The Abandoned by Meenakshy Balaraju

CONTENT WARNING: This fictional story contains scenes of physical and sexual violence.

I was only twenty-two on that terrible day. Nobody cared why I did it. Instead, they were curious about who did it. And it’s hard for me to understand why I didn’t get a chance to explain. It all started with the arranged marriage—many Indian families prefer early marriages over giving their children a good education, and I was no exception.

My dad served in the military and Mom looked after me and my sister. It’s tough when your Indian family doesn’t support love. Many Indian families still don’t. I heard Dad hitting my sister because she fell in love, and he didn’t stop until she bravely said she wouldn’t do it again.

My sister lost all her freedom and had to get married to someone my parents chose within days. When I found myself in a similar situation, I wasn’t ready either, just like my sister. My mother couldn’t speak up because she was already accustomed to Dad’s demands. Eventually, I understood that she was once a girl who dreamed of a king but ended up with a villain.

He was the son of my dad’s best friend. He was so tall, good-looking, and almost thirty. When he came to visit me, I expressed that I wasn’t interested. But then again, I had my limits as a girl in front of men so eventually, it happened—the marriage everyone was happy about except me. From the very first day, I was forcefully molded into my future husband’s family and their traditions. Eventually, I understood why they didn’t hire a housekeeper—my mother had trained me for it since birth. I never made Mom feel bad or questioned her because I knew she was just another victim like me.

After two weeks of marriage, I realized I held no significant position in the family. I was merely labeled as a wife. Even though he seemed like a normal person in the beginning, I soon realized he had many traits like my dad.

My mother might have forgotten to give me a lecture on meeting my husband’s needs for physical intimacy, or perhaps she assumed I could figure it out on my own. That’s why my husband forced himself on me one day, when for the first time he approached me for his physical needs, and I opposed it. I was broken into pieces; I couldn’t even cry.

When I mentioned this to my mother-in-law, she simply said,

“He is your husband. These things are common between a husband and wife.”

I wanted to cry, really let it out. And I did, when no one was home. I wanted to call my mother and tell her everything. I cried louder into the phone until I heard Dad on the other end telling her to hang up.

After all that, no one bothered to ask what was happening inside me, not even about the suffering and insomnia I endured. I wished I were a boy.  Not only me, but every girl in India must have also wished for this at least once in their lifetime. In our country, it’s usually boys who get all the special treatment and rights passed down from our ancestors. This means that boys usually get more opportunities and respect than girls. They are given more chances, they have a voice, more than girls have in a family. No boy is forced like us to get married early, no boy is criticized like us for the clothes he wears, no boy needs permission like us to go out from their home after six, and no boy is even stressed out like us for not having any opinion, because they have it, always.

I was alone and abused, so disturbed by the way he touched me, by his everyday intention of having me cry under him. One day I saw my dad in his eyes, and my mother in place of me.

Having someone to talk to, someone who listens, is truly a blessing. I desperately needed that someone. People like me yearn for that kind of support. I wished for someone to hear all my feelings and hold me tight so I could cry harder, louder. I remember the day I fainted from the beatings and the times my legs were covered in bruises. There were moments when I considered suicide just to escape this cruel reality, to escape myself rather than to endure all the pain. But in the end, it turned into the thought of killing him.

We were celebrating our first anniversary as husband and wife that day. He was so drunk and when the party ended, he asked me to obey him, like usual. I was tired that day, making sweets for everyone and doing the dishes so I told him I was too exhausted. Really, I was. That day, I saw a monster. I cried from my heart for us to stop but he was enjoying all my suffering. When everything ended, I decided to kill him. I looked at him sleeping so peacefully beside me, like a predator who just had his favourite meal. I wiped my tears and then went downstairs to take a knife. When I returned, he was sleeping in the same position. I killed him. I stabbed him until he took his last breath. I felt no guilt because nothing, except ME, mattered that time.

I didn’t want to hide. I wanted the world to know that I did it. And in the morning, when my mother-in-law came to knock on the door, I opened the door with the knife in my hands and I said, ‘He asked for this.’

