After The Years Of Humiliation And Gaslighting In Marriage, This Was Different!

“I’m so happy to know that you enjoy my company. I, too, value your friendship immensely…believe me, I do. But right now, I don’t think I’m ready for this.”

Prerna, just quit your job and sit at home.

Balancing a job and home is not everybody’s cup of tea – and certainly not YOURS!

Woman, is this dal or a patient’s gruel?! I’ll really have to teach you how to cook, Prerna – for my own survival, if nothing else!

Driving and you? Give me a break! I don’t wanna run after the police trying to bail you out.

I try hard to focus on the screen glowing in front of me. It’s an important mail that our Team Leader has forwarded to me. I need to analyse it and work upon it carefully. But the hammering in my head just doesn’t seem to stop. I clutch my head with both hands, as if to banish the silent noise. I wince as I keep thinking of the sniggers, the eyerolls, the words and gestures, the name-calling – my unflinching and loyal companions in the burlesque called ‘marriage’. Today, even after one year of being legally divorced, not a day passes when these acerbic memories don’t invade my inner space to haunt me. And some days are especially bad. Like how it is today.

“Prerna, all good?”

The warmth of the voice reins in my unsettling, wayward thoughts. I look up to find Adarsh towering over my swivel chair in my cubicle, peering curiously at me.

“Uhh, yeah…of course, I’m fine, Adarsh. All g-good here,” I stammer awkwardly, too embarrassed to have allowed an outsider to peek into my most weak and vulnerable moment. Adarsh is my colleague of two years, and we’ve been assigned the same project at this corporate giant. Standing tall at 6’2”, this 32-year-old comes across as a sensitive, mindful person with a sense of humour so subtle and understated, one almost misses it.

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“I’m going for coffee…you want me to get you some?” Adarsh casually hand-combs his dense, unruly mop and tries his best to sound unperturbed. But his boyish face looks genuinely concerned.

“Thanks Adarsh, but I’m good. Need to wrap this up before the Christmas frenzy begins,” my voice projects a well-rehearsed calm. One, that I’ve mastered over time to keep curious well-wishers (read, post-divorce nosy acquaintances) at bay. Adarsh dithers for just a couple of seconds and then heads out purposefully for his caffeine shot. I focus back on the Excel sheet staring at me, with minute data crawling on it like tiny ants. And the day wears on – like every other – predictable and insipid. Till it is time to pack and head home.

***

I never walk the beaten path of asking myself the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of my life’s trajectory. Losing myself in a whirlwind courtship and getting hitched, were essentially my personal choices, and I own them unequivocally. But the four years of humiliation, gaslighting and mansplaining that came in the gift-wrapped package of matrimony, were not something I had anticipated, or bargained for. Or was willing to resign myself to. I had noticed the red flags quite early on in our wedded life. But as is wont, I was convinced that it was always my shortcomings and my inadequacies. I promised myself to try harder and make our marriage work. Till one morning I woke up to realise that this was so not cool and that, it needed to stop! Like, ASAP!

My divorce has been a messy affair followed by an endless barrage of invasive queries, sly innuendoes, and ludicrous suggestions offered by every person I know. It has pushed me to a tipping point where I feel an anathema for my entire social circle. I, decidedly, need a hiatus, an uninterrupted me-time, when I can re-connect with my soul and get back my bearings. And I need it right now! Before I slip into that dark, bottomless abyss called clinical depression!

Over the weekend, I channelise my inner nomad and register with a reputed trip organiser. The choice of destinations is alluring and varied. Finally, Kasauli, doused in its ethereal, timeless beauty and zen energy, acts as my travel lodestar and I finalise my itinerary for the last week of January.

***

Kasauli, with its mesmerising snow-crested mountains, gurgling streams, verdant meadows and charming old-world villages, acts as a balm to my jaded soul. I wake up to birdsong, I relax in the sit-out of my quaint homestay, and I have authentic pahaadi meals that tingle my tastebuds. At other times, I hike up to the village ahead, or I plug in to a soulful ghazal. This one week has been nothing short of idyllic, and I don’t remember when I had last felt so alive, so contented!  That feeling of being able to do the little things that my heart desires, without being judged and censured, is priceless! I have no rigid timetable to adhere to, no intrusive ‘well-wishers’ to worry about, and most importantly, no Hitler-style diktat to follow. Carpe diem at its best, I conclude! The change in surroundings and the peace of solitude have helped brush away the cobwebs of resentment and disquiet, ensnaring my mind.

As all good things come to an end, my trip, too, concludes today. While I had landed in Kasauli feeling antsy, forlorn, and dispirited, I leave, imbued with a sense of metanoia. And gratitude towards the universe, for the experience.

***

Returning from a vacation is almost always followed by a burgeoning workload. Especially when it is just one month short of the yearly closing and annual appraisal. I resume my project work with Adarsh. He’s been an invaluable resource in terms of chipping in whenever required, in my absence. And now that I’m back, he’s too happy to fill me in with various details of the progress made.

“Adarsh, I don’t know how to thank you for all your help.” I tell him one afternoon as we refill our coffee mugs for the umpteenth time.

“Huh, come now Prerna, that was hardly anything. I’ll have you make up for it when I go to my hometown during Holi, don’t worry!” He dismisses my gratitude with a casual wave of his hand and a broad smile.

