment. Not because I am inferior, but because the men around me tend to feel superior. Not because I’m weak, but the men around me tend to overpower me using their physical strength. They force me, tease me, molest me, rape me and expect me to keep mum.

Red. I took out my wedding dress, my mother’s ‘saree’ which is over three decades old. The fabric is still crisp and soft. I looked around my room and on the opposite wall is hung, my wedding photo which was clicked two years ago. I looked at my face. It shined. I smiled. I forgot when did I last smile. Was it when I was with my mother? Or when I blushed when she talked about marriage? Or when she first introduced me to him – my future husband? I don’t remember, it’s so long since that wonderful curve was set on my face, but I miss it. I miss myself. My old self.

The wedding photo brought in a rush of memories. Mine was an arranged marriage, set up by my mother and her sisters. I remembered how my mother dressed me up in her red ‘saree’ and adorned my forehead with a big round ‘bindi’. I was blushing. I didn’t speak. My mother asked if I was happy with this alliance. I nodded. It’s sinful for a women to say ‘no’ on her wedding day even if she’s skeptical about her marriage. He was a decent guy, my mother told, but all he talked to me before we got married was about ‘sex’. It was normal, I was told. Even if I didn’t feel comfortable? I asked. ‘YES’, he will be your husband, you have to learn to respect him. They answered. ‘Respect’? Was it actually respect? I again asked. I was asked to shut my mouth. Good girls don’t question.

I was married within a few hours and soon my life changed. For better. Everyone thought. For worse. I felt. I was harassed. I was forced. I was raped. It was termed normal. He is my husband after all. He has the right to use my body. It was ‘his’ now. I was ‘his.’

I lost my strength to question anymore. I forgot the sound of my voice, as it was no more heard. Two years passed and someone told me he was cheating on me. I couldn’t feel anything. No guilty. No pain. Nothing. I lost myself in a way.

He returned home without shame in his eyes. I stabbed him right into his heart without shame in my actions. He bled red. I watched it. Someone heard the screams and called the police. I’m staring at the wall with my wedding photo on it and my wedding dress in my hands. I’m waiting for my new life. I’m staring at the blood on floor. It’s all ‘red’. It finally empowered me.