Six years post my divorce, I was recovering from a surgery and was finding a new job. That was my first brush with him. At my age, online dating can be a bit waggish, but the process was similar. The profile was highly impressive, he was the Director of a German Multinational company, though I missed the subtle indication on his Facebook page that said 'Interested in Women'.
“You look beautiful and your good looks are enough for marketing,” he said. The warning bells were clear and I understood them well. I refuted “If it’s about looks then I am not interested”. It’s been eleven years since I am single, mother to a nine-year-old daughter. I've undergone three surgeries, battled a divorce, no alimony, lost my mother, handled numerous hospitalizations, office deadlines, and I'm achingly lonely. My mother always said that I would be a queen to some king, I was 20 when I came to Mumbai with a job and the transition from a small town where I grew up to a mega-city wasn’t easy.
Always cocooned under my mother's protective eyes, I was now under the protective glare of my aunt in her small apartment.
I pined for the freedom I enjoyed once, my books, my dance recitals, my schoolmates- I felt like a dog in chains. At 21, I met the king I dreamt of, we got married and I was forced to change my religion. I went against my parents' wishes. He was unstable, though he never acknowledged it. I bore the brunt of his mood swings. During his bright days, I was showered with sex, and in those dark days, he would go silent and the four walls were witness to my silent screams. The shackles were back, I was the dog with a chain.
Societal norms came to picture- I tried to keep my marriage intact but it didn’t work. At 30, I decided to end it, thinking of my daughter;s future. I could not give her a ruined childhood. I was black and blue on the inside, a brand new solo parent with a toddler and ailing parents, I needed to host the show. There were days I would sulk, see others laugh and wondered how they could be happy when I am not. Am I abnormal, why did I feel like crying? The mundane office work, regular commute, tending to my ailing parents and the little daughter, I was tired, I wanted freedom, I wanted to be a queen. But to the world, I looked like a perfectly sexy woman. I was a strong woman out on a mission to set an example to every single mother.
My daughter turned nine when this new man entered my life online. In need of a job, we exchanged our numbers when he started sending jokes which you normally sent to someone very intimate. I stalked his Facebook profile and it was an outright rejection by me for several reasons- he looked superannuated, features were blunt, he was nowhere a king, the pot belly reminded me of a traffic cop who always had an expanded waistline struggling to keep his pants, standing in front of a traffic signal with a weird whistle in his mouth while our school bus crossed. The most crucial thing I missed were the several w***es in his list of friends. His jokes kept coming and I might have sent one or two silly jokes on husband-wife nuances. It was his birthday, I called him to wish. He proposed me to start a relationship with him.
He was pretty blunt in admitting his several escapades with all categories of women including sex workers, desperate housewives, domestic help, and he said it’s quite natural for a single man and it’s no crime.
He spoke about how watching porn turns him on and also enquired if I have watched any. A typical social media wizard could have understood the bait, but for me, that was pretty impressive, no one can open up to a stranger so openly in one day. That’s courage, I thought, and my chest doubled thinking he might be the King I looked for.
He also spouted that he could teach me how to orgasm, but that joy of finding my king and settling down was my first priority rather than sex. He said he was divorced for 20 years, no kids; he blamed his wife for it but also said they were in touch and were on good terms. He asked about my statistics, I shied away, he spoke about my looks, I made a quick peep at the mirror and then felt satisfied that I do look good- even at this age, I am sizzling. I felt like a teen, suddenly in love with a man double my age, who spoke openly about sex and without remorse admitted getting flashbacks of those women he bedded, but he shrugged those memories away.
The very next day I called him and blurted that I was ready for a marriage. It sounded like a broken gramophone, somewhat similar to a cacophony which he had heard before. My first brush with his temper and his unstable mind was when I made a few calls and texts which went unanswered, and when I demanded a reply, it was loud enough to scare a Hindi movie villain. Like a dunce, I called up again and this time, he slammed the phone on my face. I may have looked barmy since my daughter yelled when she saw me crying, “What’s up mummy?” she asked, “All okay dear,” I replied, though I suffered a major setback.
The online abuse continued- when he needed to sext, he texted me, else, he wouldn’t entertain me. And like an idiot, I dreamt of traveling the globe with him. He spoke of his travels and visits to sex workers during his trips abroad, and I was playing a martyr ready to sacrifice my youth for his pervert urges. He might have confused me with a donkey out of an asylum, else how would an engineer and a mother be so stupid? He asked for my private pictures and also advertised his graphics which were all equivalent to Lucky Santangelo of Collins' novels.
Initially, I was in denial, but to keep him from going to sex workers I gradually grew bolder, he was abroad when I sent my first picture to him. I received applause, and back in India, I felt like a whore. There were several episodes of clicking pictures and sending them to him, and he said he masturbated to them, and I indeed had lovely ones, I was a sexy woman that a man could fantasize about but not love. In exchange, I asked for his pictures, though I saw him on Facebook. When he sent his pictures, he looked like an ancient fossil, but I found him as good as Shahrukh Khan.
