When I think about how I was born and brought up in Agra, the city where one man's love for his wife has evidence made of marble, I can't quite understand where I belong anymore. Marriage has been a nasty twist to my perfectly ordinary life.
I was born to a lower middle class family and despite the financial constraints we had, my parents encouraged me to try the medical entrance exam. I spent two whole years after my 12th standard trying to crack it. It was ambitious for a mediocre girl like me. When I failed the second time, I knew it was time for me to do something instead of draining my parents' resources further. Then, I did a B.Sc.
When I graduated, my parents wanted to get me married. I did not hesitate to go along with the plan. It seemed like the most normal thing to do.
Besides, I had overstayed college life by two years, and I couldn't wait to be a real person in the real world. But the real world is UGLY. After rejecting a couple of suitors, I met my husband. The family friend who referred him vouched for the goodness and greatness of his family. He was employed as a software engineer in Bangalore and our first meeting happened on Skype. Even through the grainy video, I could see that he was handsome. That, added to the way he spoke charmed me enough to like him instantly. Even then, I didn't want to make my decision hastily. But his family wanted me to give them my decision as soon as possible. I was given a day.
I thought to myself that my medical seat slipped away even though I worked for two years. Here was something good that was available to me, and I had the opportunity to have it sooner. I liked the guy.
So overnight, I made my decision to marry him. I agreed.
Our engagement was set one month later. During that time, we spoke to each other on the phone every single day. The more I spoke to him, the more I liked him. We began familiarizing ourselves with each others' lives. All of it only served to elevate my happiness when I finally met him.
The first time I saw him in the flesh was on our engagement day. What a vision he was! He was taller than I had imagined and had the looks of a film-star. The moment he flashed half-a-smile at his friend, I fell in love like the ground beneath my feet disappeared. We were going to get married four months later and I was counting down feverishly.
Now that we were engaged, we spoke to each other even more, and often for most of the night. My parents who would have otherwise been livid if they'd found out that I was talking to a man, were suddenly cheerful and slightly teasing me.
That was the time I found out a lot of things about him- like how his morning coffee was always black, or his brain would take till 10 o' clock to start working; and how if he didn't eat chicken at least once in three days, he would become frustrated. I also realized that he was drinking quite a lot- not only during the weekends, but also on weeknights. At first, I didn't know how to talk to him about it.
When I managed to do it, he admitted to drinking quite heavily, but he promised that it would not be as much after marriage. He said that the only time he could do it without consequence was when he was still unmarried.
I believed him. I didn't want to come across as a control freak and take away the fun from his remaining days as a bachelor. Besides, my parents had already spent a considerable amount of money on the wedding. Having second thoughts about it now would be unnecessary and disastrous. But I should have taken more caution because what he was doing definitely had consequences... The kind of consequences that has made me terrified of men and faithless in love.
A couple of months before we were to get married, he suddenly stopped talking to me. I tried calling him repeatedly but he would neither pick up my calls or respond to my texts. I was beginning to worry and panic. What had I done wrong? Was he going to cancel the wedding? Did he not love me anymore? I didn't know. But I knew that I loved him dearly, and his silence gave me so much of pain. I had to make a huge effort to appear normal in front of my family, as if all was still good, while I desperately tried to contact him.
He finally spoke to me one night. He sent me a text message at an odd hour and asked me if I was a virgin.
I was surprisingly not offended. I was too busy being relieved that he had finally spoken to me. I assured him that I was a virgin, and he had nothing to worry about. Then I asked him why he had asked such a question. I was so afraid that jealous relatives had created trouble, or I had said something to make him suspicious. But no matter how much I tried to find out, or in what way I asked, he never spoke about it again. In fact, he never spoke about anything anymore.
With each passing day, he became more and more distant. He seemed guarded about everything. The tension in our conversations was tangible and each time I hung up the phone with a huge lump in my throat. But I kept telling myself that it would all be okay. I could bring everything back to normal when I see him. I loved him and we were getting married soon. I was so sure that I could fix it.
On the day of our wedding, he wasn't his cheerful self. Something seemed to be weighing him down. When I held his hand as we walked around the fire, I was silently trying to tell him that I was there for him, that no matter what was troubling him, it would be our life now and we could take on anything together.
I was so naive, so idealistic, so STUPID.
I will never forget how our first night was. I walked into a room that was decorated like something out of a movie. Flowers everywhere, aromatic candles, dim lighting. Nothing more beautiful and painful could probably coexist in a room together like that. Our conversation that night was still strained. It's slightly embarrassing to admit this, but that night, I did crave some physical intimacy with him. But nothing happened. I briefly held his hand when we were talking, but that was that.
A week passed in a blur of visiting relatives and being blessed by every possible elder to have a wonderful and fertile marriage. Then we moved to Bangalore. I hoped that at least the comfort of the seclusion we had would make him warmer towards me. My wishes came true almost immediately. The very first night we were back, he held my hands and looked at me endearingly.
And then he dropped the bomb. His alcoholism was worse than he had admitted.
He was a compulsive drinker and all that he had drunk during and after the wedding was not because he was celebrating. He was a drunkard of a very dangerous kind, and this had morbidly dragged him into other life-destroying habits. He had gotten himself into gambling and betting as well. And my dear darling husband told me that he owed people over 35 lakhs. And these were not normal people, not people you would reason with. It was more money than both our families could jointly afford. Especially not since my parents had depleted all their savings on my wedding. But even in my frenzied panic, I was going to tell him that I would get a job soon, we could pay it off, work it out, start afresh.
The words had almost escaped my mouth when he said one more thing. And that one thing shattered every hope I had nurtured about my life. He had gambled away my virginity.
He had sold my virginity for 2 lakh rupees to ease his debt. That's why he wouldn't touch me. That's why he was so keen to find out if I was a virgin. I would have done anything to get us out of the mess he had created, but I could not digest the fact that he had used me for a transaction like I was his property. No amount of love in the world would make me go through it for him. I could not possibly have sex with another man, that too for the first time, for the sake of my lovely husband.
I cried all through that night. I howled like an injured animal. I don't think he could take it. He left me alone and I fell asleep exhausted.
The next morning was bizarre and an even bigger nightmare. My head felt like it was going to explode as I woke up to some movement on the other side of the bed. That bastard had actually gone through with what he had said! There was a man in my bed and he was not my husband. I screamed out loud and I didn't stop. The shock and panic tore through me. The man seemed frightened and he left the room. He began arguing with my husband outside. He had promised there would be no trouble. Why wasn't I willing? Why hadn't he kept up his end of the bargain?
I shut the door tightly before they could make their way back in. I dragged the table against it for good measure. That's when I called my parents and told them everything.
I didn't dare open the door for the rest of the day, no matter how starved or weak I was. And he didn't dare try to force his way in. My parents had called up everyone they could think of, and the next day, a relative from Chennai came to pick me up. I stayed with my relative till my parents took me back home.
The familiarity of home somehow makes me functional. We filed a police complaint and I have filed for divorce. But I still can't recover from the horror. Every time I think of it, panic hits me, then depression. What had I done to deserve this evil? I have a deep, bottom-less pit of trauma eating away my insides that no one can see, but my family has to suffer through so much as well.
My parents spent everything they had to give me a proud, lavish wedding. And now, if I am ever to marry again, I have to bear the stigma of being a divorcee for no fault of mine.
My younger sister puts on a brave face but she doesn't yet realize how much we will have to struggle to overcome the rumours against me and the stories people tell before she can get married as well. Yes, we may have progressed just a little, but people always say vicious things that ruin you even more. Ask me. I know.