Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Marital Bliss

The first time I saw her, her face was a bloodied mess. All puffed up under the left eye, a spreading blue over the lips, dried tears cutting through caked blood on the cheek and under the nostrils, like dying rivers across a desert. Smell of stale urine. Torn clothing hastily covered by a bed-sheet. The neighbors that brought her in did the talking: she was far too weak.

"Its the husband". One of the men volunteered, to my questioning gaze.

"Again". Whispered one of the women, talking half to herself and half to no one in particular.

I had a rapid look-over. Detailed examination will have to wait. There was the face, with injuries suggestive of a fracture of the nasal bone or septum. The right hand was bend at an unnatural angle halfway between elbow and wrist, swollen and exquisitely tender; possibly a broken arm. Smell of urine, incontinence probably from a kick to the groin.

The woman was in far too serious a condition to be managed at the peripheral center where I worked. At least for the first 48 hrs, she'd have to go to a higher center. I gave first aid, filed a police intimation, and referred her.

She came again a few days later. There was a cast over the arm, and the nose was in a protective covering too. She had been referred from the Medical College, back to my care.

I could see, then, that she was a young woman, younger than I had somehow assumed her to be, last time. Perhaps younger than I had thought possible to have undergone so much unkindness.

We talked.

"Its usual. When he is home, that is."

"The neighbors tried to help, until he started threatening them too. Then we were left to our own fate. Me and the two kids, that is."

"He was particularly mad yesterday. I had sent the kids away to my relations, where they might have had a chance at schooling."

She hadn't consulted him, apparently. Not that it would've made any difference. As far as he was considered, the kids were an accident, a vague annoyance at most. But to have a decision taken without his permission, that was to his way of thinking an unacceptable challenge to his authority. It didn't matter that he never wondered how and when they ate or whether the roof was repaired before the rains. It didn't matter too, that he was away most part of the year, sometimes for weeks together, only to return in the middle of the night reeking of alcohol. The only times he would be reminded of his family, would be if and when someone tried to help his wife make ends meet, wherein he'd be reminded of his pride that his wife had let down.

Perhaps he was simply mad that the children might get an education.

"I really thought he was going to murder me that night. The neighbors thought so too, probably, for they came looking for me in the morning. I had dragged myself out of the house, but couldn't make it up to the road. I'd have died, if they hadn't come looking for me."

I told her about the police intimation that I had filled, and urged her to follow it up with a complaint at the commission for prevention of atrocities towards women. I must have sounded more confidant than I felt, for she was cheered up instantaneously. She had a face that lit up when she smiled, and even through all the pain, I could see that she was beautiful, once, before all this.

She was discharged a few days later. Not once did he visit her.

I saw her a few times more during the following weeks, seeking to ease the pain of a body destroyed by more abuse than one should have to go through in an entire life-time, and the hard labour of raising two kids all by herself. However crowded the OP was, she'd wait till she caught my eye and give me a smile, which I'd always acknowledge without fail. Then, slowly, she was seen no more, and I forgot the whole episode in due time.

The next time was the happiest I ever saw her. She had come to get a certificate attested, she said. The kids were away at her relations, and going to school. They were both working hard, and she hoped of putting them through college. She was being offered a job as sweeper somewhere now.


She had followed up the police intimation. But even before her complaint could be lodged, he had done everyone a favor by getting arrested for some petty offence, and was sent to jail for 3 months.

That was 4 months ago.

I saw her again today. The light had gone out of her eyes, yet again.

"He came looking for me after he was released. Created such a scene where I worked, that the employers asked me to leave, for fear of having him back. He tried to get me to go back and live with him, but I wont have any of it. Neither will I allow him to get to the kids. He has threatened to hurt me, and I know he is perfectly capable of doing that."

She opened up her handbag, and after ensuring that no one was watching, showed me the kitchen knife she was carrying.

"I've a surprise ready for him, though. He wont hurt me or my kids for long now. I am waiting for him to show up".

I was shocked out of my trained calm demeanour. Too shocked to think coherently, I think I tried to say something. I am sure it must have come out non-sense.

She had a different air now: a confidence that terrified me.

"You are a good man, doctor" she said.

"But you are young. There are things you don't realize quite well as yet"

I knew she was not that old herself, but today was not the day for arguments.

"I know you could call up the police about this, but I don't think you would. Besides, do you think anyone gives a damn if I kill the bastard or he kills me?"

I tried to say something. She raised her hand to stop me.

"Please give me something for the back-pain, it has worsened this past week. I have difficulty getting up from bed in early mornings."

I wrote out an injection, two types of tablets, and one ointment of which I had a sample that I gave to her.

I sat there wishing there was something more I could do.

(slightly fictionalized)


  1. Certain incidents fill us up with helplessness and anguish, wishing we could do something specific about it and yet unable to decide where the boundaries are. The lines like "she was way to young to have tolerated such unkindness.." is a line that had the greates impact..lovely writing and a poignant story.

  2. As usual, your writing make a revetting read. But beyond the fictional part, always remember there are two sides to the cliche -ed coin. Would be interesting to learn the husband's version. As a spectator of life, one can only look, narrate. As a participant, the dimensions undergo drastic changes, drawing one into the maelstrom that is life...

  3. sujatha: Thanks.

    bala: there might even be infinite possibilities to any context, but there should also be certain axiomatic way-points that are accepted without argument. For me, regarding Love, the only thing I accept as irrefutable truth is that If I have ever loved a person in any real sense, then I can never have hurt him or her. I see people talk of family honour, infidelity etc but none of that would be reason enough for me to hurt a person that I've loved.. if i ever really loved him or her.

