Thursday, March 31, 2016

My Stepping Stones.... #CBC #IStruggledButIOvercame"

The rubble of the stepping stones that were deep and sharp, hindered my journey all the time.   The bushes around were thorny and scaring with darkness and dirt.   The paths were not just less travelled but hardly traveled and I had to create my own trails to survive.  I tried writing this for long time, but every time I started, I kept erasing the lines.  Every time I took one particular phase or incident of life to describe, the other one became much more an aggressive one to address and felt important to share.  Finally, I decided if not today, I will not be able to write this any day.   So here it goes…a journey that was just an ordeal…

Relationships don’t rupture by themselves, but because of ego, attitude and lack of right communication.   Sometimes, relationships even get difficult to build due to this.   I was 15 when the world first exposed me to the hardest truth.   Rituals in the name of religion, traditions in the name of following since times immemorial.   It was a moment of truth between traditions and requirements.  Ultimately the need won over the cause.  I went ahead to lit my dad’s pyre fire, making a whole town witnessing this odd spectacle.  
From there began my struggle to fight the even odds in life. 

Parenting is an art.  If you are lucky to have parents who excel in the art, your life is just amazing.  But if you have parents who not only excel the art but also excel the art of dictatorship, your life is just too amazing.   My mother is an excellent woman, hardworking, much disciplined, very transparent and very vocal in her views and thoughts.  Being a Leo, she gives no room to let others win over her actions or arguments.  But a tamed Libran in me had to struggle when I was pushed into the ring along with its Leo ring master.   I had to take the whips of destiny in its several unbearable forms.  I desperately wanted a way out of the ring in the so called circus of my life.

When I was 19, I came across Mr. Handsome.  Very charming, handsome looks, looking noble, not much of talking and absolutely the way any girl would want to have a husband.  Why would I deny to enter into a marriage with such a prince charming when he himself accepted a puny dark skinned talkative girl like me?  The only biggest asset that I carried with me was my graduation.  Hardly did I realize how much that piece of paper will come to my rescue later in life.

Like all new brides, I had my own expectations.  Not having brothers of my own, I was excited to have 2 brother in laws and a big family.   I always believed in the joint family system and wished that we would stand by together in all thick and thin.  I felt that they will not only be my source of support but also a big pouncing fountain of love and care.  It did not take me long to realize that my expectations would only lead to dramatic disappointments.

Sex is a taboo still in our society.  It was not a subject for discussion almost 2 decades ago around the time I got married.   I had my own fears and excitement.  Imaginations on how I should react to the first touch.  How pampered I would feel to the first kiss and how melting I will be to his first hug.  Butterflies were running all over my tummy as I entered into the room on my first night.   My Mr. Handsome was waiting.  He looked stressed and worried.  I felt probably he is too tired after a day full of visitors, reception evening, followed by whole process of wedding rituals and then the journey to the abode of Lord Venkateswara and then back to this new bed room in his life.  

He did not speak.  I can’t keep quite in my life.  That is my strength as well as my weakness.   Finally I had to begin the conversation.  The minute I started to talk, he hid his face in his hands.  I felt something wrong.  I touched him and took his hands off from his face.  There were tears ready to dwell from his eyes. He was sitting and I just stood next to him and tried to hug him and comfort.  That moment I forgot that he is my new husband but I felt that I need to first comfort him to calm down whatever it is.   After 10 minutes he felt calmed down and told me that he is a psychiatric patient and asked me if I knew one of the famous doctor in the city.  I said that I never heard about it.  He said that he is his patient for last 7 years and he really was not interested in marriage and had to accept as his parents were desperate to get him married.   I said that that it is not going to change anything between us.  

He timidly asked me if he can sleep for he is feeling very tired.   I told him to change his clothes and go to sleep.  I also calmly got back to my regular nightie instead of the banging wedding jewelry and the so called white saree for the first night.  Had it been any other girl, probably would have run out of the room.  I felt that I need to first understand him completely and then understand how to handle this.  My family even today thinks that I should have walked out of the room instead of having had to bear that night and its aftermath.  But I know that it was not my foolish decision taken on emotional high, but a well thought, genuine thought to balance life whatever it may be.

