Saadar Naman aapko Rev. Sri Om Swamiji🙏🕉
This is indeed a very empowering platform that you have offered us, ever so grateful to you. This place and space heals the soul. It feels like the Divine is choosing us, and we are able to express all that which at some point needed to be shared. I, for once, can speak for myself here. I have always been clear, with my dear friends and family, about what I went through, how I felt back then. But opening up to the world about my story, was something that kept getting delayed for long.
My son, Karan, has always encouraged me to start writing without any inhibitions, to not bother over how the world out there would react… And one fine day maybe I could get a book published on my life experiences. Though I’m a mere scribbler, he in fact, has been a star writer , since a very young age. Although by profession he is a Doctor in UK. In many ways I give credit to him for being my true friend and confidant.
This major incident took place in 1982 and ended in 1983 — my first marriage that lasted for just 6 months. I was barely 19 years then. Although many more nightmares were in store for me even after this episode ended. My journey has not been an easy one, you’ll find out. But first, this incident.
Abuse — be it verbal, mental, or physical — should never be encouraged or tolerated. The one who goes through it, dies everyday. The sharing of this personal incident is a reminder to not bear the trauma quietly, a mistake that I made. Come out strong and take a stand for yourself .
Having been raised in culture where dignified women are expected to be reserved and are protected. Women look up to the respected male members of the family as the head… The voice and persona of female members stay soft and mellow. We, the ‘graceful’ women, do not have the right to speak, confront or put forth our opinion in front of our grandfathers, fathers, brothers, husbands, fathers-in-law… Eventually, that’s how we start existing in our marital families or in the house of our in-laws, and even in the world outside of these confines of four walls.
This is how our life ends, with all the expressions still trapped inside our hearts… The regret that we could not live a life of our wish just because we were born a woman lingers on. We never have a say. Our identity is dependent on how the male members make us feel. We see all the women around us behave in this manner, we tend to internalise this all through our childhood and we grow up with that belief.
About myself? Imagine being raised beautifully in a cocooned world where you are given the best education, the best of everything… It makes a little girl feel safe and protected. It becomes your nature to get looked after, to have someone take care of you.
My parents made sure that my siblings and I worked on our overall development. Besides studies, they let us participate in different hobbies, like swimming, playing cricket, yoga, classical dancing. It is a time that I would never ever forget until my last breath. Joyous and sweet, without an iota of weird worries of the outer world.
The strict rule was that we were to be back home straight after our coaching classes, dot on the clock. We did not have mobile phones back then, circa mid-1977 or early-1980s. In case I was late, my mother would promptly call on the landline phone at the coaching centre. The rule book was to be abided by mandatorily and it clear to me and my siblings.
Another not-to-be compromised rule — whenever some guests came over, we, the kids (even though in our teens now) would greet them with a Namaste and leave for our respective rooms. We were never in permitted to witness or participate in the elderly conversations. Fair enough!
But that quietened our tender minds. As a kid, and then as a teen, I imagined that this is how every household functioned, that everybody in this world draws and lives within these many boundaries. This shielding also made me believe that it’s all good out there, nothing evil exists. Until my siblings and I were almost 17-18 years, we had never ever witnessed the so-called bad side of the world, nor did we ever learn to voice ourselves. We were habitually, perfectly okay with it.
Hence, whenever we witnessed any disturbing scene outside our home, maybe if we saw someone yelling on the road on our way to school, or begging, or even certain scenes of calamities in movies, we would shudder and remain disturbed for days. I always felt sick even seeing poverty on the road, or for that matter even litter… Totally innocent about the big world or its functionality. Surprising, isn’t it!
Ours truly was a content and happy-go-lucky family. I and my siblings (my younger brother and my elder sister) we never ever learnt to say ‘no’; always and almost everything was “haanji! (yes)” Coaching was all positive, movies were all positive, home was all positive — a perfect life it was!
In a way we were lucky to have wonderful parents, and they were lucky to have us, I am sure 🙂
Comes the time when I turned 19. My father saw a good match, and fixed my marriage. The guy was an advocate, from Delhi. But when he and his family came to meet us in Calcutta (now Kolkata), trust me, I just did not like him. In the very first look, he appeared very shrewd and cunning. Gosh! I wondered why my father never noticed this. It was sort of scary watching him. I remember I had hid behind my father, I was so shaky and wanted to say ‘no’ to this marriage.
Sensing the right moment, I quietly went inside my room and told my Mom that I didn’t want to marry him. She was zapped at my response, and hushed me up saying that Pappaji had already given his word to them and that the marriage was about to take place in a month’s time. Who was to tell my Pappaji, for his decision was final and we never learnt to say no!
