“I was 19 when my father asked me to accept his Rishta — I wanted to have a career in media and make something of myself, but my family kept insisting. I even walked away from home in frustration, but eventually I gave in.
I met my ‘to be’ husband for the first time after we were engaged — he was only 22. We actually got along and the time we spent together was great, but since the beginning, his family’s demands made me uncomfortable. Dowries are illegal, yes. But ‘expectations’ are a very normalised concept — They ‘politely’ demanded for things like clothes, cash, small envelopes for the extended family, jewelry…the list went on. Being the ‘girls side’ we overlooked it all — my father paid around 25 lacs for the wedding with the biggest smile on his face.
It wasn’t all bad — my husband and I spent time getting to know each other and actually fell in love. It was because of that love, that I was okay with his family asking me not to work and to wear a Burkha which I’d never worn before. I got accustomed to their taunts — ‘your parents didn’t give us as much as we were expecting’ was something I heard on a daily basis.
And then I was pregnant — that’s when everything began to change. I wanted my husband’s love and care — but never got it. He would only come to the room after 3 am, when he was done spending time with his family — they never let him go before that. I was given no extra money for my health, so my father began to send me money every month.
When they would discuss ‘important things’, they would shut the door in my face because it was a ‘family-matter.’ or issues between me and my husband would reach them and they’d say ‘go back to your father.’ I felt so alone.
Because of the stress, I delivered early — my little Sarah couldn’t wait to see me! I was so happy to see her little face, but my family didn’t feel the same way. After bringing her home, I realised that no one else was excited. They never held her or took care of her.
I was doing the housework and taking care of her all by myself — I had no help. I felt like a single mother even when I was married. I think somewhere, they were disappointed that I didn’t give them a boy.
When she was just 3 months old, my husband and I were having yet another fight in front of my brother and his father. In anger, he said ‘talak, talak, talak.’ Immediately regretting it — but we couldn’t do anything about it. According to the age old rule, it was done — We were done.
I was depressed when I went back to my father’s house — but there was no going back. I wanted to give up, but I couldn’t because I had to set an example for Sarah. I decided to pick up the pieces and pursue my career — I was ready to take up any job to support my daughter. I started as a floor manager for a gym and worked myself up — since then I’ve not taken any money from my father. I have bigger dreams and want to be fully financially independent, so that I can set that example for my daughter and raise her to chase all her dreams too. I’m both a mother and father to her today… maybe that’s why I’m twice as strong. This life is for her.”