TRANSITIONING FROM UNMARRIED TO MARRIED WOMEN

Marriage is a turning point for most people in their lives. No matter the reasons for marrying, its an event that leaves a mark and becomes a starting point for many subsequent events. Religious texts and rituals all across the world have spent much time and thought dictating how and why two people should marry. Biological reasons aside, when two people come together, they are expected to think or and maintain each other as one joint unit. It encourages togetherness, tolerance, an adjustment that paves the way to cooperating and adjusting in society. Our societies do not appreciate individualism or staying alone and it’s the reason why parents trouble themselves over their single children to the extent that they are willing to sell or buy happiness for them in the name of marriage. No matter what you may name it – happiness, a financial cushion, or gifts, this practice is called the dowry system and it’s prevalent in every culture.

Historically though, only one gender has been geared up since infancy to make marriage their whole-sole occupation in life – Females.

Take any patriarchal society in the past or even in the modern world, every one of them has treated daughters as only a means of securing a connection with a ‘good family’. The prospect of shouldering the burden of a girl’s marriage is so bothersome that girls have been either aborted, murdered in infancy or married off while they were still too young. Things may have changed some but till she is married, collecting a girl child’s dowry becomes her parents’ sole occupation. She thus becomes a ‘burden’.

This burden dictates how the girl is brought up even in her own family. It robs her of identity because she is being brought up only to take on the identity of another. It robs her of agency, her claims, her voice and the right to choose because she must only belong, first to her father then to her husband. She has rights neither here nor there. Because after all, she is a burden that must be pitched onto another set of shoulders in the end.

The transition from an unmarried to a married woman becomes the only occupation of a girl’s life. She is constantly bombarded by reminders that she must soon be married off. From the cradle up, she is taught, mostly by members of her own gender, that she must learn to detach herself from her identity, her roots, her history and adopt that of another family without any backlash. A young woman aspiring to marry into a ‘good family’ is expected to excel at managing a household, being servile, anticipating the needs of others and repressing her own desires.

How many of you women were subjected to this while you were growing up? –

Don’t raise your voice.

Don’t mingle with boys.

Don’t disrespect or object to your elders.

That’s not for you to think/decide.

Stay quiet.

Don’t protest.

Society is not the only culprit of a woman. Pop culture, media and literature like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Uttaran, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Hum Saath-Saath Hain, and many other examples exhorting the virtues of female sacrifice serve as reminders to young girls that their acceptance comes from their silence and sacrifice. Its what they are fed, morning, noon and night. Education and women empowerment have done little to efface these degrading practices because the idea of a woman being a slave to the family is deeply ingrained in our Indian ethos. Parvati, Sita, Kunti, Draupadi, Padmavati… there are too many examples to quote here of women who gave up their everything only to retain a place in history earned at the cost of self-effacement. This notion of a married woman being the epitome of self-sacrifice has become the ideal of the Indian Bahu. If she dares to want another identity than the one idolized by society, she is forced to change, shamed, shunned, divorced and called names.  

In the Indian context, the transition is defiantly skulking several centuries behind the present times. The most obvious change that comes in a woman’s life is changing her last name which is a practice observed worldwide. But in some communities in India, women are encouraged to change even their first names and it proves that our societies are not comfortable with the idea of a woman having her own identity.

The minute a girl is married she is required to bid adieu to her former way of living. Because for some reason it’s unacceptable for her new family to stomach the fact that she has a different way of dressing up, different ideas, her own preferences in food, movies, songs, clothing, ideals and philosophies. I wonder that if sameness is all that is expected out of a married woman, then why not practice inter-family marriages instead? That would ensure that the girls of the family remained and propelled the ideas and practices of the same family. There wouldn’t be an issue of painfully teaching the new bahu the ways of her new home. Right?

This isn’t an article approving incest or inter-family marriages. This is an article highlighting the unfair treatment of women who are forced to change their identities in the name of marriage.

I’m sure many women across the country have heard these barbs –

Your parents didn’t teach you even that?!

Bahus don’t laugh and cheer like that.

Change the way you dress up. Change the way you eat. Change your habits.

Change your company and don’t interact too much with your own family.

You can’t work after marriage. You’ll have to shift to our city/area. If you want to work, ensure that your chores are done before you go.

Why should we? What are you there for?

