(As told to Team Bono)
Marriage was not a choice, it was compulsory
I never thought about writing this down before this. For many reasons. First of all, I didn’t want embarrass my family, after all these years of my broken marriage. Next, I thought some people might think I sound a bit too self-righteous, self-pitying. I cannot accept this; hence this long silence about myself. A debate on the Facebook Bonobology group about sexist comments led me to some discussion with Raksha Bharadia, and I chose to open up. After all, we are like-minded people here, sharing thoughts, without being judgemental.
I was married off to a person double my age, when I was 20. I was a bright student, always a gold medallist and all of that. But being a family of half a dozen girls, settled in rural India, they had their own compulsions to marry three girls off at one go when my father got his retirement benefits. I was not asked if I liked that person. I was just summoned from the University, and given a chance to talk to him over the phone, and decide. He was already a PhD, and he convinced me that he would support me and would never block my career. That was the only reason for me to say yes, as I didn’t have more options. I had never had a boyfriend, had been busy with studies, and our family was against love marriages.
He lived with my family and abused me regularly
On the first night of my marriage, he made it very clear that I would have to live with my parents, as he was living in a men’s mess, and there was no possibility of getting independent quarters soon. His was a private college in rural India, with a meagre salary. His intentions were to leave me with my parents forever, where there was no brother to claim the property, and my elder sisters were settled with their husbands. The younger ones were too young to raise their voice, my father was always ill, and my mother was the sole decision maker of the household.
My ex-husband forced my parents to accept him as a ghar jamai, and I had to live with them for three years, with him visiting over the weekends, to abuse me, verbally and physically. I had regular miscarriages due to the marital rape. Finally I completed my Masters, PhD, living with my parents, working in a local college, and then with a Junior Research Fellowship in a good university. But I never got the chance to live with my husband in his house. To be precise, I had no ‘home’.
Related reading: Story of how I ran away from my abusive husband and rebuilt my life
I had no support for my problems
At that point I discovered that he had an affair with a so-called low-caste woman. He used to visit her from his workplace every day, and weekends were set aside for me and my parents’ house. I asked him about her, but he shut my mouth with a few slaps, and I had no voice, no support system at that point.
My mother and sisters were fed up with my regular complaints about abuse, marital rape, miscarriages, my fellowship money being grabbed by my husband, and now, a newborn baby, who was dependant on his grandparents, as my husband never wanted to take our responsibility. I was like a football, tossed between parents and husband. I contemplated suicide, but stopped myself, thinking I am not a coward, and now I had my son who was my responsibility.
My break for freedom
That is when I decided to get out of the mess. With a double gold medal career and a PhD, it was not difficult for me to get a job in a central government university in Delhi. I just took my child and left. Now my status is, ‘separated’. Since then life has been kind to me. I became a Professor smoothly, have authored more than a dozen books and have received several awards and accolades. I have been dedicated to positive parenting and my creative, academic career. Life is good. I have created beautiful relationships in Delhi; my friends and admirers have accepted me without being judgemental.
But my family judges me, even today. My father is no more, and my mother frequently visits my son and me. My mother and sisters still think I am not ‘settled’ in life despite my name, fame, money and success. Because I don’t have a husband.
My mother and sisters still think I am not ‘settled’ in life despite my name, fame, money and success. Because I don’t have a husband.
They discuss among themselves, had she lived with that man, he would have killed her and her child, forget about all this success and glory. But they never forget to make patriarchal, unkind comments on Karwachhauth or other such family occasions. It’s obligatory for me to help my sisters and mother with their foreign trips, India tourism, and recommend their children to academic institutions, being a Board Member of almost all good universities in Delhi. But all said and done, I am a woman not settled in marriage!