Freedom is Just the Beginning

I have been quiet on the blog for almost a month now, though my mind had been buzzing with numerous ideas for posts I barely got the time or the energy to pen them down and post them. But what dominated the thoughts of posts was the ordeal faced by the freed women in Cleveland. I first came across the news on twitter and did not think much of it till I turned on the TV. 

As Amanda Berry’s photos with her sister and daughter flashed across the screen I could help but going back to the torture and trauma I had faced not so long ago. The thing with power play and abuse is that they start almost in a similar manner but in different situations and are of different intensities. The underlying psychological games of making the victim feel worthless and powerless without the abuser remain the same. The flood of physical and mental abuse, though might vary in intensity, is present in every abusive situation. 

As I thought about the way I submitted to the psychological manipulations of my ex and his family I could almost imagine the trauma these brave women endured. The worst part of continued abuse is the fact that it can be very difficult to adjust to normal life at a later date. By normal I mean enjoying the rights provided to every human.

There are still times when I jerk out of any leisure activity be it sleeping, watching TV or reading a book, guilty and fearful that I should be pleasing my ex and his family so that I do not have to listen to their tirade of abuses. It takes me some time to re-orient and realize that I am in my own house, to do as I please. This surprisingly was echoed by Elizabeth of the Fritzl Case when she found it difficult to sleep on a soft bed after being held captive and raped by her father for 24 years in a dungeon.

This makes one realize that attaining freedom is just the beginning of a whole new arduous journey of healing through every bit of trauma. It also includes dealing with the moving on of life, as Berry did with the passing away of her mother, when the life of victim was made to stand still by cutting her off from her support system.  My heart goes out to them along with prayers that their healing period is short and sweet to propel them into success later on. 

The Beauty of Love

My holiday is long over and I am back to face the reality of having to build up my life from scratch while healing from past hurt and pain. This holiday has been much more than I ever intended it to be.

I faced many of my fears including going back to the city in which I lived with my ex and his family. I achieved my goal of letting the city be as it is and not be marred by the negative experiences. I also found it in me to actually look back on the negligible good times that I had in the city during my marriage due to the few lovely people I came into contact, without any regrets, pain or bitterness.

But more than anything else I saw the sheer beauty of love.

Visiting the Taj Mahal was always on my to-do list but never did I expect the experience to be overwhelming in the manner it was. The day I landed in Agra, my dad, who had visited the Taj previously pointed it out on the banks of the River Yamuna as we made our way to the hotel. As I saw the white dome gleaming in the sunlight I was almost instantly moved to tears. Little did I realize that this was the precursor to what was coming the next day.

On my dad’s suggestion we made our way to the Taj Mahal just after sunrise. The gentle cool breeze and the sun trying to peek through the parting clouds of a storm that should have been, proved to be the ideal setting for my first glimpse of one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The Taj Mahal has one main entrance from the fore complex through which you can see the entire monument. But nothing prepared me for the immense beauty and grace of the Taj as I came face to face with it for the first time.

First Glimpse of the Taj Mahal

The Taj epitomizes a husband’s love for his wife and there I stood a wife betrayed by the man she loved, moved to tears by the sheer pristine beauty of love. I was mesmerized by a man’s labor of love of over 20 years for his wife. The countless photos of the Taj Mahal do absolutely no justice to the immense and almost overwhelming elegance and grace of the monument. The strange quietness and the slow ebbing of the River Yamuna were practically addictive to an extent that I did not want to leave.
Taj Mahal

I could have just sat there for hours simply staring at the Taj without even a hint of regret that I did not experience even a minuscule amount of the love due to a wife. The beauty of the monument simply took over my mind, body and soul. I think for the first time in my life I was in trance like state, completely at peace with my surroundings and without any desires but to stare for hours at the gleaming marble monument of love.

As honeymooners had themselves photographed ensconced in new love, I sat down for the customary photo in front of the Taj Mahal on a bench now popularly known as the ‘Lady Di Bench’. But I sat with my head held high thoroughly enjoying my freedom and solitude. The photo is a testimony of how far I have come in my healing.

This trip has made me appreciate the beauty of love and like the Taj Mahal it is something that I will never forget.

 

 

 

Start at the Beginning

The last couple of weeks have been absolute mayhem, torture and have turned my life topsy-turvy in every manner possible. But as they say that system is born from chaos:

A few nights ago I had a really odd dream. I was living with my ex on good terms with him and also his family. The dream followed all the routines my life did when for the first few days things seemed good. In my dream my ex was preparing for his GMAT and I had the brilliant idea to prepare along with him but was confused as how to go about with the preparation process. So after this (hold your breath) the golden words of advice came from none other than my ex “start at the beginning”.