Who do you think you are without this family? Who do you think you are?

I’ve had to listen to ALL of the above. These are ALL my personal experiences. Surprised that an educated, forward-thinking, independent woman like me went through it? Like I mentioned above, education has done little to change the perception of women in this society. Education has become only an embellishment desired in an ideal bride. Often its women themselves who propagate the idea of being a slave to the married home and while out there, they might light candles and rave about unfair treatment of women, at home, they still want ideal bahus.

Some may argue that if women are trained for this transition since infancy, it should be easy to adapt to the married household. I’ll counter with a question –

“Can a plant from the tropics thrive in the tundra? Sure, it may survive; it must, because its being given the essentials to survive – earth, water, sun…but will it thrive?”

We’re kinder to the foliage we import from their exotic homelands. We create greenhouses, spend on keeping them moist and warm. We invest in the right potting mixes, worry about the soil being the right pH level. We’re kinder to the pets we adopt from other countries. The pet-food should be right, the water should have enough oxygen for the fish… the list goes on. And yet for a newly married woman, no one creates a greenhouse of her past life to ease her transition into the new one. The pag-phera ceremony, where a Hindu newly married girl goes back to her previous family, lasts only a day, after which she must come back to her new family. I did the same and did not see my family again for more than a year after that. Even when I did go back, I was told that I shouldn’t make the stay too long. I went only for ten days. So much for easing my transition!

I’ll pose a searing question to the families of the husbands now –

“When she came home, how long did you tolerate her ways of living before you or someone in your family told her to change them? Or did you do a barter – change this aspect of you and I’ll give you such and such thing or do so and so? Or did you allow her to keep her ways?”

This question will ruffle feathers. Some may even counter – we adopted her ways instead, or that, we gave her enough freedom. First of all, who are you to give someone their freedom or allow them to do something? That right must remain in their own hands. But I feel Democracy doesn’t apply to married Indian women. Some may have been generous in accepting their bahus’ ways, but I bet most didn’t. I wasn’t given much choice in whether I wanted to follow the customs of my husband’s family. I had to engage in practices I didn’t approve of. I had to teach myself to change or be quiet so I wouldn’t fan any fires. This isn’t an adjustment. This is coercion.

It is true that things have changed a lot for women. We have the vote now, a voice, we can dress up beyond ghoonghats and burkas. We can make choices in partners. We can choose to divorce, to work, to raise our children our way. But it is also true that while we can do all of the above, in many cases the choice is not in our hands. Or let me just put it this way, the circumstances surrounding us enable us to either make or drop the choice of making independent decisions. Often the choice is made for us and we are only to submit. If we assert independence, it’s not without resentment. Like I was asked, “who allowed you to study after marriage?” when I independently chose to pursue LLM post-marriage.

The message is clear – a woman’s choice shouldn’t be in her hands.

When I recall my own experiences, I am left with nothing but anger at how I was expected to change to fit into the lifestyle of my husband’s family. Subtle changes like changing when I used to wake-up or go to sleep, the kind of shows I must watch, the way I talked or laughed, how I dressed, preferring the company of certain type of people, chipped away at my own personality so much so that after a while, people I knew from my past life wondered why I had changed so much. The change may not have been expected overnight but it was definitely expected and while I did earn a lot of love and respect from my husband’s family, I often wonder if I received those only in barter for my willingness to change. I am left with a lifetime of bitter experiences that I wouldn’t want for my own or for anyone’s little girl.

While marriage is a transition that impacts both genders, it must be said that it impacts a woman more than it does a man. Would it be too hard on the ego of a husband’s family to let a woman be her own self while she becomes a loving, caring member for her new family? Would it be too hard to accept her family as part of your own? Why is it unconscionable for a woman to stick to her own ideas and philosophies in life, or to carve out her own path, or to be part of major decisions in a family, or to wear the pants in the family? Afterall, she is equally responsible for the well-being of the husband’s family, if not more.

Why must acceptance come at the cost of changing herself only for a woman?

If marriage is the merging of two families, let both families change to a better way of living, accept each other’s flaws and work around the differences to reach a consensus. While adjustment is a must in all relationships, setting limits on a human being is nothing but a form of slavery.

Coercion brings only a temporary change,

but it sows the seeds for a lifetime of resentment and hate.

Should that be the foundation of the family?

You decide.

