Sitting in front of the mirror. I look at the grey hairs scattered all over my head. A few wrinkles have also developed next to my eyes and jaw. How long am I going to pretend those are laugh lines and pass off the greys as blessings? Not anymore!
More than thirty decades of my life has been spent serving the family. Yes, the family and not my family. This family was never mine. My family was my parents whom I left far behind. The day I got married to Vijay. It was an arranged marriage.
Like the rest of the girls, I also thought I too will have a great love story. A romance story of eternal love. My husband would treat me like a queen. Uncle and aunty or my in-laws would soon turn into mom and dad. Vijay’s siblings would be my siblings. Well, I know this was quite a farfetched idea. Things like these don’t happen even in fairytales. Whereas, I was living in a real world.
My dreams got shattered soon. What followed were days consisting of endless nightmares. Vijay did not have any feelings for me. He was not even attached. The marriage was just an escape route. He did not want the society to know about his shortcomings. Till this day, I don’t know what exactly he wants. How exactly to please him? The initial years were spent in struggle and strife. I did everything I could to make him realize I was worth his love.
Soon, I understood, he would never feel anything for me. The man simply lacked emotions. At least for me. The years that followed were spent making the marriage remain intact. I did not want a divorce. Divorce was a stigma then, it is a stigma now. No matter what one says, I am not strong enough. The age-old dogma, “A girl leaves her father’s house as a bride and husband’s house as a body – dead body.” I lived in my husband’s house as a dead body. Yet, I could not leave it.
When my sister-in-law got married, all my jewelry was given to her. It was a gift from a brother to his sister. Rip a sister to gift another sister, this happens in our society only. Regardless of caste, religion, class or state, the condition of women all around the world remains the same. Some would choose to disagree with me. The majority can’t deny the nightmares they faced due to their in-laws.
Many at times, I found the men in my house disturbingly close. Don’t feel like going into the gory details. How convenient!!! Am I not an escapist?!!
Despite the fact, I was well educated and well versed. Never in my life, I received a chance to pursue my dreams of being an academician. Knowledge always filled me with great happiness. Women mostly prefer cooking. Trying out new recipes helps many women relieve stress. Books have always been my solace. Acquiring a B.Ed. degree was my aim. I wanted to be a teacher if not a professor. Nothing of the sort ever happened.
One after another, I saw my dreams crumble. The broken pieces of my shattered life punctured my heart. At times, I sit and wonder, what if, I refused to marry right after my graduation? What if, I let myself fall in love just like the girls in my school and college? What if, I said no to my husband the first time he raised his dirty hands on me? What if, I chose to live my life on my own terms? What if, I could stand for my rights and file a complaint against my abusive in-laws? What if I chose to live instead of simply exist?
Today, somehow, I feel free and relieved. My husband is a changed man. He is not aloof and indifferent. On the contrary, he has become extremely loquacious. He is unstoppable. Five years ago, my mother-in-law succumbed to Alzheimer. Dementia runs in Vijay’s family. His sister, who was always devising new strategies to make my life difficult. The same woman has lost all sense of reasoning. She is nothing more than a vegetable now. To everyone who is filled with scorn and bitterness. I ask them a simple question. In the end, will you be able to say, it was worth it? Spending your beautiful life causing harm to others is not worth it. Live your life to the fullest. It is your life. Live it your way. Live it for yourself. Not for others.
My son got married to a girl of his choice. When I looked into the eyes of his bride. I saw the same dreams, the same spark. What if, this girl’s fate is just like mine? What if, all she gets in this house is nightmare and claustrophobia? I didn’t want another trail of “What ifs” attack me.
Saying goodbye to the newlyweds was such a relief. I finally felt redeemed. Freedom indeed!
The mirror held the smiling face of an aging woman. A satisfied smile. That night, I slept peacefully. What if, all the tortured mothers-in-law make sure the oppression stops? What if the daughters-in-law are treated like humans and not a woman for a change?!!