Middle-class families are honestly, quite middle-class. Mine was too and I hated it. We had enough but I wanted more, more of good clothes, jewellery, a loaded bank account, the good life in short but without lifting a finger. I dreamt of winning a jackpot or just getting lucky. How was I going to get rich? I didn’t know as yet. On finishing college, I began taking up part-time jobs but frustration and disinterest set in quickly. I wanted a job near home with a fat salary and a smaller number of working hours but the employers kept asking for better skills and education. They’re so unfair with freshers so I changed job after job ona whim. Mother said that I was being overambitious and silly. What’s wrong in being ambitious? And I am smart, smarter than almost everyone I know, not silly as mother says.
One fine day father announced the clipping of my wings. He said that I should clear the way for my younger sisters. The eligible boy and his family arrived, the meeting and formalities over, I was ‘okayed’. That’s how Jeet came into my life. He belonged to a well -to-do family of four. His elder sister was already married. Jeet worked in Dubai; his parents lived in a spacious house in Delhi and didn’t want a dowry. My parents were thrilled: I will have no responsibilities, sister-in-law was already married, no dowry and eventually, I will be joining Jeet in Dubai. What a catch! You’re so lucky! An NRI groom! The congratulations poured in.
Jeet was ordinary in looks, ordinary in height and ordinary to talk to. He’s so ordinary that you wouldn’t notice him if he walked by you on a street. Our marriage was a solemn, simple affair. Jeet was good to me. He’s agreeable and nice but nice is boring. Something was lacking! Something was missing! What was it? Actually, this overdose of goodness irritated me no end. Marriage brought unanticipated problems for me.
Jeet wanted me to stay with his parents but I was too independent a spirit for that. I told him that I can’t forego my freedom. They set rules, they had expectations, they asked questions and I didn’t like to provide answers or explanations. An idea struck me! Why waste my energy on his parents when the son was mine and foolishly agreeable. Why not withhold sex to test Jeet’s patience until he surrendered to my demands? Jeet should learn that a husband’s job is to fulfil his wife’s desires. The trick worked and we took a small flat on rent just five minutes away from my parents’ place. I began my married life with some role reversal. Let the husband and his parents compromise for a change so I set the rules in the beginning itself.
Marriage was ok but getting intimate was not. I didn’t like it much. If only we could stay together without all this fuss about sex, it was fine by me. But it didn’t work that way. Jeet was young and full of beans. His growing love drove me up the wall. Somehow, I bore his passionate love - making but we’re just not on the same page. I loathed him. Here’s another problem. Soon, he and his family will start about having a baby and the obedient son will want me to comply with their wishes.
A woman should know how to deal with an overzealous bloke. Mine was so naïve and such a simpleton that it wasn’t hard for me to keep him at an arm’s length by pretending to be busy in household chores. When he offered help, I told him sweetly that he should rest because he worked so hard. The fool believed me! Actually, I wanted him at a safe distance because he never missed any opportunity to touch me or kiss me. It’s so tiresome!
In my house, the day used to unfold slowly, nothing was hurried. I liked to do things my way and I liked to be on my own. Am I a loner? No, I just don’t like most of the people I come across. I find them dumb; they don’t match up to me. The kitchen doesn’t appeal to me either but the man of the house needs to be fed and so, I sometimes suffered cooking too. Just a few sweet words said at the right moment and he would be in the kitchen rustling up dishes to make me happy and give me some rest.
I understand human psyche very well , you know. I can trick most of the people in doing or thinking what I want them to, except my cousin, Di. She was admired by even the elders for her clarity of thought, sharp mind and no-nonsense attitude. With her by my side, I was assured of family support for throwing Jeet out of my life; only Di shouldn’t get a whiff of my real plans. Her opinions were valued so I decided to discuss my ‘problem of aplenty’ with her.
“Jeet’s passion doesn’t match with mine. He wants intimacy every day. Isn’t it abnormal?”
“Can’t judge anyone for that. Different people, different ways. Why don’t you talk to him gently if you aren’t comfortable with this?”
“How can I be comfortable? He behaves like a dog, a street dog. There’s not much of a difference,” I laughed.
“Gosh! That’s gross……. calling your life partner a dog. Mind your tongue, M. I hope you haven’t said this to Jeet.”
‘No, I haven’t.” I had to lie .
“You guys are newly married and he loves you. Intimacy is also an expression of love. Mind you, it’s just a phase; it’s not going to last forever. In fact, he’s leaving in a week. Be nice to each other.”
“Love…my foot! I’m smart, I know how to put a leash on him……I withhold intimacy for days until he agrees to all my demands. It works like a charm! Every time,” I giggled.
“What rubbish! That’s downright manipulation, it’s blackmail, not smartness. Don’t do it, Minny if you want a long, steady relationship. Let me warn you that you are pushing too hard. Don’t throw him under the bus. He comes home for only two weeks. It’s such a short duration. I think you are overreacting to the issue of intimacy…. making a mountain out of a molehill.”
