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.