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She was often infuriated by people who came by to visit her; Mansi suspected that people sympathized with her, and saw her as a hopeless victim.
Brinda went up the stairs to the second floor where Mansi spent most of her time these days. She had a tray full of cookies that Mansi’s mother, Nithya, had offered.
A longtime family friend and a well-wisher to Nithya’s family, Brinda, who had lived in the US, had been longing to see Mansi for a while now. Upon much insistence, Nithya had conceded.
Mansi had been diagnosed with chronic depression. About a year ago, she had suffered a miscarriage that left her devastated. She was often infuriated by people who came by to visit her; Mansi suspected that people sympathized with her, and saw her as a hopeless victim.
Her husband and her in-laws had disowned her, saying it would be impossible to have her around at home, post the miscarriage. They cited several reasons such as ill-luck, bad omen, etc. All of the insensitive behavior coupled with her own poisonous guilt rendered Mansi very weak, mentally and physically.
Mansi felt like a failure and a shame, because she could not give birth to a baby. Her depression ate her one day at a time. On the one hand, she hated to know that she was not keeping well and that she needed treatment. On the other, all the talk among people around depressed her further.
Brinda promised Nithya that she was not going to preach to Mansi, but merely have a conversation. She did not intend to impose instructions on her. Though her best friend hesitated initially, she trusted Brinda and gave in.
Mansi had also not reacted violently unlike with others when she heard Brinda aunt’s name. Mansi remembered Brinda aunt as a woman emanating warmth and kindness. Her smile was etched in Mansi’s heart.
“Hello, Mansi. How are you?” Brinda slowly opened the door.
There was no acknowledgement. Brinda took the liberty to walk in. She saw Mansi seated on the couch. She sat there, her eyes cast down, almost as if she was waiting for the interrogation to begin.
Brinda made herself comfortable and asked Mansi to have the cookies.
“You know, Mansi, the last time I saw you was when you were five years old.” Mansi raised her head slightly.
“You won’t believe it, amidst about thirty people or so, the only person I wanted to talk to or be with was you. Our families and many close friends were vying with one another to check on me. They were concerned that I was hurt, I must have been tortured, perhaps, I hadn’t eaten well. They were all so restless, unable to fathom my return from Brazil; my mother was crying hard, totally unsure what to make of my health and marriage. At that heated moment of my life, the twinkle in your eyes felt like a glint of hope, Mansi. I wouldn’t be wrong if I said that, you are one of the biggest reasons I am what I am today.“
Brinda noticed the changes in Mansi’s body language, that showed her that Mansi was being understanding and compassionate despite her own fragility.
“Whoever said that Mansi had lost her mind? What right did people have to make baseless allegations that Mansi was not in the right state? She was responding to an outsider’s emotions despite her excruciatingly painful state,” Brinda thought to herself.
“My husband lived in the USA and I had promised family that we would be coming down to India for my cousin’s marriage. In truth, my husband wouldn’t join me. I lied to my family that he was busy; nevertheless, only later, several days after the excitement had receded, did I reveal the sorry state of my marriage. About three months prior, I had willingly walked out of my marriage; since the timing was not inappropriate I had chosen to keep it under wraps from the family circle. Instead, I decided do a teaching internship in Brazil. Upon successful completion, I came down to India. I attended the marriage.”
I broke down inconsolably the day I finally let my heart out in front of my parents. An ordeal of one year had finally come out in open.Such terrifying weight was taken off my head.” Brinda was misty eyed. She paused for a bit.
“You smiled at me and gave me a warm hug on that day. Remember it like yesterday… I did not know you were so sad.” Mansi fondly recalled and spoke softly after a total silence of almost 45 minutes.
“Yes. I thought I had lost my purpose in life, Mansi. I felt cheated, wronged and hapless. I wonder how I succumbed to such tragedy in life. For someone who was so well educated and well brought up it came like a rude shock. My partner felt no remorse, not even, an iota of grace to attend to someone he had wedded. When I left USA and traveled to Brazil, my mind was bombarded by crazy questions. I didn’t know if I had hastily left my husband. I suspected if I would ever be able to manage on my own in a new country. I would have to lie to my parents, saying we were holidaying. Lest I get caught red handed in my video calls. Oh god! It was traumatic. Nonetheless, less traumatic than the deafening silence my husband had subjected me to.” Brinda seemed to in a pensive mood.
“He did not treat you well, Brinda aunt?” Mansi grew anxious.