One the second day of marriage, we ended up in the clinic of Dr.R who treated my husband last many years.   After hours of counseling, I asked Dr. R if at all I would conceive.   He smiled and said that I have to tell!    I laughed.   I asked him if my child would be genetically effected because of my husband’s illness.  He said that there are very minor chances of the same and there can be no direct impact because of the medication my husband was taking over the years.   I thanked him profusely and asked him to bless me.   He held both hands and said that he had no clue that my man was getting married.   I told him, now that the marriage has happened, it is my selfishness to get it consummated as well.   He looked at me with total astonishment. He appreciated my positivity, courage and strong will.    Inside me, I am still trying to be brave to face this new life.   I had no one to share.

Walking out of the marriage was never my proposition, as my mother struggled to make the money to get me married.  I have my younger sister whom she had to take care.  My baby sister was just in college and there is a long way to go.  I was not mentally ready to go back to the disciplinary parenting of my single mom with whom I always only had logger heads.   Above all, I loved the man I married.  It meant a lot to me at that point.

Initially my in-laws were hesitant to talk about this.  They were guilty of having hidden the fact that my husband was a schizophrenic and how that could destroy a girl’s life.  They tried their level best to under play the whole thing.  As if it is just another thing to deal with life.   However, the day they realized that I have accepted my husband with all his imperfections, they started showing their real colors.   Instead of standing as a rock support, they took my endurance and silence as yardsticks to raise their upper hand.  My mother-in-law went to the extent to tell me that my husband is mentally sick only after my marriage.   I had to show her the number 90/270 which indicates that he was sick from long many years that what she think.   I am emotional but not a fool to take the shit.

God gave me the best gift of my life.  My baby.  My man was terribly scared to learn that he is going to be a father.  He was not prepared for it in any way.  Not emotionally, not financially.   Neither physically.   Honestly he was not interested in consummating our marriage. But I had no choice to save this marriage for long run.  I had to use myself for this cause with utmost inner courage and strong mind.   To force yourself onto a spouse who is reluctant to have a relationship is not an easy thing in life. 

As I was enjoying my pregnancy and all its fun and fears, my man quit his job.  Instead of supporting him to continue his work by taking proper medication and counseling, his family encouraged him to quit.   To a pregnant who is expecting her first child, to keep looking at others in the family for financial support was the last thing to bear.  For the first time in life, I felt shaken.    My fears started to become true. 

My pink bundle of joy arrived in this world amidst all the chaos and confusions her young mother was going through.  Having a baby at 21, having a sick husband to handle, a huge joint family to please and with the looking out for a career to support my own life was too much on my nerves.   She became my abode of happiness and peace.

My sisters stood as rock support to me during this phase of life.   My mother eventually started hating my husband and the entire family.  She cursed me for the decisions I kept taking.   They only thought I am foolish and foolishly emotional to take wrong decision.   But I was honest to myself.  I questioned myself what I will do if I had a child who was mentally sick.  Will I leave and go?   I found the answer to myself.  My husband is my first child.   And I have to accept that and deal that as life goes on. 

My husband kept going for interviews, changing job, almost 20+ jobs in one year.  I was getting restless.  I asked him to stop this process.  But his family was forcing him to go to work.   Finally when my baby was 6 months old, I took the biggest decision of my life.  To leave her at my in-laws care and take up a job that paid me to handle my own monthly routine expenditure.   For the first time, I felt self-reliant.   I can pay for my daughter’s milk powder.   After my mother in law refused to pay for my daughter’s lactogen pack, I realized the importance of being self-reliant.  To a woman, it is need.   It is not about being empowered, feminist, sharp, known, fame, etc etc.   It is just a need.  A bare minimum necessity in life. 