ERUPT – XIV

Yes, I did just that but you know it had a manifold effect on Jay. He turned from riches to rags in no time. The humiliation he received on national television, the way the media stripped his character and the way he was kicked out by his own political party had a deep impact on him. He was nothing more than a wretched man. And you know there can never be a punishment bigger than having to plead and seek help and ask for forgiveness from someone who was once a puppet in your hands.” Reeta replied beaming with pride.

Do you mean you helped Jay? Are you still in contact with him?” Asked Nidhi with squinted eyes. There was a look of surprise on the face of everyone present in the room except Rex because he was aware of what Reeta had done really. He pitched in to explain to the audience.

Reeta not only forgive him but also gave him a new lease of life. After all that happened with Jay as an aftermath of Reeta unveiled the true face of his, he became very vulnerable. There was no place he could go and there was no alliance he could turn to. Everyone treated him like a piece of dirt. His political support was backed out, he did not receive any favors in cash or kind and soon he was left unemployed. He couldn’t come to terms with the turn of events and he took to alcohol. Needless to say he used to breathe, sleep and wear alcohol. Newspapers reported him to be found on streets of Mumbai in a semi conscious state because of over consumption of alcohol.”

Everyone in the room were listening to Rex’s narration intently.

Reeta chipped in and continued further. “One night Jay called me. He was under the influence of alcohol. He first started swearing at me and blamed me for his condition. Well, I was indeed responsible for it but I did not regret it even a bit. I was calmly hearing him out. Some how I was confident that he cannot harm me any further. He continued spitting venom for some more time and then suddenly be broke down. He started crying like a helpless child wandering on a lost road. He asked for my forgiveness. He said he wanted to change. He said he wanted to live a decent life again and asked if I could help him and suddenly he passed out. Having lived with this man for 15 years, I could sense that there was a streak of truth in what he just said. I used my contacts and networking and found out more about him. It turned out that he was actually telling the truth that day. So I decided to do my bit and got him admission to the rehab center so he has a shelter and gets a square meal a day and also frees himself from the shackles of alcoholism.

Slowly the crowd started clapping and applauding. A girl stood up and questioned Reeta, “What are you made up of ma’am! You have a heart of gold!”

Somewhere in Mumbai

Jay returned to his cottage after a hard day’s work. He cooked for himself a humble meal of daal rice. Ever since he returned from the rehab center he was a changed man. He lived a simple life. To earn a living he served at an old age home through the day. His routine would never deviate from his cottage and old age home and there was no element of any change or excitement what so ever. But today it was different. He couldn’t contain his excitement today because he had received a letter from Reeta in the morning. The chores at the old age home kept him so busy that he couldn’t even think of reading the letter then but now that he was home and done with dinner he couldn’t wait any more.

With trembling hands heart filled with love and respect he opened the letter…

Hi Jay,

Hope you are doing better now. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you as a changed man. I am proud of you Jay, it’s not easy to take the wrong path and find the right one again but you made it happen. I know your hands were trembling when you opened this letter and I know you will not sleep for nights together after you read this letter. I just know you well, after all, a woman knows her man like a sailor knows the sea!

Well, my secretary told me that you wanted to talk to me by meeting me in person. I am sorry Jay, I will not meet you. Not that I don’t have time but because I can’t spend even a second more with you than what I already have. I can read your mind Jay, I know you want to talk me in to getting back and starting a new life together but I am sorry Jay I can’t do that. That Reeta is dead long time ago. I am a fiercely independent woman now. The toughest time of my life curated me in to the best version of myself and I want the same should happen to you. Be the best version of yourself Jay, you don’t need anyone for that. There is a long way to go Jay. Continue to serve the elderly people and collect their blessings. That way you may feel little better from the torments of wrongs that you have committed. Apologies and regrets will fetch you nothing.

Stop thinking about how our life was together – good or bad. That is not going to help because now you are on your own. Think about how you want to channelize the energy and effort to make yourself competent enough to live rest of the life decently. Having said that, feel free to contact my organization for any kind of help if need be. We shall continue making fixed deposits in your name which you can redeem by presenting work certificate and salary slips. This will shield you from financial crisis if at all they arise in future.

Wishing you all the best.

Your’s truly,

Reeta
Founder of Shelter of Justice

 

THE END

ERUPT – XIII

Everyone in the hall were quiet and were listening attentively to Reeta when they were interrupted.

