Note: TRIGGER WARNING: Domestic Violence / Emotional Abuse / Sexual Abuse / Physical Abuse
This is the true story of my client. When she texted me to say that she wants to write her story and share it with the world, I was amazed at her strength. These are her words. I haven’t changed a thing. Today is her birthday and she wanted this published today as a gift of healing to herself. It was my honour to fulfil that birthday wish.
— Prachi S Vaish
Ik ‘Qubool hai’ ka fasla tha mere aur mere zalimo ke darmiyaan,
Us nikah-naame ne meri zindagi ko kya se kya bana diya
Where do you want me to start my story from? Should I start from the time when he threatened me with abortion if I got pregnant with a girl? Or should I start from the time when he lied to me about his job and salary? Should I start from the time his mother started manipulating? Or when I realized this was abuse? Or should I start from the end?
Hi, I am Firdous. By the time this post will be published, I would have turned 29 years old (30th June). I got married on 6th July 2018, 6 days right after my birthday. I took divorce from my now ex-husband, after 3 months of marriage, on 31st October 2018. Yes, it was an abusive, torturous and manipulative marriage but the reason I want to talk about it is because a huge number of women suffer worse than me and yet they are trapped in the marriage due to prevalent discriminatory traditions of society. My marriage was the result of desperate decisions by parents and me. It was a result of long-held notion ingrained in people that one must get married at a certain age ‘anyhow’.
It was through a marriage bureau that my marriage got fixed while I was in Delhi preparing for UPSC Civil Services Examination. I resisted this match because I didn’t believe in this bureau thing. I told papa (my father) that I was not comfortable since we hardly know anything about them and also pointed out that one of my friends was suffering in her marriage due to this reason only. However, I was assured that they would do all research that is needed about the family before saying yes.
My family agreed to the match after the first meeting itself. My family liked them so much that I was called from Delhi immediately to meet the boy. I also agreed since I was satisfied with the details that were provided to me about them. The boy’s family treated me with love when they first met me. I had a very strong feeling that I am going to be the happiest after getting married.
The wedding was fixed for 6th July 2018. The period between the first meeting and the wedding was pretty smooth. There were usual hiccups here and there but no prominent red flags. The boy seemed to be an introvert, simple and smart. They had told us he was an assistant manager at one of the leading pharmaceutical companies and his income was somewhat around ₹3.5 lac per annum (which turned out to be completely false). They had few properties as well and lived in one of the posh localities of Navi Mumbai.
In a few instances before marriage, when he and I would talk, he had lost his temper and insisted me a lot to be the Daughter-in-law (DIL) who would take care of his parents more than being a good wife to him. I ignored the temper because the very next moment he would apologize profusely. I also assured him of being a good DIL and wife because all I wanted was a positive and peaceful environment. He agreed immediately. Little did I know that this was a red flag of abuse.
I was not in love with him but I believed that things were going the right way. I also never brought up these issues in front of my family.
True colors emerge
The real trouble started from the wedding day itself. Upon being surrounded by my cousins for some fun rituals near the entrance of the wedding hall, he lost his temper and started looking for his mother, shouting angrily, “Mummy, Mummy“. My siblings and my parents didn’t notice the drama because they were looking after other formalities. His mother calmed him down while others watched the scene unfold with shocked expressions. I was standing on the stage greeting the guests unaware of the horrific turn of the events. On the wedding night, while I was expecting some pleasant conversations between us as a newly-wed couple, he hardly showed any interest in me and slept almost immediately after freshening up.
Abortion, reception and betrayal
The next evening was our reception. Day passed by usually. I didn’t feel special being his wife. But that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was his weird silence in the afternoon after spending some time with his parents. He came in the room and continued to stare at the ceiling. I asked him politely if he wasn’t happy with the marriage. He simply replied that all the wedding events happened smoothly so he had no reason to be unhappy. I was surprised because you don’t usually get this kind of answer to the above question.
He suddenly started talking about having children. We had discussed about kids before marriage also. I had realized that he hated kids while his mother loved kids and wanted to be a grandmother quite soon. So, I asked him why he was talking about kids when he hated them. He replied, “I like you so much that I want to have kids with you.” I believed him. He kept on persisting on having son only. When I asked him, “What if we have a daughter?” His reply literally shook me to the core. He said very darkly, “I will abort her.” I just looked at him shockingly and then turned my eyes towards the ceiling unable to utter anything. When I didn’t reply, he got aggressive and gripped my left wrist so tightly that it started to hurt. He kept on pressurising me to agree to his criminal idea. I had become completely numb. I could not comprehend that I got married to this kind of a man. It was hard to accept that I was supposed to spend my life with this person. I wanted to run away and wanted to break the marriage. Once again, when he realised he was showing his true colours he apologized. I didn’t say anything. This was the first glimpse of the physical abuse and emotional abuse that was to be unleashed upon me. It was time for prayer (namaz). I sat on the prayer mat and without any shame, I prayed to Allah begging him to break this marriage anyhow. I didn’t care that it was the first day and I was not giving him more chances. A person who could think of killing an unborn child just because of gender was not a human for me. This was the beginning of my end.
