The clock had already struck 6pm. Beads of sweat were forming on Lalitha’s forhead, she was scared that Andrew would be home any minute now. Every honk on the street, every sound of a vehicle had her heart beat faster. The rest of the house was in order, but dinner was not yet ready. That evening, Lalitha was busy preparing food for her in-laws, who would be visiting her the next day. Even after working the entire day and tiring herself out, she could not complete all the tasks she was “supposed” to do. Being a homemaker was difficult afterall, but there was no way Andrew would understand that. Even if the most inconspicuous thing in the house was not to his liking, he made sure to show his displeasure. She was the recipient of such expressions. A good day saw a few broken plates and bottles, and a reminder of how much of a bad wife she was. The bad days were when things went completely out of hand. She got bruises about which no one could know.
It was on days like these that Lalitha cried her heart out. Even in the monster of a man that was her husband, she tried to find her love, her Andrew. She searched in him, for the man she fell in love with at the tender age of 21 and followed him to a new land, oceans away from her home. Andrew gave her hope of a new future, away from her conservative family in India, a future in which she would be in charge of her life and the narrator of her story. But, things turned out to be so different. Andrew was just like her father, an abusive husband and a barely present paternal figure to their children. She had fallen back into the life she thought she had escaped.
Lalitha heard a car pull up in their driveway. Her heart was filled with fear and her hands trembled as she tried to assemble the food before Andrew walked in through the door. But, she failed. She heard the door open and with the slam that closed it shut, she realised that it was about about to be one of the “bad” evenings. She had failed her “wifely duties”, and Andrew would punish her for that. Every slap, every blow, every insult showed how much she misunderstood the man. By the time he was exhausted, her body and heart had seen it all. He had once again proved that he was not the same man Lalitha fell in love with. Carrying the insults and bruises given by him, Lalitha entered the kitchen where she would cry her heart out.
However, this evening was somewhat different. Her body hurt and bled in some areas, but she couldn’t get herself to cry. Something was ablaze within her, asking her to finally take control of her future and take a drastic step, confide in her in-laws. They surely had some authority over their son, and maybe with their intervention he would finally realise where he was going wrong.
The next day, Lalitha didn’t wear makeup. She no longer hid the horrors she had to go through, she laid it out in the open. Everyone in the room saw her. Rather, they saw what their son was doing to his wife, and the innumerable injustices she had to face. She broke the silence with her silence. Her mother in-law, Norrie, sat beside her and said:
“Don’t worry my dear, he has always been an aggressive person. Just- just try to not anger him and you should be fine. Every relationship has its ups and down, finding your way around it is the mature thing to do.” Placing her hand on Lalitha’s, she gave her a look which she could never forget. It conveyed so many emotions and feelings, that Lalitha didn’t understand how to interpret it. Norrie sympathised with her, but she tried to find a justification for her son’s behaviours. They shared the same predicament, but she refused to accept that she had raised a son who took after his father. They had the same evenings, but she had accepted it as a part of married life.
Lalitha got up and went to her bedroom. That is when the tears finally started to shed and she realised that there was no way out of it. She was caught in this cycle forever, the evenings would continue forever and her healing scars would be replaced with fresh ones. This is the life she had to live till her death… or was it? The thought of leaving came to her mind but where would she go? She had very little money to herself and even lesser friends in this land. The only thing she could truly call hers was the wedding jewellery her parents had given her. Yes, she could sell that and find a way out temporarily. Anything was better than having her dignity compromised almost everyday.
An hour later, she had packed whatever was remaining of her married life in a suitcase and walked out the door. Her first destination would be the police station, where she would try to get justice, and the wounds for speak for themselves. As she walked out, Andrew reminded her of the mistake she was making and how she would never be allowed to step foot into “his” house again. But nothing could stop Lalitha. For the first time in her life, she had taken control over her own life and fate. Norrie just watched silently and smiled. One step, one decision, one leap of faith was all it took to shatter many generations of silence.