Bride dies after husband's sex ploy

NEW DELHI - The works of Shakespeare could have saved a young Indian bride from suicide. If only a man named Subba Rao, from southern India, had bothered to read Romeo and Juliet he would have realised the terrible consequences of feigning death, writes Tim McGirk.

In this modern-day Indian version of the tragedy there are no feuding Montagues and Capulets. The only villain is the village astrologer, who told Mr Rao and his bride that although they were married, they had to wait until the stars were auspicious on 16 September before they could enjoy sex.

This meant a delay of more than six months before they could consummate their marriage. With a month to go, the over-heated Mr Rao could stand it no longer. He hit on a desperate plan.

Smearing a few granules of pesticide on his lips, he faked a suicide attempt. As Mr Rao was being dragged off to the nearest clinic, 6 miles away in Sattupalli, in Andhra Pradesh state, he croaked out the reason why he had poisoned himself. It was because he and his wife were forbidden to make love, he said.

According to some newspaper reports Mr Rao's wife, Nagalakshmi, may have been as young as 14. She believed her husband was dying. That evening, when Mr Rao, 20, was being discharged from the hospital in perfect health, his besotted young bride swallowed the remaining pesticide. Then she lay down on their new bed, a wedding present, and waited for the poison's grip.

Nagalakshmi's agonised screams roused her family and they rushed her to the hospital. Her path to Sattupalli undoubtedly crossed her husband's, who was returning home by bus, pleased and anxious to see if his bogus suicide had stirred up enough sympathy to make her family relent and finally, after so many months, let them make love.

Instead, he learnt that his prank had caused his wife's death.

Later, the girl's father lamented to the Indian Express: 'I was only waiting for an auspicious occasion for the nuptials. I only wanted a happy life for them. Had I known . . .'

Proper medical help, as well as Shakespeare, might have saved the bride. But by the time Nagalakshmi's family arrived at the same clinic where her husband had been, the doctor in charge had left - to attend a wedding.