(As told to Joie Bose)
It was the toughest decision I ever made when my wife suggested we move to a different house. They had their daily squabbles much like the ones my mother had had with my grandmother, her mother-in-law. My wife insisted on moving, for she was tired of my mother inquiring about when she would get pregnant.
I had never lived away from my mother before, and I didn’t know how she would react if I mentioned it. She had spent her entire life doting over me and had even left a rather lucrative job when I had started getting low marks at school. I became a topper eventually. Moreover I didn’t want to leave my mother and live away from her. My gut feeling was to not go. But I mustered up enough courage to say it for fear of being called a Mumma’s boy and eventually moved to another house six years after my marriage.
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Needless to say, my mother was distraught. “He has become possessed,” she said. This was the last thing she had expected from me, especially considering it was she who had handpicked my wife. I had an arranged marriage and she wanted that whoever married me, must not work and must never live separately. My wife and her family had agreed to that. So when I wanted to stay elsewhere, she thought that the decision was mine. She never blamed her daughter-in-law, even once. I remained quiet and didn’t enlighten her.
She didn’t come to my new house and she didn’t speak to me for a year.
Last year, on our tenth anniversary, my wife told me she was pregnant. My happiness lasted for only a few minutes, as she revealed that the father of the baby was a different man. In fact, he was the promoter who had promoted our new flat. She was having an affair behind my back. I don’t know what kind of affair it was, for she made her intentions clear of not getting a divorce also very clear. I was too shocked to question her. She also hinted that maybe it was me who was impotent, for she never had a baby for ten years.
I was shocked. What did she want of me? As far as I remembered, she had once got an abortion done, the year we had got married. She had wanted to enjoy married life she had said. But I didn’t mention it, for I was scared. She was hurling upon me bomb after bomb. What if she was having a relationship even then? Was I being made a fool of, for ten years? What would people say? That I am dumb? She has a power over me, a strange power I couldn’t fight against.
I have left India and have taken a job abroad. My wife has a daughter who lives in our house. I haven’t seen her face.
My mother died last month of a heart attack, and I didn’t go back to cremate her. She had begun thinking that I was possessed by a spirit for behaving like this, for abandoning first her and then my family. My wife says she had lied about the baby being someone else’s in order to test me. I don’t know why I didn’t go for a DNA test. Maybe I will one day and when I do, what would I tell the little girl? I haven’t stood up to many forces when I should have had. If people hear my story they will say I am a coward and that is what I am scared of. And I admit I am, for never questioning that lady. For always escaping. I never even had an affair. I am too scared of women, and men.
I don’t know what to believe and who to believe. As time passes by, I cease to care. I send money every month. My wife emails me pictures of her daughter. She tells everyone that I had wanted a son and regret the female child. But I’m not guilty. I’m not possessed either. The only thing I’m possessed by is the guilt of breaking my mother’s heart. I wish I had been strong enough to never leave her house. She is the only one I miss these days.
Debashish Majumdar wrote about the relationship between his mother and his wife, but with a different outcome.