“Di, you just don’t understand.”
“Then please make me.”
“I don’t care for him. It would have been better had I not married him,” I said casually.
“ You will learn to care for him. It takes time in an arranged marriage. Sometimes a marriage can have a rocky beginning. “
“I want to be free, independent…...I don’t like him much”
“Is he abusive? Violent? A drunkard? A womanizer?”
“No, irritating, too agreeable, too nice, dumb…I wish I could…...”, I almost blurted out the truth.
“Being nice or dumb is not a crime.”
“ I will cook up something then. What if I accuse him of being abusive and a womanizer!”, I said jokingly.
“Firstly, levying fake accusations is reprehensible and then you need to prove them. Are you going to do any of this?”
“ Not at all! I’m upset with him. He can be quite annoying sometimes. I was kidding.”
“You are annoying most of the time.”
“ That’s right but I ‘m improving.”
“Promise me you won’t do anything rash.”
“ Oh, come on Di. It was just a rant but if you insist then I promise.” Had I not been careful, Di had almost guessed my intentions. She won’t fall into my trap so it’s better to keep her out of the loop. And promises are meant to be broken. I’ll try my tricks on lesser mortals.
It’s hard to deal with a fool but dealing with an emotional fool is a bigger problem. Jeet flew home to give us all a surprise. I wasn’t prepared to see him but put up a good pretense. Back at home after dinner, he spent a long time talking about our life in Dubai. He gave me the details of his accommodation, life, job, friends and the documentation process that should be completed before I can join him there. This was followed by what else but love making. It was all enough to put me in a panic mode. I asked him many questions because this information might prove to be useful for me to execute my plans in future. I should look and sound interested.
My mind was in a whirl in the morning. Things were happening real fast specially the passport and the documents. This had to be stopped, something had to be done but what? I was finding it hard to concentrate when he hugged me from behind. “Stop it! I can’t stand this.”
“Why are you so cold? We had such a lovely night. What happened?”
“I can’t be in bed the whole day.”
“I’m not asking you to.”
“Then don’t hug me and stop behaving like a dog!”
“A dog! I was just saying good morning. Anyways, what’s wrong in loving one’s wife?”
“Spare me your love, you lovesick dog and back off!”
He looked struck as if I had slapped him hard across the face. Now he will play the victim, I thought. I was right. He had breakfast in sullen silence. ‘I can’t pander to his womanish whims and moods.’ Sometime in the afternoon, he left. I didn’t ask and he didn’t say a word. He was gone for three days, there was peace at home and I guessed that he was at his parents’. He came back on his own. I was counting every minute to his departure. In the evening, he began packing his stuff. Suddenly, he came in and quietly kept a pair of gold earrings in my lap. That thawed the ice for me and I calculated that a little warmth just before he left for another six months won’t harm anyone. It will also give me time to think and plan. I didn’t want him to stop sending me money so, I declared truce.
Until I got married, I didn’t have much say in anything; now my life is my own and anybody who disagrees with me can shut the door after them for good. That held true for Jeet also. I couldn’t imagine myself married to him for a lifetime and this sword of intimacy forever hanging over my head. I racked my brain. Say, if I become pregnant, I will be free of these marital obligations for a long time. What a blast of an idea!
Mission Conceive was on. I let Jeet have his way. He was surprised and pleasantly so at the sudden change but he didn’t know that I was going to have the last laugh. Once I had a baby, Jeet will become useless for me. I‘ll deal with him, then. For now, patience and perseverance were needed. The plan paid off. Jeet was already back in Dubai when I informed him about the pregnancy. He was delighted and blabbered on and on about his plans of moving us to Dubai like a dupe.
Pregnancy gives you an official permit to loll around the house and get pampered …. life, in short is peaceful. Both the families were taking care of me and Jeet was sending money regularly. I was saving a good amount for future and had no complaints.
“It’s a daughter,” I informed Jeet. He’s elated “I hope she looks like you.” There was much celebration at my in-law’s place but my parents were not exactly thrilled – ‘Another girl in the family, as if we already don’t have enough of them.’
Who cared for them or their opinion anyways? They were inherently dissatisfied and unhappy people. I was happy and that’s what mattered.
I was planning to keep Jeet at bay. There are no obligations for intimacy when you have just delivered. Chores revolving around the baby like feeding, bathing, changing diapers, putting it to sleep and the evergreen excuse of ‘my back is paining’ helped me avoid sex. Ah! The joys of having a baby….
Soon, Jeet insisted on our leaving for Dubai and I couldn’t keep him off this forever. If I went there, I’ll be at his mercy, not only his sex-slave but also totally dependent on him. Dubai was his world, not mine. I couldn’t let it happen. I had to think of a way out. Fast.