That’s so Adarsh – always being around and yet, never imposing or even acknowledging his presence. I’m lucky to have him as a friend! So different from…sigh!

Time, certainly, is the best healer. And the serene mountains offered the calm to the storm raging within me for so long. I immerse myself in work with a renewed zest and verve. Whatever inhibitions I had about travelling solo, having uncomfortable encounters with strangers, managing finances, being safe in unfamiliar terrain – Kasauli has helped me shed them all. And most importantly, I have mustered courage to look people in their eye and answer questions on my single status. I no longer avoid impromptu coffee meets with cousins or official dinners.  The courage to mouth the simple, liberating words – “Yes, I’m single, and divorced” – without feeling guilty, has amped up my self-confidence by several notches.

It’s the second week of February. The workplace is rife with excitement. Love, actually, seems to be in the air. Our young brigade is determined to paint the city…erm, the office…red, what with white, pink, and red dress codes for all days of the week. I watch it all with an indulgent smile on my face.

Love, sure makes the world go round. Being in love is a beautiful feeling, indeed…only, you need to find the right person for it!

It’s late Friday evening. Almost everybody at work has left. I take another careful look at my mailbox, just to make sure there’s no matter pending. I’m looking forward to spending a peaceful, relaxed weekend and have no intention of being bombarded with work exigencies. I finally log out. Closing my eyes, I recline on my chair, and exhale deeply in relief.

“Hey Prerna, I’m glad you’re still there,” Adarsh’s voice gently nudges me out of my thoughts.

“Yeah, I was just about to leave. But how come you’re still hanging around, Adarsh?”

“Uhh, nothing…just packing up.” Adarsh mumbles, avoiding my eyes, trying very hard to feign indifference.

Poor Adarsh, he’s so pathetic when it comes to faking expressions. Or lying. His face is a dead giveaway!

He probably catches me sporting a quizzical look. Suddenly, his expression changes. He looks at me purposefully and speaks.

“Prerna, I was just wondering if we could spend some time together tomorrow…catch the afternoon show of the arthouse play running at Prithvi Theatre, hang around Marine Drive, and then maybe go for dinner somewhere,” his voice mirroring hope and earnest. “Venue and cuisine, your choice,” he rushes to add with a grin.

I’ll be lying if I say I’m completely taken aback. Adarsh’s caring attitude, his covert concern, his unobtrusive ways of support, had not escaped my eye. It’s as if I had almost seen this coming. And yet, standing here at this particular moment, I close my eyes to veil my emotional disarray. Memories of my earlier alliance come flooding into my mind — the sweet beginnings, the wooing and flattering, the gifts and romantic getaways, the promise of undying love and then…the most mortifying, agonising phase ever! Am I ready to go through it again? Will the red roses or the valentine vows work for me this time around? I do not know…but I’m not ready to take a gamble, either. Not for quite some time now.

My eyes open as I get my answer. Squaring my shoulders, I address him in an earnest tone.

“Adarsh, I’m so happy to know that you enjoy my company. I, too, value your friendship immensely…believe me, I do. And I absolutely appreciate how you always have my back, in good times and bad. But right now,” I clear my throat and brace myself for breaking his bubble of hope, “I don’t think I’m ready for this. I’m so sorry, Adarsh.”

I lower my gaze, refusing to witness how my simple words crush his heart.

Adarsh is shocked, broken, but just for a few moments. His blink-and-miss struggle to find an inner foothold and his ashen face do not elude me. Very soon, he regains his composure, and his voice.

“Yes, of course Prerna, that’s perfectly alright. We’ll do it some other time, maybe with our entire squad…whenever you feel up to it. No worries at all! Shall we start walking?”

I pick my bag and we exit the workspace together. While we walk towards the elevator, I decide to explain the rationale behind my refusal – after all, I do need to acknowledge his good intent instead of simply dissing his invite.

“Adarsh, I do realise that you want me to be happy, to not feel left out, what with these celebrations all around. But honestly, there’s no sense of missing out. I’m in a happy space these days, I swear. And no, I’m not going to sit at home over the weekend and fret. I have quite a few to-do’s up my sleeve to celebrate my new-found singledom,” I chuckle.

We say our goodbyes and leave.

On my way back, I stop at my favourite beauty parlour. I’m their last visitor for the day. I get a chic haircut and add gorgeous burgundy streaks – a first for me. At home, a new dress awaits me – a short, A-line ruffle in ivory with lace detailing and an immoderate price tag. I book a table for lunch tomorrow at one of the city’s finest dining addresses. And thereafter, it’s a movie date. With…myself, of course!

I have wallowed enough in unhappiness and low self-esteem. Now is the time to turn the tables, to seek fulfilment within my own self. To own my new-fangled single status with pride and panache. Soaking in the bliss of freedom and self-love, I feel hugely uplifted and empowered. In short, I am the master of my life and am loving every moment of being a happy Solentine!

Editor’s Note: It’s the season of love, and especially romantic love. But what if you are not in a romantic relationship right now? We asked our readers to send in their #HappySolentine stories.

Image source: a still from short film Ghar ki Murgi

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About the Author

Urmi Chakravorty

Urmi Chakravorty is a military spouse and former educator, who has imbibed lasting life lessons from both her roles. Her articles, stories and poetry have found space in The Hindu, The Times of India, Women' read more...

21 Posts | 25,190 Views

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