Ma’am, there’s a man who has come to meet you, but I asked him to wait outside in the waiting hall,” Ambika, Reeta’s secretary came to the meeting hall and informed her.

Does he have a name, Ambika?” Reeta asked with her eyes squinted.

Sorry Ma’am, his name is Rex, that’s what he said.” Ambika said.

Oh, Rex!” Reeta’s face lighted up as soon as she heard the name. She looked at the group of women she was talking to and said excitedly, “Speak of the devil and devil is here… You guys are so fortunate to meet the real man about whom I was telling you all… the man who rescued me when I was lying unconscious on the sea beach, you remember.” All the women giggled listening about the rescuer and were curious to see him as Reeta went out to meet and welcome Rex to the rehab room.

Reeta hugged Rex with joy of meeting him after so many years. It had been already 7 years from the time of their first meeting on the beach and after 5 years since they had met each other last. Reeta was always in touch with Rex as she had no one to support her. She struggled so much, running from pillar to post to stand on her feet. They could not speak much with each other at that particular time as Reeta was in her class with those victimized group of women who were rescued and given shelter at Shelter of Justice, an organisation founded and owned by her. 

All of them were eagerly waiting to listen to the latter part of Reeta’s story and to see Rex, a kind man, in their own eyes. Reeta walked in to the hall along with Rex introducing him while all others clapped and welcomed him. Rex acknowledged the respect he received and took his seat beside her as she started to speak.

Now I can continue with my life’s story while enjoying the presence of this great man. Guess what? I am feeling nervous now…” She said laughing while all others giggled as well.

Everyone’s eyes were fixed on Reeta as she went down her memory lane…

I was overwhelmed with emotions because of the life changing incidents that had been happening in my life for last couple of days. Though I heard Rex’s sorrowful stories,I had no patience to understand his pain at that particular time. But I was sure what I should be doing and what I was planning that night. I thanked Rex for everything that he had done for me and being my support for sometime and walked out of his house. Rex asked me to stay back at her place instead of going here and there at that hour of the night but I didn’t want that he should be attacked or harassed for my sake. That’s the reason why I just took his phone number before walking away from him. 

I didn’t know where to go as I was walking on the sands in the darkness while the moon beam shined over me with the silent sea seeming to be apathetic towards my plight. Tears were rolling down my cheeks as I walked as if there was no strength in my feet but I just dragged them to move ahead to an aimless journey of my life. I had a bag and some money with me which I had arranged before walking out of the house The Kapoor Mansion forever.  

Reeta was in tears and wiping it while narrating her condition of that dreadful night. The women surrounding her were in tears too. Rex was quiet and was happy to see a new Reeta in front of him who had grown up to be a leader and rescuer herself. 

Reeta gathered herself again to tell the tale further…

That night I went straight to the train station and took a train for Kolkata, knowing that it would be a cheaper place to live in and far away from the reach of that monster. If he was in the west, I was heading towards the east. It was a mindset that I will simply go in the opposite direction from him. My life in Kolkata was never safe even if I came here far from and on the opposite direction of where Jay was but I had that wish to fight and stand on my own to show to the world around me that, ‘No one can oppress me, living with dignity is my right as it is for any other human created by the same God.’ 

I had been mistreated, misbehaved with, misinterpreted, misunderstood yet no one could suppress me or oppress me anymore. It was this man, Rex, who never left me… He used to call me twice a day, once in the morning when I used to go out searching for a job or earning and once in the night before I sleep. I started working in different houses as a babysitter. That was the safest work that I found at that particular time as I needed a place to stay as well instead of on the road along with the street beggars. I helped everyone that I met on my way, who were oppressed and suppressed by others and I kept making friends along the way. 

I started teaching the kids on the street while I babysat and soon drew attention of those who were sold out for these causes. I was appointed as a social worker as I had my education backing me. And this man was the happiest when I told him that I got a job, a respectful job. 

Reeta smiled looking at Rex as he bowed his head down, acknowledging her praises. 

And here, you all see me, your Reeta… Reeta Didi, Reeta Ma’am whatever you call me today. I could found this shelter because of this friend of mine who gave me shelter seven years ago amidst all the odds. Do you all know? This man was harassed even after I took the precaution of not being associated with him. That monster, Jay, forced him and humiliated him to know where I have gone. He tolerated everything for me as a good friend and didn’t open his mouth.” Reeta spoke while clasping her hand with Rex’s with gratitude. 

