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‘Second chance? I can give him a thousand chances, for I know that deep down he loves me a lot. And I love him just as much,’ I told her.
Trigger Warning: This post contains details of domestic violence and suicide which may be triggering to certain audiences and survivors.
I was born in a traditional family and led a very sheltered and protected life until I was 24. All my time was spent studying or helping my mom with household chores. By the time I finished my post-graduation, my parents had found me a suitable match.
Soon I married Alok and travelled to Delhi, miles away from my parents. Anyone who saw us believed that our relationship was painted with love and care.
Once I had gone to the supermarket when a salesman bumped into me. Deliberately or accidentally, I am not sure. But Alok just blew up when he saw it. With one angry stare at the salesman and the other at me, grinding his teeth he said, “You are not coming to the supermarket ever again.”
“Aww! You are so possessive of me,” I said, hugging him.
Gradually, I had a very limited set of places to visit and absolutely no friend circle of my own. He decided that we won’t have kids as he didn’t want to love anyone other than me. I readily submitted to it, believing in his love and possessiveness for me.
With each passing day, he criticised my cooking skills, housekeeping skills, fashion and anything and everything under the sky. But I always gave him a second chance. I blamed his office stress, the nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the nerve-wracking traffic. But mostly, I blamed myself for failing to understand his expectations.
Just when I was on the verge of believing that he didn’t love me anymore, he would compliment me and shower me with love. Even a small compliment from him would make me feel valued enough that nothing else mattered.
Amidst all the turmoil, I was holding on to the smallest rays of light and some rare good moments.
Years flew by and it was our fifth marriage anniversary. We were hosting some of his friends at our house. He was guiding me on what to get first when suddenly, in front of everyone, he started shouting at me for being clumsy.
I just gathered myself and sneaked into the kitchen. He got back to casually talking to his friends. While I was in the kitchen, Roma, the wife of one of his friends, came up to me and said, “Are you okay? You have been an amazing host and not clumsy at all! I wonder how you put up with him.”
“Oh no! Don’t bother. He has just quit smoking… only because I asked him to. So his hormones start acting up every now and then,” I told her.
“Do you think the man who insulted you publicly deserves a second chance?”
“Second chance, you say? I can give him a thousand chances, for I know that deep down he loves me a lot. Or else, why would he quit smoking for me?”
Roma smiled uncomfortably and said, “I’ll mail you some articles. Hope you like them.”
The next morning, I saw a mail from her. On reading the opening lines I realised that it was the story of a woman who was abused emotionally, verbally and even physically.
Aghast, I rolled my eyes, and though I was only half-way through the article, I exited the page and threw my phone on the bed. Walking around the room, I murmured to myself, ‘Was she thinking I am being abused? No way! My husband would never physically hurt me! He hasn’t even used any abusive words towards me. This woman is completely out of her senses.’
I was so upset with all the articles that I never responded to any of her calls. Her mails kept coming in but I never opened any of them. I didn’t even attend to her when she came to my house.
Another year passed by and my parents came to our house to pay Alok and me a short visit. Earlier, they’d always visited me when Alok was away for business. But this time, Alok would be home and both my parents and I were excited to be able to spend some time together.
That night, I made a lavish dinner. While we were eating, I gently asked Alok to pass the water jug that was closer to him than to me. Instead of passing it to me, however, he lifted it and smashed it in front of me. The glass jug shattered to pieces and my shocked parents picked up their plates and hurried to their room.
Alok looked at me and said, ‘So, now that your parents are here, you think you can boss me around? How dare you instruct me? And how many times have I asked you to mind your words before you speak!’ So it went on.
Had it stopped only at the criticism, I probably would’ve accepted it but the shattered pieces of glass were pleading not to give Alok a second chance. He clearly didn’t deserve it this time.
When Alok left in a fit of fury, maa peeked out and found me sobbing as I cleared the pieces of glass. She sat beside me and said, ‘You could’ve taken the jug yourself, beta. He must have been tired after a long day’s work.’
A piece of glass pricked my finger as my mother’s words pierced my heart. For the first time in six years, I heard my conscience and it told me that I should be guilty of giving this man so many chances. It reminded me of Roma.
That night, after everyone had fallen asleep, I dived into Roma’s emails. They were all stories of women in abusive marriages. As I read the stories, I found pieces of myself in them. Sentence after sentence, para after para, it seemed like my life was written in those stories. The mails had all the signals that Roma had been sending for a year but I’d never bothered to respond or even read them.
With a seemingly musical silence, the darkness passed and dawn came. It was a new day and a fresh page was waiting to be written. I rushed to maa and shook her awake. Once she was up, I told her everything I’d been facing for the past six years.
In the name of love, he was controlling my life and my soul. I kept giving him second and third and countless other chances. And I kept hoping that acting differently would stop his criticism and his comments. But it never did and I, now, know that it never will.
I pleaded with maa to take me home with her. But she just said, ‘Suhagan toh pati ka ghar tab hi chodhti hai jab uski arthi uthti hain. (A married woman only leaves her husband’s house after her death) Just be patient. It will all be okay.’ And just like that, my parents packed their luggage and left before Alok even woke up.
Over our morning tea, Alok told me that he was being promoted as the VP of the company. So, in the evening, his office colleagues and boss would accompany him home for a party. Some of his close friends and relatives were also invited. While he passed on the instructions for the party, I traversed into a parallel universe.
As evening came, I made all the preparations and waited eagerly for the party to begin. It is already dark outside and I turned off all the lights in the house. Everything was set for the big surprise I planned to give Alok.
And there he was, making a ruckus with his friends. He turned on the lights, illuminating the entire house.
My surprise seemed to have worked. Everyone stood frozen. The silence brought the much-needed peace I yearned. Engulfed in the tranquillity of the new-found peace, my soul heard the soft whispers, ‘I am here because I gave my husband too many second chances.’ They read out loud the words I had scribbled all across the walls.
As they saw what I had done, I enjoyed the sight of Alok drenched in sweat. My soul will now rest in peace for I have fulfilled my parents’ wishes – Akhir meri arthi mere pati ke ghar se hi uthi. (My dead body will finally leave my husband’s house.)
Author’s Note: Most women find it tough to understand that they are in an abusive relationship. Even if they understand it, due to our culture and societal norms, most women are made to accept it as a part of their lives. This report from The Hindu proves this. It says that about 86 percent women who experience violence never seek help. Meanwhile, 77 percent of the survivors don’t even mention the incident(s) to anyone.
Doesn’t this reality scare you?
A version of this was earlier published here.
Editor’s Note: This story is a work of fiction and if you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, here are some helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022 27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044 2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033 2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080 25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040 66202000, 040 66202001
Picture credits: Still from the movie Provoked
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