I was so blessed to have wonderful friends and colleagues in all the Organizations I worked so far in life.   My first set of 5 colleagues helped me to facilitate my daughter’s first birthday.   I found my mentor, my guide and my best friend.   Having a male friend after marriage, in a joint household and letting him support your life is also not looked upon rightly by this society.   I went blind to the assumptions of the world around me.   He stood by me, encouraging me to care more for my husband.   He ran errands with me to make little extra money by taking tuition classes.   He pushed me to do my post-graduation.   He was the first person in life, who identified my skills and asked me to take the path that I would shine.   Had it not been for this friend in life, I don’t know where I would have been today.

I slowly got back to my poetry.  I loved writing long verses which are nothing but my every day emotions.   They reconnected the dots of my life.  I not only enjoyed the process, but also religiously did that to feel that I am not alone.   Writing poems became my best solace.  

My situation at home only started to worsen.  The days my in-laws found that I am doing well at work and started to grow, their expectations started to grow big too.   They forgot the limitation of their son and the reality behind our marriage.  Same time, they started dodging my ability and started exploiting me monetarily.  We were separated from the joint family.  I was only happen they did that.  But eventually I was forced to pay the rent for the portion of the house we occupied to live.  It is their house.., my husband’s house. Why the hell should I shell out to pay them rent?   I raised my voice.

My calmness broke its boundaries.   I went vocal in my fight and justifications.  My brother-in-law called me a fish market.  I returned him saying that they stink like a rotten fish.   Words grew into arguments.   They forced my husband to fight with me. Instead of fighting with words, he used his hands.  I was hit many times within the four walls of that haunted house. 

Physical abuse, financial drain, emotional withdrawals started taking its own toll in my life.    I felt totally drained.   I went to Raheja towers in Mount Road and wanted to jump off.   That’s when in the lift, I met Siddharth Jeykumar.    He is a cerebral palsy survivor who is a fighter and great achiever.  His words and smiles made me stop.  What right do I have to give this life an end?   Where is the courage in me gone?  I woke up from the slumber of desperation.    I came home, called everyone to the hall and put my arguments to the table.   I told them that I will expose them and get this marriage nullified.   My father-in-law who usually supports and understands, lost his temper.   He asked me to get out.  I shouted back that no one has any right to tell me that.

That’s night in summer, I was so disturbed that I took my 6 year old daughter and slept in the room adjacent to the bedroom.   It was around 2.45 am in the night, I felt something burning.  I woke up and saw the fire engulfing till the fan and my nightie is burning.   I pushed my baby from the mat to the floor and shouted at the peak of my voice.  My husband jumped out of the bed and rolled me in the blanket.  I had minor burns in my thigh and right hand.  There are close to 4 ways to the house which had 5 bedrooms and the house was full of people.   Not sure who dared to drop the petrol dipped burning cloth into my bed.  Usually we do not sleep there as well.  So what was the motive?  Who wanted to see an end to me?   What would they get out it?   These questions haunt us even to this day.  

One of my friend engaged a private investigator who gave on clues of who could have done this.   But it would mean I point fingers at people whom my husband would call his own.   So I was not ready for it.  I managed to tell Police that everything is ok.   Despite that my errands to the police station to identify who could be the accused continued.  I was tired of this process.   I know I will never get justice for this incident in life.  As if I got justice for every other predicament that happened in life!

My sisters are not just those who support me…they are my best friends.  My best critics and my best decision makers.   My elder sister gave me the courage to finally walk out of that haunted house which I always felt my own.  She said that if my husband really loves me, he will one day come back to me.  She took my child with her and said that I can take some time to recover from these scars and confusions and rebuild my life.   I cried.  I cried like no other day in life.  

I did not want to live with my mother.  I chose to stay in a working women’s hostel.  I took up a part time job to make additional money.  I felt totally stranded in the road, when I had to share one bed room with 5 other girls and hardly had any space to even walk.    5*3 square foot bed is the only personal space I had for the next 5 months.  The nest of love is suddenly shattered.

