Married at the age of 22 in 1992, and now a mother of two lovely sons, as a woman I was always taught to be an obedient wife and daughter-in-law. Over the years, I learnt that to be this ideal woman, would mean accepting being humiliated by my in-laws, abused physically and mentally by my husband and endure bruises, pain and sacrifice in a marriage for over two decades.
I loved him dearly, my husband who was in the merchant navy and would be home only for six months in a year. After our marriage, when he left for his trip, I was expected to single handedly take care of all household chores and was insulted at the slightest fault on my part. A five-minute delay in breakfast or in folding dried clothes was met with insults from my in-laws.
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Before leaving, my husband had suggested I continued my studies, and so I did, but when he came back from his trip, I saw his true side. He slapped me after he heard his family tell him how lackadaisical I was towards them. He abused me sexually for hours at a stretch, after which I was expected to be normal and make his family and him all their favourite dishes. With time, the abuse became more intense; slaps turned to punches, and punches to hockey stick assaults.
I prayed and hoped he would change because I had nowhere to go and had no confidence left to do anything on my own. My brother refused to help me and my mother, a widow, had two other daughters to take care of. I accepted my reality as my destiny and continued to live through the ordeal, day after day.
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A son was born to us in 1994. I was very happy. I thought fatherhood will change him, soften him, but I was wrong. It was almost as if my husband had found another victim.
It was when the violence on my son became unbearable that I put my foot down. How could I let him hurt something that was most precious to me?
My approach to my situation changed. Instead of weeping and crying in front of him after he abused me, I started locking myself up and spending time on my own. I started reading and writing and found solace in it.
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I will never forget that day in 2013 when he beat my older son to an unconscious state. Yes, I was abused too, but my son could have died that day. It was almost like divine intervention, and I felt a voice telling me ‘No more’. I left the house quietly and made a failed attempt to file an FIR. I returned from the police station with a phone number on my palm and called the NGO, Helping Hands Foundation on Mira Road, Thane, desperately asking for help. There was no looking back. I had made my decision.
Despite lack of support from my family, I filed a case against my husband and his family. In turn, they filed 16 cases against me. I fought a battle for two and a half years. That was a very tough period for me, but I found solace in my children (the younger son was born in 2004) and in knowing that I will never go back to the relationship that left my soul and me wounded.
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After running from one court to the other, today I have the custody of both my children and a house to live in. I won the case and got a divorce from him in 2014. I took my children out of an abusive relationship. Sometimes I wonder where I got the strength from.
I hope women who face domestic abuse do not take as long as I did to realise that their abuser will never change. They should stop being apologetic for him and his actions.
Today, I am an inspirational writer and I have written three books. My elder son is studying as well as working. The stain of coffee that he splashed my elder son’s face with, in his fit of rage, is still visible on the walls of my former home. I do not know and do not wish to know where my husband and his family fled to after losing the case. I have my peace and my children are with me. They are safe and that is what is most important for me now.
(As Told To Mariya Salim)