This is a short story and a work of fiction:
“You deserve it.” A chill ran through Jaya’s spine as Jiten minced out these words. The menace in his eyes was not as scary as it was hurtful. She had just told Jiten that his younger brother Hiten lashed out expletives at her, saying that Jiten had been fond of dogs since childhood, which is why he was feeding Jaya. All he had to say to this was - she deserved it.
Jaya was not sure why she was taking this treatment from her husband, her good-for-nothing brother-in-law and her in-laws. Was it because in spite of everything, she loved her husband; or was it for her three year old daughter, whom she had fondly named as Saina because it meant Princess; was it because of her upbringing that taught her that husband and wife are meant to live together until death does them apart; or was it simply for the fear of treading alone in life with a daughter to support?
Jiten was an engineer-turned-banker through an MBA degree from a reputed institute. Jaya was an HR consultant in a huge multinational and a six figure salary. On the outside, they had a perfect life. Both were earning well, had a beautiful daughter, a big house and a fancy car. On the inside, however, they had a broken life.
Jiten was more interested in taking care of his family that constituted of his parents and younger brother Hiten. While, taking care of family is a good thing, Jiten had never been taught that Jaya and Saina, too, were a part of his family; that his responsibility towards his wife and daughter was no less important that that towards his parents and brother. Hiten was about eight years younger than Jiten and was the apple of everyone’s eyes (except of course, Jaya). He had completed his MBA four years ago, but was still jobless. His parents blamed it on the recession. And when job opportunities started coming in, none were good enough for the “Topper” Hiten. It was ironic, that a person who was himself living off his brother and his wife, had the audacity to shame his sister-in-law.
Jaya, on the other hand, was bearing the burden of expectations from her husband, in-laws, daughter and of course, her job. Unfortunately, she seemed to be lagging on all accounts. Her husband was constantly abusing her for being inefficient; her in-laws didn’t even recognize her presence in the house; Jaya was living with the guilt of not being able to give sufficient time to her daughter and on the work front, she hadn’t received any promotion since her pregnancy. The depression was overwhelming and she felt her misery and loneliness will only end with the sweet release of death. “You deserve it” – the words played over and over again in her mind making things only worse.
“You have a maid for all the household chores. Our daughter is being raised by Aayas in the day care; you haven’t received a promotion in years; you are a good-for-nothing and lousy woman” he had yelled before launching an array of abusive words just a few days back when she asked him to feed dinner to Saina because she was having a terrible backache. Jaya retaliated, “At least I do more work than your mother and brother”. On hearing Jaya’s words, Jiten dragged her by her throat and pinned her on the floor; he covered her mouth with his hand and said “If you so much as say a word against my mother or brother, I will kill you and your daughter. For my family, I am willing to go to jail.” Saina was standing in the corner by the bed, and looking at this exchange between her parents.
Jiten’s parents and brother had come over for the weekend. Jaya’s mother in-law was as usual, bragging about Hiten’s academic achievements, when Jaya had passed a comment on the uselessness of those degrees that couldn’t earn him a respectable living. A high voltage family drama followed that comment.
“Was it true?”, she thought. Did she really deserve to be treated like a door mat? Was she really that wrong? She had refused to fulfill her mother-in-law’s demands the year Saina was born and all hell had broken loose. Her mother-in-law had wanted Jaya to gift her gold bangles on Saina’s birth under the pretext of some ritual. As they had just bought their house, Jaya and Jiten were low on cash; hence Jiten had asked Jaya to gift her gold bangles that she had received in their wedding to his mother. For the first time, Jaya refused to oblige and things were never the same again.
It seemed to her, maybe her husband was right. Maybe if she had given those gold bangles to her mother-in-law, Jiten would have never changed. It was not as if she really cared about those bangles, but she had actually put her foot down against the useless and endless demands of her mother-in-law. Had her mother-in-law treated her with respect and love, she would have given her those bangles herself. But Jiten failed to understand this. For him, his mother was "always right".
She remembered how vehemently she had fought against what she thought was wrong in principle. It was not easy, what with the new born baby, battling post-natal changes, going back to work and so on. As she was brooding over her predicament with silent tears, Saina moved in her sleep and her hand struck the photo-frame on the night stand and it fell. Jaya went to pick up the photo frame. From the frame, a happy couple looked back at her, smiling – their happiness reflected in their eyes. It was a picture from their honeymoon.
Jaya set the frame back in its place just as Jiten entered the bedroom. She knew she had two options – walk out or make things right; there was no way Jiten was going to change so easily, but he wasn’t completely incapable of change either. She also knew that in spite of everything, he too cared her. She still did catch glimpses of that Jiten before Saina, when she would be late from the office and he made her favorite “adrakwali chai” for her; when she missed her cab from the office, he always picked her up; when he went out on business trips and brought gifts for both of them. Walking out seemed to be the easy way. However, it somehow didn’t feel right. And thus, once again, just like after a fall, she dusted herself and decided to walk it off.