By Menaka Girish:
TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic content.
I have something to say… Many somethings. Unbeknownst to the world I have had a personal upheaval of sorts. Not that the world needs or wants to be in on this rising-from-the-ashes story. This is a declaration and an apology. I am an ‘adulteress’. I have taken a man for a lover while I am still bound in holy (?) matrimony with the other man. See what I did there? I want to say, right here, and right now, just how sorry I am. And since the dot-com world is such a big fan of listicles–sounds a little ‘nuts’ if you ask me–I am going to arrange my regrets in eight neat points. Maybe that’ll take the edge off the ugliness inside. Here goes!
1) I am sorry I was an imbecile. I, who strongly advocated that individuality must never be sacrificed at the altar of any kind of love but, became putty in your rough hands. That I dressed, walked, talked, behaved to please you and you alone. That I gave in when the commands were still subtle, when I was not yet your show dog. I am sorry I had shameful affairs with the food I love behind your back, that I politely distanced from the friends you didn’t approve of, that I let you, and I did let you, make me your puppet. I am sorry that I took marriage too lightly, when I should have been thinking hard if I wanted it, and our marriage much too seriously when it had already become a joke.
2) I am sorry, oh, so sorry. I am a feminist not because I believe in higher rights but because I believe in equal rights and I still chose you. You with the family who celebrates the rage gene passed down from your granddaddy, you who openly ridiculed men who let their women ‘run amok’ or, worse, those who let their wives/girlfriends make the decisions. I am sorry that I fell in line with bride-like eagerness and imagined–I was a grand ol’ 21 after all–that one person’s love could make the home run!
3) I am sorry that I used my words, “this is hurting me”, “this is breaking me”, “I will forget who I am”, when you used your words, “useless, you are such a clumsy idiot”, “bitch, you don’t dare speak back to me! Get out of my fucking car”, “Idiot, you messed up the plan. Walk back home, that’s your punishment!” I should have packed my bags and left you to your means, for a few days at the least. But, I stayed. For the ‘someday’ and the ‘one day’ that never came.
4) I am sorry and ashamed (now that’s a girl!) that when my lover held me naked with the lights on, I was so wrecked thinking how I must look; that when he put his mouth to my starved clitoris like it was his first meal in days, I was so pleasured I cried. Because you never touched me ‘there’. “Tharki saali,” was the response I got to almost any request I made sexually until I went with the blow-you-spread-legs-go-to-the-loo-and-shag routine. You never realised that I never came with you, but then, were you really bothered? My previously adventurous sex life turned ghost-like-waif with you, as you revelled in the ‘manliness’ of bedding your wife a record number of times. Note: quantity does not equal quality.
5) I am truly sorry that I was foolish enough to tell you that my ‘adultery’ was not just that; that I was far gone, and wanted to be relinquished from this ‘contract’. When I refused to pretend to make it work between us and have something else on the side (thinking mashed potatoes right now). Because instead of divorcing the heck out of me and never wanting to see me again, your way of getting me to stay was to sit on me and punch me in the stomach till I threw up (of course, later, you put ice packs on me between pleading to keep it a secret). Worse, that I thought ‘deserved it this time’.
6) I am sorry that when you called me a woman of loose character, in front of my daughter and my mother, I didn’t reduce you to ashes. I was sifting through my decade of filter coffees left by the bedside; the many casseroles of hot food to your liking; the child neatly packed for school and out of your way; the many public insults and private apologies; the four abortions you didn’t accompany me to the doctor for, because you hated condoms and always promised to pull out and didn’t; the taunts about wanting another child but telling me how much it would cost me every time I got knocked-up; the times my child told her friends’ mothers about her father always yelling at her mother and twisting her arm and you saying that the said child needs to learn to never talk about domestic things outside.
I am sorry that instead of saying something, I stood there with tears in my eyes thinking about all the ways you have hacked up, asphyxiated, incinerated and molested my character and my love.
7) I am truly and honestly sorry that I expected more from your friends who were my only friends. The good people of gated-community-suburbia, who have seen the abuse, asked me why I put up with it, know of my ‘ahem, indiscretion’, but can’t understand why I want a divorce and have moved out. “Yaar, all this happens in ever house yaar. You both made mistakes. That’s no reason to leave. Pagal hai kya? Apni beti ka soch! Do what I do, every time he behaves badly, sex dena band kar de. Apne aap line pe a jayega.” I want to tell them it shouldn’t have to be like that. That to not hurt someone you love repeatedly should not be an effort. It should not be something to beg for and bribe to get. And, by the way, the 4,5,6-year-old beti meanwhile was busy defending her mother at times of abuse.
8) I truly regret the pain I caused you. I have lived my life with integrity, with empathy, with compassion and the thing my mother taught me that stuck was to never cause pain to anyone. And I did; to you, to my family, my daughter who I love like she’s a reason to live. I know better than to think that one hurt warrants another. I am sorry to have that on my conscience. I am sorry for the betrayal that broke your back; if you had listened you’d have known I was long gone. This contract of ours has been rendered null and void by both of us; in that, at least, we were true partners.
Now let me go.
The name of the author has been changed to protect her identity.