“Oh! Well, he did not even accept my existence, let alone treating me well. At twenty three, I was eager to begin my new innings in my marital home. Since the alliance came from a family circle and the man is well settled in the USA, there were no complaints when the offer came. I too wanted to continue my studies abroad, perhaps, get a master’s degree and then establish a career. Each day running up to the marriage, I built my dreams and hopes – I couldn’t wait to kindle my friendship with my partner, make my home and still remember feeling innocently shy thinking about a beautiful family.Travelling was always something I enjoyed and exploring a wonderful country like the USA meant a lot. I had read about innovation and massive advancement, I really wanted to learn and grow.“
“No sooner did I arrive in the USA, than I was taken aback by the response from the husband. From the day 1, he maintained a weird kind of silence that almost killed me. I endeavored a lot to get close emotionally, and even physically, but in vain. He would remain indifferent to me. I could eat what I want and sleep whenever and wherever I wanted. It was depressing to spend hours at a stretch and not talk a word. We lived two separate lives, painfully, under the same roof. Throughout, I would make up stories about my happy life in the USA and narrated them to my family. Little did they know that I was clueless even on the most beautiful day such as my own birthday? One day, when it was very hard to endure, I questioned him. I still cannot comprehend if indeed that was the turning point of my life, Mansi. He jumped into such a horrifying state of rage that I was bewildered beyond imagination. He threw many things rashly and some items even broke. I quickly hurried to a corner of the home, away from him. I still couldn’t look squarely in his eyes. All I asked was what the problem is and I had every right to ask so of him. He was my husband!
Mansi had now shifted to be beside Brinda. She pressed Brinda aunt’s hand.
“ He never came home for many days. Thank god I had all the supplies to last for a few days. I really did not know many neighbors and I definitely did not want to escalate matters further. I let what felt like the longest wait of my life pass. He returned home a week later. This time with a woman. Back then, I couldn’t even understand what was happening. I thought she was perhaps a colleague or friend who would act as a mediator between us. How foolish I was to think so highly of him. He non nonchalantly informed that she was his live-in partner and that he married me to please his parents.“
“I experienced a pit in my stomach. My head started aching suddenly. Even before I could explain myself, he asked me to leave. I lost my temper and screamed at him. He said, if I raised my voice, he would call my family and de fame me and create trouble.”
“I was shaken by the idea and the plan, the level that he could stoop to, in order to get his way and so, I immediately rose to leave. I packed my bags and took the money I had saved before arriving in the USA.“
Mansi was in tears by now.
“I checked into a nearby hotel. As if like a saving grace, one out of my hundred odd applications got accepted for an internship in Brazil. The fortnight I spent in the hotel taught me a lot, Mansi.”
“Nobody can believe in you as much as you can do to yourself.“
“It is in the worst of your times that your original characters come out.”
“Never should a woman trade her self-respect for anything else.”
“We tend to wait longing for something that can lash or lull us until we have had enough. Now, that is where a new story unfolds and a new journey begins. When you have had enough!”
Mansi was moved by Brinda aunt’s wise words. Brinda was not reciting something from her memory. All the words emerged from the deepest places in her heart, and all emotions from the experiences.
“My internship was such an awesome opportunity. I met teachers from across the globe- India, USA, UK, China, Nigeria, Mexico, and Brazil. I bonded with the children so well; teaching took my mind away from the perilous worries of my life. Every day, we would have classes, experiential workshops, nature walks and fun nights. My parents believed that I was in Brazil with my husband. Which emphasized one more harsh truth to me – my husband never contacted them! This was good you see.”
“Brinda aunty, after all this turmoil, you were still smiling when you came to my home that day with your parents? I wish I was like you.” Mansi regretted.
“Oh common, Mansi! You are good too. That day, when I saw you, I realized what I meant to do in my life. I evaluated many options and then decided to take my love for children and teaching forward. My parents, the Brazil trip and you are the reason I started a new innings in my life, Mansi. I left my husband formally through a divorce and a registered case. Recently, I was invited to present at many conferences in the USA. Can you believe! I went back to the USA as an independent trainer and a leader. It felt good.”
Mansi hugged Brinda aunt. Mansi felt she had attended the best therapeutic session, ever. She was inspired and decided to follow her heart, be brave and strong and not become a slave of the past. Brinda knew that the authenticity of the hug meant Mansi felt reassured.
Mansi requested Brinda if she could visit her Mumbai school.
“Of course, you can.” Brinda was happy that Mansi had volunteered to step out of home after about eight months. Brinda knew that Mansi was on her way to personal transformation.
Editor’s note: This story had been shortlisted for the September 2019 Muse of the Month contest, but not one of the winners.
Image source: shutterstock
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