(As told to Anand Nair)
I had romantic dreams about marriage. I was thrilled when Dad told me about the ‘proposal’!
Sukesh was a handsome doctor. I knew he’d written a love letter to my cousin who’d ignored it. I had then felt a pang of pity for the rejected lover. Now he wanted to marry me!
I thought I could live happily with someone who wanted me as wife. So I agreed. Before I turned 19, I gave up my studies, and got married.
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The first night was unpleasant. He had no concern except for his needs. Then we left for Pune, where he worked. I could not communicate with him at all. If I disagreed, he shouted at me, embarrassing me, as the neighbours would hear him. When angry, he threw things and broke crockery. For months he would be aggressive, full of hubris. Then he would lapse into self-pity till the next mood swing.
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I did not tell my parents. My worry was this would affect my father’s health.
Years passed. We had two daughters. He did not mellow. He was hostile to the elder daughter, while doting on the younger. He would call the younger over and give sweets, ignoring the older one. My heart broke at my inability to intervene.
In the workplace he once threateningly chased a lady colleague over some disagreement. He was then referred to a psychiatrist. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (BPD). He was given medication. He retained his job, because his bosses felt sympathy for his family.
I suffered for years. Then my dad passed away and Mom was alone. This gave me the chance to move to her house. After 15 years into marriage, I could breathe freely!
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I learnt to drive. I got a job. The girls were happy, and excelled at school.
After 20 years of work, Sukesh’s boss gave him a choice to resign with a pension, or be ‘boarded out’ for psychiatric reasons. He chose the former. He joined us in my mother’s home.
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Irregular with medication, Sukesh swung between ‘mania’ and ‘depression’. He once chased our daughter around the house waving a knife. She couldn’t sleep the whole night. The next morning, she talked to her uncle. Once the family knew, they agreed that such behaviour is dangerous, and told me to call for help, the next time Sukesh misbehaved.
A few days later, when I saw the early signs, I called two of my cousins and my husband’s sister seeking help. When they came, my husband was still in a manic mood and wouldn’t agree to psychiatric help. Furious that I called for help, Sukesh said he would divorce me, and called a lawyer the next day.
He offered to give me half his monthly pension. Pending divorce, Sukesh moved out to his sister’s house. But within days, he had a fight with them and was told to move out.
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Not surprisingly, Sukesh rang my cousin and said, “Tell Preethi I have forgiven her. I am moving back.” For the first time, I took a strong stand. I said he wasn’t welcome. He could proceed with his plans for divorce. My husband moved to a guestroom provided by his employers.
The family court gave us 6 months. If we wished to part ways after this, the court would grant separation.
In the meantime, my husband fought with his employers. He had no place to stay, and was unemployed. So, his sister let him stay in her house, on condition that he would take the medicines as prescribed by the psychiatrist. Sukesh agreed.
After two months, my husband wanted to withdraw the divorce petition. I agreed on condition that we would not live in the same house. We withdrew the petition. We lived separately for the next three years till Sukesh’s sister died of cancer. He was again homeless. I said he could come back, but on my conditions; mainly that he would regularly take his medicines. He agreed.
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Now it is over a year since my husband returned. It isn’t perfect, but it’s manageable. My daughters have moved out. So now it is me, my mother and my husband at home. I am as happy as I can be under the circumstances. At least he can’t bully me the way he used to for years after we got married.