Besides children, there were the more sinister cases of the burnt brides. Some would be brought to me. I believe, the others were just cremated. I witnessed a sizable number of burnt brides. They were always brought in too late. It was obvious that no one wanted them to be saved. Saving them would defeat the purpose of setting them on fire. This was late 1980s when a bride who was pushed into the flames after being doused in kerosene. She was brought lifeless and burnt within a few minutes of the incident. Her husband and mother in law accompanied her. As they laid her on the examination bench, I moved closer to the burnt victim. My stomach twisted with nausea, with the smell of burning flesh searing my senses. I had never smelt freshly burnt flesh so close before. The smell of her burning clothes and that of the flesh made an unbearable amalgam. I could see that her shirt had fused with her skin, and could not be pulled apart. The smoke was still infused into her skin. The flesh had started to gather into wrinkles, and curdle as a paper. How can anyone forget such visions? Her eyes, still alive, looked at me beseechingly. She ushered me towards her with her gaze. Since her arms were scorched too, I could not spot them in the wrangled mass. As I went near her, “She put kerosene on me,” I heard a soft stutter of a whisper, and followed her gaze which moved around the room. It moved from her husband to her mother in law. It stopped at the mother-in-law. “She threw a lighted match at me,” gasped the burnt woman. I looked at the mother-in-law accusingly.
Seeing my accusatory look, “She was cooking food and her dupatta caught fire,” said the vile woman. I looked at the husband. I looked at him with many unsaid questions. He looked back and knew that I knew. In my experience, I have seen that men rarely inflict cruelty on the women. The men could be blamed for being gutless, and not standing up to their mothers. Spineless and effete! Yet being weak was not an absolution for the torture of their wives.
I shuddered as I imagined the pain in her body and her heart.
How can anyone remain unaffected by these happenings?
Dr Balesh Jindal