I Married Him Because He Violated Me But This Is What I Want To Tell Our Granddaughters Today
I was the only convent educated girl in the extended family. That was back in the day- several decades ago when even the boys barely went to government schools. As the only daughter of my widowed father, I was given the best. To my great misfortune, that was the only happiness allotted to me in my life.Share this quote
After my nanna passed away in my teens, I began to live with his brother and their family. It was always nanna's wish that I went to college, but everyone resented him for giving me too much freedom.
So, I was 17 and essentially a glorified orphan. I had the opportunity to apply at Osmania University in Hyderabad where we lived back then. In the meantime, I was at my uncle's house.
If my father were alive, I would have had the chance to read his books. He wouldn't mind if I didn't do any of the household chores. But at my uncle's house, it was unforgivable of me to behave like a man.Share this quote
I was the only girl in a house full of men. My uncle had four sons and my aunt's younger brother was also staying with them at the time. But somehow, I was the only person who was meant to cook, clean and wash the dishes. These were the days when Sabina or dish wash soap was not available. I was given a handful of coconut fibre and a bowl of ash.
On the day when my college was supposed to begin, I started menstruating. So my aunt refused to let me out of the house. She said it was a bad omen and could ruin my education. Days turned into weeks, and they said there was something in my horoscope and I should put off education for a year. I knew these were tall tales, but I did not argue with them. This is the fate of a fatherless girl. All I could do was take care of the household chores, be in my aunt's good books, and hope that she will have the generosity to send me the next year. I was really good at mathematics and I was sure I could make a career in teaching.
In the meanwhile, I could only read old newspapers that were stacked in the back of the house. I would have an hour or so in the afternoon when everybody slept. I would sit with my knees up in the dusty backroom and read newspapers. I will never forget those days. It was the last time I felt any fulfilment, even though it was a secret.Share this quote
Then one day, my uncle and his family went away for a wedding. It was on my aunt's side of the family, and even though she could have taken me along, she was not comfortable. I had just lost my father and I had not completed my one year of mourning. After a lot of hesitation, she left me to stay alone in the house for a few days. I was also secretly happy that I could do whatever I wanted at that time.
On the same evening that they left, I made the worst mistake of my life. I got raped.Share this quote
I am sorry to say that girls these days have too much freedom. Back then, it was called a mistake. I am sorry to say that what is naturally supposed to be a woman's right is still something that is "allowed" for her as a freedom by the men who dictate her life. I am sorry children, that despite the way women like me raised our sons, your lives are no different than ours.
But coming back to my story. The night I got raped, I was all alone at home and I had allowed a man to enter the house. He was a tenant in the small room that my uncle had built upstairs. Usually, he would keep to himself. He was the son of my uncle's friend and he was preparing for the Civil Services examination. My uncle held him in high regard and often told my cousins to learn from him.
For me, the fascination was that someone could be at home, undisturbed throughout the day. All they had to do was study various interesting subjects. I wished that I had his life, but I should have been careful about what I wished for.
Sometimes, I still think it is my fault for being greedy. If I had waited and joined college the following year, maybe I would have had a chance at life. But in my haste, I kept offering him tea and snacks, hoping that he would let me borrow one of his books. But before I knew it, he had forced himself on me. My memory of it has faded over the years, but sometimes when I don't even expect it, I remember a detail in startling clarity, and I relive it all over again.
Anyway, I knew that by allowing him to come inside the house, I violated the one request that my aunt made of me. For all the difficulty she put me through, she still felt responsible for my safety. And I did not wish for her to be blamed for what happened to me.Share this quote
Call it courage or stupidity, I spent the next two days threatening to commit suicide if he did not marry me. Finally, I had forced him or scared him enough for us to elope. I left a letter at home, claiming that I had fallen in love, begging them for their forgiveness. It was the last I ever saw or spoke to my family.
I was boycotted throughout the family for disgracing them. People blamed my father more for raising me the way he did. My uncle never forgave me for humiliating him, and I never saw him again. The last time I visited their house was when he died, and my aunt did not allow me to see him. I was 56 years old then. I am 72 today.
