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The society may see me only as a twice divorced woman but I know I am more than that. After two divorces, I finally realised my self-worth.
I am a feminist but I wonder whether feminism is for me.
As I stepped in the shoes of 18, matrimonial proposals flooded in. It was at this phase of my life where I was looking forward for freedom. And I was completely unaware that the patriarchal system was ready to walk all over me.
The first step it took in my life was when I was all dolled up and made to sit in front of strangers who came to see me in the name of marriage. Who would in turn ask me various dope questions to check whether I fit their criteria of an ideal daughter-in-law. Often, I was rejected because of my height. I am 5’9 and obviously, no one wants a wife taller than the husband.
After a year of intense hunt, the match was found. The guy was two inches taller than me. Thus, I blew my birthday and wedding cake candle on the same day.
My husband was ten years older than me. It was obvious we both shared very different views. He was a quiet and reserved person and way more mature than I was. The age gap between us made him very insecure about me. He became very possessive.
I had to cut off my friendships, and block the people he didn’t like. Everything from my clothes to my haircut, needed his consent. I was supposed to act in accordance to his behaviour.
There was this one time he took me out to dinner. He chose the restaurant with dim glimmering lights and booked us a table, making sure to seat me in a way that the servers couldn’t see me. I put an effort into it and made the moment lighter by making some conversation.
Meanwhile, he got a phone call and due to the music in the restaurant, he had to leave the table and step outside to attend it. While I waited for him to get back, a kid approached me and wanted to play on my phone. His dad came from behind him to take the child and apologise to me. With that, they disappeared.
Within a few seconds, I felt a strong grip on my shoulder and before I could turn around, I found myself being dragged forcibly to the exit. He vigorously held me by the elbow and pushed me into the car. All the way home, there was a complete silence but I could feel his anger, fuming through his nose and his eyes burning with fire. Every minute we got closer to home, I felt myself freezing to death.
At home, he accused me and yelled at me, he questioned my character and called me a whore who attracts male attention. That was the moment I realised what torture really was. The night fell on me like lightning.
That was the last night I spent with him. The very next day, I went back to my parents house and never looked back. Thus, the ten months of my marriage ended.
It wasn’t just the marriage that broke, in some ways, my confidence and happiness and a lot of other things broke too. Everyone who heard of it, visited me and shared their sympathies, gave me their condolences and pitied me. I wasn’t able to understand if they’d come to visit a divorced woman or to a funeral!
Since then, I avoided going to family gatherings and stopped attending marriages. The piercing gaze of the people was more hurtful than the divorce itself. My parents felt that the only option left was to marry me off again.
After a few conversations with a guy, whom my aunty deemed fit for me, I gave an unwilling consent. Although, he assured me, he wouldn’t behave like my ex-husband. I still think of that day and laugh at my foolishness.
My second husband hailed from a different city who live with his parents. He was the only son with two sisters. It was a different city with a different culture and different customs for me to get accustomed to.
My mother-in-law was a principal who owned a school and was very dominating, something I was familiar with. Meanwhile, since my husband and I didn’t have that big an age difference, we had fun together. We would order food late in the night and sneak out for long drives. The nights were the only times we got with each other.
My husband was a completely different person during the day. In front of his family, he spoke to me in a very formal manner. It took me some time to understand that his culture demanded husbands to maintain the patriarchal standards with their wives. If he failed to do this, he was termed as a man who was under his wife’s thumb.
After a few days of marriage, I realised how involved his family was in our marital life. My husband needed permission from his mother to come meet his own wife! I was supposed to take care of the house and my in-laws and also of my sister-in-law’s kids who stayed with us for some unknown reason.
In addition to this, I also had to make breakfast for my sister-in-law’s family since she had to leave early for work. It doesn’t just end here. I even had to make sure everyone in the family was happy. If they weren’t I was held responsible and made to apologise for all the sins I’d committed.
My other sister-in-law would call me every week, from abroad, and instruct me on the rules a daughter-in-law should follow. All of my responses were reported to my husband in a negative manner and he was expected to teach me a lesson. My cooking was bad, I was lazy, I didn’t respect his family were some of the taunts I had to hear on a regular basis.
Later, my husband would pacify my but he never had the nerve to take a stand for me. Often, under pressure from his family, he bashed me, humiliated me and made me apologise.
Emotional abuse is worse than physical abuse. It is difficult to explain to someone who’s never gone through it how words destroy a person.
I was going through psychological turmoil and mental peace didn’t exist anymore. Every time I bowed to apologise, I saw my self-respect crash to pieces.
When my parents visited me, I broke down, bawling and screaming and crying. I explained everything to them, bit by bit. That was all I could take. My father brought me home. After a few days of recovery, I called my husband since I was afraid of breaking my second marriage too.
He wanted me to beg and fall at his parents feet, asking for mercy. Something in me refused from doing so. I was done with all the humiliation and this brought an end to my second marriage.
It has been six months now and the society still sees me as a woman who is twice divorced at the age of 22. But to me, I am a woman who refused to sell my self-respect for the sake of marriage. It took me two divorces to realise my self-worth.
I have resumed my studies and I am completing my graduation. Happy and content, I am living my life on my own terms. I, no longer, care about the log kya kahenge anymore.
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Naamkaran
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