To a Woman of Strength #ALettertoHer

“Oh, it’s just a burn” you said

As I asked you about the bruise on your neck.

“But how in the world did you get burnt there?”

You smiled apologetically

“Things happen, you’re overthinking this”

You said.

 

A few weeks later,

Your eyes were sunken in.

That kurti hung off your thinning frame,

As you chaired the team meeting.

When I accompanied you to the washroom,

You washed away the cakey make-up

More scars, more bruises, more proof

Of violence.

 

I wasn’t overthinking it,

You weren’t trying to think about it,

You called them the marks of love.

What kind of love was this

If it needed to be kept under wraps?

What kind of love was this

If it killed you instead of healing scars?

What kind of love was this

If it allowed wounds to fester

Instead of letting new skin grow?

“Seriously, are you okay?” I asked

You nodded,

Your face turned white

And then, your eyes welled

With the tears that never became a cry.

“Stay with me” I begged you

“For how long?” you croaked.

“As long as you want.” I assured you.

You embraced me

And wept for a few good minutes.

 

Straightening up, you washed your face

Applied make-up,

Adjusted the stole that hid a few bruises

And put on a fake smile.

“I don’t want the world seeing me as a weakling”

You whispered,

Mustering every iota of courage in you.

“You aren’t weak” I assured.

You smiled a sad smile

And walked out of the washroom,

Ready to face the world.

 

How do I explain the twenty one frantic missed calls

From you that evening.

When I rushed to your apartment

I saw you shuddering

As he raised his hands to hit you.

Even the sight of your bloodied nose

Didn’t prompt your neighbours

To intervene.

I saw the hypocrisy of

“To each man, his business.”

I would never let you be turned into a spectacle.

That night, you lay weeping on my sofa

Mumbling incomprehensible things,

Wishing to God that you hadn’t been singled out.

 

“A bouquet for every bruise” You whimpered

“Dresses for every round of thrashing”

“Italian cuisine for intercourse”

I couldn’t hear anymore.

We cried together all night.

You had done nothing to deserve this

And yet you bore those scars in the name

Of a flawed idea of love.

 

“It’s not my fault, is it?” you asked.

“No, never was it your fault” I assured you.

“How could he say that I was being unfaithful?”

You know deep down that it was a lie.

“How did I let this man destroy me?”

The question hung mid-air,

Not wanting an answer.

“There’s still a lot of life in you” I said

“You think so?” You asked, desperate.

“Why would you ask yourself these questions

If somewhere within you, there isn’t the will

To live?”

You got up and walked to the balcony,

Watching the daylight replace streetlights.

 

I knew that nobody could crush the fire

That raged within you.

One restraining order filed,

One divorce case won,

After casting several doubts aside,

Those sorrowful emails in my mailbox

Gave way to postcards and presents you’d send me.

“You stood by me when I needed strength.” You wrote,

“Trust me” I replied “It was within you all this while.”

-Meryl Mammen Kurien

 

A/N It was in the year 2006 that I read Kathryn Keats’ story. Until then, I was a naive child who saw relationships through rose tinted glasses. In a society that is willing to shove issues such as this under the carpet of ‘sanskar’ and gender expectations, memoirs like Meena Kandaswamy’s play a role in challenging the status quo. I would like to read the book as I have nothing but respect and admiration for women who rise above their challenges and stand up for what they believe in. Here’s the link http://bit.ly/Meenabk2.

 

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