He broke up with me several times in between, abusing me online with colourful language. But he always returned and I welcomed him wholeheartedly, my vocabulary was full of squalid adjectives which he taught me and when I didn’t understand those terms, he asked me to google it.
Nothing was right at the home front, my daughter was ignored, my father suffered but I was like a wildcat. He was in no rush to meet me but after my pestering, he did give me time for an evening in a hotel room, as he was convinced that I had passed all his tests. I was unsure myself if this relationship was actually going to work, but by that time, I had been a receptor of Stockholm syndrome where the victim supports the abuser. Once abused by my husband, this abuse was good enough not to be bad.
I was ready to be humped on the first day, no tea, no coffee, but the bed. On that special day, there was a text from him, “Get in the mood girl, the D-day has arrived”. We met in the lobby. There was nothing remarkable about his looks, he looked like my grandfather. In the room, he was in a rush to strip, and I struggled. There was a repulsive stench in his mouth but it smelt like Firangipani to me. I had stripped myself in my pictures, but my resistance now angered him to such an extent he gave me two choices - either strip or leave, 30 seconds to take the decision. Within 15 seconds, he stripped me and so did he and I found he had actually faked the advertisements on his graphics, he was erectile defunct too, but it didn’t matter to me, I didn’t go for sex. I looked for love which he wasn’t capable of giving.
He justified his nonperformance saying he hadn't had sex since two years. The nonperforming session lasted for 5 hours, I suggested a marriage, and he slept off, and as a parting gift, he handed me some chocolates for my daughter. I was unaware that he was breaking up with me. I returned home quite unsure if he would answer my calls the next day. As usual, he didn’t. I wrote and wrote and then he snapped and labeled me a “Foolish Idle Joker”, called me, thundered and said he didn’t wish to see me again, and this was the final break-up. We had nothing in common. I cried, I begged, my balance on my phone got over, I had to borrow from a stranger to call him but he broke off; it didn’t go well with me. It was just a one night stand, one evening rather. By that time, the depression had taken over, I lost sleep, I lost appetite, at work I looked like a roadside beggar. While for him, I was just another woman whom he had destroyed in the past, except for the sex workers.
He now had a handful of all my pictures, my erotic essays, poems on which he said he wanked, my stories of a broken marriage and how he was indeed successful in overpowering yet another prey like me. He had earlier told me that all those other women wanted to marry him, he just felt weird about it. Why, was something wrong with him? Yes, indeed something was wrong, though he didn’t understand it. He never felt connected to himself, how would he feel connected to others? He was incapable of loving since he knew only lust, he knew to rob a woman’s dignity, he knew to push a woman to the verge of mental breakdown. He was a selfish person with a pervert and unstable mind, who didn’t love himself, forget to be able to love a woman. God had even denied him the privilege of being a father, he revealed in the hotel room, saying we would not need a condom as he had low sperm count.
With everything robbed, I tried to kill myself, woke up in the hospital bed after gulping 30 sleeping pills, landed up at my therapist’s door forgetting the count of days, shedding bitter tears, showing her my clicked pictures, in the turmoil, had a brush with another man who started stalking me and represented the same thoughts the above man did.
My therapist listened to all my narrations, I screamed, I howled, I banged my head; she replied “Were you happy in the relationship? Did he push you to meet him? Aren’t you an adult? You played with fire and now that you have burnt your fingers, you shed tears; lady, wasn't the indication in bold red to you? You searched for love in someone who was incapable, who looked for a one night stand, for a relationship with no strings attached as he had done earlier, he kept you discreet and you agreed, so why blame him? Take responsibility for the damage on yourself, do not blame him and don't seek revenge either, you aren’t God. Only a criminal mind can understand another; and also know he was unstable, unpredictable, physically damaged, while you are fully capable, so the problem was with him not you, you need not forget him- just learn the lesson he taught you, stop knocking the wrong doors. Each person leaves a mark on your life, so just know this man left this lifetime's lesson for you”.
I thought about it, I wasn’t happy with the relationship, he was double my age, he was a sex addict which I understood but it was oblivious, it was only in my imagination that I made him my king and dreamt of being a queen of his ruined kingdom. I used to get bouts of anxiety attacks thinking of his reactions, I felt miserable stripping myself and clicking my pictures, I went into depression, so these were my gifts for knocking on the wrong door.
I became reckless when I caught hold of a narration resonating mine. I stalked her, in deep desperation wrote to her, exchanged emails. But finding myself overnight was not easy, in that recovery phase committed several mistakes, burned bridges, faced insults and to recover- it would take another decade and years of mistakes.
I am not done with my mistakes yet, but I am starkly aware of who I was, what I have become, and what I stand for. Now, I’ve become is a storyteller, one that had to become fearless and unapologetic in telling her own tale, one whose vocabulary is full of squalid adjectives she never knew.