I had this dream the day my divorce case in the courts went crazy and the Family Court Judge wanted me to go back to my ex despite knowing the abuse and violence I was subjected to. The Indian courts and the society has a very funny way of victimizing the victims and not ostracizing the perpetrators of crimes against women. So basically for the Judge I was an uncultured, uncouth and ill-mannered woman (mind you, not lady) to be asking for a divorce from my husband who provided a roof on my head, clothed me and fed me despite the regular instances of domestic violence. These according to the Judge are obligations from my ex to me and not basic human rights which must be provided to everyone.

I listened to this lecture for 45 minutes seething in anger all the while and finally came to the decision that I will not tolerate this humiliation and nonsense anymore. I walked out of an abusive situation earlier and I chose not to remain in another. This essentially means that I will not be bothered about what turns my divorce case takes anymore. I also do not care if my ex gets out a decree against me. I do not need an idiotic judge telling me whether I am sane or not or even whether I am a good or bad person.

My life has been restructured since and I have decided to go back to school to upgrade my skills which I will require to survive in the corporate world. So as of today I will be starting school from next month and working at the same time to build my life- this time completely on my terms. I am also taking a holiday next week to remove every remnant of stress, tension, depression, pain and frustration from my system. I need a fresh start and a clean slate. This break will provide me exactly that.

So I start at the beginning after advice from my subconscious conveyed strangely and ironically through my ex!

Overcoming Bitterness

The months after separation I was racked with overwhelming bouts of bitterness. Whenever I went out I saw happy couples, I looked out of my window and I saw young mothers around my age playing with their kids while greeting their husbands returning from office. These scenes played out in front of me every day and the bitterness refused to go. This continued till I found an anonymous quote: It is best to leave your ex’s where you found them.

Bitterness is like poison, it spreads through your body, mind and life. Before you know it, you will be a slave to the bitterness, spewing in anger at everything you lost because of your ex rather than working towards achieving what you want. Bitterness feeds on anger which takes over your life making it difficult to let go and start afresh. During the time I was fighting the bitterness that was in me I came across several people who had hung onto theirs for years, one even for 10 years. Astonishment does little justice to describe what I felt because most of them could recall every little detail of the emotional trauma they had experienced even if it had taken place decades ago and every decision they took in their life after that originated from the bitterness that had festered over the years. I hardly need say that their lives were not happy, which made me realize that bitterness begets bitterness and not happiness. Life has an uncanny way of teaching important lessons, grab onto them when you can!

It is important to understand that it is up to us to clear up the bitterness. Your ex will be long gone, least bothered and will be living it up while you wallow in bitterness and make a further mess of your life. Even if you are not ready to forgive you must learn to let go of the bitterness to be able to appreciate what life can offer you. Once you can do this you will see that life is too short to feel angry or bitter. Life offers so much to see and do, even with the dwindled resources post-separation/divorce.

Start by keeping yourself busy even if it means taking time off to volunteer at an animal shelter or homeless people’s shelter. The unconditional love you receive from the homeless animals and the gratitude from people in the homeless shelters will do wonders for your healing process. This positive beginning will help you forgive yourself and get rid of the bitterness.

Try writing out your anger. There is something therapeutic about seeing your emotions in black and white which will help you accept them, let go and move on. Vent on paper or speak to a close confidante. It is important to write/ speak out the bitterness and anger you feel. In time you will find yourself feeling better and less bitter.

It is essential that you cut out the root of bitterness from your life or else your life will be intoxicated with hated and anger. Speak out, accept and let go, that is the only cure.

 

The Hardest Thing To Do

In the months after facing domestic violence, abuse and infidelity the hardest thing to do is love yourself and stop blaming yourself. The months of abuse leave you emotionally dried up and you usually blaming yourself for everything that has or is going wrong.

It is hard not be able to look beyond the failure of your marriage and realize that even if you were given a chance to redo everything the chances are still quite high that the marriage would have failed. I literally tore myself up with the ‘what if’s’ and ‘could have’s’. I relived every incident wondering if I had reacted differently would my marriage have survived. I questioned my thinking, sometimes even second guessing whether my ex was right.

The situation becomes tougher when your spouse starts playing the victim and blames you for everything. I got blamed for every little thing but I did not stop to realize even for once about what he was doing to me, how he was slowly destroying me even when he called me a liar and said that my lying stopped us from coming closer when all the time he was the one dealing in lies. He lied to his company about his marital status by saying that he was single, only engaged, planning to take one of his many girlfriends on a business trip abroad as his fiancee, and all the time he called me a liar.

