I was very young when I got married. It was a love marriage, but there was no love in it. I was more like a commodity to my husband and his family was desperate that I get pregnant within a year. My husband had a temper, which I realised during the time we dated, but I ignored it. I was eager to get married and I looked the other way when he abused me.
The pressure to be a mother from his family increased. I tolerated yet I didn’t budge, though I was very young and vulnerable. My mother often asked me why I was not going for a child, but given my deteriorating health, she understood my suffering. My father never asked me any such questions.
My husband went abroad and I found freedom from his clutches. He came for holidays for a short stint and I waited impatiently for him to go back so that I could enjoy my freedom. After eight years of my marriage, he came back for a short while and declared he wanted to be a father. That time I felt he had changed and I agreed to have a child.
He left again when I missed my periods. I knew I was pregnant. I went alone to the gynaecologist when she confirmed happily that I had conceived. Back home, my father who is my strength had started falling sick and my mother was worried for both of us. I announced my pregnancy to my husband on the phone and he said I should be strong enough to deal with my pregnancy alone.
For the routine checkups at the doctor’s place, I sat alone and I saw women who came with their partners and wondered if I needed one as well. The doctors never asked about my husband, but they helped me and extended a compassionate hand.
I was eight months pregnant when my father’s health took a downward toll and he was rushed to the hospital. I was barely able to move and emotionally feeble when I had to do a hundred visits to the hospital to keep my father alive. My mother couldn’t handle the stress, and it took a toll on her health as well.
My husband did come back, went to see my father and then came home. He told me that my father would die soon. He even said he wished for a son and I was desperate to have a daughter. I didn’t want a son like him. My husband again left and I felt relieved. So did my domestic help, who couldn’t tolerate his attitude towards women. He was arrogant, had mood swings and had no manners.
With my father in the hospital, doctors struggling to keep him alive, my water broke in the middle of the night. It was a cold winter night, but I understood that my baby wanted to see the world. I called up the local driver and grabbing money, I proceeded to the hospital with my mother and aunt in tow.
It was a love marriage, but there was no love in it.
In the hospital, the gynaecologist asked me about my husband and I had no answer. My in-laws were enjoying their Christmas vacation back in Kerala at my sister-in-law’s place and didn’t even bother to ask me about my health. There was no pregnancy pain so they induced pain and it was unbearable.
My aunt made a remark, “Look, don’t make such a big fuss, you are not the only one to be a mother, all drama, now stop screaming, your mother is suffering just because of you”. The pain started since 3 AM and lasted till 9 AM and it was unendurable, my legs were lifted to induce pressure on my belly so that the doctor could pull out the baby but I could no longer bear it.
My lips were dry as it is advised not to drink water till the delivery. I cried and said, “Please take me for a C Section, I will collapse now”. The doctors understood the gravity of the situation and immediately proceeded for surgery. They did not take any more chance as I developed symptoms of a seizure. The anaesthetist pushed the injection in my spine and the pain reduced and I closed my eyes.
I was brought back to my senses when the doctor said, “You got a baby girl” and I could see the bundle of joy wailing in the hands of the doctor. The paediatrician brought the tiny little fairy who weighed only 3 Kgs and brushed her cheeks with mine and I thanked God for giving me a girl and not a boy, as I was scared that the boy will be like the father.
I called up my well-wisher husband, though I was still groggy. He said he will come that night. I also said he needs to spend some money and buy some gold for the child and for me, as per customs I learned from my mother. He did buy them and gifted it to us but the two years post my delivery and also in court trials during my divorce sessions, I heard him repeatedly saying “I had to spend Rs 40,000/- to gift them gold”.
Giving in to my constant requests, he decided to extend his paternity leave for ten days and bought goodies for the baby girl. My baby got her crib, some clothes, and some toys. But there were more obstacles ahead. Once the delivery was done, the periods start again.
I needed sanitary pads. I asked him to buy napkins for me which he did, but ultimately got fed up and said, “You should give me the list once and for all; I am not your servant to run errands”. He also needed sex. Though I still had my stitches, I gave in to his demands. He left for his job and I breathed a sigh of relief.
The initial two months with an infant were challenging for me. She wailed throughout the night and I could not figure out the reason. I could not feed her, despite being able to lactate. There were episodes of me clutching the baby to my chest and running to the doctor’s clinic at the middle o the night unable to understand the infant.
I once again rant, I was all alone. My father was in the hospital, my mother was unwell and I received a call from my father-in-law accusing me of not letting them know about the arrival of my kid. I didn’t have time for myself and here I had to inform them about the baby. I replied, “Didn’t your son give you the news?” To which he answered, “It was your duty to inform, we expect that from you”.
