Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Life beyond marriage

As the eldest of four siblings and the only daughter, I grew up like a tomboy. I played kabbadi, loved cycling, and was quite mischievous growing up. But when I was 18, I couldn’t escape the path laid out for girls in our community. A proposal had come in and Appa knew the family. He was their financial advisor. It was all decided. They asked me to continue my education through correspondence. That was that. We got married in June 1990.

I soon realised there was problems under the surface. His father wanted us to live alone and wasn’t willing to support his son. Everyone in my husband’s family turned against him. It was around then that I became pregnant with my first child. I dropped out of the BCom course I had enrolled in.

It was October 1990. With my father’s guidance and support, I pledged my jewellery, ignored my father-in-law’s instructions to give him the money, and helped my husband start up a ‘papad’ business.  Seeing our success, my in-laws patched up, but when I went to deliver my baby, they convinced him to write off the business to them saying the baby girl would bring him bad luck. Six months and many hours of fighting later, we got the business back in July 1992. We broke even as Butterfly Appalams in 1993, the same year I delivered our second daughter.

In 1996, my in-laws began looking for another girl for my husband, a girl who could give him a son. It only got worse after the birth of our third daughter. My husband had started drinking and seeing other women. When I told my in-laws about his affairs, they laughed. He was a man and could do as he pleased, especially since I could not give him a baby boy.

In 2000, our fourth child was born; a boy. There was celebration in the house, and my father-in-law even distributed a bottle of imported liquor to every house in our village.  

In 2003, after I refused to ask my father for a portion of his wealth, my in-laws came home and told my eldest daughter that she was meant to marry her cousin. She was 13, he was 20. I revolted. They put her under house arrest. I sent a note to the school principal who informed the police. A complaint was launched against my husband and in-laws. They beat me black and blue, and threw me out of the house. My two-and-a-half year old son was a witness. Police thought I fell down the stairs but my son told them that Appa beat Amma. A complaint was filed. I moved with my kids to my parents’ house. I couldn’t walk for a year and a half.

In 2004, I filed for divorce. It was 2007 before I finally got it. I began working to support my family and we were at peace, even though my ex-husband would occasionally threaten the kids. With his parents facing a legal battle and the business collapsing, he was a mess. He’d follow me to work and create a ruckus. I shifted four houses to throw him off.

In 2011, he came and asked for a compromise. He wanted me to withdraw the dowry harassment case. My children convinced me to give our marriage a second chance and we began staying together. The first month was good but slowly, things began deteriorating. I also began to notice he was sick. His blood test came back HIV+ and we started staying separately. 

On February 9th 2012, he suddenly came home drunk. He said he was hungry and I agreed to cook for him. He said it wasn’t that hunger and tugged at my sari. I was terrified. I screamed. My second daughter came to my aid. He said if I wasn’t going to join him, she’d have to. He pulled her dupatta, took her into a room, and began molesting her. I don’t know what came over me. I grabbed my son’s bat, broke open a window, and hit the man until he let go of my daughter. Until he stopped moving. I was contemplating suicide and when the cops came, I didn’t know what to say. 

The case was booked under Section 302. After investigation for the first time in Tamil Nadu, Section 100 was invoked. As per the law, if the death is caused because of ‘private defence’ to prevent or escape rape or murder, it is not tried as murder. I had received a new lease of life. 

I had supported my husband irrespective of his behaviour because as women we are always told to adjust. But in 2012 when he tried to rape my daughter, I didn't hesitate to protect her over him. 
Women should not endure alcoholic abuse. They should not adjust with a bad marriage. They should stand up for themselves. There is a life beyond marriage where every one can realise their dreams.

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