Once the marriage broke down I was racked with guilt that I did not do enough to make him love me till one day my rationality practically kicked my emotions out of picture bringing me back to my senses. It was then I realized that no matter what I would have done my ex would have never loved me. Love, was an emotion too profound for him to understand.  Neither any of my actions redone a million times could have saved the marriage. That began my healing process. It was not me who was at fault it was solely my ex who was at fault, who not for even once was committed to the marriage in any manner whatsoever.

Accepting that I was right allowed me to bring some amount of peace to my mind, knowing that I gave my best to the marriage and there was nothing more that I could have done. The peace of mind slowly turned into confidence allowing me to confidently take decisions concerning my life for the first time since the separation. There are still times when I tear myself up with the ‘what if’s and could have’s’ but this time it is about asking myself why I did not have the courage to confront the emotional manipulation of my ex and why I did not have the guts to walk out earlier for my own well being. But I know that with time even this will pass and I know that with time again I will gain the confidence to walk away from any situation that is in any way emotionally manipulative.

I Will Survive

The months between November and February are difficult but the transition from January to February is particularly strenuous. This should have been the time of celebration of love but as February moves into Valentine’s day I am shuffling and dragging my feet, hoping with every ounce of faith in me to find a fast-forward button or an Einstein-Rosen bridge to help me move out of this dark, depressing and heart crushing period into bright sunlight where I can breathe freely.

Every trigger is painful during this period and the worst was a daily soap on an Indian TV channel which details the horrors of child marriage, rampart in North India. Even though the age of marriage might differ in my case with those in North India, the instances of torture are unfortunately very similar. It is the same story everywhere, abuse, molest, harass till such time the spirit and soul is broken beyond repair so that the girl cannot find an iota of strength to fight back.

Of the few who have dared to come out in the open with the horror stories, they believe that their counterparts living in the so-called modern cities of India, educated, financially independent and married well after the age of 18 years are better off. Sadly the reality is otherwise. Through decades, countless stories and horror tales of oppression have been testimony to the fact that PhDs and fat pay packages do not necessarily mean the right to be treated like a human being instead you are treated as a sex slave apart from a baby and money vending machine.

During the times I have a hearing in the court, the glimpses of numerous sad if not broken faces combined with heart breaking stories reported in the media every day, leave me depressed. But then again there are stories like these [Raging Angels] which bring hope to an otherwise frustrating situation. It is heartening to see women fighting back and making themselves self reliant.

A voice is rising [Insult after Assault] against centuries of oppression and humiliation. The voice is rising hopefully this time in unison not just to make the streets safe for women but also our homes. It is also about time a voice rises against the insulting character assassination defense lawyers use to their advantage on a daily basis in Indian courts.

This voice gives me the hope that when there is a will there is a way. This time we will not be tortured into silence. This time the mean and insulting words will not be enough to make us slink back into the corners of the house. This time we will come out and fight. This time we will survive.

This time I will not just survive but the live the life you so wanted to snatch from me and then, if you can at all, you will realize that I just enjoyed the best revenge ever.

Mirrors Don’t Lie

There was a time when people complimented me on my sense of dressing, my immaculate style and my confident personality. That was the time I was in the prime of my youth, radiating with the glow of dreams yet to be achieved and paths yet to tread on. Even though technically I still am in the prime of my youth there is a heaven and hell difference between the two times. Mirrors don’t lie.

That was also a time when my spouse and his family chose to stifle my dreams, stamp out my confident personality, trash my whole existence to create a robot out of me which would do only their bidding. Every time that I tried to protest they found a new way to stifle me and bash me into a pulp, verbally and physically till such time I had no strength in me to get up and fight back. This unfortunately I realized is the story of every Indian girl pawned into the arranged marriage system by unsuspecting parents, conniving In-laws and equally manipulative groom.

While this has remained a norm in most Indian homes, in certain cases like mine, the conniving spouse and his parents make the mistake of not just undermining the courage of the girl but also her will to survive. So I fought back with every ounce of strength I could muster and I survived. I showed them that coming from a family where every second member has served in the Indian Defence Forces, survival is in my blood even though I am a girl and even when the society hinders me into being submissive.

But after the physical and psychological warfare, when I look at myself in the mirror I see a reflection of youth mixed with bitterness and cynicism. This reflection is not even one iota close to what it used to be, but strangely I revel in the changes calling them my very own battle scars. The creases on my forehead, the worry lines, the physical scars and the psychological scars are all testimony of not just the abuse but more importantly a testimony of my will to survive and the fact that I have survived.

So now when I walk into a room and people turn around to look at me,  not just for my beauty or fashionable ensemble but for the confidence in me of surviving in a situation and in a country against all odds, where it is considered to be a curse to be born as a girl, where at every step a girl is treated worse than an animal let alone a second class citizen and where a girl is expected to be submissive even when she is being raped.

The mirrors don’t lie since they tell the story of my survival in every inch of my reflection.