I convinced his parents and together, we told him that I will be alone at home the whole day in Dubai. What if I needed something? Also, Dubai was more expensive than India. Medical facilities were also costlier. We bargained over the duration and agreed to wait out for another six months. I was to continue to stay at the rented accommodation until we were ready to leave India.
The moment Jeet left; I was back at me parents’ place. With eight members in the family, the baby was taken care of. I persuaded my sister to receive most of Jeet’s calls and tell him that I was busy with the baby, out for groceries, paying bills, shopping, at the temple, sleeping, feeding the baby or in the bathroom. My plan was to quietly nudge him out of my life. I was doing him a favour by making him learn to live without me. He will appreciate this in future.
But he landed up in Delhi one day, unannounced. The rented house was locked for the last six months although the rent was being paid. I had shifted most of my movable things to my parents’ under one pretext or another, only the furniture was left. The dinner was a quiet affair. Jeet was subdued. As soon as we reached home, we got into a row. He was unhappy with paying the rent for no reason if the accommodation was not being used. To make me feel guilty, he swept, mopped and dusted the house like a charwoman. He announced that we were all moving abroad this time because he didn’t want our baby to grow up without a father. I decided to tell him the plain truth without consulting Di or my parents because none of them would be supportive. A liberated woman must take her own decisions.
“I can’t go. I’m going to do a job here.”
“A job? Here? What about the baby?”
“Mother will look after it.”
“But you and I made plans to be together.”
“You did, not I.”
“Listen, I’ve come specially to get you and the baby. I’ve been planning and making arrangements for a long time.”
“That’s your problem not mine. I have other interests.”
“Other interests? Is there another man in your life?”
“Look, I don’t have time to get messed up with another man. One is enough. There’re better things to do in life than having an affair.”
I left him confused and thinking.
“My life revolves around you and the baby.”
“Mine doesn’t. I’m not going anywhere and the baby stays with me. I will shift to my parent’s place.”
“This’s most unfair. You’ve made all the plans by yourself. Looks like you don’t care for our marriage anymore.”
I chose not to explain.
“Say something, will you?” he shouted.
In the following days, I found Jeet staring at the baby, lost in thought. He shouldn’t become attached to her, it’ll complicate matters. Success is round the corner. I am almost there. One more push and I will be free. Fate will give me an opportunity, it has to. I got one most unexpectedly. I was in the bathroom when I heard the baby cry. As I rushed out, I saw Jeet cleaning her and a diaper lying nearby.
“What are you doing?”
“Why, changing her diaper.”
“You’ll hurt the baby. You don’t know how to do it.”
“Then show me how.”
“You shouldn’t look at her when changing her diaper. It’s not right.”
“What?! Where else am I supposed to look while changing her diaper? You forget she’s my daughter!”
“You are a man.”
“Shut up! Stop overreacting with your filthy mind.”
“I’ll tell everyone that you are a pervert. Your intentions are……”
“Another word and I will slap you.”
I didn’t like this authoritative tone of Jeet’s. How dare he threaten me? I will not take it lying down. He can’t treat me like a doormat. And let him not call me ‘a filthy mind’. My mind is razor sharp and it knows what it wants and how to get it.
“ And I will slap you harder,” I shouted.
Jeet decided to have a family meeting. His parents and sister came to ‘make me understand’. This had gone beyond his control, he said. There was a showdown. I told them that I was done with him. His family went on questioning what was wrong in our married life. I didn’t want to answer or explain anything to my own parents. Who the hell were the in-laws?
“If you guys are not off my back, I’ll tell the whole world that Jeet is a pervert. His foul intentions for the baby…. ” They were stunned beyond belief. “You obnoxious and shameless woman!,” remarked his sister.”
“Our son is trapped! What will the society say? We will become a laughing stock for everyone. This is scandalous!”
“Let’s discuss with her parents. This could end up in a court,” said my father-in-law worriedly.
“Sure, do that and deal with the shame. You yourself will bring disgrace and humiliation upon your family and I will keep my hands clean!” I declared with finality.
Jeet said to his father,” She’s right, Papa. Our reputation will be spoiled. How will we explain? What will we say?”
“ It’s alright if you don’t need me but my daughter needs a father. Please, don’t deprive her of her father and don’t deprive me of my child,” Jeet pleaded with me.
“Spare me your sentimental crap. My daughter doesn’t need a father. Not a pervert, at least!”
They will not say a word about this confrontation, I was confident. This was my ticket to freedom. Jeet flew back to Dubai alone. He told his parents to not meet mine hoping matters will get sorted with time. I answered all questions of my parents with a stony silence until they stopped asking me anything. Jeet’s calls went unanswered too. I told my daughter that her father was a pervert and perverts are not worth knowing. One must keep a safe distance from them.
I had my way, I always do. And no collateral damage!
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