The marriage took place, it was hard for my parents, especially my father, to part with me. I still remember how inconsolably he had cried, hugging me. I wailed like a little kid, too (I was his favourite child ). I rarely saw tears in the eyes of my ever-so-strong father. It broke my heart to part away from him. I so badly did not want to go. It felt hellish at that moment.
I wondered why God has created this institution of marriage. Why are the girls sent away from our own homes? Strange thoughts, but leaving my childhood home, parents, brother, and sister was very tough. I suddenly felt as if, I was asked to wear a heavy garment of another life. Phew!
The journey begins…
Soon I realised that within a couple of weeks, I was being given hints about my father’s properties, time and again; and that I should ask for my share from him.
I was shocked that someone could even think of doing all this, especially when my Pappaji had already given so much in dowry. I started facing a lot of rudeness, many harsh words against my family were spoken, (and all of it would create an angry emotion in me, everytime something nasty was mentioned about my parents).
Many a times, my heart was broken. But then, this innocent child, because of the way I was raised to never question, started thinking that maybe this is what happens after one marries.
Now, because my parents had a perfect relationship, I felt, I too need to prove that I can maintain the same. Though, now when I look back, I feel the world was not my cup of tea, because I didn’t even know the heads or tails of wickedness.
I did not utter a single word about what was facing in my in-laws’ home to my Parents, for I knew Mom would be crushed, she was a very sensitive soul herself; and Pappaji would be deeply hurt and pained. Even in my wildest dream, I would never do that. For me, my father was my icon and I always saw him living his life with his head held high, with self-respect and dignity. How was I supposed to let him down? Never!
The mental torture that was being inflicted upon me, started taking the form of physical torture. There came a time, barely after a month, when I was beaten and abused by that man, and this went on for a couple of months. I kept quiet as from the childhood days, I was not allowed to question. But it did come as a shock to me, as to how an educated adult who claims to be my husband could abuse me like this?
The torture did not end there, the in-laws made sure that the domestic maids were called off. I was made to do all the cleaning and washing. (Imagine! I had never worked at all in my parents house, as we had helpers to look after our house day and night).
I fell seriously sick after a few days, it was a pathetic state of helplessness. Did not know how to react as I had never ever witnessed such helplessness. Did I? Every day I would get up and tutor myself, that I should keep doing my work in the best possible manner so that everyone would would be happy. In that state of sickness too, I was asked to do the dishes and cook.
Eventually my health started deteriorating, I started remaining very quiet, the abuses and taunts became a daily affair, and my morale went further down with each passing day. Whenever my Mom and Pappaji would call, I’d made sure I sounded happy, so that they’d never ever sense my troubles and get troubled, or even get a faint idea of what I was going through. I always felt a deep sense of responsibly towards them.
Another month passed, I had lost too much weight, suffered from constant fever, it was a sheer torture. There was no joy left inside me, I had forgotten even to smile. All I knew was I have to keep doing my duty daily.
They say, God has His own ways to save you…
It so happened that in my in-laws house, one room was given on rent to a couple, and this gentleman treated me like his younger sister. They sensed what I was going through, and a few times, the couple tried to explain to me, that I should report this to my parents and not stay quiet. But I did not consent to their advice and gave them my reasons.
One fine day, when I was getting physically abused, the neighbourhood gentleman intervened, when he heard me cry. But he was hushed away by my in-laws. So then, he immediately called my parents and informed them about my circumstances.
Unbelievable as it may sound, my Pappa ji and Mom caught the very next flight and landed there. They reached my in-laws’ place. Everybody was shocked to see them. My Mother was furious. She started looking for me in the house. Finally , she found me in the kitchen, doing a big pile of dishes. I was all tears when I saw her, where did she come from! I could not form any words. Baffled, I quickly washed my hands and hugged her tightly, as if wanting say, ‘Mama, I feel weak…’.
I wiped away my tears, pretending to be happy. Putting up a brave smile. I asked her if she would have some water or tea. But she kept looking at my face, my clothes, (for she herself was very prim and proper when it came to dressing up, and it was a must for all of us, too, in the family). She asked me several questions: “Why are you doing the dishes?” Are there no servants, too, in the house?” “Since how long you have been doing this?” “Why did you never inform us?”
I just kept looking at her tensed face, had no clue how to answer any of her questions because I was not taught to give any explanation. So, I kept nodding like a little child. She took me to the living room, where I saw my Pappaji. He hugged me warmly, kissed my forehead, then started looking at the bruises on my arms, the dry parched hands, the dark circles under my eyes, my clothes with stains of water on it, and, on top of that sensed my high fever.
He turned towards my mom and softly asked her to help me pack my bags. I saw my in-laws and that guy standing quietly (it seemed that my father had already had a firm word with them, when mom came to meet me in the kitchen).
