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Pragya was mired amidst her internal demons, which stopped her from moving out of an abusive marriage. Then one day, she did.
Pragya needed that cup of tea. It always helped her to pause for a few minutes and reflect. And reflecting is all she had done in past 11 months. So much so that even when her husband thrashed her, even as he slapped her hard on her face, pushed her so she fell flat on the floor, yanked her with her hair and hurled her, threw objects at her, belted her, and treated her to any number of display of his insanity, she kept reflecting.
Reflecting over why me, oh god what do I do now. Exactly 11 months and ten days since her marriage, she was still unable to decide what-to-do-now!!
Women are not just chained by the society, they chain themselves with the chains that tie an elephant. Can an elephant be chained without his consent? This was in Pragya’s mind for a few days now. You are a consenting victim… you are a consenting sufferer…
Basically that takes away the power from her husband, since it is with her consent, SHE chooses to be treated like a ‘nobody’! Even nobodies have a choice.
And then Pragya flipped through the pages of her diary. She had kept a log of her consents to mistreatment. It gave her a sadistic satisfaction and somehow made her feel a power that was ripped off from her in every other way.
Pragya had married Rohan by her own choice. She was a gregarious college girl, vivacious, playful and fun loving. He stalked her, won her confidence, dated her and then even proposed to her. The families disagreed, theirs was a true Bollywood style runaway marriage. One fine day, Pragya and Rohan eloped only to resurface after a week, having tied the knots, their status as married couple beyond repair.
The first time when Rohan slapped Pragya, it was because she got him a cup of warm tea, not hot enough for Rohan’s taste. Shaken and disconcerted, Pragya wondered what she could do. Hit him back? Well she would try next time. She decided it was a good idea. Hit back. It was my idea to run away, I got Rohan into it. I forced him. This is my punishment for hurting my family.
Memories of that fateful day came rushing back. Both their families were against their marriage. She had wondered what families were for, if they could not accept their greatest happiness.
“Let’s separate” Rohan had suggested. “I don’t want you to lose your family because of me.”
Pragya fell head over heels in love with him all over again, at that moment. “No let’s fight back. If we get married they cannot separate us. Let us elope.” Pragya had insisted.
What a fool she had been, she thought! Is this happiness?
I will hit him back. Pragya confided in a friend on day eight. The friend advised her that if women retaliate, men hit harder, so there was no point of hitting back. Find out why he is hitting. Pragya thought let me talk to him about it. So she did.
That very evening on day 8, Pragya confronted Rohan, “Why did you hit me? Why?”
“I am sorry for that darling, it will never happen again.” Rohan apologised profusely.
Emboldened by his apologies, Pragya retorted, “What if I hit back?”
The look on Rohan’s face changed from amorous to menacing in a split second, “You had better not dare, I can do a lot more!’ Rohan warned balefully.
A chill ran down Pragya’s spine. She felt invisible chains clasping her. She felt the same emotion that a prisoner of war feels after having been apprehended by the enemy. Hopeless, hapless, worthless and miserable. The warning was loud and clear.
Pragya dreamed a vivid dream that night. Her husband was thrashing her mercilessly. In the background her parents sat, their mirthful laughter echoing, as they said, I told you so. She woke up with a start.
As beads of sweat appeared on her forehead, she realised she was alone, so so alone! She should have known before she eloped with Rohan. And in her mind came the same hollow rebuke of her parents, serves you right!
His food tasted burnt. Rohan slapped her twice, can’t you learn to cook? Pragya was caught completely unawares. Before she realised, the food had been flung to the wall and there they made permanent stains on the rented wall of their space they called home.
“Hit back this time!” Rohan was shouting, “You bloody b*** you will hit me back, show me!” Pragya stood stunned, so her deepest fears were materialising, devilishly, slowly and certainly.
Pragya took a little longer than usual to open the door. Rohan pushed her and she went flying and hit her head on the table near the door. A minor concussion on the head. The dignity now completely crushed.
Pragya was singing and cooking. Nothing unusual, but Rohan was in a bad mood, so he slapped her. Oh, only once, just to keep her quiet.
Rohan came home and she was busy reading a novel. Rohan got annoyed and …
Pragya lost count of how many times she had been hit. Her diary looked like it was bleeding with her tears. She had eloped, in order for herself to be unhappy with this man she thought was the man of her dreams! Correction – she made it now – man of her nightmares!
And then all of a sudden she put two and two together… That was the answer, she could elope once, why not again. To her own peaceful corner, away from Rohan and away from her parents too. So they would not humiliate her with their jibes. She had just herself now. She was just that. Herself.
Pragya needed an anchor. You don’t just go out in the world and get yourself a decent living, when you have just yourself. You are a woman. If you have a roof over your head, isn’t that safety? Oh yes, home is safe she thought, safe till Rohan comes home.
But I have the walls, strong solid walls and a roof over my head. Where else will I find it? No, eloping is not an answer. Pragya dismissed the idea the nth time. But Rohan will be here any moment. I don’t know if it will be one of the silent evenings, or will it be another entry into my diary?
The bell rang. She checked from the eye hole, it was Rohan. There is a back door Pragya, run! Every evening when Rohan rang the formidable bell, she opened the door and shut herself with one single snap. That was her daily routine for last 11 months and 5 days.
And then it dawned on Pragya the next day – where do homeless women go? Do they really have a parallel world? 11 months and 11 days later, Pragya was working on a new concept. Find out where they go!
Asha was her neighbour. Why did she never check with her? Asha was a working woman. Always busy, but always had a smile for Pragya. Pragya had difficulty smiling back at Asha. But today she wanted answers. She waited for Rohan to leave.
But Asha was already leaving when Rohan left. She waited for her to come back, but Rohan was already home by the time she came. She went out thinking she will go and meet her anyway, but then she changed her mind. 11 months and 11 days were now over.
Asha had left before Rohan. Presently Pragya saw her hurrying back home to pick up something. Should she go with tearful eyes and beg for her to listen to her plight? Maybe. By the time, she could decide, Asha was leaving again. She was scurrying away just as fast as she had come.
Today she would talk to Asha, but no today is Saturday. Two days of the week she detested most, were here. The weekend. She did not have the patience to get to the other end of it. And then Rohan said, he was going to meet a friend at the other corner of the city. Could it be possible Pragya wondered, could he be going? He did. And for a very long time too.
That was Pragya’s chance, but Asha’s husband was home too. No, she will wait. No, she cannot, anymore. Pragya knocked at Asha’s door. “I need to talk to you. I need your help.” Asha listened to her.
Asha was in a dilemma – what should she do? She cannot take in a homeless woman! She did not have any answers. But there is a women’s home somewhere that she knows of, she said. And they might even have some vocational training for Pragya.
Pragya saw herself as a homeless hapless person, better than a hapless person with a home. I need something concrete she thought. I have myself now!
Asha brought and gave an address and a phone number on Monday. She had waited for Rohan to leave and then handed it to Pragya. Pragya made the call immediately. In fact she had her bag packed and ready before anyone knew. She had the experience of eloping, she knew what to pick up and what she would never need again.
The 11 months and 14 days that Pragya had lived with Rohan were now behind her. She had many new thoughts already in her mind. Thoughts of happiness and independence that she had never imagined she would dream of. Small dreams. Pragya had herself she would make it too!
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