Yet on their return from their vacation, I invited them to my home for lunch to see the baby with them handling my daughter a little bottle of Johnson’s hair oil and a tiny bottle of massage oil with a remark, “It took you eight years and that too you got a girl”. Need to mention my father was still in the hospital and my mother was weak and also emotionally exhausted.
My father returned home alive from the hospital, and all my maternity leaves exhausted, I resumed my work. My bosses were kind enough to allow me to work half days but with full salary, as they understood that the baby needs nursing. While people at work realized the gravity of parenting, surprisingly my husband never understood. My little infant grew. There were numerous rounds of me to doctor’s clinic as like any other infant she too had colic pain, fever and several other afflictions.
She was twenty months old when I decided to register her for her preschool, but my husband said, “There is no need of so much education, it won’t help and girls will in no way work”. I was furious but I couldn’t reply as I was scared of him. I enrolled my daughter on my own. My daughter was an awesome child who did not even cry on her first day of school while I cried seeing the empty house.
I ran behind that school bus, I saw all the other little children, some orphans too who came with their grandparents, and all I did was to cry openly. I knew my daughter had a father who never loved our kid. My kid grew up in the care of my parents and this time there was a setback for me as my husband decided to relocate to Mumbai. He wanted me to stay with him, do all the chores, look after him, satisfy him, but he never reciprocated any love.
My rage was gradually taking an upper hand. There was an eerie feeling about him. He never smiled at his daughter. My daughter always wanted to be in arms of her father. She wailed when he left her, but to my horror. In spite of the toddler aching for her father, he never looked back at her.
There were several episodes where my husband demanded constant attention rather than the kid and I could no longer tolerate it. He faked illness when he was okay. He wanted me to move with him, give him all my savings and relocate to a posh area in South Mumbai. I refused, being the only daughter, I had to take care of my ailing parents. He mocked me by saying “I give you two choices, either you choose your parents or you choose me”.
Sadly there was no mention of our child. While he never bothered about the needs of that little child, there he was asking me to make choices. As a reticent woman, I kept quiet all the while he was lashing out at me in front of that little child. She was trembling and clutching my gown, my domestic help witnessed the violence, my daughter cried asking her father to stop, but he wouldn’t. I guess this was the turning point of my life.
I knew my daughter had a father who never loved our kid.
Since I was scared of my husband, I took advantage of his absence and packed all our clothes, important documents and left for my parents’ place, never to return back to this man. My father was supportive, my mother was initially supportive, yet fell prey to my aunt who would tell my mother, “It’s okay to be beaten by husband, look I too get beaten up by my husband, no big deal, do one thing you call up your son-in-law and let them patch up.”
My mother tried her level best to get me to return to that man, but I refused for the sake of my child. My mother passed away soon after. She could not deal with the fact that her daughter had refused to return to her violent husband.
Post my mother’s death, there were episodes of my daughter falling sick, she was diagnosed with acute tonsillitis and a temperature of 104 degrees, which refused to settle and she was hospitalized. I did not eat for three days; food didn’t pass my throat. My office was supportive, I got help from my domestic help, and my aunt too paid a visit only to shed crocodile tears. Sadly, my husband with whom my marriage was still intact, made no contact.
There was no liaison between us for two years when I decided to divorce this man. I was already single. I was only married on paper. I attended court trials and agreed to his demand that he will not pay me a single rupee in alimony, but I also made sure that he would have no access to my daughter. He happily agreed.
Since then I have been tending to my daughter, her school, her competitions, her picnics and all the other things a little child needs. My father was hospitalized many times, I too was operated on thrice, but I did it on my own. I just prayed, I broke down several times only to lift myself up.
Though my daughter never asked about her father as she was only two years when that man abandoned us, I made it a point to explain that she had a father, but he was far away. She took no interest and told her friends when they questioned her about her father, “I have my grandpa, my mummy and my nanny, they are my family”. My heart broke to listen to her words, she is only a small child and she is very wise. She had a lot of courage.
She is now ten years old, does all her chores alone, sometimes wipes my tears when I cry. I have never seen her make any demands except for her crayons and colour pastels, given the fact she wants to be a cartoonist and not an engineer like her mother. I support her always and I wish to see her as a cartoonist.
I conclude this essay with a message to everyone who is a single mother: being a single mother is very encouraging and you will be an inspiration to all, on how you can raise the child alone and make that child fearless and bold. You don’t need a man to support you or your child and you are equally capable of raising a child alone. Enjoy the roller coaster journey called life and enjoy being a single mother – an everlasting gift to your child.