That day’s talk was about to be over with Reeta’s long and dreadful story. The women were so encouraged to hear her story. Rex was happy to see that vulnerable woman lying on the beach whom he rescued once, is a powerhouse now for all others. But there was one young girl who was raped by her colleagues who was not looking very happy and satisfied. Although all of them were still more or less in traumatic state and trying to recover slowly.

What happened dear Nidhi? Do you need anything my child?” Reeta asked looking at her attentively.

How could you just leave that monster to live so happily? You left him by just ruining his career? Did he deserve only that much, not more than that?” Nidhi responded posing these questions.

Reeta smiled looking at her, she could understand the cause of Nidhi’s anger for Jay, for all those monsters. And it was her responsibility to make the young mind understand how to deal with those emotions…

ERUPT – XII

“Wh . . . What are you doing here and at this time?,” blurted out Rex with a bewildered voice as he opened the door for Reeta to step in. He hadn’t imagined in his wildest dreams to see her again in his cottage. As she stepped in, he peeped out behind her to make sure she hadn’t got any reporters with her.

“I came to thank you,” said Reeta with a crisp voice, devoid of any emotion. “I can see that just like everyone else, you have watched it too,” she continued to say glancing towards the television which was still ON.

“I’ll fix you some coffee. Please have a seat and make yourself comfortable,” said Rex showing his hand towards the same chairs where she had sat watching the waves and sipping ginger tea, the day he had brought her to his cottage first.

As Rex proceeded to his coffee maker, he couldn’t make much sense of Reeta’s visit.

‘After all that she has told the public, she probably can’t ever go back to her house. Does she want shelter here? I have to be careful. These high profile people can change colours any time. Or is she here to make me fall for her? She has an emotional vaccuum within her now and after all that she has told about feeling safe here, she may be looking to win my sympathy. Help me God! What do I do? How can I be of help to her without inviting trouble for myself?,’ Rex muttered to himself as he fixed two cups of coffee.

The sea was calm that night, symbolizing the uncanny calmness that Reeta felt within her. She sat in the same chair. But, there was no view of the sea as it was a dark moonless night. Two days before, she had been in the same place. The sea was rough and noisy then, and so was her heart within. Her life had seemed to be crashing again and again as were the waves on the shore that day. Today however, everything was different. The sea was calm and so was her heart within. Probably, the sea was acknowledging her feelings and reflecting them.

“Here you go, Reeta, if I may call you so, now that I know your name,” said Rex with a wink placing a tall mug of coffee before her. “By the way, you said some good things about me while answering to that reporter. I appreciate your kind words. Umm…mmm…let me share a slice of my life with you,” he continued without giving her any opportunity to speak. He was determined not to give any space for her to leap into his life.

“You know why I picked you up from the sandy beach that night? Well, of course, you know! I had told you,” said Rex with a laugh and a wave of his hand as emotions visibly swelled within him. “But, there’s more to it. Fifteen years ago, my sister . . . my only sweet younger sister . . . was swept away by the waves into the bottomless sea. It was a winter afternoon and she was lying lazily on the sea beach when a huge sudden wave swept across and pulled her in, along with the flow of current. No one could save her. It happened so quickly. I was right here inside this cottage and ran out on hearing the cries of people only to find her scarf nestled on a nearby rock. There was no sight of her. Perhaps, the scarf was her good-bye gift to me!,” sighed Rex wiping off the tears that streamed down his cheeks.

“Her name was Riva. She was twenty, then. And when I saw you that morning lying unguarded and unconscious, I felt a compelling urge not to let some sudden wave sweep you off without your knowledge. Another brother should not lose a sister, was what occurred to my mind instantly,” said Rex raising his voice suddenly.

“Of course, I don’t know if you have a brother. But if you have, I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you alive,” said Rex blowing his nose into a tissue.

Reeta sat motionless letting every word of Rex sink in. She had finished her coffee and had placed the cup on the table, this time carefully. Rex’s words seemed like a fairy tale to her. She had never witnessed such love, an orphan that she was!

