I remember the joy on your face when you found my old laptop at Grandma’s place. You managed to crack the password. You were surprised that the password was not Myarya_21, unlike my other devices. But you know why. It was long before you were born.
Your joy soon turned into a rude shock. You saw a picture of my wedding. A wedding with a man who was not your father. It was our joint decision to wait until you turned 18 to talk to you about my previous marriage. But since you felt betrayed, I think it is important that I tell you my story.
Almost two decades ago, when I was barely 22, Grandma and Grandpa had arranged my marriage to a suitable man. He was charming, intelligent and witty. People who had limited interactions with him thought he was a great guy. Sadly, he had a narcissist and manipulative streak in him. A secret only his wife knew.
He yelled at me for almost everything that he did not like – whether it was the not so apt salt in the gravy, the newspaper folded the wrong way, or his call being missed. I would bear the brunt of his poor appraisals and his disagreements with friends. While I struggled to cope up with his temperament, he would shatter my self-esteem by saying that he is doing me a favour. He would call me names and humiliate me. And one day, he slapped and pushed me for the most trivial argument. When I told him I would report him to the police, he laughed.
‘In this country men get away with burning their wives! You don’t even have a bruise as evidence!’
‘I will break your bones if I see that look on your face again!’
‘No other man would be able to tolerate you with all your flaws!’
I wanted to leave him. People said that my situation was not so bad. At least he had not hit me black and blue. Aggression is a ‘masculine’ trait. Once I have a child, everything would be okay.
I walked out of the marriage.
I had never thought I’ll remarry. But years later when I met your father, I understood that not all men are bad. He was sensitive and caring. He restored my faith in everything good and beautiful in the universe. We got married. Then you were born. When I held you, I felt so thankful.
Arya, in a few years you will start dating. You will fall in love. You may get married. As much as I would love to, I cannot protect you from meeting the wrong men. Abuse can be physical, emotional or psychological . You don’t have to ask people if you what you are going through constitutes abuse, or is it enough to end a relationship. What does not feel right for you is not to be endured.
Any time you have doubts, I want you to remember your parents. We did not give birth to you, and love you with every ounce of our soul so that you can grow up to become a doormat. Your mother did not wait to be assaulted brutally to justify her choice. She left at the first instance of abuse. Your father is the perfect example of a gentleman. He has set high standards for you. He is kind and gentle. He has never raised his voice at you or me. Being aggressive is the folly of a coward. Someone who is a slave to his insecurities.
I want you to promise me two things if God forbid, you ever find yourself stuck with someone who does not treat you well: First, that it is not your fault. The shame belongs to the person who deserves it – the perpetrator. Second, have the courage to get out as soon as you find out.
You may have family, friends and laws for support. But the biggest barrier may be in your mind, which only you can overcome.
We want you to be the heroine of your life, not the victim.
Much love and hopes,
This is a fictional piece written for the Blogathon Theme ‘#alettertoher’ organised by Womensweb to spread awareness on domestic violence. I would like to read Meena Kandasamy’s new book, ‘When I hit you,’ because it is time to break the shackles of abuse, and pass on the shame to the one who deserve it – the perpetrator.