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She had had no support back then, and nowhere to go. But this time, something kicked her reflexes into action, and she stood up strong beside her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter.
There she stood, shivering in the rain, scared and silent. The voices continued. Loud arguments, vessels banging, her parents arguing incessantly. Small house, thin walls and no secrets.
Her younger brother, a rotund baby, waddled around while she was a bony, timid girl. Quiet and fearful. Who wouldn’t be? Reigning abuses on each other, her parents fought for every penny, hated each other’s families.
This was the atmosphere she grew up in.
Every evening, over any minor issue, things would explode, and she would escape outside. Sometimes even oblivious to the rain, she waited for the arguments to stop, to return to her bed and sleep.
Sounds of sex, which she didn’t quite understand were regular. Next day her parents carried on with life as if nothing had happened.
Her brother grew up in the same house. But being a boy, he was more pampered, and not as affected. She was an introvert and struggled with fears. Afraid of being judged, silence was her refuge.
Having finished her school, barely 18, her marriage was fixed. She went from one house to another without really becoming an adult. A house full of people, she being the youngest member, all household chores landed in her lap.
She was used to housework and had never said no to anything at all. Meekly she went about her day, doing all that she could for her in laws, her younger brother-in-law and her husband. Initially her husband was interested in her and there was some pleasantness in their interaction.
It all ended the day she gave birth to a baby girl. A carbon copy of herself, the little girl with delicate features was a beauty. Her in-laws wanted a grandson. Girls meant more expense and responsibility. She was branded as the useless daughter-in-law who couldn’t even give her husband a son. The pleasant young boy she had married, changed into an aggressive man much like her own father had been. He soon got busy with work and lost all interest in her.
Her daughter now nine, on the verge of puberty, was oblivious of her mother’s angst. For she hid it well. She had learnt to camouflage her emotions to the point of killing them.
Always acquiescing, she continued to take verbal abuses from the in-law’s family and her husband.
Her little girl wondered why everyone was so mean to her mom. Her grandmother had faced the same treatment, except that she had given birth to her son. This was her redemption.
As I write this story, I ask myself too – are we girls accepting more crap than we should? I don’t have any generic answers, but am angry with that part of me which is not strong enough to say no.
Well my heroine’s life continued in the same vein till the day her brother-in-law tried to molest her daughter.
It was a hot afternoon, the house was quiet with her mother-in-law dozing, the men folk out for work, and she was sitting in the veranda, patching her clothes. This afternoon sewing gave her some respite. It was cathartic, she remembered her sewing classes, her youth. Remembrance of happy times was akin to balming wounds.
The calm was shattered with her daughter’s shrieks. She had been sleeping in her room, when the uncle entered the room and tried to touch her. She woke up screaming, which startled him. He tried to pacify her by offering sweets, but she ran out just in time to escape. He ran behind her in hot pursuit, followed her to the veranda.
The little girl’s body was shivering, sobbing, she could barely explain to her mom. But the mother understood. Holding the scissors she used for cutting and patching old petticoats, she stood up and threatened him to back off.
He was horrified to see this transformation. From the scared cow who was milked for years into free labour, she had changed into the tigress protecting her cub.
Her mother-in-law came out and witnessed the whole drama unfolding like a bad dream. The innocent veranda had witnessed a similar scene. The flashback of her own father-in-law pursuing her came back to her in technicolor.
Seeing the women folk united, the callow, shallow youth fell to his mother’s feet. He begged for forgiveness the moment he realized he was outnumbered. Promising to make up for his mistake, he seemed repentant. The scissor had cut through his masculine arrogance.
Men, the so-called dominant sex, have subjugated the giver of birth through centuries and will continue to do so, till she realizes her strength. The sisterhood gives her confidence. She is not the second sex and is learning to say a definite no to everything not in sync with her self-respect.
My heroine had learnt to say no. Her daughter saw her mother reborn. The grand mother finally became the matriarch.
Image source: YouTube
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