In the evening at reception, his mood turned dark again and said to me threateningly “You have no idea who I am.” His eyes looked murderous and emotionless. I felt as if a criminal was talking to me about his dark secrets and warning me about the days to come.
Vulgarity as his second nature
His weird behaviour became a usual pattern for me. Every day, I would discover a new vile quality about him. On days he would threaten to kill me. He wanted to rape me because according to him, men of his age rape their wives. He suffered from erectile dysfunction but since he didn’t want to admit that, he accused me of not satisfying him. He wanted to cut my arms so that they would have curves like Sunny Leone – apparently his favourite porn actress. He would try to enact porn scenes with me to which I vehemently disagreed. He sexually assaulted me by biting me all over the body like an animal. I cried in pain but he casually said that it was normal. He only stopped because I threatened to tell my family about it. When my saying no to his sexual fantasies became too much for him he finally revealed one night that he was forced to marry me and he never liked me in first place.
He would often show his aggression on those inferior to him – shopkeepers, security guards, etc. In fact, slapped few of them without any reason. He lived in an imaginary world where he was some powerful political leader (his passion) and others were just his slaves and often talked about raping women whenever he got angry at them. He would try to molest girls who were too young to understand his approach, like his niece. I made sure to be present every time he was with her. Vulgarity was his second nature.
He often threatened me with divorce by giving some or the other reasons. Sometimes, he would reason out that he did not have the money to look after me and our future kids. Sometimes, he would say that he would leave me at my parents’ place because I was not keeping his parents happy. Sometimes, he would threaten me because I did not support him when he was abusing the shopkeepers.
Manipulative mother-in-law (MIL)
Meanwhile, his parents pretended to treat me like a daughter because they were very well aware of their son’s character. He was the only son and they loved him unconditionally. While he expected me to make his parents happy, they wanted me to just be there for their son. The pressure of expectations from both sides was immense.
My ex-MIL called the shots in the house. She literally manipulated me about everything. She led me to believe that though his son was not like others, he loved me immensely. She used to deliberately tell me stories of struggles of married women. I fell for her manipulations each time. I soon figured out that she had somewhat brainwashed and manipulated his son to remain loyal to her only. I also figured out that he would share our bedroom conversations with her. Then, they would misinterpret whatever I had said negatively and use it against me. She never let him get close to me emotionally. He was always under immense pressure to please his mum. It was so obvious that this guy was under his mother’s spell and he would do anything she said without questioning. My ex-husband was a monster with the combined toxicity of his vulgarity and his mother’s manipulations.
I was basically an unwanted person who was brought in to do household chores and give the family a legitimate son.
It’s actually pointless to even talk about what I was going through each day. I was devastated but I didn’t show it to anyone. I soon realised how this family was toxic. I just became a robot who would do household chores from morning till night, trying to please each one of them so that there could be peace. I would half-heartedly laugh with them, sit with them to pretend as if everything was normal but I was dead from inside. Each day I just prayed a lot to get rid of this boy.
I had lost interest in living. I hardly called my family. I lost touch with my friends. I did tell my sisters about his character. They were shocked. However, it was quite understandable that even they could not do anything about it. My marriage was not even 6 months old. They coaxed me to tell them immediately if he again threatened to kill me so that they could lodge a police complaint. Every day I used to console myself by thinking about others who are suffering worse than me. I had given up. But, I didn’t stop praying. Shamelessly, I kept on praying for some miracle to happen which would take me away from these toxic people. And how he heard my plight!
It was in September that I messaged my sister, “My husband is talking nonsense just like his mother” Actually, they were pressurizing me to not give my laptop back to my brother (they were extremely greedy but never showed). I was too pissed off with everyday drama and how this 30-year old man had no brain of his own. The message was a culmination of my bottled-up frustration. As fate would have it, I deleted all chat except this one. He read the msg and told his mum. All hell broke loose. MIL’s ego got so hurt that she didn’t forgive me despite me asking for forgiveness at her feet (I actually felt sorry for sending that message!).
The explicit mental and emotional abuse started. She taunted me every time, pointed out mistakes about my household work, provoked her son against me, stopped talking to me (remember, she treated me like a daughter. So, the pain it must have caused me!), insulted me with abusive language, cursed my family, tortured me about less dowry, physically abused me by not letting me wear slippers that reduced my ankle pain (it used to be severe.)
I was isolated, abandoned and hated. Her son supported her and didn’t speak a single word against her torture. He was spineless which became quite apparent during my ordeal.
