She was happy with her career and personal life but was under pressure to marry
It’s sad that many believe abuse is only physical. As a coach, I hear stories from many women facing various kinds of abuse and experiences which make me shudder sometimes.
Varsha was a highly educated working woman, earning big bucks and with a promising career. She had crossed 30, so her parents were pressurising her to get married. Too busy making money, and growing her career, she never had time for love, but when one day her parents forced her to meet Amit over dinner, she relented. They got along like a house on fire and before she realised it, he proposed, she accepted and the parents got them married off without delay.
Amit was working in an IT firm and relocated to the US soon after marriage. Being on a dependent visa, she couldn’t work. The first few days of matrimony felt like bliss and she didn’t miss work. She got busy in doing up the house and learning how to cook. Weekend parties, late nights, movies, social life – it was all perfect. She had not expected Amit to be as romantic as he turned out to be. She couldn’t stop gushing about him to her parents and friends.
Related reading: Is it better to marry young or when you’re older than 30?
The wake-up call from a friend
Slowly days turned into weeks and months. About a month before her first anniversary, she met one of her ex-colleagues in the local shop and they got talking. She felt elated to discuss work and just as they were about to exchange numbers and bid goodbye, this ex colleague said, “Varsha, I can’t imagine you sitting at home and not working. I had imagined you to be heading some vertical … this is not how I had imagined you. But you look happy and I am happy about that.”
They exchanged numbers and parted.
Varsha was pulled out of her dream world that day. That night she couldn’t sleep. She suddenly felt the urge to go back to work.
For about two weeks, she kept thinking about what this person had said. Was she losing her touch? Is this how people perceived her? Finally, she approached the topic of going back to work with her husband. His standard response was about lack of a work visa and she didn’t have a rebuttal. Going back to work suddenly became a validation of her abilities – validation from others and more self-validation. It mattered more to her that she worked than it probably mattered to anyone else.
Related reading: What a man needs to understand when he loves a working woman
The perfect wife – but something was missing
Their first anniversary came and was celebrated with a lot of fanfare. The perfect wife, Varsha hosted a big party. Smiling faces, guests, drinks: it was all perfect. But, inside Varsha, a small volcano had started simmering. Her need to work and add value, feel validated got the better of her. She started writing articles and helping NGOs – anything she could do to step out of the house and feel valued. But she didn’t feel complete. Her passion for work had now become her need for validation.
Her passion for work had now become her need for validation.
Every outing started backfiring and she wasn’t able to involve herself fully. The situation worsened and thus began the down spiral. In a few months, Varsha spoke about shifting geographies or if they could move back to India for her to resume work, but every time she mentioned this topic, it was met with silence. Amit couldn’t understand why Varsha was suddenly obsessed with work and what he could do to help her. She started remaining aloof and he started spending more time at work.
Her frustration levels increased and one day she decided to go back to India on a vacation. She felt she needed the much-needed break. The day Amit heard that, he sulked the entire night and then in the morning she woke up to a burning sensation on her hands… he had poured piping hot tea on her hands.
When the abuse began
He then rushed her to the hospital and said that it was an accident. Varsha didn’t know what to say and agreed. She wondered why she couldn’t muster up the courage to tell the truth, but she couldn’t understand herself.
This wasn’t the person she knew… this wasn’t the her she knew.
Once back at home, Amit’s mental and physical abuse increased. He wanted her to be a housewife; he said so in as many words. Amit didn’t want her to go back or move to any other visa or geography.
He took away her passport and access to the phone, too. All calls to her parents happened under his strict supervision. Slowly, she realised she was going insane and mentally weaker by the day. Social outings stopped and so did all physical interaction between them. She wasn’t able to identify with the self she was a few years back.
Amit’s abuse worsened with every passing week and some days he would come home, hit her with a belt and leave her alone at home to go out with friends. Varsha started justifying his behaviour to herself by blaming it on her need for work.
Related reading: Why can’t we admit to being abused, in our country?
She forgot her self
By their third anniversary, Varsha was a wreck and shadow of her former self. She didn’t know why she felt what she did, but she felt bad for herself. She wasn’t angry with Amit. It was her need to work which had made him into a monster. She knew he was a nice person.
Two days before her third anniversary, she decided to buy a bottle of sleeping pills and end her life. On most days, she wasn’t allowed to step out; but, somehow Amit had forgotten to lock the back door that morning. She sneaked out to buy sleeping pills or anything else she could get over the counter. She had thought it through, that if they refused to give her the medicines, she would jump from some building. Varsha just wanted to end her life. She wanted Amit to be happy.
But destiny plays a huge role in our lives. Varsha ran into the same ex colleague, this time at the pharmacy. One look at her and he forced her to come with him to the Indian embassy. The local police was involved and within days she got deported to India.
It wasn’t as easy as it sounds; legal cases aren’t easy. A lot of chaos did happen in those five days between her being moved to the embassy and her flight back to India.
Related reading: The story of one woman’s escape from an abusive live-in relationship
Inching her way back to normalcy
Today, Varsha is back in India. A nervous wreck. She needs help to see herself the way she was before. Legal cases are running and lawyers are trying to get her out of her marital relationship. Doctors are trying their best to get the physical trauma of three years, but the emotional scars run very deep and will take many years to heal. Who knows whether they will go in this lifetime or not…
Sadly, there are many Varshas around us and no one knows. Could you spot the Varsha in the lady who passed you today morning on your way to work?