"Must I keep stirring it, Maharaja?", she ventures.
"Of course, my dear. Fish needs time to absorb the flavour. Keep stirring, you don't want to burn it, do you?"
She giggles out a flurry of apologies and blushes. The Maharaja watches her from the diwan while pretending to sharpen his hunting knife. Her back faces him; she pours over the cauldron of curry and never once looks up or turns around. A benign young doll indeed, he thinks. Slowly and as if by mistake, his eyes glide down to the small of her back until he's looking straight at them. There, on his bride's beautiful midriff are three bright red scratch marks, their glowing redness ignites an insatiable fire within him and he quickly looks away. Now she's tired and leans against the wall. When he lifts his eyes again, he notices that a thin film of lime has settled on her back and sari blouse from leaning against the wall for too long. He would have sprung up and licked them off immediately, if it wasn't for the four luminous eyeballs glaring at him from behind the translucent curtain. It takes all his strength to stay rooted, but he does.
Later, when they begin to eat dinner the two older women sneer down at the broken fish bits. They tease and jeer at their prey like carnivorous felines revealing their claws for the last kill of the day.
"Didn't your mother teach you to cook?"
The new bride's face turns red and her eyes begin to well up.
The Maharaja's heart breaks for her and he intervenes, "Parvati, don't you remember you're first fish curry? There wasn't any fish left in it. What a disgusting milky pulp! Atleast this is edible. And Sushila, you're fish curry isn't even worth talking about."
Embarrassed faces begin counting the spots of the floor. The Maharaja is satisfied and he runs his hand down the weeping wife's torso. She smiles faintly but doesn't look up. He knows that tomorrow she'll cook a mouth-watering tandoori chicken that will put all his years of cooking to shame and make the other wives eat their words. But that's tomorrow. Tonight, she'll have to be the kitchen maid.