“Remember, the mug that crashed to pieces that day when you were here?,” asked Rex with a sudden tinkle in his voice. “That belonged to Mary, my late wife. A pretty petite cheerful woman she was! We were married for twelve wonderful years. Three years back she developed a rare skin infection. I never thought a skin infection could take life. But, it did. It has been two years since my Mary left me. I loved Mary and so it never occurred to me to look at you with lust when I held you in my arms and brought you in, even though you were unaware of yourself that day. I have sealed my loyalty to Mary before God and that holds true to me to this day, even with her being gone to a land of no-return,” said Rex with sadness in his voice.

“Mary and I used to sit by the window and sip hot chocolate every evening. That mug reminded me of Mary’s presence in my life. When that mug crashed, I felt that I had failed her. I could do nothing to save her from death. And, I could do nothing to prevent her memory from crashing. But, don’t be mistaken. I haven’t pushed her away from me,” Rex got up from the chair saying this and went to the kitchen. He pulled open a drawer and took out a clear bag from it. He went to Reeta and held it up for her to see.

There was that golden mug, broken, but neatly joined together with the cracks clearly visible!

 

ERUPT – XI

Reeta turned baffled. She was face to face with a woman of her age who was saying something that Reeta couldn’t hear in all the noise around her. She was scared that this woman was a worker for her husband’s political party and experienced a fight or flight moment. The lady could see the uncertainty in Reeta’s eyes and immediately showed her the ID around her neck. Reeta read it “Meenakshi Maan, Reporter and Journalist, Satyamev Jayate News”. Reeta let out a breath she didn’t even know she was holding.

Meenakshi held Reeta’s hand and took her away from the crowd, Reeta allowed herself to be steered, but her eyes were searching for Rex, still doubtful of his presence here. Meenakshi took Reeta to her car, and they both sat inside while Meenakshi drove her to a more deserted street and parked there.

She turned to Reeta, “Hello Ma’am, I am Meenakshi, I mean you no harm, in fact, I wanna help you but first you need to help me.”

Reeta gave her a perplexed look, “What can I do for you? Don’t you know I am mentally unstable!” She said the latter sentence with some bitterness.

“Ma’am we know how the media is portraying your image, and that is why I am here, I want people to see the truth, the whole truth, not just your hubby’s version or people’s viewpoint but your testimony too,” Meenakshi said in an empathetic voice.

“And why should I trust the media with my side of the story when they are the ones to assassinate my character and are all under the influence of my husband’s mighty shadow?” She confronted, Meenakshi gave her an apologetic look.

“Ma’am you can either choose to trust me or choose to send me away, but I promise you whatever you tell me will reach the people word to word. I am a woman too, and I believe there’s more to this episode than what has been told. Let truth reach out, talk to me as a friend, and if you don’t want me to tell another soul, I won’t.” Meenakshi said earnestly, and something in her tone was sincere enough for Reeta to believe her.

She let out a long breath and nodded, “Alright, I will tell you everything, but it shouldn’t be doctored.” Meenakshi nodded and drove Reeta to her studio.

Reeta was sitting in front of the camera, the crew had prepped her up, and she decided to go for it. Meenakshi sat in the chair opposite her, holding her hand, “Once the camera is rolling, you just need to answer my questions and think nothing else.” She said, and Reeta nodded.

She knew what she was going to say would be all over the news like wildfire by the evening and by tomorrow, Jay’s career as a politician would be finished. She asked herself if she was regretting her decision and the voice in her said ‘NO’. She has been silent for entirely too long, it was high time she spoke the truth, or it will suffocate her. Her inner self questioned her if this was her revenge on Jay, and the answer once again was ‘NO’. She was doing this to salvage her soul and body from his abuse.

That night Rex was sitting in front of his TV, watching the breaking news that had been on reruns for hours now, it was the only talk on every channel.

The lady he rescued at the beach had answered all his questions; she had vindicated herself. He was seeing it for the umpteenth time.

Meenakshi: Mrs Reeta Kapoor would you like to tell us about the events of the night you went missing from your home and rescued from a beach house?

Reeta: I wasn’t missing; I left home intentionally. I couldn’t take it anymore, it was suffocating me, and I needed to vent. Neither was I rescued from the beach house; I was safer there than my home, I was taken from there by force.

Meenakshi: What was suffocating you? What made you feel unsafe in your own home?

