forgiven but never forgotten
a bitter one
When a young girl of 12 walks up to an uncle she likes, and asks for a signature in her new slam book. And he writes ” as per me girls should talk less and pay more attention to house hold chores” an initiation into the misogynistic mindset that sounded weird to her independent mind even then.
And then the girl’s dad writes in it, i also agree with this .
These words made her, her. The girl deep within knew this can not be true. Yet she still carries these phrases with her like a knife in the side 26 years on
Growing up being hated
The advantages of growing up being hated were many.
There was this fact that the home never felt like a home. Knew I wasn’t there permanently. knew no one wanted to speak. Took recourse in books. Read voraciously. Read day and night. Pa would always give a little money whenever asked, for books of course. Saved strictly for books, didnt splurge on anything else. Bought books, borrowed books. Ate with books. Slept with books. Books were my only love, any other love was a taboo. So killed that and nurtured this.
In a joint family home, grew up alone. Alienated myself from everyone so much so that didn’t even look at boys in school. Girls in my class considered me weird cos i didn’t participate in their boy talks or comment on the handsome ones or glance at them. Frankly i was shit scared of the family finding out. Girls in college called me a lesbi, when they saw me hugging a senior girl cos i was too upset and needed a shoulder to cry on.
The fact that my sisters hated me and made provisions for our parents to hate me too, paved for a fantastic childhood full of dreams and fantasies. A secret world of my own in my mind existed. Where only I could be, and i could be everything.
Mum never hugged me or caressed my head or cheek up until i was married, which made me more sensitive to feeling what everyone around me felt. learnt to empathise early on, started questioning the purpose of life. Thankfully pa showed love, or maybe i might have just run away from home. Once did try to move to my aunt’s home, another time, refused to come back from nana’s home after vacations. Was somehow always tricked into returning back home.
I always wondered why my birthdays were celebrated with such elan though. Rich parties where the entire clan and the clan’s friends would be there. I looked forward to birthdays. Thats was a day no one was allowed to shout/scold me or hit me, though the class monitor did hit me on my birthday, once. We still talk about it when we meet up. Now i realise the birthday parties were meant as a get together for their friends and family. There was never a single school friend of mine invited to these gala events.
Anyways. We are four sisters, but I had none. Haven’t ever connected with a woman on a personal level. It was mostly laced with judgemental attitudes and sarcasm on their part and wariness on mine. I have hated growing up in a marwari family always. Deeply. So much so that i wanted to kill myself when i started questioning my future. Pa after that said he wont marry me off to a marwari buisnessman. That was my only condition, sadly. I should have gotten off the bandwagon itself.
’98. Marriage happened. Before that, during a talk with my sister, my to be husband tells her jestingly that he is getting married cos he needs an assistant. That set the tone for the marriage. The one who hated me since childhood, said that to me about my to be husband. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry..
She, after my engagement, had stolen my letters and cards that I had written to him. I found them in her things and promptly tore them all. That had felt something akin to being violated.
Day 2 of marriage. All the ladies of my new family are sitting around me. They have a plate of moong rice porridge with them. Each and everyone one of them ceremoniously feeds me. Food shoved down the gullet , with phrases like..
now you are no more from your past.
Your past life and family is not yours.
The constant insistence to delete me that was me. The human in me wanted to curl up and cry.
After a few months into the wedding.. taught by my better half how to clean an indian toilet with a clothes brush. I did not want to acquire this skill and was persuaded with statements that they have been trained to do so by their mum and have been doing it since school days at their home. Alternate weeks for the two brothers.
This is now refused wholeheartedly. The excuse being – I am making it up. Maybe I am. Who wouldn’t love to make up stories about the first time they are made to clean a commode, when there are hired help a plenty to do so for you. Not that I dislike chores. Nothing wrong with cleaning things. What didn’t sound right was being forced into it.
Arrived just yesterday
A few more months into the marriage pass. There is a party at home. I had to cook for a large bunch. Then we all changed into our fancy clothes. Being too tired i chose to wear a churidar instead of a saree. And then the drama started. My spouse’s mom said she was extremely hurt and called me “ye kal ki aayi hui larki “. ie., ‘that girl who arrived just yesterday ‘, when speaking with her children. With one line, i was made an outsider. With this sentence i was relegated to the role of a naive dumb bimbo whose job was to keep her head low, follow orders, do chores, wear sarees and smile. In brief, a dumb waiter.
The fact that my husband chose to keep quiet felt like a deep betrayal, even though I shouldn’t have felt so. Had he chosen to speak up, he would have then betrayed people he loved. This day in my new home, I felt homeless. Probably when I disassociated with homes in general. Stopped considering those walls, or rather any walls as homes.
And then there were weddings in the family. Where in my MIL wouldn’t give me any of my jewellery, which she had all kept with her. I had to borrow from relatives and often ask my mum to send her own. Then the big gala wedding of my brother in law happened. Again I had no jewellery to wear.
Personally i do not like jewellery much, but when every one else in the family is bedecked from head to toe, one feels like an outcast unadorned.
Requested mom to bring some. My MIL chose a piece from my jewels and gave it to me, to wear for all the four days of events. I requested to be allowed to choose on my own. This started another bizzare drama, with my husband and his mom standing on one side of the room and me standing in the other. She accused me, in front of her son, and he chose to stay quiet. I tried to reason it out saying, i just wanted to be allowed to choose. Their arguements didnt make sense. “The box was in locker” ” we will have to take it out of the bank again” ” how dare you say such a thing” ” how dare you question me” The entire clan watched while i was made to feel like a villian.
