SURESH RAMPHUL

SURESH RAMPHUL

“Got a pen?” asked Vedita’s father.

He scribbled something on a scrap of paper and handed it to her.

She saw a lawyer’s name and his contact number.

Divorce. A woman’s worst nightmare. But her father did not see it that way. “Your husband is violent with you,” he said, jabbing a finger on her face, “drag him to the Court. Finish with him. Once and for all, you understand?” Vedita avoided eye contact with him. “I told you once, I am telling you again, finish with him.”

“You don’t have to go there again,” said her elder brother. “You can stay here for as long as you like.”

Her husband was mistreating her. They had had seven long, fabulous years together. In recent times, however, he had turned violent. No one knew why. It was weird, beyond comprehension.

Everyone agreed: she should not tolerate it anymore. Her mother argued that if he had raised his hand on her a couple of times, he would most likely do so again. More abuse and, who knows, her daughter herself could possibly go over the edge.

“Forget about forgiving him,” they said.

“He’s stupid but you’ll be more stupid if you are to go back to him,” said her sister.

Vedita had only one thing on her mind: break away from him for good. She still remembered his last punch. She had stood there in numb silence, lost for words. How could he do that to her? She had done nothing wrong.

He used to create a scene for nothing. Each time he saw her on the phone, he would go wild. If she came home late from the salon where she was a hairdresser, he would scream and throw things. Sometimes he would just walk into his room and close himself for hours there.

Something was definitely wrong.

His erratic behaviour was poisoning her life. The first time he had hit her, he had apologized effusively. Then, the hitting continued but not the apologies. Everyone agreed that he was going too far. It could not go on.

So many people could not be wrong. She would ask for a divorce. She was only twenty-six. She could always move on in life. As a working woman, money would not be an issue.

But that was three weeks ago. Now that the dust had settled, she felt she needed some time of her own. Running into a rash decision might be costly. A divorce was not a child’s play. When you are in the middle of a land full of mines, what do you do? You tread carefully, thoughtfully. She had noticed that practically no one had thought of the child.

She mulled over it night and day. Now that she had got over the initial fright and confusion, she told herself that, above all, it was imperative to remain level-headed. No panic. No rush. Breathe deeply. Clear the mind of unnecessary thoughts. Be focused.

Some dark zones were upsetting her mind. He had always been an exemplary person. Considerate. Helpful. Friendly. How come he had changed drastically? In case she divorced him, she might never know the truth.

And then, there was the child. She would be the product of a broken family. One day, she might not forgive her for this. She had seen other children going through the trauma of separation and the difficulties they have had to adjust to the pressures of life. Many had ended up as emotional wrecks. The more she thought about it, the more she was convinced that it would be too risky to let the child face a similar fate.

A child has the right to be raised in a proper family.

One does not step into a mess voluntarily. Was her husband encountering serious problems at work? Had he fallen out with a friend? Was someone feeding wrong ideas into his head? What was bothering him? She badly needed to know. They had all judged him and condemned him without really considering the real causes of his behaviour. She was going to avoid falling into this trap.

When you marry, you brace yourself for the ups and downs ahead. Parenting is not about abdicating responsibilities but assuming them.

She had to give him a chance to say what he had to say. Could it be that he was suspecting her of infidelity? Was this suspicion gnawing at his heart? It was vital for her to clear her name. Her honour was at stake. Somehow, he had lost the way. What was ailing him? She needed to understand. To do so, she felt she had to put aside her ego. Her ego would give her neither a sense of objectivity nor a willingness to listen. She would never sleep well unless she found out.

Besides, how long could she stay at her parents’ place? She must not forget that her relationship with her brother’s wife was strained. She could not afford to be a burden to anybody. Another thing: when certain men discover that you are divorced, they stalk you, thinking you are available for sex. Would a divorce settle everything? Even if she married another man, the past would constantly be there to torment her. And washing her dirty linen in public was not something she liked.

A divorce would leave everybody devastated. Her husband’s behaviour was certainly inexcusable but she needed to be flexible, she reflected. Those who do not bow, they break. Her husband was in need of professional counselling. He was going through a depressive phase. You do not have to be a doctor to see this. Bottling up anger is not a good thing, for it can lead to a massive eruption any day. She had to go to the bottom of his mood swings, for the sake of the child at least. She had heard of other men taking out their anger on their children. Would it be the same with her husband? They had to talk. A real conversation – something the two had not done in months.

The other day some people came to raise funds for rebuilding a crumbling temple in the village.

“Why not demolish it and put up a new one in its place?” was what she had asked.

“It wouldn’t look the same,” one man had replied. “Besides, people are attached to the old one.”

He went on to say that old buildings still had their value. All of them form part of our national heritage.Why do governments fight hard to preserve old buildings?

They would do anything to rehabilitate the temple and give it a new life.

Nothing was over yet. She would return home. She had a child to care for. She was not going back to settle a score but to find answers to disturbing questions and to prevent the situation from festering.

Her grandmother used to say that you do not throw away a shirt just because one button has broken off. You sew it back and go on as before if possible.

She would do what was humanly possible to fill her house with chatter and laughter again.

Note:  This story is fictional and the author is vehemently against any type of violence against women or children. Readers do not necessarily have to agree with the woman’s decision.