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During the 1st year of my marriage, I had tried being- as much “good” as I could. I had celebrated uncle’s birthday in August, Aunty P’s birthday in November, their anniversary in May and Ratan’s birthday in April. Hemant’s birthday coincided with Navratri’s and hence, was “celebrated” before the date. Usually, I don’t appreciate such “arrangements”, but had adjusted then.
In Navratri’s, eating of Onion and Garlic was prohibited. Garlic was only brought to use after my entry to their place- that too only, whenever I cooked. They were vegetarian to the strictest meaning of it. Hemant had not appreciated Milk and Milk products. So, cheese, ghee, butter and all such derivatives didn’t reach my plate and stomach for good 3 years. Milk shakes and kheer only happened once; when I had not known about their eating mannerisms and had insisted upon preparing those. Raita and fruit- cream were amongst the redundant luxuries that I had indulged in the 1st couple of months only. Pure ghee emitted foul smell; hence, was not used. I wonder; had they ever tasted those? They had never heard of Milk-maid and had thought of that as a delicacy like is truffle; not that they knew about any Truffle. I had prepared Shrikhand once; Arpana mami had freaked out knowing that I knew Kitchen work so well and that I could prepare a few regional delicacies too.
Arpana had somewhat changed her outlook towards me. She had appreciated my addressing her as “mami” instead of bhabhi. I had made a Ganshu arti-craft and gifted her on her insistence the following year; she was Marathi and from Indore. She would often ask me the recipes and eat a small portion to taste too. I had noticed that hint of un-approval in Madam P’s eyes.
Karvachauth celebration was more like a Public Exhibition, displayed on the Colony Road. I admit that staying with them I had suffered a big Culture Shock and one that I couldn’t survive. Whatever the festival may have been; sitting on the road like beggars, was definitely not my prerogative. It was more like a Public exhibition- where women of all ages had displayed their sequined outfits and chunky jewellery; sitting right on the Colony Road. The adjoining Park could have been used for the same. Or the terraces..
I had done numerous sit- ups- touching all the women’s feet. I don’t approve of anyone touching my feet for whatever damn reasons it maybe. And hence, don’t really like touching anyone’s soiled, dirty and scrappy feet too. That’s one thing that ought to have been banned. If shaking hands is said to contract germs (that it does); then think of the capacity that this act possesses for spreading diseases? They had all whirled around me like maids, oops! I mean dames to hear me speak in Hindi. I would have definitely survived without their bee-ing around me.
I had made uncle and aunty pose together for snaps. A fool that I was, I regret now having done that and all. Apparently, when things had become real ugly i.e., only after a couple of months from then, I was so sternly and un-attachedly told- that they had not wanted any of those. They had only given in since I was being child- like. If only I had been somewhat matured, I would have then understood their having being so uncompassionate towards life; both mine and otherwise.
I had given her a facial treatment and a pedicure at home- myself. She admitted that she had not sat preparing even for her wedding- as much as I was indulging in her then. Either they were only shallow words; or maybe slip of tongue. I had sat with them giggling and laughing like no one’s business. I had made aunty to prepare all chapattis at one go and made the entire family, sit together for food. I had learnt how they had only wanted fried, brown onions alone in their dal- for tempering. I had respected the fact that Hemant’s belongings still lay at a different floor. Anytime I had sat watching television, the tube-light was put on- in bright day- light. I had begun to hesitate to be anywhere near them.
I had barely come in after my night shift one day, when that lady had wanted me to sit and be around the house. When I had replied that I needed to sleep, she had thrown a huge tantrum. Why wasn’t I being around the house after coming home? Why I slept in daytime after my night-shift? Why was I not sleeping at the 1st floor if I had genuinely wanted to sleep? Why I had wanted to change the 1st thing after I came home?
I had been expected to know all about their family traditions and culture. Not as in to learn, but to have been already aware of! How could that be? Hemant had never mentioned anything about them; on the contrary, he had avoided talking anything about his family and relatives. I am not blaming him and using that as my alibi; but then, how on earth was I to know what days were observed in their culture and family? All I got to hear was if only my parents were around..!!, then what about them? The culture would have still been different. I was expected to know of what was to be given to the in-laws in Punjabis. Quite strange. Here, you don’t want the lady to be the bread- earner; but definitely didn’t hesitate receiving gifts from her. If only I could tell them that my parents weren’t anymore around. Obviously, why now I was to become my own parent and get stuff for my in-laws? There were a couple of more rituals that were required to be completed with similar gifts presentation!! My problem wasn’t buying gifts or anything. My issue was with their expecting me to have known of all of that without their telling me about those..
