It was 1995 – five years after I had abandoned one altar to marry Unni at the Civil Court in Mayo Hall, Bangalore. At breakfast I told him that it was my friend’s 25th wedding anniversary, and he said wryly, “That many years – it must be her big boobs.” I laughed. Then he asked me how many years it had been since we were married. I said 5. He said, “That many, huh…too many?”
I shrugged it off – whenever he was stressed out by his health or money, he would talk of suicide. We had a beautiful 5-year-old daughter, whom he adored and a 3-year-old naughty little boy. Unni was a good provider, in terms of getting the best vegetables, biggest fish and best meat. He loved to see a well-laden dinner table and entertained a lot of friends. And when he was euphoric one could have never guessed that he could have ever been depressive too.
Things seemed to be going well
He had started a new printing press and with his degree in printing technology from Leipzig, East Germany, and his obsession for perfection and his workaholic nature, business grew. I did not think too much of his drinking habit or smoking pot, since I grew up as the ‘60s flower-power era. This was not to worry. I was worried about his obsessive need for sex – and though I did manage to be there for him, I did get the feeling that things were getting out of hand.
I got a call one morning; it was his elder brother warning me that Unni’s impulsive nature must be checked. He told me how he had bailed Unni out from a dance bar in Brigade Road, when he had run out of cash and the dance girls wouldn’t let him leave. I wondered what services he was availing from them, but I tersely brushed aside his brotherly concern, saying, “Well, since I made my bed, I will have to lie in it.”
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I missed the signs
Taking care of two toddlers was tough enough, without being criticised about my cooking and housekeeping. I used to sweep and mop the floors twice a day, and cook a meal with at least 3 side dishes. He was constantly unhappy, hyper, ill or sad. However, he was overworking himself and making good money. On one of the days when he was calmer and sober, he asked me whether it was a good idea to make a large amount of money on an illegal deal. I firmly said, “No, do you want your children to pay for our sins”. He remained quiet and then said “Yeah, there is always karma!”
Then he went on a trip to Mumbai where an aunt and uncle lived. He returned ten days later with bushy hair and a longish beard, and that should have rang alarm bells, but I simply joked and commented that he looked like a derelict. He asked me what that meant and looked distressed when I told him.
The fights increased
After my son was born, I had quit my job to look after the kids, full-time. We were fighting in front of his friends more often and twice he had swung out in rage and struck me. I lost two teeth on the lower left side and because he never gave me any money the jaw had got infected. He would not pay for the kids’ playschool because he said a free government education was enough. I sold most of the gold I had for their school fees. I did not recognise the psychopath he was turning into and felt it was due to stress of work and alcohol. When we did speak it was to fight and I would ask him miserably why he had forced me into this marriage. This would enrage him further.
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On a Sunday morning he looked particularly anxious as if he was waiting for some important decision, so I insisted he talk to me about it. He ignored my requests by turning the volume of the television higher. So I turned the TV off. He pulled himself off the divan and attacked. I have no idea how I managed to defend myself, and not one hit landed on me. He was so infuriated that he ran into the kitchen, grabbed the large hatchet that we used for coconuts, muttering that this day he’d end it all. In a split second I locked myself in the bedroom, latched it from inside and heard him strike the door. I peed myself, I was so terrified. I didn’t realise I had till my friends asked me about it.
Friends tried to intervene
He stopped as soon as he saw Vinod, his closest friend, walk in with both my children in his arms. I was glad; the kids had been at our next-door neighbour’s house. Something in Unni had turned cold. I asked him for a divorce, told him he could have the kids. Vinod assessed the situation and pleaded that all of us go to his house for the day. We rode in his car to his mansion on 12th Main, Indiranagar. There, things escalated durbar style. On one side of the large living room were his friends and Unni, on the other I stood, stubborn as a bull. I had given him 3 strikes for violence and I was done.
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Vinod’s wife had made lunch, the kids were all running around the big house, and around 3 pm we returned home. All the men were drinking, as it was a Sunday and it continued at home too. Sometime during the daylong argument, I developed a severe migraine. The kids were ready to sleep, and as I made my way to the bedroom, a very drunk Unni put out his hand as if to stop me, and I told him that I would return to speak to him after the children were tucked in. I fell into a deep dark sleep.
The fateful morning
It was 5 am. The next morning – Monday. Shanta, my walking mate, had arrived. I changed into my slacks and shoes while she berated me for leaving the living room lights and fan on. The TV was on. What a waste of electricity! I looked for Unni on the bed, he wasn’t there. Then I called out to him – maybe he was in the loo. Then I tried to open the guest room. It was locked from inside. I went outside and peered through the window. He was hanging from the hook on the ceiling, the one we had used for a hammock which now lay on the floor. He was fully dressed and his feet a foot short of touching the floor.
I sat flat on the pavement, unable to speak.
That was 21 years ago. I struggled and brought up my kids alone with the help of some guardian angels.