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“Yes, I had to go to a counsellor. Yes, I had to seek help to be normal again. And I am not ashamed of telling that to people. But you are.”
Here is the first winner of our October 2016 Muse of the Month contest, Nikita Jhanglani.
The cue was: “If I had low self-esteem, how could I have done what I did tonight?” – Anuja Chauhan, Those Pricey Thakur Girls.
Trisha closed the door behind her as an angry Ashish stormed his way directly into their bedroom, knowing perfectly well that his mother was watching the scene unfold in front of her.
Trisha followed him, trying her best to not get worked up over his behaviour. It had been three years now, since she had overcome her ‘illness’, as Ashish and his mother had liked to call it. She couldn’t believe that they hadn’t been able to see sense in her decision, even in today’s time; they couldn’t believe that Trisha could actually gloat about it.
“What happened?”, her mother-in-law asked her in a low voice, worried that she might end up bearing the brunt of her son’s anger.
“Nothing,” Trisha replied, keeping the irritation out of her voice.
Ashish had heard her answer to his mother and that had been his cue to explode.
“Nothing? Really, it is nothing, is it? But, of course, it is nothing to you. You were shameful enough to go about with it then, so it wouldn’t have taken much of an effort for you now to announce it.” Ashish screamed at the top of his voice. The only thing about this outburst that worried Trisha was that it would end up waking Shubham, their eight-year-old son.
“Lower your voice Ashish,” she said curtly even as she closed the door for she knew that this scene would extend for quite some time. Her mother-in-law made sure that she was on the action side of the door, certainly not wanting to be left out.
“How dare you talk to me like this Trisha? Oh, I get it now. All that praise has gotten to your head, hasn’t it? But let me tell you one thing very clearly. Sumedha is not an idiot like you. And you will not try to make her one. She had enough sense to keep all this quiet. Navin is one of my best juniors. I am not going to let you distract him from his work with all this nonsense. You will keep away from Sumedha, do you get it?”
Trisha quietly went to sit on her side of the bed and began to remove all her jewellery. This angered Ashish all the more. His mother tried to pacify him. “What happened Ashish? What did she do?”
“Maa, your daughter-in-law is an idiot. She is a mad woman. And she is shameful enough to go around telling people that. Do you know what she did today? She told everybody at Navin’s party about the time she had to go to the counsellor.”
“What?” Ashish’s mother retaliated in shock in such a way, you’d think someone had slapped her.
“Why Trisha? Why did you have to do this? Was it not enough to put us all through this mess? You and your sister made us do whatever you wanted to do. And we did it, did we not? Why then are you making my son’s life miserable again? In spite of everything, he is doing everything that a good husband should be doing. Expensive clothes, jewellery, what does he not provide you with? Last year, he took you and Shubham for a vacation to Europe. But does none of that hold any value for you?”
Trisha refused to look at either one of them and continued putting her jewellery back into the boxes. They were crossing lines, yet again today, but Trisha had trained herself not to get worked up. Her health was above all their shenanigans.
But her silence irked Ashish all the more. “Do you see her Maa? This woman is utterly selfish and nothing else matters to her. She is of such low self-esteem that she isn’t even worried about what those people will think of her after tonight, let alone what they will think of me. They will all make fun of me Maa!” Ashish was screaming at the top of his voice now, his desperation to get a reaction out of Trisha audible.
Trisha was getting up to put back her jewellery in the cupboard when Ashish said this. The selfish and self-esteem bit was what finally got to Trisha and broke the silence that she had adopted as second skin thirteen years ago, after she had married Ashish.
“Did I not tell you to lower your voice Ashish?” She threw the jewellery boxes back on the bed and stormed towards him, fire in her eyes. “What part of it did you not understand?”
“Trisha, this is no way to speak to your husband, did your parents…” Her mother-in-law was forced to halt midway when Trisha directed her angry glare on her.
“Don’t you bring my parents in the middle of all this mess that you and your son choose to create every time after I’ve cleaned it all.”
“Trisha, don’t you dare talk to my mother like this. And why did you throw these boxes on the bed? Don’t you know I don’t like things being messy? Clean all this right away.”
“I wonder then how you manage to live with yourself Ashish, with your messy thoughts and narrow mind. Yes, I had to go to a counsellor. Yes, I had to seek help to be normal again. And I am not ashamed of telling that to people. But you are. And do you know why? Because you know you and your mother caused it. I was only 21 when my parents married me to you; you, who was so pompous at having built a successful career and supporting your mother and your brother in the absence of your father. You, whose mother was so obsessed with keeping everything so clean for her son that I’d spend all my day cleaning and making sure that not a single speck of dust found its way in this huge house that her son had built for her. You, who was so obsessed with keeping his mother happy that you never paid attention to the fact that I was human too and that my happiness was your responsibility too. Not that I ever believed in it, but I was your wife Ashish; I was human too.”
