Nigella Choked

Nigella Lawson is one of my favorite chefs especially when it comes to her easy and lazy recipes that allows one to enjoy a sumptuous meal made without much effort. However what made her stand out among all the chefs I admire, is the fact that she managed to have it all- marriage, kids and career. Essentially the whole package.

Hence the latest domestic abuse (or should I say violence) episode left me deeply shocked. It opened my eyes to the fact that women in the West still put up with domestic violence despite living in a society that is far less prejudiced in comparison to the patriarchal entrenched society in the East. More than that, it shocked me into acceptance that domestic violence in its attitude is unbiased. It sees no caste, creed, race, class or ethnicity. It can pervade your home even while you are cocooned in financial bliss with a wide diaspora of fans from across the world.

Having seen the pictures of Nigella being choked, splashed in various forms of media, my heart goes out to her in the most difficult of times. I wonder how she is coping with the attention this incident has drawn from across the world. Being a celebrity might be tough enough, added to that is having to substantiate each decision you take no matter how personal it might be. Hence I personally feel that even though she should take a stand against the violence and abuse meted out to her, the decision to do so should be purely and solely be hers. Nigella, must not at any point of time be pressurized into taking a stand against domestic violence and abuse just because she is a celebrity and has been endowed with the responsibility of having to set an example.

Taking a stand against domestic abuse and violence must be a personal decision and never enforced on another person. Breaking a relationship which holds high value will anyway rack the person with self doubt, hence it is best not to aggravate this further by making the person wonder, ‘what if I had never paid any heed to X, Y, Z’s advice?’. Moreover an independent decision is more likely to sustain in comparison to an enforced one, however right the latter might be. So celebrity or otherwise let the decision remain independent as you provide support and unbiased advice to the victim.

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. 

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!

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.

The Fleeting Satisfaction of Revenge

Revenge they say is a dish best served cold. This dish becomes even colder and fraught with every ounce of bitterness you can garner, in case the revenge is against a betraying and cheating spouse.

I too started out on my path of recovering from the betrayal of not just my ex but his entire family, swearing revenge in every form I could. I have always strongly believed that-

Nothing can inspire forgiveness quite like revenge.- Scott Adams.

But the experiences ever since I started out on my path of revenge have taught me that revenge can never be enough. Through the days of suffering of my ex and his family, because of many things I quietly set into motion, I was never satisfied with practically anything. I would find myself feeling satisfied for just a few minutes and then again restless at what I could do next, to increase their sufferings to match what they had put me through. But what could I do to make them suffer to the extent of what they put me through for a year, one against six of their family, with scars that would last for a lifetime?

Honestly, nothing. Even if I tormented them for the rest of their lives it would mean nothing to me. This started the process of realization which also jolted me into seriously thinking about my life. Did I really want to spend the rest of my life plotting and scheming against them? During this time I was also hooked to the primetime soap opera Revenge. Anything mentioning ‘revenge’ during this time and I would be hooked. As the show progressed I started questioning myself even more about whether I really wanted a life like Emily Thorne, the protagonist of the show? Even though the answer was clear, my mind was disturbed with another thought. What was I without the revenge? What would I be after the revenge? The answer was clear and extremely disturbing- nothing better than my ex, a person who plots and schemes to destroy someone else’s life and in the process destroys his own life.

Floundering like a survivor adrift in the sea I started looking for something to give my life meaning to go on. Embarrassingly I even Googled ‘how to get the best revenge?’ The answer which I had known for long stared at me through every search result-live your life well, do not give others the satisfaction of watching you suffer.

Following this unfortunately takes a lot of time and effort especially if you have lived your life doing for others, looking for happiness by making others happy and admonishing yourself if the other person is not happy. This made me learn that the hardest thing is often saying sorry to yourself and loving yourself, sometimes even putting yourself before others. Nonetheless, stumbling and faltering on a path that was completely new to me, I started on a journey to live my life for myself for the first time.

At first, it was difficult, to say the least, but slowly as I found my footing, things got easier. Within months my appetite was back and more importantly my peace of mind. I could sleep peacefully at night, enjoy my hobbies once again and also enjoy shows/movies that did not center around revenge. Given the short span of my marriage, there were times I feel as if it never happened. Though I refuse to let this prevail, since no healing can be complete if one has not accepted reality or wishes to completely ignore the hurtful episode.

I had started not just living my life, but enjoying it, despite the fact that in the courts I was still fighting for it against all odds including character assassination. Then came a time when for the first time since the separation I came face to face with my ex and his family. I could see them from a distance waiting eagerly to see if the divorce had taken a toll on me or my family. Their eyes searched for signs of depression, frustration, weight loss, despair, hurt, anything.

But there I was, happy,  plump-if not overweight, pampered by my family, confident and completely at peace with the happenings around me. On the other hand, what my ex’s eyes searched for in me, astonishingly I saw it clearly in him- sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, weight loss, tensions, bickering within the family, despair and frustration.

That is when it hit me that despite everything I had done to them in the previous year to make them hurt nothing surpassed the feeling of being able to live my life on my terms, in a way I wanted right in front of their eyes. This was the best revenge ever-living the life they so badly wanted to snatch from me, and surprisingly the satisfaction remained, for now my life will continue even after the court cases are long over.

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.

Divorced and Proud

Divorce in different societies has different connotations. In India it is often equated with social stigma where the woman (not the man) is socially ostracized and emotionally abandoned. In other societies, divorce is equated with failure in life because you failed to save your marriage.

But I ask what gives anyone the right to reduce my whole life’s worth of work to failure or social stigma just because I could not save my marriage or that I chose not to?

Why is it that the ability to walk away from something that hurts us emotionally or is potentially life threatening is not seen as a mark of strength and is instead seen as a failure?

All my peers who seem to have happy marriages with cute kids would not have been able to survive even for a day in the life threatening situations through which I have survived. I have already seen one person disintegrate into the abyss of depression because of rejection and bad life choices which were totally within control and in no way a threat to one’s safety.

So do not give me those pitiful eyes or sympathetic expressions or the empty words of consolation, because I am a survivor. Unlike you I do not blink when I say I am divorced or soon to be, neither do I recoil at the words. If I could nonchalantly or gladly say that I am single or married why do you expect me to flinch or look woebegone when I say I’m divorced?

I will not slink into some corner just because of my marital status so do not look at me with those sad eyes or nod your head in mock understanding when I am enjoying a meal in solitude or just taking in the peace of a sunset alone on my balcony. This is my life and I will not apologize for it. I did not choose for it to be so, but when it is so, I enjoy it as it comes because as you updated your Facebook profile with glossed over pictures and looked sympathetically at mine I have learnt one of the most important lessons that life can teach you – surviving, against all odds.

I will not run, I will not hide. I am divorced and proud.