Deeply hurt i left, (put my head in my mom’s lap who had come as a guest for the wedding) and silently cried.
Then the the whole pouch of jewellery was thrown in my mom’s lap, next to my head. This was one of the low points in my life. Deeply embarrassed in front of the whole clan, i chose to keep my eyes closed. Didn’t touch the pouch. It lay on floor for two days when eventually my hubby picked it up to keep it away. They lie now untouched, kept for the clan’s daughter. Me being a bride, never deserved them, and wont wear them. I am ashamed of those jewels. What should be a woman’s treasure is like a wound, ever painful, ever disgusting.
The fact that after this wedding my parents went and apologised to my in laws, was a shock. Hands joined , pa said Bhool Chook, Maaf Kijiyega. (Whatever mistakes we commited, please forgive) And left me with them to deal with it. I saw a proud smile on my in laws face and for a few moments, couldn’t just come to terms with what a shitty kinda future stared at me.
There were numerous such instances.
Times when my MIL would interrupt to tell me to stop talking to my parents on phone, when i would be on phone, citing reasons such as std costs. Later i had to explain to them that my phone bill was paid for by my parents, hence that shouldn’t be an issue. Then the real reason would come out, that a girl should disassociate with parents after marriage. And then phone in hand i would wonder, what if i were to say the same to my husband, how will it work.
A lot of times sitting with them would be a constant struggle to remain sane. MIL would suddenly rub behind my ears saying don’t you clean behind the ears? Same for my nose. And then my dark skinned father in law bringing me dove and fair and lovely to take whiter baths in.. a family of dark skinned people dissatisfied with a sunburnt daughter in law. I let this go the first few times but when it happened one time too many, I couldn’t stop and blurted, your son is so dark, make him fair first.
That i shouldn’t have done but i did, couldn’t take the constant nagging for being darker. Once, I was also asked if i had done some special makeup during the engagement ceremony cos i was fairer then.. thus, the accusal of cheating them cos as per them i had faked being fairer.
The kitchen was such a torture, my superior would constantly talk trying to fill me with good daughter in law gyan. Sometimes I wanted to scream and scream for some quiet.
There would be compaints against my parents put unto me, and i couldnt respond .. a. They were senior, b. I was stuck and had no way out. So i would juat leave the space for a while. This behaviour would be then reported on to my parents on phone. I realiszed why being born a woman was a curse.
Somewhere in btw i started working as a tech writer. Every time his parents came to visit, i was commanded to take off of work for the duration. So about 15-20 days off. People in the Workspace saw how unprofessional this is, the boss told me that i need to be professional though.
Within all this taking on and off i quit.
Started working in a place that was more women adaptive, ie., i could work from home too.
I was pregnant with my child. The doc had asked me to stop working, and advised bed rest. Within all the hustle bustle my in laws would be there and bedrest went for toss. I did a lot of kitchen work cos my MIL said “she hasn’t raised her son to work in the kitchen”. Afterwords i requested the doc not to tell me about the bed rest but to tell it to my family. My MIL was very keen on visiting the doc cos she thought i am lying about the bed rest bit. She would spy around under out beds and bed sheets for used condom wrappers to know if this bed rest thing was a drama of mine. Her waving the used condom in the air was a necessary shame in my initiation of being a daughter in law. Shame That was what i was.
Then we went to visit our in laws during my second trimester. Everything was fine and i was pampered in front of the son. But once he left for the city for his job, i was taken in hand and given a big lecture on duties of a daughter in law. From the sofa i was relaxing on, i went into the kitchen, washed vessels, cooked and served a dinner to them and guests. Somewhere in my mind i was sure i will try and never let this happen to my kid if it were to be a girl. Counted my days till i could leave. Promised myself i am not coming back, and followed the promise for a few years until i caved in, to the constant requests of my husband.
Baby happens, a girl that i had prayed for. My in laws arrive, and when the child curls her fingers around my MILS finger, a smug smile and the statement, khoon to khoon ko pehchan hi lega. Blood will detect blood afterall.
In this whole scenario i am instantly made into an unwanted part of the plan. My child was now their blood and i was the only outsider.. the only being i loved unconditionally was proclaimed not mine..
And these were educated respected in the society, kinda people.
This went on in wierd ways. While leaving they didnt hand me the child when i asked. Instead they lay her on the sofa and left. All the way from the house door to the auto my MIL kept fighting with my mum for the measly amount of 2K i had tried to give my MIL as a parting token. The 2k was borrowed from mum cos i was dirt poor and my husband didnt have much money. MIL wanted more than that i guess. The silk sarees i had sent as gifts were returned and i was asked to instead send cash. This i had to ask my mum for in a very low and embarrassed voice. Now i realise why people abort girls or cry or are sad on having girls.
A year or two on, this kept on escalating, which just piled on me along with my postpartum depression. Once when my hubby took my child away to meet his family, i tried to end it all by consuming 60 or so of sleeping pills. The only mistake i did was called up my mum and told her to take care of my child. I was promptly saved, despite all my wishes. A few months of depression passed and i went to mum’s home. After a few months i was asked to go back to my husband’s place. My mothers house was denied to me. They said, you cannot stay here indefinitely. Heavily dependent on anti depressants, i returned to the wedded walls. Life went on. People sympathised with my husband for he had a bad marriage match. I sympathised with myself for breathing.