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. 

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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!

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.

The Bleak and Wintry View from My Window

I woke up to this year with a broken marriage and a broken heart knowing the horrors in the form of court proceedings this year held in its folds but never once did I stop to break down. I had done that for two months last year and I had promised myself I would not waste any time this year. So I worked towards building a future for myself. I took up a job and let a friend in despite all my fears of getting hurt and being abandoned all over again. But the last few days changed so much that I am standing yet again with empty hands looking at the bleak, bleary and wintry view from my window.

I lost the job that was meant to give me financial stability and within days my best friend, the only person I could talk to, smile with and laugh with, in moments of despair and frustration.  But as I look out of my window the lines of a poem by Rudyard Kipling take form in mind,

“ If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ “

And here I am ready to ring in another New Year bruised and battered emotionally but still holding on to start once again the process of rebuilding my life.

Moving On…

I always had my life planned to the ‘T’. Every day in my life started with a list of things to do and every night before I dozed off I would review the things I had completed and the things I didn’t. Even though it sounds mechanical my life was far from being so. I had friends with whom I enjoyed spending time, a great family to come home to and goals which I were steadily achieving one at a time.

Hence it came as no surprise to those around me when I decided to get married at the age of 23 . For most girls in India this is considered the correct time to get married and the girls begin to delay the prospect of getting married just out of college. For my parents and me it was a smooth transition. I decided I was ready to shoulder the responsibility of handling a household and quite frankly I loved tending to the house, taking on the responsibilities of the household from my mother long before I got married. Promptly my parents uploaded my profile on the popular matrimonial sites and soon I found myself engaged to be married.

Life seemed near to being perfect for unlike most girls I did not see marriage as limiting in any way. My parents had given me every freedom that every human should get and I even had a say in the household decisions as and when I came of age so I naturally expected this to continue in my matrimonial home only be shocked beyond every possible wildest imagination. What began as normal taunts which I did expect as normal in every Indian in-laws house soon turned into domestic violence and within nine months of marriage I found myself sitting in my parents house battered and bruised both physically and emotionally.

Life back then felt beyond repair but I felt a strange sense of freedom not just to take decisions about my own life but to simply breathe. Slowly with the sense of freedom returned control and self confidence. Few months on my life is relatively back under my own control leaving aside the part that still hangs by a thread depending on the court’s decision. So the process of picking up and moving what started the day I landed up battered and bruised in my parents house stills continues and I guess will continue till the day I can look back at the events without anger, hatred and a want for revenge.