I saved every penny that I earned.  For the first time in life, after walking out of the horror house with just Rs 700,  I started to feel that I am capable of owning my own piece of land in this earth.   I worked hard and so hard for the next several months till I had the money to pay for the down payment to book my apartment.  My mother and my mentor helped with interest free loans  I took the home loan from the bank I worked for.

The day I registered my share of undivided land portion, I went and literally touched the ground and paid my tributes.   Tears of joy and happiness swelled inadvertently

I took the courage to convince my sister and her husband to let me take back my child home.   I threatened my husband that I will divorce him and marry a common friend if he is not going to come and live with me.  My mentor did several rounds of discussion, convincing meetings to make him finally realize the value of his own family.  After several desperate and confusing moments, he finally nodded to leave the house where he was raised.   To him, it is the biggest turning point in life.

We overcame a disturbing mental illness.   Acceptance of the disease and doing everything possible to provide medication, counseling and support and true affection can cure anything.   It is the best lesson I learnt in life.  There is nothing that love cannot cure in this world. 

We overcame utmost poverty.  From being born to government employed parents and raised with everything we need,  suddenly losing my father, then going through a spat and sequences of joblessness of my husband and having nothing to look upon pushed me into the state of internal begging.   That is the only first and last time I begged someone for money, that too to feed my child.   I will starve in hunger than to ask for food.  Today we support so many people tirelessly to ensure that we give them without their asking.   Every time I take my child on a dinner date to the most happening buffet in the town or to the new raving hotel or restaurant, I give myself a small smile.   It is not the pride.  It is a contentment of having solved my own hunger prangs.

We overcame relationship hazards.   The most we tried to keep few relations in life despite of the distances we need to maintain, we only got tired and troubled.  It is ok to let go few people who may be closely related to you.  But the closeness should not be defined by how close you are by your DNA,  but by your heart.   It is better to stay away from people whom you don’t feel belonging to you any longer.

We overcame haunted places.   When we went to the Universal Studios Hollywood in LA,  the first thing we did was to enter the horror house.   But you know I did not feel scary at all.   To me the hanging corpses or sudden raising of dead bodies to scare you with blood strains was less stressful than living in the house I called my own.   I was haunted to death, fear of death, fear of loss, fear of hopelessness and fear of everything in that damned house.  Hell with it!

We overcame professional delinquencies.   Together we overcame the pinches of groping men as I traveled to my work places in buses.  We overcame the advances of few who tried to exploit us knowing the fact of my husband and his limitations.   We politely refused the favors of few who looked at me like a woman to play with.   I had to make it a point that I am made of flesh and blood, however, with equal strength and courage to give it back

We overcame our pride and achievements.   Today, we enjoy not only professional achievements, personal successes,  possessions which define as successful in the society, traveling around the world,  contributing back to the society, enjoying vacations and social service equally,  starting our own NGO and enjoying the attention we get both on and off the social media.   However, we never let the pride take on us.  Our achievements are just a different phase in life.   We will not let the success take its control in our heads.  We cherish them dearly in our hearts

My mantra of life is simple.   Make adversities into Opportunities!   This is my true story and I am neither ashamed nor reluctant to share this to the world.  For this is a story of failure and success.  This is the story of battles of life time.   This is all about me!


My story of my struggles that I overcame is written today as part of the Chennai Bloggers Club contest.   I dont want to win this contest.  For today I have once again won over myself by writing this story of mine.  My winning day would be when atleast few people would find courage by reading my story and get to handle adversities in life.  That is the only thing I expect today from this.  Thank you CBC for this opportunity. 

1 comment:

mahesh said...

Hi Umasree ma'm,

This is a very special post. I had tears, I will speak to you some time soon! Your tale of courage and integrity is one that every one should read and learn and take inspiration from - thank you for sharing your tale.

With prayers and good wishes,