The Lady with a Broken Smile

I met her on my last visit to my maternal home. She was sitting outside on a chair and reading newspaper. Seeing her, I bent down to take her blessings. She saw and braced me with smile and tears. It was 3 years, that I had not seen her.

She kissed on my forehead and hugged me. As I sat by her side she asked me about my life. I was informing her about my present when my eyes went to her broken teeth, her burnt wrist, and her face which had grown old even in early her 40’s. She was too busy informing me things from her end, but somewhere in between she was losing the flow of her speech as tears came and went. I felt that she wanted to tell me many more things but somehow the tears restricted them from coming out of her. After a while I went inside the house to meet others. Later, as I ended my day, my mind recalled all the happenings that had happened in her life, as informed by my mother to me.

She was not related to me by any direct relation, but belonged to my maternal family and so we treated her as the youngest sister of my mother and so she became my aunt. In those days, marriages had different meaning. Between the boy and the girl, the rituals were mere obligation. As my mother got married, 2 years later some of the relatives suggested a young man with good looks and a respected family for my aunt. Also was the case that people wanted their daughter to get married as early as possible was prevalent then and so she got married as the family said.

As long as everything seems right, no one turns and look towards the left. With time the clouds got scattered and the real colors of the people started coming out. In a couple of years, they started treating her unfairly and rudely. There was no reason as in why and what was going in their mind and so money became the first reason. She informed about this to her parents and brothers, who asked her to keep quiet, ignore their words and to be nice to them, which may lead to change their behavior. She tried but nothing changed. With time to their ignorance, she became responsive. To their insults, she countered with her blunt reply. To this they even became more ruthless and even started beating her, whenever she argued. Many a times she cried and was bruised but never informed her parents as it would even give them more tension.

Things continued from time to time. She was verbally abused, beaten and her husband would call my maternal uncle and used to ask them to take her back. They used to go there discuss the matter asked for forgiveness from her end. A decade of her marriage passed with these same things. It was always “the next time it won’t happen” from my maternal family to her in laws and it was always “OK. Send her back then” from them.

It is more than 20 years of her marriage now. Things slowed down for some years but lately began to get worst. She is left isolated in a distant room in the house. By this time she has started working in a school and pay for her living. She now argues to whatever they say, opposes them and gets beaten up many times. They even try to defame her in front of everyone by highlighting her affairs in her work place, but nothing is true.

Lately after so many issues, last time when they sent her back after beating her up, my maternal family directly went to the police and registered a complain. They got frightened and pleaded forgiveness from her. But such pleading is not new for them, they have asked this many times. They called her and asked her to return back. She was not ready. She wanted divorce. Her parents at this age of early 80’s were not sure about this decision. They knew her plight but they also knew the society they belonged and how difficult it will be for a lady to survive. Bringing her back to their place was something the people of that era would rarely do.

And so there was she, when I met her, reading newspaper and was supposed to leave the very next day back to her in laws, with no other options left.

Was it her mistake that this happened to her out of the other sisters or blame to fate or so called destiny?

Whether my maternal family lately responded or reacted to the things or was it the societal pressure responsible for their decisions?

At this age, after these many years, reasons, excuses and explanations don’t hold logic to be discussed. These are some of the instances where you cannot console people to hold their tears back. Certain event are meant to cry out and they demand tears. She is a different person now; someone broken at heart and lost at hope. She even smiles with a deep loneliness behind it. Sitting in a different city and hearing about her made me a man whom I was searching. May be its not about serving the society that defines the humanity, it’s more so that you have to feel and behave like a human to be a human.

If her in laws would have understood it them, her smile would have been more beautiful without the broken teeth and burnt hands.

Thank You

Published in The Times of India



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