DISCARDED TISSUE PAPER

When I found the love of my life, the rest of the world didn’t matter to me. He was my new found world. He was my present and my future. He added meaning to my life. Our hands together were enough to spin strands of gold for the path that lay before us.

And, he thought similarly too. For him, I was his queen – his friend, motivator, honest critic and an ever-loving wife. People held us as an exemplary couple. ‘A marriage made in heaven’ – said many. We soaked in all the compliments with wide smiles. Our loving bond strengthened by the day.

The gifts of this loving union are our two munchkins – yes, I still call them munchkins though both are in their twenties now. Our love for each other grew with every passing year that we spent with each other. We understood each other so well! And, we had made a pact with each other to agree to disagree. So . . . there weren’t intense quarrels between us. Of course, we argued in plenty – two different beings after all and numerous life situations to encounter! But, all our disagreements and arguments ended with one conceding to the other. Sometimes, it was me and at other times it was him.

Life moved on. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, passing away of loved ones, work stress, tantrums of children, low finances, fevers, pleading cries of the kids during immunization, mood swings of each other and not to mention the night snores (he snores a lot and I had such a difficult time putting up with it initially, though we laughed about it every other morning) – we dealt with all of these quite well.

Let me narrate a couple of episodes.

It was his father’s sixtieth birthday. We had arranged for a grand destination celebration. My father-in-law’s favorite color is yellow (I still remember). We had got the place all decorated in yellow – yellow flowers, yellow ribbons, yellow carpet (which was really hard to find), chairs draped in yellow covers and yellow tapestries. It was my idea. My father-in-law appreciated it so much that he went on talking about it for days together. He even went to the extent of dedicating a song for me that evening, the ever-loving daughter (yes, he never referred to me as daughter-in-law) that I was.

On another occasion, we had been to a New Year Eve’s party hosted by some of his friends and their spouses. We had been married for ten years by then. During a game of Truth and Dare, he was ‘dared’ to flirt with a ravishing lady in the crowd. He looked at me and then at the others and said, ‘I accept defeat. I admit . . . I’m not a daring person. Twenty four hours a day is still less to flirt with my girl’, as he put his hand over mine. I still remember the tender look in his eyes that evening. My blushing cheeks didn’t go unnoticed by those present around the table!

Those were the days in which he was slowly climbing up the career ladder. We had many sacrifices to make for each other and for the family. He always acknowledged how much I encouraged and supported him

I was twenty seven and he was a month more than twenty eight when we had married. Our munchkins opened their eyes in this planet at an interval of four years, two years after our marriage. Parenting wasn’t easy. It isn’t even now!! But, we both played our parts well, though his work didn’t give him the luxury to spend a lot of time with us.

As I juggled between work and family, his absence started to become quite conspicuous. We . . . talked about it. His answers didn’t satisfy me. But, I left it at that. Gradually, our monthly date nights became infrequent. Since I was overworked with job and family chores, I often lazed over the thought of dressing up and going out to parties. He dissented my disinterest. But then, he too wasn’t available when I had less work or was in the mood.

One night, our argument intensified. The words we hurled at each other weren’t pleasant. No abusive words were exchanged. No fist fights or throwing things around. But . . . suppressed expectations were expressed in enraged tones. For the first time in sixteen years of marriage, I slept with tears wetting my pillow. He didn’t put his arm around me as he always did  to pacify me when we went to bed after an argument.

I felt . . . something break within me. What I didn’t realise that night was that it was the beginning of the end! We lasted five more years. His constant neglect for me (though he continued to be a doting father whenever he did spare some time), broke me. I realised that I failed to attract him any more. Well, two child-births and the daily juggle between work and family had taken their tolls on my youthful looks. 

With his attention drifting away from me, I thought I was being unjust by being in his life. After all why would a man come home to a wife who interests him no more! He had reached the top of the career ladder by then. He was a successful man. And, he still looked young and attractive. ‘Maybe, that’s why he no longer likes me by his side,’ I thought. I was too pent up with unspoken emotions.

And then, one morning during one of our high-pitched arguments (which had begun to become frequent) he shouted out loud, ‘I am sick and tired of you.’ I was speechless. I felt the ground slip from beneath my feet as he voiced my apprehensions.

We finalized our separation two months after that.

I spent my fiftieth birthday with my children – my first birthday after our separation.

It has been four years since.

I have moved on. My children are my world now. It was difficult for them to understand and accept the separation. But, they have come to terms with it now.

He has moved on too. He has remarried. His wife (how much it aches my heart to call someone else as his wife is known to me alone) is young, beautiful and successful. Recently they celebrated their daughter’s first birthday. He had invited our children too. I encouraged them to go. They like visiting their father and paternal grandparents and I have never wanted them to cut off ties or harbour bitter feelings, though it still is a bit awkward.

I saw the photos and the videos of the celebration. His smile was just like the one he wore during the blissful years of our marriage. His father, now seventy six, hailed his wife as the best daughter (he didn’t address her as daughter-in-law just as he never addressed me that way).

They all looked happy. It was a normal family celebration. Nothing seemed amiss.

As I sit looking at the pictures controlling my tears from gushing out, I ask myself, ‘Did none of them miss me during the get-together? After all, I was a part of their lives for twenty one years – more than two decades! Is it that easy to forget someone who has been a part of your life – who has been a part of your laughter, tears, sicknesses, worries, failures and successes? ‘

I feel like the discarded tissue paper. We look for a clean fresh tissue paper to serve our needs. Once it gets soiled, we lose no time in discarding it. Do we ever remember that discarded tissue paper again?

Divorces and remarriages are rampantly becoming the norm not only in advanced cultures, but also in conservative societies. What was once looked at upon with raised eyebrows is widely encaptioned as a ‘laissez faire’ survival strategy. Though both the separated partners deal with their shares of emotional baggages, it is often more difficult for that partner who chooses not to get into another relationship after the separation. More often that not, it is the woman who gets to deal with the litany of emotions upswelling within her. This holds true for all classes of people – from glamorous movie stars to the middle-class homemakers. 

Relationships are delicate!  The next time you look at a discarded tissue paper, think of that deserted wife (or husband) who has been tossed into lonesome corners. Spare them a thought and instead of being judgemental, let your souls be sensitive to hear the imperceptible cries of such despondent hearts.

 

(Disclaimer: The narrative is based on those women who find themselves ‘unwanted’ after marital separation. This is neither a personal account nor based exclusively on any particular person’s experiences.)