(As told to Joie Bose)
With time, my memories fail me and I don’t clearly remember a time without my husband, but some things you can never forget. We’ve been married for 56 years. He is still as quiet and reserved as he was when we got married. If I said I am in love with him, it would be wrong. I have a deep respect for him for what he did for me. We don’t talk about everything, as couples do now. I have never been able to cross some barriers with him, despite having raised three sons and two daughters. My daughters make fun of me, for I have never raised my voice against their father and this is strange, I know. But I can’t.
An old-fashioned affair
In our times, it was a little out of fashion to meet your groom on the day of your marriage, but that is how it happened with me. In fact, my story is strange. I was poor in English and our neighbour, just a few years older to me, would come to teach me. He being the only man outside our family I was in touch with, we developed an affair of sorts. I had even on two occasions run away from my house to meet him and his friends. The moment my family got a whiff of it, they got me married off. His family sent him off to London to study. I was devastated but I did expect something just like that.
The only part I liked about my marriage was that I would not have to study. And remember I had said, I met my groom on my wedding day? He turned out to be one of the friends of my English teacher. Can you imagine what went on my mind? He could have had created a fuss. Or beaten me later on. He could have embarrassed my family and could have sent me back home. But he pretended that he had no idea, about that secret. I haven’t still spoken to him about it. All these years. And he too, has never broached the topic.
Once, after my first son was born, my English teacher came to visit his friend. Seeing me nursing his child, he was shocked. He spoke as if nothing had happened. My husband behaved as if nothing had happened. But I never saw my English teacher again.
Related reading: 5 times my parents gave me relationship goals
A conventional marriage
My husband was an excellent professor of philosophy, who had completed his doctorate degree. I have travelled all over India with him as he taught in the University of Bombay, in the University of Lucknow and was the principal of colleges in Delhi and Chennai. It was only after his retirement that we came back to Calcutta. I’ve never stayed in my parents’ house even for a single night, although my parents came to visit me and have stayed with me. My mother never insisted and was even averse to the idea once I mentioned it. My children have stayed in my parents’ house but not me. In fact, the few times I went there for lunch, my husband accompanied me.
My husband has been otherwise kind to me. He taught me English very well and I did a distance course in library science. I got my degree the year my eldest son passed his matriculation exams. I’ve worked in school libraries and have taught in the junior classes and that is something none of my cousins have done. I have sent the money I have earned to my mother, and that made her very emotional. Well, I didn’t want to but my husband didn’t let me spend the money I earned, for that would mean he couldn’t provide. I have never argued with my husband. But after working for a few years I didn’t feel like working anymore. Managing five children was no easy work even if you had servants and there were relatives who always dropped in.
Did he know?
When I am alone, and when he is around I often feel like asking him about the secret that we have. I want to know how he felt. If he had known it was me he had consented to marrying or whether he realised it on our wedding day. But he had a heart attack once. What if he gets one again if I broach this topic after so many years? I guess this is something I will take to my grave.