I never went to college. But thanks to my husband's job, I lived in various places around India. My education was never formal, but the only thing that kept me sane in my youth was learning from the people around me. I learnt how to read, write and speak Tamil, Bengali, Punjabi and Assamese. What I lacked in academic achievement, I gained in excellent cooking. There is nothing that I cannot cook. I am not the typical grandmother whose cooking people love. I made people go crazy for my food.Share this quote
My husband was the youngest among 8 siblings. His parents were already very old when we married. By the time we had our second son, they were both dead. My brothers and sisters-in-law, even though were much older than myself, had a formal but cordial relationship with me. It was the best I could hope for.
I had to sacrifice a lot, adjust a lot. I never took any of my mother-in-law's jewellery. Every time we got transferred to a new city, we would have my husband's siblings and their children come over for one holiday or another. I would cook for 20 people at a time, all by myself, take them all out and pay for everything.
We spent the most number of years in Kolkata, and I still remember managing 8 children and grandchildren on the streets during the Pujos.
Likewise, there were too many weddings and too many deaths in the family. Doing the donkey's work at all these occasions is something that has allowed me to call these people my family. Even then, I can't tell them everything. I can't tell them why their handsome, talented younger brother chose to marry an orphan like me.
For many years, I heard taunts about how I had used black magic to trap him. Little did they know. A single disagreement at home could send him spiralling into a monstrous rage. The number of times he has beaten me up, even in front of my kids, have been too many. "What did your mother bring for me?" he would ask, "Except for the clothes on her back?"
I would never tell my children why I had to elope with only the clothes on my back. But I was always glad that both my children were boys. It redeemed me in the eyes of our family, and I never had to worry about raising them into stupid young women who would get raped.Share this quote
I can tell you from experience, that even if fifty years go by, the repercussions of rape never leave you. I did not know. It had not occurred to me that I could move on in my life and live it another way. I thought that once a man touched me, I was done for life.
Now my children have grown up. My grandchildren have also grown up. I have never spoken the truth before this. I am choosing to tell my story now because I have a grown-up granddaughter who recently got married. She is the only girl child in our family and I did not sleep peacefully from the day she was born until the day she got married. I was at my wit's end, trying to make sure that I wouldn't fail her like I failed myself.
Today, I have the privilege of seeing my great-granddaughter. Since my granddaughter lives in the US, I came here at the end of her pregnancy. But because of the Corona Virus problem, I have not been able to return. I am not worried. I get to spend some more time with the little baby, and at my age, every minute with my loved ones count.
Working from home is not suiting my granddaughter and her husband. They are busy in their work, but they are still adjusting to being new parents. My granddaughter feels that she is doing most of the work and it is unfair. Two or three days ago, they both had a very bad fight. I hesitated to interfere, instead, I allowed her to come to me when she was a little more calm.
She told me how suffocating it is for her to be married to a man who doesn't help. She feels he is not behaving like a caring father. From where I stand, I can see that both the kids are equally confused and overwhelmed. They are looking to each other for support but are unable to find the proper words. And somehow, without meaning to, I told her the story of my marriage.Share this quote
I wanted her to learn the difference between a misunderstanding and a misery. And even if she had misery in her life, she could have a little happiness.
When I die, I will be happy that my life was filled with the love of my children, grandchildren, and this great-grandchild also. I don't think many people are as lucky as I am. But I will still be sad that the world has not become more favourable for women.
Yes, we have a lot of freedom. We can study whatever we want, work wherever we want, marry whomever we want. We can divorce and marry multiple times also. But it doesn't make much difference when we still don't have the right to be our natural selves.
While I teach my granddaughter that misunderstandings are normal and they are a part of marriage and parenting, I also want to tell all the other girls who are really suffering that-
You don't have to live the life you have right now. You are not stuck in it. Don't be foolish like me. Things might turn out okay in the end or not, but it is better to take risk when you are still young. Don't be afraid to fight. Don't be afraid to act selfishly. Fifty years ago, I did not have an option. But you do.Share this quote
I wish to thank my granddaughter from the bottom of my heart for accepting me. She helped me by telling my story and helping me with the publishing process. She is a strong girl and I wish she lives a long and happy life together with her husband and child.
Names and places have been changed to protect the author's identity.
This is not an easy time to be alive, and we're being forced to slow down. Many of us will be confronting things that we have been hiding for some time. You are not alone.
If your wish is to tell your story, it is our command to do justice to it. We are always listening.