Reeta: I have been a victim. A victim of physical, mental and emotional abuse. And my tormentor was none other than my husband. I have been tolerating everything silently for years, but that night it just got too much for me, and I decided to leave.

Meenakshi: Are you saying that the soon to be Health Minister Jay Kapoor has been torturing you for years. These are grave accusations.

Reeta: Not just me, he has been unfair to his own country, his people, his values. He has been involved in several scams and crimes I know off. That is one of the reasons he wants people to think I am insane so that no one would believe me.

Meenakshi: Could you be more specific about the nature of these crimes and scams?

Reeta told her everything, everything she said was being telecasted.

Rex knew Jay Kapoor was finished. He looked at the screen, at the woman who was in shambles when he met her. She was showing great strength of character to say those things on television. She had risked everything, her marriage, her safety, her reputation and her character.

Meenakshi: One last question. You were taken from a beach house, and people are saying colourful things about you and the man over there. Would you shed some light on his identity?

Rex saw Reeta look up; he could see her struggling.

Reeta: I met the man the first time that day. He was kind and helpful and took me in as a gesture of humanity. I was passed out on the beach from where he rescued me and took care of me. I know his name, but I won’t tell the world about him. The only thing people need to know is that in a few hours I spent at his place, I came to see a real man for the first time in my life. I wish, I so want Jay had been the man I always wanted him to be, but even so, the thought of cheating on him never came to my mind.

With these words, the interview ended, and the reporter came on the screen with several known faces for a debate.

“Can I get a cup of coffee, please?” Rex heard a voice and spun on the spot. It was Reeta standing on his doorstep, looking tired and forlorn. He opened the grill, and she stepped in.

ERUPT -X

Rex is really disturbed. He is tossing and turning on the bed. All he could hear is Reeta screaming while in the car. As such, what ever was coming in the media did not sound true. Ever since Reeta left, he is unable to take his mid of her. He switched on the Television and there she is all over the news. He didn’t know how to get in touch with Reeta. “It was my fault. I shouldn’t have called the police”, he thought to himself. He got out of the bed, took his car keys and started driving towards the city.

Reeta is furious and cursed herself for grabbing all the attention of the media. She was angry on Jay and is not at all willing to succumb to the pressure Jay is creating. “Does he think he can do whatever he wants? Never I am going to let that happen. Enough is enough, he needs to learn a lesson”, she thought to herself. She came up with a plan and seemed confident about it. In the morning, she had her breakfast along with Jay and she waited for him to leave. Jay is going to attend a pre-scheduled live Q&A session in the afternoon with reporters today. Supposedly this is about his win in the election and the future agenda.  As she saw Jay’s car departing out of the gate, she slipped out of the back entry without the guards noticing her.

She dressed up in a saree and used a scarf to cover her face. She had no money in hand, so the only way now she is left with is to walk all the way to the destination. She saw a police van approaching at a distance and her heart raced at the highest possible rate. She tried to stay calm. Slowly and steadily she kept moving ahead without them noticing her. The sun was harsh and the sweat rolling on her skin is aggravating the pain from the bruises. She literally had tears in her eyes and suddenly she felt as if she has no strength. She rested for a while and continued her walk. After four hours she is where she is wanted to be.

There were a lot of reporters waiting outside and some common people awaiting the entry. She cross checked all the security around and realized there is an area designated for citizens who came to witness the session. She sneaked through the security and entered the event area. The session is going to start in an hour. Everyone are waiting for Jay to arrive. As the convoy was entering the exhibition ground, people started to yell, clap and scream for him. There he was, Jay, stepping out of his car. As he was walking towards the crowd, he approached the place where citizens were standing and is waving hand at them. He had brief conversations with few of them and moved towards the dais.

Once, Jay was on the dais, his followers honored him with a big garland. Reeta really could not understand how blindfolded his followers are. She is mentally prepared for consequences and is waiting for an opportunity. Reporters started firing questions on the political front. Jay was happy that people grew over what happened yesterday night and thanked God for not allowing what his stupid wife did alter his career. He felt a little relieved with how people are receiving him. While he was answering those questions, Jay noticed something unusual in the crowd.  He had an unsettling feeling about what he just saw. He was scared if she was really here, what could happen. He hurriedly called one of his assistants, and asked him to check if Reeta is at home. The assistant made a call and confirmed that she is at home. (Reeta informed the maid that she wants to rest and not disturb her. Clever..) 