I still remember how I held my father tight by his arm, hid behind him, it was such a relief, trust me, as if God had come down to save me! I still get that warm feeling, even today, as I write this (as if saying, this is not my world, please take me away). Pappaji understood all of it. My mother was in tears many a times. They did not even sit or have water in that house, for a good hour that they were there. My mom packed my stuff, and after a few minutes, I was set to leave.
Before stepping out of that house, I remember Pappaji saying to my
in-laws, “I gave a beautiful flower, my daughter who is my dear heart, to your son with the trust that she would be kept like a flower. But you did not value her, instead crushed it beyond imagination. She shall not come back to this house”. And I left never to go back.
Back in Calcutta, I realised I was pregnant. ‘N’ number of calls from my
in-laws and the guy, pleading to my father to send me back. And one fine day, I mustered the courage to ask Pappaji to let the guy come to Calcutta for a final word. Since I was pregnant, I thought that I didn’t want my parents to look after my child. After its birth, the father of the expected child needs to take care of it.
Finally, after my Pappaji consented, the guy (my so-called husband, sorry I know I’m being harsh) arrives, but with some stamp papers. Being an advocate, he tried to use his skilful brain.
After a good chat with my father, he meekly took out the documents, and said, “Pappaji, please sign these papers as your daughter has an equal share in your empire… So please part with her share to me, it would help me in my profession.” He added, “Your daughter is pregnant. Do you want to take care of her and her child for the rest of your life! So, for everyone’s benefit, please sign the papers.”
Pappaji first looked at him, as he was not expecting this rude a behaviour from the guy he proudly chose for me. Then he looked at me, thinking that if I consent (and because I was pregnant) and for my happiness, he would impart with some property to him. My father had a huge business in Calcutta. As a Consultant and Chartered Accountant, my father held a high position and immense respect amongst the high profiles of the city. He was famous for his helpful nature towards all. And today, I see him quietly listening to a random uncouth guy, whom he chose for me.
It’s a shame on us, the children, if we allow our parents to be rebuked or mistreated by our so-called partners, for no fault of theirs. It was my destiny, too, that I encountered such a guy as my partner, but the choice of letting go of such an abusive man lay in my hands, those were my thoughts.
I think that I grew up that day, I got my voice that moment! I could not see my father bow down to fulfil the wishes of an abusive man, who happened to be my legal husband.
I quietly got up from my seat, walked towards the guy, took the documents from his hand, tore those into pieces, and asked him to get out of the house that very moment.
This was the first time when my father did not utter a single word on my rudeness, in fact his eyes were brightened to see me act so boldly; my mother was quiet, my siblings were amazed. I just felt so empowered. My decision was backed by all.
Sad as it may sound, I made up my mind not to have the baby, (as it was just couple of months) and gave my decision to my mother. She was shocked, but I was adamant. Only I know, what I was going through in my heart of hearts, for it’s a big dream of every girl to have a beautiful life after marriage, and the experience of the first baby means the world. But my decision was in the interest of my family, as the child that I was carrying was already held doomed by its own father.
This was the harsh truth. My old parents cannot be held responsible for others’ wrong doings, or be blackmailed emotionally for the rest of their lives. I had to go through so much agony, so much pressure, would it be fair if my family suffered quietly on my account?
The only promise I took from my family, before I was taken to the operation theatre, was that no one should cry in front of me. Tears would have broken me down at that point. There was so much introspection and soul-searching going within me. It was as if I had started searching for bigger answers of my life. I was given that respect and space by my dear family, everybody held their tears from me.
Soon after, my divorce came through.
My Pappaji had changed so much. He was a perfect father earlier, now he became more of a friend to me. One fine day, patting my head fondly, he had said, “My bachcha has grown up, from now onwards, whatever you decide for yourself, would always be a good ‘yes’ from me”. I had smiled at him and replied, “You know that whatever I would decide on, I shall carry your identity with me… I can never let you down”.
Life moved on. But, hardly after 4 months, even before I could overcome my internal trauma, even before the scars on my soul could heal, the tragic incident of losing my whole family in a car accident happened. I have written about it here: A Tender Breath.
Is human life easy? At times when suffering is overwhelming, joy seems like a far away cry, the only answer is to increase faith in the Divine much more, and fight it out with all your heart and soul.
I shall share the rest of my journey in my next blog (Soul Ties). Sri Hari has truly stood by me 🙏🕉🌺 ever grateful.
Today, I feel I have fulfilled my wish by writing on this platform so freely, and it feels like my book has already got published. Incident after incident, the sharing shall continue with the intent to heal myself and in the hope that my writing would be able to heal some more souls.
Thank you for your time and patience in reading this part of my life story🙏
Jai Sri Hari 🕉
Pic courtesy: entheo Nation