A life full of promises
I come from a middle-class family with modern values. My parents raised me and my sister as proud, confident, independent and strong women. By 25, I was working with a private firm and earning well as a designer. My sister too was doing well in the aviation sector. We followed the paths of our choice without any fear or judgment. I was full of hope for my future and enjoyed life until I got married at 27. Then my life suddenly turned for the worse.
A perfect start (to a nightmare)
I got married to Gaurang – a businessman from Delhi. It was an arranged wedding after a courtship period of three months. Though he was possessive and used to suspect me during our courtship, I took that as a sign of his love for me! I felt I had met the man of my dreams. Well, he does still show up in my dreams but those are nightmares! Here is why.
Though Gaurang seemed perfect in the beginning, he started to gradually exert control over every aspect of my life. He would decide what I would wear, who I would meet, when I would see my parents and what I would do. Initially, I felt he was doing all this to establish his love for me. But I soon realised that my life, which was once carefree and fun – I now spent every moment of it worrying about what Gaurang would say or do next. I felt like a prisoner in my own home. Gaurang also extended his control over my finances. I was earning very well before my marriage. He asked me to leave my job and live a life of an aagayakari bahu. He now totally ran my life and I was on my toes all the time.
Physical and sexual abuse
Though Gaurang never actually hit me, his behavior left me constantly on the edge. When agitated with something, he would push me, pull my hair, hold my neck by his nails, hold my wrist tightly, throw things at me, call me stupid names and also leave no chance to humiliate me in front of his family and servants.
He constantly demanded that I have sex with him to prove my love for him. I now realise that even though we got pretty intimate very soon that I never enjoyed being physical with him. We talked about having kids but that was not on my mind in the first year of marriage. One night, he wanted to make love and I asked him to put on a condom. He refused because he wanted me to get pregnant. I told him to stop but he wouldn’t. So, I pushed him away but he pushed me back and pinned me down with his body. He bit on my shoulder. It hurt and I started crying. He felt sorry and said that he did not want to hurt me. Before I could heave a sigh of relief, he asked me to do the same to him – bite his shoulder too, so that he could face the same pain.
When I refused, I was shocked to see what he did next. He started hitting his head on the wall and said, ‘Maine tumhe dard diya, ab tum mujhe dard do warna main apna sar diwaar pe tab tak marunga jab tak blood na nikal jaye’. I felt really scared and helpless but was not sure who I could share my plight with.
Driven to depression
I felt depressed and started dreading sleeping next to him. He would often question me if I was a virgin and asked me why I did not bleed during vaginal sex. He asked me to prove it to him that I was a virgin. He even said that my breasts were big which meant I must have had sex before marriage!
He would also constantly make fun of my dusky complexion saying, ‘Besan lagao, fairness cream lagao. Tum Rin sabun se face kyun nahi wash karti'. I developed a huge inferiority complex when he said that he married me because of his mother and family even though I was dusky.
Allowed to work
Almost four months into my marriage, I was ‘adjusting’ to the new life, doing everything I could to stay married and adhere to his wishes. However, one day, our fights escalated and I went to my parents home. My parents, who only had a hint of my marital discord, now became fully aware of all the issues. However, they left the decision to me. A part of me wanted to break free but a part of me also wanted him to come back, say sorry and take me away. And he did.
He came to fetch me a few days later and promised that he would change his controlling nature. After many requests, he allowed me to take up a job as per his terms and conditions. He used to ask about every single penny that I earned. He opened a joint account to take total charge of my salary. He purchased a new bike and wanted me to a pay his monthly EMI as a favor because he had given me the permission to work! Contrary to my hope, he did not change a bit.
I was not allowed to spend any money on my clothes or make-up. If he came to know about any personal purchase, it would wake up the monster in him and he would hit himself with slippers and said, ‘Main yaha din raat mehnat karke paise bachata hu aur tum paisa aise hi udaa deti ho’.
He didn’t allow me to talk to my friends and would throw and break things if I did. I began to believe that it was my fault and felt like I was on this rollercoaster ride that I couldn’t get off. I spent every day crying. He used to stalk me on social media too. Once I used my maiden surname on Facebook and he was infuriated. ‘Tum yahi chahti ho ki tumhare purane dost tumhe friend request bheje. Ab to tumhari shaadi ho gayi hai, aab kyun apna purana surname use karna chahti ho. Main marr nahi gaya ki tum apna surname use karo’ Then he removed me from his Facebook friend list saying I didn’t ‘deserve’ to be on his list.
He used to regularly accuse me of being ill-charactered, even call my neighbors and my office colleagues and say cheap things about me. ‘Mujhe nahi rehna iske saath ye daru piti thi, vodka piti thi, ladke chedti thi, unhe aankh marti thi. Main is gand (cheap girl) ke saath nahi rehna chahta’.
Calling it quits
Five months into my marriage, he finally asked for a divorce and shocked me. He tortured me the whole night and told me he does not want to live with me. We argued and fought the whole night and the next morning he told me, ‘Thode din ruk jao kyunki pandit ji ne kaha hai hamara time theek nahi hai abhi, tabhi ye issues aa rahey hai'.
I said ok but as I left for work, I decided to never go back to his place. His public humiliation had shattered me completely. But now I wanted a way out. Although I was educated and had a great job, I was terrified of just about everything. There was a part of me that didn’t believe I could take care of myself. I also felt guilty because I took my vows very seriously. To me, forever meant forever and I felt that I had broken that promise. I couldn’t sleep, my mind was always restless and even made me anorexic.
Luckily, I had friends and family who loved me and helped me see the light at the end of the dark tunnel. Most of them had never been through a divorce and didn’t really know how to help me, but they were always there whenever I reached out to them. My father worked as a therapist for me. He is my superhero. My mother and my sister also stood by me and helped me slowly crawl back to a normal life.
In love with myself
I am now a single and a free woman. After my divorce, I felt light-headed and realised that the rest of my life was waiting for me to live it happily. The five months of my tumultuous marriage have changed me completely. Though I felt very helpless during that period, I have emerged from it strong and positive. Today I can deal with any situation. However, I am still not ready for a new relationship, sex or marriage. May be a couple of years down the line, things take a new turn and I might even find my true love. But for now, I can say, ‘I am in love with myself and am totally loving the feeling.’
It was not easy for me to write this story. It brought back all the bad memories I had bottled within. However, my colleagues and friends inspired me to write and motivate other women, who may be waiting for things to change in their abusive relations. May be my story will give them the hope and courage to make it happen.
The person in the picture is a model.
Often women find themselves being controlled emotionally, physically and financially and at the receiving end of violent and abusive behaviour. Many such behaviours are promoted by our social and cultural norms. Love Matter India is helping women raise their voice against abusive behaviour. Nisha shared her story with Love Matters India as we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November).