Suddenly she realized she might that she might be alone for the rest of her life.
Well the thought was terrifying. But as she looked around she was alone even now, with a family of six. Daughters behind closed doors, and in-laws behind closed door both pairs engrossed in a world that excluded her. Of course the man of the house… the man she married thirty years ago, he was in the house too, and behind a closed door he was tired. Here she was shut out.
Thirty years of marriage , this house wasn’t the same. It definitely was not. They had just moved here 6months ago. A place the man she was married to chose so that his parents could go for a walk…there were other senior citizens. The kids wholeheartedly supported as there was gym,pool and landscaped garden. Her opinion? who asked the doorknob? The houses before that she thought were her own, her family, her husband and her children. For thirty years she had learnt to put her pleasures on hold.She had masked herself so much that she was now scared to unmask maybe she would not recognize the face in the mirror.
She knew not who this graying woman in the mirror was, with lost eyes.
“Who am I” she wondered.
The woman who choose to work from home, so that she could be there for her daughters?
The woman who gave up her six figured income to do the laundry?
No more did her laughter ring… no more conversations… all she heard was, “you are incapable of holding a job, you quit because you could not”
Her ability to clean the bed wet by mother-in-law was not questioned after all there had to be an energy exchange for the food she ate after all that was what she was there to do clean the shit.
Maybe it was time to find that room she lost. It came into her dreams often those walls painted with a rust tint from Asian paints, the heavy cotton chocolate brown curtains, and wall hasekale wallart, definitely etched by her. The fragrance was dhoop of sandalwood. A mind map of the story that she wanted to pen. Those orange Bougainvillea Plants on the sill. Of course it would be inviting to squirrels and crows that visited her.
When it came to the flat she was planning to have potted bougainvillea plants.
She had kept for so long that voice was no longer heard, mogra’s and roses came while she stood at the kerb, trying to find a place for her Bougainvillea, the roomy, breezy well light balcony was her husband’s study and doubled as her mother-in-law’s view to the world, the balcony with kitchen appropriated by the dishwasher, washing machine, microwave, mops, laundry baskets and dying chili plants. Like Cinderella she was left with balcony with no light or breeze, laundry drying and old cartons dump.
If you think I’m asking you to feel sorry for her no I’m not.She does not want to wallow in self pity, nor did she want her truth to get washed away with the laundry she did or trapped in dusty corners that her husband declared as the proof of her incompetence. She was not that necessary rag to clean up after her children, him or his mother.
The abuse was very subtle and sophisticated a phone call forgotten. A dinner appointment not mentioned. Friends ridiculed.
“I have the kids account so it is easier for me to put in cash there online” having to ask the kids for household expense. It was insidious and slowly ate away all her confidence and self esteem. Now recovery seems almost impossible with three abusers in the house.
She had to find that room… maybe her father knew where it was… she walked to his grave and sat in quite communication, the image of the living room the new one, her unwrapping the box of ornaments, and “Lets not put any of our personal stuff on display” so photographs kids and family vanished, so did the trophies belonging to her and the kids, all that stayed on the tallboy was the souvenirs of his tours.
“Lets not carry old furniture with us let’s start afresh” despite thirty years and umpteen experiences she believed him, guess what every broken furniture and damaged mattress came into the flat for various reasonable reasons.What went away was the furniture that she had chosen.
“So why are you staying?”
“What shame? What could be worse than this imprisoned self?”
“Shame of not taking care of myself, I have no money, no place to go. The guilt of not having respected myself,”
There are many women out there looking for that room, it could be Sravanti from Tenkasi, Susamma from Angamalai, Poonam from Patna, Monica from Pune, or suraiyya from hyderbad… all women in their mid life. victims of emotional abuse and the guilt of stay at home, they could even be work from home moms.
These women have reached out to me looking for that room. The lockdown had brought the reality to them. Being constantly sidelined and ignored by husbands and children who were working from home. The work from home woman had to put her work aside to cater to the family that brought their office home. Like Lakshmi of Revathi’s Mitr, or Shashi from English Vinglish she wants to claim her space.
Why do they stay in this relationship, because of the shame of the abuse, the dysfunctional nature of the abuse has destroyed their self-esteem and confidence. The family and friends and from whom they seek support tend not recognize it, somehow as long as the abuse is not physical it is not taken seriously. Often children are involved.
But it’s time to say thus far and no further. . It’s time to find the room… she washed her face with cold water, nourished it sandalwood combed her hair and looked into the mirror you read me right…after combing her hair she looked into the mirror .
The grey hair framing her face, calm and resolute the reflection said, “I’ve been waiting a long time for you”
These stories are shared in honour of Virginia Woolf she was born Jan 25th 1882. A Room Of one’s own is an essay written by her. If you are looking for your room and you need help do reach out https://bit.ly/drsharmila