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An abusive husband can be a very ‘normal’ thing, as this story told by a woman who prefers to be anonymous, proves. What does one do in such a situation?
What does a marriage consist of? Can you continue living with someone who scares you, just because you are married to him? Can there be something in a marriage, coercing you to stay on with someone who you find intimidating?
This is the story of a woman who chose to stay, as told to the author. Identifying details have been erased.
I had gone to a ‘matth’ for offering prayers and that is where my husband saw me. Ah! Before we get on with this there are a few details about me that you have to know.
I am the eldest girl child, born in a Brahmin family. I have three other siblings, all girls. I was and continue to be a meek person. Being born in a poor family in rural India where my father was burdened all the time with the thought of having to marry off not one or two daughters but four, it was my responsibility to always keep my head bows down so that no one would raise a finger and black the family name, saying, ‘oh! that daughter of his’. So all through my childhood I was categorically monitored to keep my head down.
I was 18 when I started to hear things about my marriage in the house. My father had started to match horoscopes. I wasn’t too happy about it because I was pursuing a graduation degree and wanted to study further but also knew that I could hardly do anything about it.
And with such thoughts and a heavy heart, I had gone to the nearby ‘matth’ that day. A few days after that my husband approached my father respectfully, asking for my hand in marriage. Horoscopes were matched and a date was fixed.
We did not see each other more than twice before the big day, and that too in the presence of my parents and three sisters. Had I met him before or interacted a little bit with him, I would have been better prepared for what was to follow!
All I had been trained for by my parents was to cook and clean. I did not know a thing beyond that. And yes, keeping my head bowed. It was after a few days since we had gotten married that I broke something in the house. I don’t now remember what it was (it was that insignificant), but my husband flew into a rage. I had not even known till then that someone could get this angry. His whole persona underwent a change. His face became red and his eyes sort of bulged out. MY handsome looking husband had turned into a monster. The sight was so scary for me that I just covered my ears, bowed my head and fled out of the room.
I did what anyone else would do, locked myself up and cried and cried. The day passed but a certain fear made home in my heart. I would be scared of doing anything in the house now. I started to tell all sort of lies in case I broke or lost something in his absence. If something got spoiled I would immediately rush to buy replacements or make amends. I did not know when the monster would resurface — and it did, though not very often, but when it did rear its ugly head everything else – a glance, touch – too became torturous for me to bear.
A few days after the initial episode I tried to broach the topic with him as I wanted to know what mistake I had made but I could not carry through the conversation after he gave me a stern glare. I spoke to my mother about it and her answer, to the effect of – “Ours is not to reason why, Ours is but to do or die,” left me feeling even more uneasy, maybe angry even for a while.
Since the initial days of marriage I learnt that keeping mum when he was angry was the only way I could let him know that I was displeased or even infuriated by his behaviour. Gradually I saw him understanding my silences when he lost his cool. Slowly I saw him curb his fury when my silence registered with him. To me that effort on his part gave hope. It gave me an indication that I mattered to him, that he loved me to endeavour controlling or at least restricting his temper.
It has now been ten years since we have been married. A decade some would say would have changed us both. Yes it has; but I continue being scared. His fury has been reined in a bit and I have shed my meekness to a certain degree but we are what we are. Isn’t it?
Header image is a screen grab from the movie Provoked
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