By Oxfam India:
Was it even a real marriage? I have asked myself this question a hundred times a day in the past two years.
The one year period of engagement before my marriage was blissfully spent; my fiancé remained in constant touch from Delhi. That year was followed by a grand wedding ceremony in my hometown, Phulbani. It was only on our wedding night that my husband broke the news to me. That he was already living with a girl in Delhi and I was never allowed to visit him there.
I was stunned by his treachery and audacity, yet I gathered myself together and summoned enough courage to ask him why he married me. “To pacify my family; you stay here and take care of them. My life is in Delhi with my beloved,” was his firm answer.
All through our engagement, he kept teasing me that he would bring another girl and leave me. I never realized that he was only half-joking. Now suddenly, he was gone and I, a married woman, was left alone. Even the two weeks he did spend with me, he did nothing but pick up fights over the smallest issues.
Initially I kept my husband’s waywardness a secret. I tried calling him to discuss the situation but he never received my calls. He would call his family, and talk to everyone but me. I went into depression, bewildered at how my life was ruined because of him. One thing was for sure; I knew I could not continue with the marriage. But I heard that divorce proceedings took a very long time. I had to find some other avenue.
I then confided in a relative who suggested that I should go to the State Women’s Commission. I went there and lodged a complaint against my husband and his family, who until then pretended to be unaware of the peccadilloes. Yet when I registered my complaint, they immediately swung into action and launched a counter complaint.
After making umpteen efforts and trips to Bhubaneswar, I realised the futility of the whole exercise and approached the Additional Superintendent of Police of Kandhamal district. From there I was sent to the Women Support Centre run by the Institute for Social Development.
That was the turning point of my life. My husband who had earlier agreed for a divorce, withdrew, and I had to file for it. Yet I didn’t lose hope and was ready to face the proceedings no matter how long it took me to get away from him and this sham of a marriage. Meanwhile, the team from the Support Centre summoned my husband and in-laws. He never turned up but sent his elder brother to meet us. He acted all pompous, but my friends at the Centre punctured his pretension in minutes.
The team then made a settlement with him, accompanied me to my in-laws’ house and recovered all the stuff that had been given to them at the time of the wedding. They also arranged for me to get Rs 20,000 as food compensation and Rs 1500 as subsistence allowance.
Everything was retrieved – gold, clothes, vessels, furniture. Everything.
I then began to chalk out a new life. I now take personality development classes for girls at an NGO AHIMSA in Phulbani. I tell them about my positive outlook and instil in them the courage to face life. I tell them about my marriage and how I strove to solve my problem instead of rotting in a non-existent marriage.
I am now waiting for the divorce to come through and then I want to find a good job somewhere and move on.
My mother is a ‘deserted woman’ and I have seen how the society has treated her all these years. I did not want to be known as a ‘deserted woman’ too and above all, I did not want to be at the society’s mercy for a dignified existence. I even considered moving off to Haridwar to join some ashram but the social workers here explained to me that that was not going to make my life any better.
They helped me learn a positive lesson from my marriage episode. I hope to be independent now, with or without other people’s approval.