  4. sujatha: Thanks. I was reminded of your post 'The Hands that raise in prayer'.

  5. ahhhh... this is a very strong post...and very very hard hitting

    i am not sure how u conjured this up...if based on some fact that u have heard or seen...

    but the woman deserves a lot of salute...

    i loved this post so much..i am planning to read ur archives today evening...
    m very impressed :)

  6. Hi Ms.Gandhi,

    u r really lavish with your encouragement, I thank u for that. The story itself I dont think would be particularly hard to write: its the story of millions of women in my country. As regarding the exact events described, they are of my experiences with two patients I knew at different places and times, that i have compiled into one single character.

  7. This is a painful thing to read because as a nurse I have experienced a first hand knowledge of what happens when one determines to medicate their own frailty with a quick fix drink or whatever they choose to fix their troubles with...Impacting.......

  8. Hi Sandy, welcome back.

    Its a tough profession, I agree, being a nurse.

    More than drs nurses spend time with individual patients and get more involved personally.

  9. Thanks for visiting my blog and for your lovely comment.The painting on the main page is done by me.It is an oil painting.You can also see other paintings of mine in my blog-
    I liked your post very much.Very nice.Keep writing.

  10. Hi,
    Thanks for vising my blog....I really liked your writing...haven't read it thoroughly I mean with a free mind... :-)

    Will get back soon

  11. Babli, gr8 pics ma'm. Am honoured to be in presence of a real artist...

    The oils, wow!

    I had seen the pics at the blog, but naturally assumed them to be not originally yours..

    because very rarely does one find in the presence of true genius.

  12. Thanks Im!

    Free mind is a precious thing.

    I wish u find urs soon. LoL


  13. Reading you first time. Great. You needn't have written at the end about the piece being a work of fiction. Its real, isn't it? It sounds and smells real...just the knife is fiction. Happy to have come to your page.

  14. Hi Sir,

    Yes it is. Even the knife part is not as fictional as one might think.

    Thanks for coming. Please do come again.


  15. Oh my blood boiled reading this. This feeling of disgust for the man, sympathy for the woman and the sheer helplessness that I felt while reading this...I am stunned.
    It was brilliant, the way you wrote, describing your concern as a doctor and as a man for another fellow human being. I am following you.

  16. Hi Aparna,

    Thank you and welcome back.


  17. that's a beautifully written story. u have a nice blog here

  18. this one's very well written :-)
    i am gonna get back to read more of your stuff :-)

  19. Hi Mughdha,

    I went to yours too. good writing.

    Hoping to see u again.

  20. first time here n this post of your's is such a hard hitting one....have seen such incidents n it's like a normal thing for some people.......and i agree absolutely with what you said to Balachandran V.

  21. Hi sangeetha,

    Thank you and welcome here.

    I went through your latest, and yes i do think sometimes about how we inadvertently hurt them that we love.. and the most cruel part is we wouldn't even dream of hurting those people. Why does love have to be painful?

  22. Nicely written..

    Thanks for the comments!

  23. I seemed so real. And it is, is it not? As you said, a concoction of several isolated events...very well written. You touched a subject that is so relevant to the atrocities happening to the women in our society...

  24. @ Periwinkle: Thanks. Hope to see u again.

    @ Destiny:

    Thank you and welcome here.

    I went to your too and came away impressed through and through.


  25. Hi!
    I visited ur blog a couple of times earlier too, but din't knew what to comment on such serious issues! A doctor is like a second God for people in distress, perhaps that is the reason why you can fathom people's pain so deeply. Nonetheless the fluidity of the expression is just out of the box. I'll like to be regular on your pg from now on. keep writing :)

  26. Hi Shivi,

    Thank you and welcome to my page.

    I went to your blogs too, and I know in you we have one person who wont shy away from speaking the unpalatable truth (with ref to your take on polygamy).

    For that reason, your opinion is highly appreciated.


  27. I'm reading your post for the first time and i must say, its very well written!

  28. A touching post.......I just thought of the difficulties women are going through.....I am reading your blog for the first time. Nicely written...I shall make it a point to read your older posts as well.
    I am a first year MBBS student. Looking forward to learn more from your blog.

  29. Hi Xorkes, Thank you and welcome here.

    Hi Netha, your writing is way too mature for a first year undergraduate. Really impressive. I only hope the long road in front of you wont stifle your creativity. Welcome here.

  30. This is a poem inspired by your story.


    I feel anger for a man who thinks like this
    That he gains respect with his iron fist
    Who beats his wife over all or nothing
    Forgets where he placed his wedding ring
    His strength is there to forever defend her
    And not for playing the big pretender
    In public smiles and holding hands
    In private blatant punches he lands
    She tells the doctor she fell down stairs
    “He didn’t hit me” she always swears
    Now it’s her, that’s acting defender
    To him she will always surrender
    Through thick through thin or on the edge
    He forgets that when he made his pledge
    To have and to hold and forever cherish
    Is different than “do what I say or perish”
    He treats his wife with utter disgust
    Uses her only to satisfy his selfish lust
    Men like this are cowards, they live on the border
    Between sanity and an acute brain disorder
    If a real man confronted him and told him he was vile
    This privately hard man would turn and run a mile
    For his wife something fundamental is sadly amiss
    She is always the only loser in a situation like this
    I make no apologies for men who abuse and violate
    Men like this I personally and whole heartedly despise and Hate.

  31. great way of putting things together...very touching.keep up the good work.if ever there was or is a women like that,she sure has courage to face life,struggle through odds.wonderfully written!


Thanks for giving me this moment of your life.