Author’s Note: Every one of my women with spunk stories are true stories, narrated to me by the women who went through these challenges in life, and overcame them with sheer grit and determination. Names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Eleven years is a long time for anyone to tolerate what happened with Durga. But she did not take it lying down. Three times during those eleven years, Durga escaped to her mother as well as her uncle who lived in another city.
The first time, she went to her mother’s house and simply told her mother she wanted to spend some time there. Although her mother suspected something was wrong, she did not make any effort to ask Durga anything more. When her in-laws came to get her, they were really worried Durga had finally spilled the beans of her situation but she assured them their “honour” was intact.
The second time, she could not hold her tongue any longer and told her mother everything that had happened in the last few years. Her mother felt that since the in-laws knew of the whole situation, it was best to go back and try to work things out.
The third time, Durga left with the clothes on her back and hitched a ride to her uncle’s home in a neighbouring city. Her uncle took her in, and gave her the work of keeping his visitor’s quarters clean and neat, cooking and cleaning for visitors and paid her enough for her to manage her day-to-day needs. This peaceful interlude was also short-lived. Her in-laws eventually found out where she was and brought her right back home against her will.
Until the last runaway attempt, the other members of her extended family were cordial and even sympathetic to her situation. But after the last attempt, their behaviour too changed towards her. They felt she had resorted to washing their dirty linen in public and branded the son of the house as a violent abusive husband. She was truly isolated at this point.
At the same time, Durga’s husband was getting more and more violent and uncontrollable. His violence and verbal abuse finally spilled out of the bedroom into his extended family member’s lives and although they refused to support Durga due to the slight on the family name, they finally understood what she had been dealing with all these years. Eventually they sought medical advice and her husband was diagnosed with a mental condition. The doctors would not find a cure for the fact that he was a pathetic excuse for a human being and not everything could be attributed to this mental condition. But he did need treatment for it.
Durga’s in-laws expected her to hide his medication in his tea, his food and so on, as her husband neither accepted nor acknowledged that he had a medical condition that needed treatment. She asked to see his reports but they refused to divulge any information to her. She persisted and eventually found the reports hidden away in one corner of the house. She had the presence of mind to take photocopies of these reports, little knowing that one day they would be her ticket to freedom.
On the work front, her husband had involved her in managing the accounting for their family business in a computerised form. He also insisted she learn computer-aided design to help them make designs for spare parts for their various manufacturing concerns. The instructor at the class where she learnt computer-aided design was so impressed by how she quickly grasped all the concepts and put them into practice that they offered her an opportunity to start a franchise branch of the institute.
That evening she pleaded with her grandfather-in-law, who still held the reins of power and explained how lucrative the opportunity was. With his approval, she was able to start off a franchise institute and gain a few hours of peace a day. Although her husband made it a point to come to her workplace, hurl abuses and leave and generally destroy the peace, she persisted and worked hard to bring up the business. Not one penny of earnings went to her, she faithfully handed over every paisa to the grandfather-in-law. She hardly cared about the money though. It was those few hours of freedom she was after.
Things at home though progressed from bad to worse. The violence kept escalating, the abuse showed no signs of slowing down. He would shut her out of the room one day, cause misunderstandings between her and other family members another day. Through his actions, he ensured she did not have a single moment of peace at home.
Everyone reaches a point where they simply snap and can no longer take things as they stand. And Durga reached this point after all her suffering and silence of eleven years. That same year, they celebrated their marriage anniversary and he asked Durga what she wanted. She looked at him square in the eye and said “A divorce”. He laughed so hard and so long at that, that to this day that wicked laughter sometimes rings in her ears.
A few months after that, Durga realized the world around her was still revolving, the birds still chirped, night still turned to day, her extended family went about their business as if the daily abuse that they were all aware of now never happened in their house. She realized everyone but her was in a state of constant movement. But she, she was frozen for the last eleven years, she was still in that nuptial bed, waiting for life to begin. And the last eleven years felt like a nightmare that she simply had to wake up from. And so, she woke up.
She walked out of that hell-hole and went straight to her mother’s home. With a determination she never knew existed within her she told her mother she was done getting abused, beaten and tortured on a daily basis. Nothing would move her this time. She closed down her business and began attending job interviews. She had her uncle put her in touch with a lawyer and began divorce proceedings.
At one such job interview, her boss saw the spark of determination, grit and hard work in her and offered her a job. He gave her one of the biggest customers of their company to manage and she excelled in her job. She never gave him any cause for complaint and fully repaid his trust and confidence in her with her work ethics, delivering results like no one else did.
While she threw herself in building this new life for her, waiting for her divorce to come through and be truly free of the last eleven years, he did not keep quiet. He would stalk her at her workplace, call her and plead with her to come back and they would try all over again. Members of his family called and pleaded with her to not go through with divorce. But she stuck to her guns and refused to be moved.
The copy of his medical records were a great help for her divorce proceedings to be fast-tracked. She was free to start her life, to breathe, to finally exhale that breath she had taken eleven years ago and lived in suspension.
Two years later, Durga met a man while working out in the gym. They soon became fast friends and many months later, the friendship blossomed into love. He was supportive of her and convinced both families to accept their relationship. Although her second marriage was not without its own challenges like every marriage is, Durga now finds herself a happily married wife, and a mother of two adorable children.
But the biggest reveal for this author was this – when asked if she blamed her mother for not supporting her when she came clean or bore ill-will towards her ex-husband for what he put her through all those years, and her extended family members who simply stood by and let an injustice go on for years – Durga says she has no hard feelings. Her relationship with her mother is better than ever now, and her mother lives with her and lends a hand taking care of her family. Her ex in-laws call her every now and then, expressing their regret at losing a “diamond” and not treating her right.
But Durga has learnt to let it all go, and to shrug it off and move on. This for me is the biggest take from Durga’s life. And all I can do is bow down with respect to this woman who I have had the honor of knowing and the privilege of writing about.
Illustrated by Dr. Anisha Kumar ( Visit https://ignitingmypassion.wordpress.com/)