I had continued to wear the churas on my own and hadn’t taken them off after 45 days of marriage. Since, I had wanted to wear them for social visits and occasions; I was “allowed” to slip off the extra bangles and keep wearing only 2 of them for regular days. It was nice of them to have made that provision for me. Arpana’s mother-in-law being the eldest had declared that dictate. I had developed an allergy wearing those plastic rings the 1st day itself, I had taken off half of those without seeking permission. My marriage Album had made everyone aware in my family of my “mistake” in only a few weeks time. They had not felt good about it. I had apologized.
The lady was fine to have expected me to be respecting their practices; even though that I had relented openly. Just that I belonged to a different culture, and lived self-dependently. I am anyways not good at taking dictates- whatever they may be. The Lady had kept her eyes closed on me, when I had struggled to get a decent job with good earning to lead a respectable life. She had objected to our relationship- as if it was an unacceptable arrangement that we had been in. Anyways, what’s the definition of an un-acceptable arrangement? And just who defines that?
She had been so dictating that she never realized that she had been intruding beyond the level of tolerance. Hemant had as if transformed from being Boyfriend to Mama’s Boy; he had never been a husband. He had only been the elder son of a conservative and orthodox Punjabi Sharma family. Ratan would often ridicule me with his loud jokes. He had wanted to know which school I had studied in, since I had mentioned about Carbon-monoxide in claustrophobic place; it ought to have been carbon-di-oxide! You may say that it was a small matter; so it was. How nice was it of someone exactly your age, questioning your qualification and showing you down? Whatever had happened to basic mannerisms? Ratan had been conveniently leading a careless life being the least concerned about anyone. If you were to tell him that you weren’t hungry then; he would polish all the bowls, leaving not even as much as a morsel for you to eat at a later time. According to his mother, he was a “small kid”. His mannerisms were like that of the neighborhood gossiping aunty. I could just not understand that why he lived in a state of such ignorance and carelessness?
Anytime his friend Manish had visited their place for stay- over; he had roamed around in a towel after wash. Now, why such double standards again? Why wasn’t he told that that was just not acceptable in their house?
A bachelor spraying deodorant or perfumes would invite ghosts to possess him/her. One was not to wash on Thursdays. Diwali Puja coins and articles were not to be touched by the women of the house. Bell was not being rung while worshipping. Television watching was restricted to laughing crazy upon nonsensical comedies. I was labeled as angrejh (English) since I watched HBO and Star Movies; never alone but with Hemant- yet..!!
One morning I had almost collapsed because of Menstrual Pain; I was at the 1st floor in the kitchen preparing breakfast. I had gone upstairs immediately, Lady P had not appreciated that since she had thought that I was expecting and was not telling them about that. I had knocked at my 3rd floor door; being unable to take any more of that pain, I had squatted on the floor. The upstairs room was such, that it had 2 doors- one was main door, leading to the upstairs terrace; the next door led to my room. I had sat down at the next door. Luckily, the main door was open. By the time Hemant had answered the door; I was in tears and had clutched myself in pain. He had given me one nasty look and walked away grumbling at me. He had thought that I may have had an argument with his mother. So what, even if that had happened; did it still qualify for a man to leave a crying woman on the floor, under the direct sun and walk past her- downstairs? I wish I could have dragged him back, transfer that pain in him, made him sprawl there and had done that act myself; and then turned around to ask if that was okay!
By the end of that year, they had started demanding my salary to be given to them. Hemant had never handed over his pay-packet to me; not even for the heck of it. I had tried talking that out before settling down; he had requested me to not ask any of those things before “time”. I was awarded with humongous respect in the days to come. I had been using my salary to maintain our (both mine and Hemant’s) expenditures for the month. It was then decided upon that we give them a consolidated amount and tell them that that was our contribution. That was not appreciated. The 2nd month itself, uncle had rudely asked me to leave, when I had gone to handover that amount.
I had tried explaining them that my salary was anyways being credited to my bank account; why at all take that money out and keep at home? Uncle had failed and declined to understand the concept of direct credit. What era was he in; and also I in? Not wanting any more trouble, I had handed over the December- 2003 salary to them. I had taken P aunty and Ratan to Citibank ATM at PVR, and had emptied my account. Hemant had assured me that some “pocket money” would be given. Someone enlighten me that why did I need to handover my earnings- when I had been handing over a contribution and also spending without their telling me to do so? I mean, I was a woman of 25 years of age, with my husband handing over his entire salary to his parents, and was now compelling me to handover my salary too- is that how it works?
