(As told to Akshata Ram)
Names changed to protect identities
Having moved from Mumbai to South India for work, I was in a pensive mood most days, until, like a fairy tale, Harish walked into my life.
He was senior to me. Not handsome at first glance but a certain charisma made people steal a second glance. I was a shy and docile girl and didn’t take the first step forward, but knew he was attracted to me when he kept finding excuses to come and talk to me over coffee breaks and lunches. Gradually we started going out for movies and to malls over weekends.[restrict] My 24th birthday will forever be etched in my memory. Never had anyone made me feel so special. He threw a party inviting all our close friends, took out a diamond ring and knelt down and proposed marriage. I couldn’t be happier. We got married and started living with his parents in Chennai.
Life was beautiful after marriage, it was like a new chapter. I had more responsibilities in terms of household work but I slowly picked up the ropes. Everything was perfect, my in-laws were cooperative too. Life felt like a wonderful dream until one day it all came crashing down.
Around a year after our wedding, I sensed some changes in his behaviour. He was often away from his desk. Our breaks together had reduced, he often found reasons to excuse himself. He spoke in hushed tones on the phone and would hastily end the call as soon as I appeared. Though I always respected his privacy, one day I decided to check his phone to lay to rest my doubts. I secretly watched him unlock his phone a few times. Once I knew the pass code, one night when he fell asleep, I unlocked it.
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I was shocked. There was an exchange of messages with Renuka, the new colleague at work. There were photos and WhatsApp chats which left not a shred of doubt about the illicit relationship. The next day at work I confronted his best friend, who I knew to be a man of integrity. He couldn’t meet my eyes. My worst fears were confirmed. He told me that this affair has been going on since the past 3 months, right under my nose.
I confronted my husband the following weekend. He did not deny the affair but what he said next shook me.
He said that he loved her and couldn’t think of ending the affair. Renuka was OK with him being a married man and he wanted me to accept her too and carry on as usual. The marriage would continue, we will continue working and living together and he would continue his affair. Everyone would be content. I shrieked in anger that this was unacceptable. It led to a huge brawl that ended in him hitting me.
The next few months were a nightmare, we had constant fights. His parents had found out, but to my shock, they decided to stay mute. Instead of reprimanding their son for his wrongdoing, they pretended to be oblivious. My mother-in-law, held me responsible for this and barely spoke to me. I lost 10 kg in a month.
Now that everyone knew about his affair, Harish felt no need to make excuses. I saw them frequently in the pantry enjoying a cuppa in each other’s company. A cab driver had also told me that they were spotted making out in the back seat of his car.
When I couldn’t bear this torture any longer I confided in my family. My dad came home to speak to my hubby and in-laws but they asked him not to interfere and leave. It soon blew up into a big fight and I told my dad that I would go with him. At that point, Harish walked up to me, caught hold of my mangalsutra and pulled it apart. “Leave,” he roared. I left the house as the black beads scattered all over the floor.
I had to continue working and moved to PG near office. I tried my best to avoid Harish at work. Two months later I heard that Renuka had resigned and she was moving to a different city, as she was getting married. And just three months later Harish came to meet me…
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He said he didn’t deserve a loving girl like me but if I give him one last chance, he wouldn’t fail me ever. That was four years ago.
As I look at our 2-year-old son playing with his father in the garden, as my in-laws watch lovingly, I wonder, “Have I truly put everything behind and forgiven him? Have I really forgotten those torturous months where life was a living nightmare? Can I trust him again? Am I confident that this will never happen again?”
When he cried before me and showed remorse for his past mistakes, a part of me was still angry, bitter and full of wrath for how he broke my trust and made me go through such agony and turmoil. But a tiny voice in my heart told me that I should give him a second chance. The early days of our courtship and marriage flashed before my eyes and for a moment, I couldn’t erase those memories. While I knew that it would take time, a lot of time to heal my pain and start looking at him with the same love in my eyes that I had earlier, I had to give it a chance. I didn’t want to tell myself “Why didn’t you at least give him a chance when he repented? Have you lost your faith in love? Life could have been different but you did not give it a chance.”[/restrict]