A normal Sunday will look like a normal day to me. Sungazing to its peak and brushing flowers with its own peculiar vitamins that they need. But I hated Sundays. Not because it was the same routine; it has something to do with my own married life. My husband is the Managing Director in a big IT firm and with respect, he has got some eternal glory in our society. Now, how I landed with such a great husband was not destiny, but some rahu-setu clash and our parents thought we are made for each other. This "made-for-each-other' thing comes with a grand dowry of crores, so if you want one, just make sure your dad has lots of cash to buy a groom with this eternal glory. It’s been four years now, he wanted someone who can take care of his house and me being the righteous woman; sorry; the righteous INDIAN woman, I tore my MBA degree from Harvard. It was not that I always wanted to work but somewhere within I had this desire to open ice-cream parlors. I loved them from childhood and the drive that I had with my dad was always exciting. But I tore it and embraced values, culture, and tradition just like a prisoner wears the hand-cuff when he gets arrested. Now, my daily routine was a laid back schedule. I had to wake up early and make food for breakfast as well as pack tiffin for lunch before my mother-in-law wakes up, it is ready. A hot strewing tea is a necessity in an Indian house. After my husband and children leave my husband complains about me to my mother-in-law and she hears those spews with full grace, a typical mother-in-law. After the day sets in my husband return, often, drunk from after-parties. I make dinner for them and everyone gets to sleep. Before sleeping, my husband makes sure I know that he loves me. He slaps me with his full force and those spike in belts often hurt. But I have to sleep so that I wake up early the next morning.
But today is Sunday, that means my husband will be in the house, the whole day. But since we have children around so luckily there won't be any thrashing. He plans to take us to out, a particular drive to Marine drive, and treats us with food in Chowpathy, a beach well known for its food. We have two children. Sush is two years old, equally hated like me for being a girl, and Varun is a year old. Luckily, there is no thrashing for them, or I never allowed my husband to thrash them and have always kept them safe. Was my mother the same, I have never seen my dad thrashing her but what if all these years she did the same that I am doing? Could I have saved myself also when he slapped first? It was all distinct clear in my mind, the first time he had slapped me. It was just three months to our marriage, he has invited his friends over dinner and was continuously staring over his friend's wife. I insisted him to behave as a family is there, we can sort out this later. An unimaginable slap that just turned my cheek into the fire. Current blazed inside me and I can feel the heat travel around my body in milliseconds. Everything around me stopped to see how low can a man stoop to. My groin grunted and however hard I tried, I couldn't control my tears from kissing those heated cheeks. Did those vaporized or was I that shaken up? All this just withers as I feel rain-droplets ushering near me, we have arrived back to our house. The same house, the same slap, the same night just not my self-respect that was alive now.
Sush, is much stronger than me. She likes to fight with her grandmother and can make any man feel his guilt by just looking in his eyes, such was her anger. Now, it doesn't matter if my husband beats me up or not, but what I fear is how should I face Sush the next morning. She was like me in academics. A gold medallist of her school in academics and a talented kickboxer. Kick-boxing was only learned for a faceoff with her dad if a day comes in the future, but I prayed that it never happens anytime. No daughter should beat her own dad, this is cruel. Her dad hated her though as she was only a liability, though he never thrashed her, he used to rant her often and she would just give one look to make him disgraced. I loved that view but never expressed it. There shouldn't be any tussle between a dad and a daughter. Varun was pampered all along for being a boy. The delicacies and treats that he would get were unimaginable. But he never took that as a vice. He loved his sister and was there with her. Something that I liked in him.
It was time to sleep and luckily no thrashing because we had food outside and he was fulfilled with the entertainment that this city of dreams offered him tonight. As soon as I reached the bed, he said that Rohan-Bhai is coming tomorrow and he has taken a leave, so prepare food for him. Now, this was somewhat unexpected; Rohan-Bhai is someone who was a very creepy person and though he has this paan flowing all over his face, he still thought his tummy liked to trawl through his denim. He will try to grope me and I have to be prepared for him; by preparing I mean, I have to avoid him and keep him away from Sush, she is a danger for men already.
He arrives with all the pan and his bare chest screaming to ping in his man-boobs, while his tummy wanted to meet people more than him. My husband saw that smile and came near me and pushed me away. Sush gave me one of the furious looks that screamed within me WHY? As soon as they switched on the television, it was the news channel and lockdown was being declared across the country. I have to bear this MAN and a creepy MAN with Sush around for an indefinite time. And my man will be with me forever. WHY? I frowned like I used to frown when my dad rejected my ice-cream wishes. Now I will get beaten up by my husband, groped by a creepy man and judged by my daughter. WHY?
But something happened that changed our lives, something that was unexpected something that I will always remember.
On the sixth day of the lockdown, I saw Sush bathing with doors open. I was shattered with this view. I fled to her stopped the shower and asked her, what happened. Her words echoed, echoed, and echoed. Rohan-Bhai tried to grope her while she was bathing. He tried to grope MY DAUGHTER. I went straight to my husband to complain about this but what I was expecting was the exact opposite of what I experienced. He was utterly cold about this. For him, it was just mood swings of Rohan-Bhai. Was he Sush's DAD? Who was he? I just froze there, it was like he has slapped me, but the pain has to borne by my daughter.NO!! My daughter will never go through this. She is Sush, a girl who is not afraid and she will not bear what I have endured in all these years. As rage bewildered within me and again my cheeks were turning red, just the reason was different. His mother was watching and my daughter has lowered her gaze, my son was peeking in as Rohan-Bhai creamed the beetle-leaf for another round of paan, I slapped my husband, something that should have been done a long time back. Sush screamed and everything again stopped after years of pain and grief, but my rage was not content for him failing as a father, and as a human, I stepped and picked his belt and smashed his head a hundred times with it. At one point the belt tore a piece of flesh for his cheeks and he got scared like a rat. He was screaming in unbounded pain and was in utter shock. But the story has just started, NOONE can dare to touch my daughter against her own wish. I made Sush stand up and as I picked Rohan-Bhai by his collar and smeared his shirt. It was Sush to show him what kick-boxing felt like. Varun joined her and my children made his tummy bulge within seconds. Tonight, there wasn't any thrashing. My husband was scared, for his life and for his existence. Something that I was proud of in this pandemic. This house will not endure violence ever again.
18 years later...
Sush was to arrive today and I have prepared a grand welcome for her. My favorite child was away for these two years and I could have said that mother's dialogue but I hate Bollywood movies. My husband is now out of coma and does not make anyone feel his presence. Tonight Sush was planning to make me meet her boyfriend's family and I was really excited to see them. After a great welcome from Sush and her boyfriend who barged himself with his family inside, I asked Seema Tai to prepare food for them. Yasir was a sweet looking boyfriend and I was happy that Sush has not changed in all these years. I was engaged in these thoughts before Yasir's father interrupted, "So, Sush, what do you expect from Yasir and us?"
She said just three words.
"Self-Respect, Love and Ice-creams"
And the family erupted into laughter.
Yes, that slap changed a lot of things.
That slap was important.
PS: - I have not named my husband, because one man like this shouldn't be entitled to my story. This is my story. How I changed my life in a pandemic. No one has the right to do something that hurts you and if I can stand, anyone, can.