Reeta was in the crowd unaware of all these. She is slowly moving ahead towards the dais. People were moving haphazardly shouting out slogans. She also started saying those slogans drifting in the crowd. As she was approaching one of the reporters, she saw Rex. He was talking to another reporter. Reeta was puzzled with what Rex must be upto. Several questions were lingering in her mind – Has Rex joined hands with Jay? Is he plotting against her? Were Jay and Rex working together. Is that why Rex handed over her to the police? and so on.. She was totally confused. She turned around, starting walking away from the crowd. She needed a minute to sync in and then proceed with her plan.

As she was walking, a hand landed on her shoulder…  

ERUPT -IX

Jay stormed into the room. He was mad with anger. 

Reeta looked at him calmly. Strangely enough she could not find any emotions in herself. She was like a dead body incapable of feeling anything. 

And her dead pan expression enraged Jay even further. He was used to seeing fear in her eyes. It was like he was seeing a new Reeta. 

Stupid woman! You wretched, good for nothing woman… What were you thinking? Trying to sabotage my career at this stage. Never given me an ounce of pleasure. Always brought misfortunes in my life. Where were you the whole night? Do you have no shame? If you were not worried about your reputation at least you should have remembered whom you were married to…”  He shouted at her.

That’s exactly what I was trying to forget…” Retorted Reeta.

Upon hearing this an irate Jay lifted his hand and slapped Reeta hard on her cheek. She fell over backwards but this did not stop her from speaking her mind. “Yes” she said “I wanted to forget all about you I wanted to run away from you. I feel suffocated here. I can’t breathe. I want to leave.”

Oh! so now this is a new drama you have started. You want to leave is it? And go where? Remember I am the only one you have.” Jay curled his lips derisively. “You are my property… remember I will not let you go anywhere… You are my wife and you will stay by my side and show the world how happy we are together.” He took a step towards her and caught hold of her wrist, pulled her towards him. With his face inches away from her face he hissed menacingly “Believe me I will make you do this even if I have to kill you for it“. He loved the look of terror in her eyes. This is what he wanted to see. 

With his ego placated a bit, he flung her wrist, turned and walked out of the room. 

Reeta was left behind nursing the bruises on her face and wrist. Even tears had dried up in her eyes now. But the frustration made her cry out loud. She wailed and screamed into her pillow. Punched the pillow, threw the bedside lamp on the floor. But that rage just did not subside. She just didn’t want to give in today. Like she had been doing for past so many years. Things were not always like this. She had come into Jay’s life as a starry eyed bride and he too behaved like a loving husband. Things started changing when he started rising in his political career. She came to know about a wholly different side of his character. One who was capable of taking bribes and following other corrupt practices. When she objected to any of it the domestic violence started  supposedly to put her in her place. The rift widened when they realised that they could not have any children. She went through a lot of treatment and many IVF cycles but they were not blessed with a child. After that she became totally worthless to him. She became only the good looking trophy wife which he could flaunt in his political circles and a great body to satisfy his physical needs. 

There was absolutely no emotional bond left between them still she was carrying the burden of this marriage because she knew no other way of living life. With no family to fall back on she didn’t know whom to go to for support or help. 

But the final nail in the coffin was when she heard about his affair with a much younger girl. She was shattered. She felt like a tissue paper which he used and threw away without much thought. 

She felt no bond with him anymore but still he had control over her emotions. He could still instill fear in her. She hated the fact that he could still manipulate her. 

I really need to get away from him before he completely destroys me.” This thought crossed her mind again. She started obsessively thinking about it. “Of course I can’t be as reckless as I was yesterday. I need to plan.”

I will need help.” She knew she couldn’t get help from her current set of friends or acquaintances. They were all too enamoured by Jay and his greatness. They wouldn’t understand. As such the newspapers are out to label her as a mental case. “Who else then?” She thought.  “What about that guy with the car?” “Naah… He was eyeing me throughout the night and was too young to help me out… Anyways I wouldn’t know how to contact him and after what I did to his car I am sure he would run far away from me.” She laughed at that memory and then winced when the bruise on her cheek pained. 

Rex!” The name popped in her mind. “He seemed like a good guy… But he called the police and helped me back to this hell… Will he help…?”