Family comes to know
I told my sisters by sending an email from the bathroom. My parents had no clue till the last week of September. My eldest sister finally told ammi (my mother). She came and discussed with my ex-in laws as to why I was being tortured. They humiliated her and me. Yet, she was brave and talked with respect and dignity. For the first time, I told about my sexual assault in front of everybody. Ammi and ex-MIL were shocked equally. Ex-MIL still had the audacity to support her son. Ammi left after requesting the monsters not to treat me that way. Hardly, anything changed. Ammi could not forget my sexual assault.
Within few days, everyone in my family came to know. They were beyond angry. No one in our family was treated this way. Yes, we too were a part of patriarchal society but women have received a good amount of respect in our family. Nobody could believe what I had gone through since the beginning. Papa (who lived abroad) immediately decided to bring me back.
We had to devise a secret plan to get me out of their clutches because by now it was clear that they were very toxic people and they would harm me if we tried to break the marriage. Reputation was very dear to them. Anyhow, my mother convinced them to send me home since I had not visited them after I had got married.
I had become a very timid girl by enduring all this. Such was the affect of the emotional abuse, the physical abuse, the domestic abuse and the sexual abuse that I suffered that when ammi herself came to take me, I could not go. I just couldn’t find courage to go against my in laws’ rules (they didn’t want me to go). I was horrified by thinking that I would be tortured more if everything settled down and I had to come back to this place. You can understand my situation. I was so mentally torture that I had accepted my faith as it is. It was very hard for me to believe that my family has come to take me back permanently.
You can imagine the agony my family must have gone through that they took this decision. They were going against societal norms which was not very common. My elder sister, who was pregnant, was losing her sleep and crying profusely requesting my parents to bring me back anyhow. My eldest sister and her 5-year old daughter were having sleepless nights. My mother had lost weight considerably and My brother had lost his appetite. I still get filled with regrets and feel like taking their pain away. I tried to do that by hiding and enduring alone but Allah has been kind and merciful.
My ex-father-in-law dropped me home next morning, 3rd October, 2018.
Filing for divorce
We soon initiated the divorce proceedings. Obviously, ex-husband and his family were unaware of it. They came to take me back after two weeks. In between, nobody tried to contact me from that side. Arguments and counter arguments followed. They were adamant on taking me back, apologised for their wrongdoings. My brother-in-law fought for me for which my whole family is indebted. I didn’t go with them and told them about my decision.
We filed for divorce at Islamic court. The proceeding was pretty smooth since they didn’t want to tarnish their reputation by creating any drama. No alimony was demanded from our site. On my divorce paper it’s written that two sides lacked compatibility. This statement still does not bother me because my family and I know the reality. I don’t need papers to speak for my truth.
On 31st October, 2018, I got divorced. I could finally breathe again.
I still suffer from anxiety. Each day is a battle. I heal, break apart and then heal. I still get nightmares about them coming back in my life and taking me back but I fight, I get up and I face the day with my head held high.
I’ve been blessed with some amazing best friends post-divorce. Family has been super supportive. Prachi has been a pretty amazing therapist. The way the therapy helped me cannot be described in just few lines. The most beautiful part about taking therapy from Prachi was that I didn’t feel as if I was talking to some doctor. She really made me feel at ease within the few seconds of our first conversation. The first meeting itself was so so relaxing for me. I spoke straight for 1 hour and she didn’t even utter a word while I was telling my story and that’s not something which I usually encountered. Somebody hearing someone’s story for one straight hour is not an easy task. The next thing which I want to highlight is what she said to me during our first conversation was that “only you know what you have gone through in these 3 months.” That literally healed me to a large extent because till that point almost everyone except my brother in law used to tell me and used to compare my short term marriage to other people’s marriage whose marriage lasted for quite a number of years and then they got divorced due to some or the other reason. That used to upset me because those three months were literally full of pain and agony and yet people wanted me to forget that just by comparing my ordeal with others. So that sentence which she said to me was itself a path towards healing and towards recovery.
Allah has been my constant support.
I have left out many details. You can understand 90 days equal to 90 days of torture which is like 100 to 200 pages of story. Even this is long, I know, but I had to do justice to myself and to the women out there.
I know it’s a long way to go. All I want to say is do not lose faith in the Almighty. Make sure to share if anything bothers you. I never shared with my sisters because I wanted them to take action. I shared because I just wanted someone to know about what was going on with me. But that one message to my sister became the road to my freedom.
I also want to tell people that it’s very important to seek therapy because these are professionals who literally understand the pain that we are going through. Most of the time our family and friends fail to understand what we are going through. But the professional psychotherapist, they do the scientific study of what exactly happens to us during trauma and other abuse. That is why I believe that seeking therapy should not be a taboo and it should not be looked down upon. In fact it should be encouraged as much as we encourage seeking medicine for any other condition.
Talaq-nama nahin meri azadi ka parcham tha wo,
Zulm Ki neev par apni khushiyon ka mahal banane walon par tamacha tha wo
Firdous is healing with Prachi S Vaish, our relationship and trauma recovery therapist and the founder of The Emotional Wellness Initiatives. You can read more about Prachi and book an appointment with her here.