I was born in a very small village in Rajasthan. My mother left me when I was one. People say she was scared of my grandmother and so she left. In those days, giving birth to a girl child was considered a crime. You see, actually it’s the male’s chromosomes that determine the child’s gender and not the female’s. But still, it’s always the female who is blamed. My grandmother always wanted a male grandson. When I was born, she was devastated. But, she kept me with her. Once I turned eight, she started getting me to work for her. I had to do everything. Sweep the floor…wash the dishes…fold clothes…get water from the river…in short I was the house servant. I never spoke a word against her. I did everything she told me to. My neighbor, Purnima, was a very sweet lady. She had warned me not to go against my grandmother ever.
My father was home only at night. He was a heavy drinker. He used to beat me up and my grandmother would lock me in the basement when I cried. I would scream for ages but there was nobody who would listen to me. The basement was so damp. To calm myself down, I would sing. Tears rolled down my cheeks while I sang. My songs gave me company.
When I turned thirteen, I got married. I packed my bags and left with my head covered. I was glad to get rid of my so-called family, but later I realized I was wrong. My mother-in-law was not less. My husband hardly spoke to me and my in-laws treated me like their slave. My husband’s name was Ranjeet but I was not allowed to address him by his name. He was six years older than me and he studied the whole day. He never spoke to me. All I was supposed to do, was keep his books away, give him food, wake him up, and in the end of the day I was supposed to give him a huge glass of milk. I even had to eat food in the same plate in which he ate. I had to eat all his leftover. Sometimes I went hungry and starved myself, but the other times, I didn’t have any option.
My husband’s house was very huge and they were very rich people. Sometimes, when I had nothing to do, I would go to the terrace and look at my husband’s books. I could not understand anything but I would link up the pictures and make some story out of them. Every time, I came up with something new. But most of the time, I would sing and watch the sky. The smell of the drying up chilies would get into my nose whenever the wind blew. One day, when I was drying the chilies, my husband came upto me. I quickly covered my head with my duppata and stood up. “Do you want something?” I asked. “No, I…I just came up. Isn’t it a beautiful morning?” He asked. “Yes. Yes it is.” I said and got back with my work. “Do you wish to go for a walk?” He asked. “I don’t know. Mummyji will get angry and I still have so much work to do.” I said. “Don’t worry about that. Let’s go.” He smiled. I was scared in the beginning because I had never seen him talking to me like this but in the end, I went.
We walked past the river and he told me about his life. He told me about how he hated the village life and it’s customs. I just listened to him and walked, nodding my head. When the wind blew, my duppata came off from my head. Before I could cover my head again, Ranjeet held my hand. “It’s okay. I don’t want you to be like the other girls.” He spoke. I blushed and looked down. We walked on, silently. Soon, we had left the village far behind. He held my hand, and I didn’t mind. “Oh, it’s late. I think we should go back.” I said suddenly. “Don’t worry.” He said. “No. You don’t understand. Your mother will kill me. Please lets hurry.” I started crying. “Fine. We’re going. Don’t cry.” He said. We ran back home.
“Where the hell were you?” My mother-in-law yelled. “I’m sorry.” I said. “Sorry? You stupid girl.” And up went her hand. I got a tight slap on my cheek. “Mum. It was not her fault.” Screamed Ranjeet. “You go and study. I knew this would happen. These small people have no manners.” Saying so, her hand went up again. “Stop crying and go to cook.” She screamed. I turned my head and went to the kitchen quietly. I didn’t eat anything the whole day. At night when I was sleeping, Ranjeet came up to me. “Here, have milk.” He said. “No, it’s for you. I don’t want it.” I said. “Look, I’m sorry for all that mess. I really am.” He said. I never knew that husbands could say sorry to their wives. “I’m used to it. My father used to beat me up too.” I said, crying. Ranjeet kept the glass down and made me sit. “Look, I’m sorry Gita. I didn’t know this would happen. Please, look at me.” He said. He held my face in his palms and looked me in the eye. I didn’t look away. He then brought his face closer to mine, and our lips touched. “I’m sorry.” He said again. “Don’t be.” I smiled. He held me in his arms and we talked.
“What do you study?” I asked. “Science. I want to become an engineer.” He said. “What’s that?” I asked. “You’ll soon know. I have a very big exam to apply for and if I get through, both of us will shift to Mumbai.” He said. “What about your parents? Will they come too?” My head was filled with questions. “No. I’ll be working and we’ll live alone.” He smiled. “That’s nice.” I said. We then fell asleep.
Things changed after that day. My in-laws were good to me and Ranjeet had become my best friend. We were best friends who would kiss. We took morning walks, and when my in-laws went out, I’d teach him to cook and he would read me to read. He was different. He loved my voice and so I would sing to him. He made me feel good.
We shifted to Mumbai when I was fifteen. Before we shifted to Mumbai, my mother-in-law told me that she wanted a grand son.
Ranjeet worked as a software engineer. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment. In the beginning, I would it all very scary. The girls around roamed about half naked and the roads were always so busy. I locked myself up in the house and waited for Ranjeet to come home. Sometimes, I would stand in front of the mirror in my inner wears and stare at my body, I realized that I didn’t look that bad with my hair open except for the bruises on my body.
One day, when Ranjeet came home, he got four big bags with him. “What is this?” I asked him. “Look.” He said. When I opened the bags, I saw pretty t-shirts, jeans and a few skirts. I was shocked. “What?” I exclaimed. “Look Gita, from now you’re going to wear this.” He said. I was confused in the beginning but then I went inside and changed. “Wow. You look beautiful.” Said Ranjeet, and kissed me. Soon, that kiss ended up with something else. Something beautiful.
After a few months, I could go out shopping on my own. The people around were nice and kind. Ranjeet soon got a higher post and I joined Spoken English classes. Life took a massive turn for me. I made friends. I felt a little weird as I was married being a teen, but things were fine. I got my waist length hair cut and got a different look.
On my eighteenth birthday, Ranjeet got home a computer. Our house was now well furnished even though it was so tiny. I never heard from my family but my in-laws often called.
When Ranjeet got a huge increment, I joined dancing and singing classes. The doctor gave me good news when I was twenty-three. Ranjeet was so happy but I was scared. I prayed to God to give me a boy child. But Ranjeet told me it didn’t matter at all.
Yes, I gave birth to a girl child. I was so scared and upset. But, I was shocked when my in-laws happily accepted my child. My in-laws stayed with us for a few weeks and then again left for Rajasthan.
We all named her Priya. I had made it clear to Ranjeet that she was going to go to school. And so, Priya went to school. I would pack her tiffin everyday and would organize her things for her. It was as if I was going to school. When Priya would be in school, I would go for my classes.
Soon, we shifted to a bigger house and life got better. I sang and danced on stage. I was there in the newspapers and people started knowing me. I got a job as a dance teacher in Priya’s school and thus, we were together.
I never knew my mother, and so I made sure that Priya got everything she wanted. I was a friend to her. Her grand parents loved her too and she was the apple of Ranjeet’s eye.
I had given up on my life long back, but…I saw light. And I believe it was my mother who carried me and made me cross the barriers of my life. I was an uneducated village girl and today I am a mother, a wife, a dancer, a singer and a strong feminist. I’ve left those bruises behind forever.
I now live a happy and peaceful life with my two best friends.
[Thanks Rohit for the title :)]