I am a woman, I am a mother, I am a daughter, I am a sister and I am also a wife and a daughter-in-law. I work. I earn. I provide for my family. I stay home when my son is sick, I run to the hospital when he breaks his arm and I go dizzy when I see blood ooze out of his skin. I panic when he cries, I yell at him when he tears down the place.
I am a normal person. I laugh at silly jokes, get nervous around new people and fake confidence even when my pulse is racing beyond control. I tear up for the silliest of reasons and lose my temper at my help when whites turn pink or blue.
Yes, if you meet me, you would hate me or love me, you would judge me or be jealous of me like you would any regular woman. But you may not realize that this normalcy is a battle I fight for each day of my life. The ability to be normal, stay focused, to love and to laugh without an inch of me turning into a bitter person is something I have put a conscious effort into.
In 2006 I made a choice, to trust a man who I had known as a friend. Yes I knew him long enough and I should have been a better judge. But as they say with youth comes a certain naivety, a certain belief that with love anything is possible and in 2008 I tied the knot with him.
Education should teach you better, but the society comes with its own books. As a woman, you are taught to hold your family, adjust, respect, accept without question and do anything, and I repeat – do anything to make your marriage work. I too had those books that society and religion had thrown my way. So when my parents paid a dowry, I was told it was a custom that I must not question. When I spoke to my friend, the man who was to be my husband, he threatened to throw the marriage away.
That could, should have been a clue. A reason to take my bags and run, but aah those rose-colored glasses, they tint everything, big and small. The man I had chosen could not be wrong; it must just be some empty threat. And what about the 300 odd guests that had witnessed the engagement; how would my family face all of them if the marriage was called off and so there I told myself, customs are to be respected and we must learn to keep quiet.
And quiet I became slowly with every passing day of the marriage. Even as he spent days and nights playing his PS3, refusing to go to work, even as he picked silly fights, as his parents yelled and screamed about his irresponsibility and blamed me for not getting him to see sense, even as he refused to let me visit home, or picked fights on the days I was supposed to see my ageing grandparents. The list was long, but it was a marriage and there were responsibilities to be taken care of.
I had to man up, but with the docility of a woman; a Malayalee Christian woman.
The story is long.
5 years is a long time but many tell me I am lucky, they have lost many more in this battle called marriage. My in-laws threw us out of their house with a 6-month-old boy with no one to turn to. I could have run home, but my ego and pride would not allow me to acknowledge that I had made a terrible mistake, a bad choice.
I made it good. I set up home again. I thanked the Lord for his mercy and grace and went on with my life, job and child as my husband continued with his PS3, and his friends and his parallel lives. I continued to be the pride of the church, submitting to God’s will and my husband’s. Making excuses day after day for his irresponsibility, his back might be hurting, he is finding it difficult to walk, let him rest.
Many ask me why I had no clue about his other lives and wives and when I tell them I just didn’t they look at me with wonder. I couldn’t possibly have been a good wife if I had not noticed. How do I explain that I couldn’t, I truly loved the man and trusted him.
A Christian husband is at a meeting, when he says so. He is selling Bibles when he says he doing so; how could you be in the lap of another woman on the pretext of selling Bibles? No, it still doesn’t register in my head. Plus I had a baby to take care of, a job to go to, bills to pay and in-laws to cater to. Where did I have the energy or time to play detective and why would I?
So I guess you get the point…he cheated on me. What’s the big deal? Everyone does I am told. But I doubt everyone does it with their wife’s best friend and relative. Everyone doesn’t start sleeping around before the marriage and keep it going even after a baby. Everyone doesn’t exchange rings with other women in random churches. Everyone doesn’t bring their keeps home…and have affairs beyond the two wives they have.
Well mine did. He pulled the ground from under my feet and I fell. I fell hard but I was a woman. I was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife and a daughter-in-law. There was no time to stay on the ground, to cry or to wail.
I had to pick up the pieces and pretend to be okay. And I was told it was normal. It was okay. And the fool that I was I believed, I believed it was an error of judgment. I picked up the books society threw at me that said my son needed a father and this man was his and I was responsible for all that had gone wrong. I was responsible for him being a liar, cheat and irresponsible father. I gave him a second chance. Aah, those rosy lenses!
And if you thought it would end here. I think this is the beginning. Since April 24, 2011 my life went from bad to worse. The irresponsible womanizer that I had married took to alcohol and abuse. Emotional blackmail, threat, strength, power play…every tool that exists in the books were used to keep me in the marriage and at his mercy. I floated from one day to another, no land in sight till one day everything snapped. I knew I had to get out to be able to breathe, to raise my son to be a normal human being, to know what’s right and wrong. I had to save us both-I owed it him.
In the past two and a half years, my family has faced abuse, threats, public humiliation on a regular basis. I have had to move homes, change my son’s school and go to the cops and the courts in the hope of a normal life. Everyone who knew us or knows us, has told me that he is clearly mentally disturbed and is even a threat to my son as an alcoholic. His family knows it but supports him. I have heard on the television that he has cancer and he may die soon and that I have abandoned him because he has been diagnosed of cancer. I have doctors who have told me otherwise and no medical records as proof.
2014 is a few days away but I see no end to my misery and my battle.
I am told laws are for the women but is the system? I live at the mercy of a restraining order and a court judgment that has been violated and I still wait for dates to come my way so that some action may be taken. Date after date, month after month I go to courts in hope of a normal life for my son and me-a regular life without abuse and threats. But I get nothing but dates.
Cancer scares everyone. Death sits heavy on everyone’s conscience. Police fear taking him and his family into custody and judges ask me to show my son to the man who contributed nothing but the semen that was needed to birth him. I take my child again this Saturday to show him to the father and I stand defeated in front of the promise I made to him to give a safe haven, a life of normalcy.
But for you who meet me, may you hate me and love me as you meet me cos that tells me I am normal. I am the next door woman. I am a woman, I am a mother, I am a daughter and I am a sister. I refuse to be a wife and a daughter-in-law to people who have no respect for human beings and refuse to allow my son to be reared into the same. I am still fighting to be normal.