I Was Living A Nightmare For 7 Years, Till I Woke Up
The alliance was jinxed! Sounds unbelievable but theirs was a medieval mindset. In contrast, my parents were avant-garde liberal and happy-go-lucky type. Had we known what lay in store for us, we would not have taken the final step.
But, first things first...
I decided to marry my husband only because he wanted a quiet civil marriage. It coincided with my idea of a wedding because I have no faith in religious rituals. Theirs was a hatke, different family: the doctor (anaesthetist) gentleman, his wife, the groom, an older unmarried daughter besides the doctor’s two unmarried sisters-in-law.
Since it was to be a non-religious affair, we assumed that there would be no dowry. However, the doctor adroitly manoeuvred the talks in that direction.
A tiff ensued and the negotiations were called off.
Since the man would not budge, talks were resumed but the doctor’s super ego was deeply wounded. Which is why, the folks probably decided to avenge themselves, once I was in their clutches.
One pleasant October day, we were married. I entered a new household with rosy dreams. Shortly, the nightmare began to unfold.
The mother openly chided me for not getting enough jewellery and valuables either for her or her son. My parents/siblings/friends were forbidden to visit me.
The seniors refused to accept monetary contributions from the both of us. Was it sentimentality? To avoid exceeding the monthly budget, I was purposefully kept underfed. At breakfast - two parathas/rotis, curry and half a glass of milk mixed with water. Alternatively, of four bread slices, only two were allowed to be buttered.
At mealtimes, I got only two scoops of dal and curry each, not a morsel more, though I was ravenously hungry at times. If I ‘wanted some more’, the womenfolk blasted me for sponging on the patriarch without contributing a single penny. I was mocked for my jumbo-like appetite.
If I was ‘caught’ eating street food or snacks, my parents were foul mouthed for not teaching me to adjust.
The aged relative was peeved and kept nagging, as I was a struggling journalist, unable to rake in enough moolah.
Somehow, the family was under the impression that I was a woman of easy virtue. Hence, the doctor secretly asked his colleagues and acquaintances to keep an eye on my movement and activities.
I was forced to quit my maiden surname though double surnames have been in vogue. My family upheld Brahmo Samaj and Ramakrishna Mission ideologies rather than idol worship. Upon learning this, they branded me a nastik (atheist), fearing I would usher in misfortune for the family. They threatened that hell would be my final destination since I was a non-believer.
Day in and day out nitpicking, ravings and rantings continued. The moment the men left for work, the four women would begin castigating me: I was too tall, ugly, fat, my figure was unfeminine, my voice husky, I was not fair enough blah blah. They abused my father (who was much fairer) for lying about me. I was ungainly, clumsy, slow at chores etc. Wonder why they had not detected my flaws earlier? What had stopped them?
They even tried controlling my personal preferences.
I had to quit wearing perfumes as the old man was a heart patient, cosmetics and lotions were frowned upon and Ayurvedic potions promoted. Once noticing me with eyeshadow on, father-in-law dear laughed heartily. He thought I looked like an alley cat. Nice joke?
For being absent-minded and clumsy, I was nicknamed gadhaa (donkey). I was constantly referred to as one. Trust me, I felt so humiliated.
Owing to the morning grilling sessions, I was often late to work. If I dared to divulge the happenings to the spouse, it boomeranged on me. I was blasted for poisoning ‘beta against his family’. The only silver lining in the dark cloud was that I could go home at my free will, the barbs notwithstanding. We had very little time to ourselves. The moment beta came home from work, he was bundled off to the family lounge and given the day’s report about my follies, words and actions.
Gradually when I began protesting, they instigated the husband to bash me in full public view. I discovered to my horror that the older aunt had a near-incestuous desire upon her dear nephew.
She would shampoo his hair, sponge him when ill, oil his hair, scratch his itchy back et al. Often, she would clutch and hug too intimately. He never went to bed without having a tête-à-tête with her. I would only watch, petrified.
Most nights, the sister would listen at our bedroom door on her way to and from the toilet. Next morning, she would broadcast what she heard. I didn’t know where to look.
One day I had an argument with the partner. The infuriated sister flew at my throat trying to strangle me. I had a narrow escape.
Many a time after we had retired for the night, the doctor would summon his son for an ‘urgent consultation’ that had suddenly cropped up. Since I failed to produce an ‘heir’ within the first year, they cursed my infertility and even mulled a second marriage.
Two years into wedlock, my fortune went on a downslide. My husband quit his job and soon my pregnancy was discovered. My diet was neglected.
When a baby girl was born to us, the family was crestfallen. I was squarely blamed for not begetting a son. The scale of ill-treatment soared. Even the father-in-law did not spare me! There being only 6 dining chairs I had to squat on the floor at mealtimes. The area being congested, the doctor would walk past me, deliberately kicking me, each time.
Not a word of remorse, no change of route. My diet was slashed both quality and quantity wise. My baby was forbidden to visit my parents. This went on for nearly seven years.
You must be wondering why I did not run away from this situation? Well, there were a few reasons. For one, my parents though progressive, did not approve of the possibility of a broken home. In which case the child would suffer the most.
Secondly, my husband always pleaded with me (in private) to bear with him and not desert him. The emotional fool that I have always been, I was always in two minds about leaving him.
Thirdly, I was not earning enough to have an independent set up for myself and the baby. I could lodge myself with my parents, but that would not be a pleasant proposition. Lastly, the seventh year into this life, the husband began to earn in small amounts, a welcome change from his unemployed status.
But the last straw came when one day, the sister made vitriolic comments while I was at breakfast. That was my last meal in the house. Over the next few months, I used takeaways. Next, I blatantly told my spouse to choose between his wife and child or his family.
Fortunately, good sense dawned on him. Through persuasion interspersed with arguments, he finally obtained permission to move out. I was overwhelmed to realize that he did care for me. Finally, on a chilly December afternoon, we left the house for good. I had woken up from a bad dream!
This article has been written by one of our community members, Ruchira Ghosh.