(Names changed to protect identities)
My dear Romi and Rahul,
Maybe I write this piece of communication too late in the day, 14 years late to be precise but it’s necessary that you know the truth about my marriage with your father.
A woman’s primary job is to rear a family my parents always said and I believed it. I happily fell in with an arranged match. It was a pleasant life, I was contented, we were well off, we lived in Mumbai. Life became rosier when I found I was pregnant with you, Romi. You were born a year and a half into the marriage. When I saw you for the first time, I could barely stop looking at you.
Then we planned our second child; we knew it was a son. It was not a difficult pregnancy. So it was a real shock when almost at full term, I had a horrifying miscarriage. We lost your brother. The placenta had dislodged itself from the uterus and the baby suffered a massive heart-attack in the womb itself. We were both shell-shocked. Your father stood by me through the hard phase then and your nana-nani supported us by helping us move to another city. This move offered us a fresh start.
I joined the school that you were attending Romi. A good package, appreciative colleageaus with prospects of doing well. I enjoyed my great routine, made great friends (who are still in touch and close) and even my post-delivery slimness. But your father announced that we were moving back to Mumbai. No discussion, no opinions sought; he single-handedly decided for the three of us and I had to follow him.
There he found her! I don’t know how or when it began. I was busy with you and my new teaching job. He wanted to have another baby. I was not so sure. But conditioning kicked in and I fell in with his suggestion.
I ignored the fact that I now wanted different things, and that I had a right to want those different things. My body – his decision. That’s a bad equation.
We had you, Rahul, and it was awesome, of course. I loved you both, loved caring for you. So immersed was I in playing mother, that I did not notice anything amiss. The one thing that I did miss was my job. With two babies and a home to look after I did not have the energy or the time.
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He started coming home late. Whenever I complained I was told about the pressure at work. He toured a lot, even on weekends. He was on the phone in the middle of the night and when I enquired I was told it was an emergency at work. He would have nights out alone. I felt that distance between us, it was very real. He had turned rude and had a way of shutting me up. He wouldn’t give me money and went so far as to tell my parents that I need to rejoin work and earn to augment his income. I started tutoring at home, but things were not easy with two small children. But by now I had started feeling that it was me who could do more but was not.
And then, one evening I saw the nail marks on his back. When I asked, he told me they were the scratches from his laptop bag. Do you remember how we once met that woman at the mall? He even introduced us!
When I had gathered sufficient proof of his infidelity, I confronted him. He called me crazy, sent me to a psychiatrist and told everyone I was on medication. How cruel he was! He even convinced you both of my mental disorders. Everyone, even my family, believed him. Then there was the divorce.
We had already separated, and I was struggling with four jobs to make ends meet. He and that woman were together, as you know. That’s when they insinuated a fear of poverty in Romi’s mind, telling her she would live from hand to mouth if she lived with me. You were a child, impressionable; you chose to live with him. They seduced you, my children, with good food and clothes. Romi was made to write nasty things about me, which was presented to the court. He came to my workplace and threatened me that if I even thought of taking the children away from him he would make my life miserable. He had the financial means to.
And as we know he used them too!
I let you both remain with him. But he did not honor his side of the bargain. During the visitation time awarded by the court, you simply wouldn’t turn up. You also didn’t spend any holiday with me. I kept in touch with your Dadaji so I could keep getting news of you both. I use our shared surname simply to remain connected with you.
Your father remarried within six months of the divorce. I had stopped trying to connect with you in order to safeguard you, because I do know, Rahul, that they beat you up when you tried to talk to me on the phone. I am now all right not being in touch with you at all. And yes, people have called me stone hearted – I bore that and moved on.
I know I haven’t healed. He should have given me the time and space and dignity to deal with this. More importantly, he shouldn’t have turned you both against me.
I’m truly scared for Romi. I was dumb, unaware of my legal rights, of the idea of having financial independence in marriage. If I had, I would have educated you appropriately. Believe me when I say that if you remain unaware of your right as a woman, you can’t survive.
This story comes anonymously, so that you are not embarrassed or disturbed. You are adults now. I hope you can leave this behind to become happy and successful individuals.
(As told to Madhuri Maitra)