When the court decided to punish me, my age was a benefit and so was the reason why I killed him. I was sentenced for seven years. Even the court showed mercy on me but my dad didn’t.

When I was finally released from prison, I had no one. No one came to receive me, no one wanted to accept me into their family. Yet, I waited in front of the prison for what felt like an eternity, clinging to the hope that someone would show up. But no one did. Still, I didn’t cry. I knew I wouldn’t be welcomed by anyone. But I had no regrets because I was speaking out for those who endure the same unexplainable agony as me. I wanted them to find a way out and reconsider their lives.

Even though my parents never visited me during my years in prison, I longed to see my mom. I believed she might have wanted to visit her suffering daughter but was restrained by my father’s orders.

It’s okay, Mom, I thought. I understand you better than anyone else. But no one can stop me from seeing you now.

I stopped at the gate of my parent’s house and a smile crept onto my face. This was the place I was born, where I grew up learning that women should behave in a certain way, and that exceeding their limits could land them in prison.

My mom started crying when she saw me, and my dad told me to leave. Imagine being rejected by your own parents and hearing them say you’re no longer their child. That hurts more than being alone.

Dad stood in front of Mom as a warning not to talk to me and insisted she go inside. With a heavy sigh, I turned and left for home. Why did you want to go there? I scolded myself. To be reminded you are alone all again? My heart hurt, and I really wanted a hug from someone.

A few days after being released from prison, I realized how difficult it is to live. Everyone was afraid of me and avoided talking to me altogether. It hurt deeply to realize that my friends were no longer my friends and began avoiding me. I decided to find some work to cover my living expenses, but who would hire someone with a criminal record at such a young age?

I managed to secure one job, but they didn’t check my background and fired me once they found out. I didn’t feel much pain because I had expected it. I began to gather my strength again and applied for many more jobs. Then, one day, I received an interview opportunity for a teacher’s assistant position at an institution. I didn’t feel very confident, and the pay wasn’t good but despite this, I decided to go for it.

On my way there, I encountered a beautiful elderly woman who reminded me of my grandma. She was accompanied by someone in a wheelchair. She smiled at me, and after a moment, I realized it had been a long time since someone had smiled at me. I smiled back, feeling a mix of pain and happiness.

Later, I attended the interview, but as I expected, they weren’t excited about hiring me. They only offered me the position due to staff shortages. I started working there, but soon enough, they began finding unnecessary faults to try to push me out. I continued working simply because I needed the money to avoid starvation.

My employer was cruel, always relishing in pointing out my mistakes. One day, when I couldn’t find a document, she said, “It’s our mistake. We should have known that you don’t have any experience other than committing murders.” Until then, I hadn’t shed a tear, but those words left me stunned. I ran from there as fast as I could, crying loudly, drawing the attention of people on the streets. Suddenly, my body weakened, and I collapsed in front of someone’s wheelchair.

It was the same woman.

When I opened my eyes, I was in the hospital with her beside me, eager to know what had happened. She told me that when I collapsed in front of her, she and her maid took me here to the hospital. There were no serious injuries but there were few scratches on my left hand and toes. The reason why I collapsed is because of low blood pressure. I hadn’t eaten all day.

I shared my story with her. For a moment, she said nothing, then asked where I lived. I explained that I was staying at a shelter, but she insisted that I come with her. I was puzzled and asked why. She didn’t say anything.

On the day I was discharged, she and her maid were there to pick me up. She even offered me a job at a charitable institution where she had some connections. I couldn’t help but wonder why she was doing all this for a stranger like me.

I noticed the doctor having a meaningful conversation with her, and when she handed me the discharge note, I asked him if he knew her. He replied with a pained smile, “the ones who understand our pain are the ones who have gone through the same.”

Realizing that she had been through similarly difficult experiences made my tears flow even more deeply. I looked at her with a mixture of sadness and happiness. It was a new beginning. I realized I was no longer abandoned.

About the Author

Meenakshy Balaraju is from Southern part of India, currently acquiring Interdisciplinary Studies Diploma at Selkirk College. She is a second-year student in Creative Writing. She has been interested in writing and reading since childhood. Becoming a writer is her dream. You can always see her on campus with a smile on her face and book in her hand!

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