“From the moment I got up to the moment I slept, you and your mother dictated every single thing to me. Trisha, walk like this; Trisha don’t talk like this; Trisha, wear this; Trisha, how can you even think of wearing this dress to the party. The only time you thought of me was when we were going to a party with your friends or colleagues or seniors. You bought me the most expensive clothes, the most expensive jewellery, but not because you wanted me to have them. It was so that you could show me off to your friends. You love yellow, but in the 13 years that we’ve been married, did you ever realize that I hate that color. You always watched what I ate not because you were concerned about me, but because you were worried that if I put on weight, I wouldn’t be able to carry off the trendiest of clothes that you bought me. I couldn’t ever decide if I was your slave or your prisoner.”
“Do you remember the first time you hit me? And do you remember why? Maa, do you remember? Why would you, of course? I’ll remind you though. Ashish hit me because I was sitting on the sofa, in a loose t-shirt and pyjamas, and eating popcorn. And Ashish walked in, unannounced, with Ravish and his wife. You acted all calm and covered up for me for you had your image and your self-esteem to protect. And then, after they were gone, you did not hesitate for a minute before slapping me and hitting me like I was an animal.”
“I’d be scared always, even before that incident happened. But after that, I’d always watch my actions like a hawk, worried of what might offend you and your mother. Of course, mother and son were too happy to get their perfect world back. I cried over the smallest of things that went wrong. I couldn’t sleep all night, worried that I may not be able to get up in the morning on time. It was too much for you both to notice that I’d lost a lot of weight in a very little time. Of course, for you it was a good thing Ashish, wasn’t it? Only when my dark circles began to show did you show some kind of concern. And what was your solution to that problem? More expensive makeup.”
“The only time you both actually cared about me was when I was pregnant. Oh wait, correction! You did not care about me, you cared for me; you cared about your grandson and to keep him healthy, you had to keep me healthy. Ashish, you flaunt your degrees and your success as if nobody else could ever achieve what you have. And yet, you and mother made me do a thousand things to ensure that your first-born was a son. You showered me with gifts when I gave birth to a son. But I wonder what would have happened if I had given birth to a daughter.”
“I became trivial again after Shubham was born. And why would it matter? You had the heir to your family and wasn’t that the only purpose of this lowly life of yours?”
Trisha paused her monologue when the doorbell rang. It was Sumedha and Navin. The look on Ashish and his mother’s face gave her immense satisfaction.
“Hi bhabhi! Sorry for coming over unannounced,” Navin greeted Trisha.
“No Navin. It’s okay. Is everything fine? You both here at this hour…”
“Everything’s fine bhabhi. We just came over to thank you.”
Trisha was surprised at what Navin said. It didn’t go unnoticed that Navin and Sumedha were yet to acknowledge the presence of her husband and mother-in-law.
“I don’t get what…”
Navin interrupted Trisha and told her with moist eyes, “Thank you for bringing my attention to the fact that in my quest for fame and success, I was leaving Sumedha behind. Thank you for making me realize how much I’ve ignored her and how irresponsible I have been in doing that. When I think of it all now, I can’t help but hate myself. Thank you for being so brave to share your story with a room full of people, without worrying about what the others might think of you.”
“Navin is right bhabhi,” Sumedha continued, “I couldn’t have ever been able to gather the courage to admit that I needed help.”
“What are you all talking about?” Trisha’s mother-in-law couldn’t stand all the ignorance and finally decided to intervene.
“Aunty, Trisha bhabhi heard Karan, my brother-in-law, talking to my Sumedha when they were at my place today for dinner. Sumedha has started to be more anxious, more panicky than she should be, all because she constantly needs to be on her toes to entertain all the shenanigans that I decide to organize without asking her. She worries herself about the smallest of details so much that after every party or get together, she falls ill. Karan was trying to convince Sumedha to seek medical help when Trisha bhabhi overheard them. When everybody sat down to dessert, Trisha bhabhi told everyone of the time when she had slipped into depression and how seeking medical help was okay. It takes guts to do this Aunty. You are one lucky man Ashish!”
A little while later, just after Navin and Sumedha had left, Trisha walked up to her husband and said, “If I had low self-esteem, I wouldn’t have done what I did tonight.” She walked away from him, towards Shubham’s bedroom, but turned around and came back to where mother and son stood rooted to their spots. “Actually, you want to know what’s low self-esteem? Allowing myself to be known as your wife.”
Nikita Jhanglani wins a Rs 250 Flipkart voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the 10 top winners at the end of 2016. Congratulations!
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If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080–25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001
Image source: pixabay