(As told to Neetole Mitra, with inputs from Siddharth Shankar Mishra)
It was Trupti’s family that initiated the marriage talk. My family agreed too. It was decided that we were to get married soon, but things became really complicated later.
I was working in Bhubaneswar back then and had connected with Trupti on Facebook. Her family already knew I was dealing with an addiction problem. I returned to Sambalpur four months later and joined the de-addiction centre here.
But out of the blue they said no to the marriage. This was after I had already given up my habit. The rehabilitation centre had become a part of my life now. It didn’t just change my life but I also got employment there; first as staff and then after training as a full-time counsellor.
By the time her family said no, Trupti and I had got to know each other quite well. We met often. She would make an excuse at home and we would go watch a film together. What started as an arranged marriage became a love affair.
However, things changed on the 22nd of September, 2016.
Trupti’s father, the man who called off our wedding because of my addiction problem, is a drunkard himself. Every night he returns home sloshed and beats up his wife and daughter.
That day the situation went a little overboard. He pushed her out of the house.
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Her father thought that like always she would sit by the door and sob for a few hours before returning indoors. But that day she called me and said “If you love me, come and take me away.” If I won’t stand by her in her moments of crisis, who will? I knew I had to go get her.
When I reached her place and saw her like that, my first thought was, I have to take her home. But then it struck me that she was not yet my wife. Trupti’s family is politically connected. Her maternal uncle’s family is influential in the area. What if they took some legal or illegal action? What if they charge me with kidnapping? So I did the only thing I could. I took her to the police station.
Trupti shared her problems with the police. She told them her father beats her up regularly and she can’t take the physical torture anymore. It was her will that she married me instead, for her own security and sanity.
Whether for money or fear, the police didn’t help us. Instead they detained us at the station till one of our guardians came to vouch for us. This was when I called Siddhartha, my elder brother who is a divorce lawyer. But his phone was switched off. He reached the station in the morning after he saw my messages at 6 a.m.
However, this too didn’t help. The police now demanded to see one of our parents. So, I called my mother and she too came to vouch for us, but still the police refused to let us go.
Now they told us that they couldn’t let Trupti leave till someone from her family came and gave a statement. It was emotional torture to be detained at the station for so long. Particularly because of the two female constables there who made it their agenda to break Trupti’s morals.
The police summoned her father. When he turned up he was drunk. He came and said, “I don’t have any daughter.” When the police asked him to give this in writing, he didn’t. Naturally, we were now left at the mercy of the police and had to do as they told us.
They decided that Trupti, without a guardian, would have to be handed over to the SambalpurNaarishram (a centre for women without social support).
Trupti was particularly averse to the idea of going to the naarishram. Neither did I want that for her. I took responsibility for her and couldn’t let her rot in an ashram. The problem was that we couldn’t find her age proof. According to her 10th class certificate, her date of birth was 1999. So she was 17 years of age.
At this point Siddhartha told me that I should get ready to be sued, because Trupti was underage and I had brought her away from home. This was when I decided it was time to call my father. He needed to know about this before I got dragged into jail.
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My father advised me to go to the Municipal hospital in Sambalpur, where Trupti was born, for her original age certificate. His idea got us through. She was above 18 and we had a valid certificate to prove it too.
The authorities at the naarishram agreed to let her go, provided we got married immediately. It was all very rushed, but we got married the same day, at 9 at night, in the temple.
Now, we live together in Sambalpur, and things are slowly improving with her family. We visit her mother from time to time.