By then, I had given the entire money that Hemant had helped me with, back. I had applied for 10 days off from my Work; we had planned to go for our 1st honeymoon. I don’t remember why Hemant had, but given me a cheque of Rs.2000/-. I had asked him multiple times if that was alright for me to have presented that cheque. He had assured me that that won’t bounce; that did. I had not liked that and had expressed my displeasure about that. My period was on for the month; I had suffered of cramps (that’s quite usual with women). The evening had gone by, without much exchange of conversation; I was anyways busy with housework I would never know why that happened- whatever had- to me the next morning..!!
19th January, 2004
The next morning, he woke me up and had wanted to talk about that bounce cheque. I was still half asleep and had barely managed to speak when he had slapped me hard. I had not known what had happened, when he had hit me again. I had tried to get out of the quilt and out of the bed, when he had ridden over my legs and had slapped me one after the other. With some effort, I had pushed him aside and had run to the door to escape. She had been faster than me and had caught me before I could even reach to the door. He had caught my top and had sat me down on the floor. My clothes were torn; I was half naked and was in menstrual pain. He then locked the door and had kept me hitting. Slippers soles were hit hard on my face; he had pulled my hair up to show my face. He had gone hitting me for the next one hour and then had left for work. All he had said was that he knew that after that I won’t go along for the Honeymoon- but yet, was to think over and tell him.
I was left sitting on the floor, wondering that if that’s how my mom was also beaten up. If that’s how all women were beaten up: especially those who married their boyfriend.
That was some royal celebration of my 1st Wedding Anniversary- Congratulations to me. I had proved myself to be the dedicated, poor and the helpless “wife” married to the elder son of a Punjabi Family.
I had screamed at every slap, cried at every punch. I lived at the top floor of the corner building- was not heard by anyone excepting the Walls. AS I write here, I am falling short of words- much less metaphors. The hurt, humiliation and disgust won’t weave through the words for everyone to read through. The feelings anyways can’t be expressed through words- they can only be felt. After loads of retrospection and making myself rock- hard; I compile this post here. I haven’t cried even a single tear while typing it. I had not shared this with anyone excepting Ruby. For years, I had kept that instance details buried inside me; I now wish to forget all of that after having typed it here. Apparently, it’s not worth crying over someone- who had made you cried.
Couple of hours later I was called downstairs. Uncle and aunty were to go somewhere, and I was to guard their house. I still didn’t own a cellphone. How stupid of me. Getting an opportunity, I had called up Ruby and had asked her what was to be done next. She had told me to go out with him, as was planned anyways, and to talk to him there. Moreover, they maybe wanting to spoil the plan and hence, may have poisoned Hemant’s mind. Only that Hemant was too clever to have gotten poisoned- if at all.
Sitting in his parents’ bedroom; I had felt as if someone had whispered over my shoulder. As was urged, I turned up the bedding and had found a diary. Curiously, I had flipped through the pages, where they had written about the Grocery expenses and who all had gifted what all in my wedding. I had kept flipping through the pages wanting to see all of that. Aunty P had been writing about me. Day to day incidents: about what we had talked about (I and him), our communicating with each other in English or not so loudly, his standing by me in the kitchen or even exchanging glances were all noted there. The talks noted about between me and him were as general as- about dinner or television movie or any such non- significant topic. She had ascribed her personal motives and thoughts into such personal exchange of talks. She had painted me as if I was the women competing with her, and that- as if Hemant was not her son. I could not trust my eyes about such mentions in her diary.
Simplest of the daily activities were mentioned with as much hatred towards me. It seemed that my being there itself was a huge trouble to her or may I say them; since later, I found out that everyone had known about that Diary and its contents- excepting me. How so a damn, retarded- fool and idiot of me..
The following evening, we had left for our “Honeymoon”. He had packed my stuff on his own, but had kept grumbling. I had not said a word- much less my approval or opinion. I moved as if I was a puppet and had no life in me. My entire being had shaken. All my feelings and love for him had crushed under those punches. My world had come to an end. Is this what I had asked for when I had agreed to get married to him? Was he the same man who had cared for me like I was his daughter? Was he the same man who had talked me into- marrying him?
Was I in my right senses to have not been able to judge him in the 1st 4 years of our relationship? Was I too blindly in love with him? Was there anymore of it left? Was there any of it ever- even to begin with?
Next- My open wounds