The migrant wife

Published On: January 27, 2018 12:57 AM NPT By: Manita Raut

Her husband is a stranger. Pote and sindur she wears on his name lately feel heavy. She wants to run away but where, to what end? 

“My husband went to Saudi after a week of our wedding”, Sushila said giving away all the despair she was trying so hard to conceal. I saw longing in her 20 year old eyes contemplating how little she knew her husband. Married three years ago, she barely had time to get to know her husband and exchange a few words. She barely got time to look at him properly as he left within a few weeks of the wedding. Her despair was fueled by the internal conflict brushing her conscience lately.

She came from a family that met ends but could not satisfy all the material goods she desired for. So, her parents helped her fulfill all the dreams, even more than what she had ever asked for. They did what they knew the best: trained her rigorously for 17 years. At this age, she had mastered all the skills she needed. She mastered the care work: thrived in the kitchen, managed the cattle and handled herself well. Now she was ready! Ready to go on to the next phase. 

The marriage 
He who she would marry, would fulfill all her dreams. Life would be better. He would love and cherish her for rest of the life. He would satisfy all her materials needs, the ones her parents could not. 

So what if a couple of her friends pursued education after 10th standard? Her life was sorted, she would have someone to do it for her. When the news of her marriage hit the streets, her teachers showed reluctance. They advised the parents to let her pursue higher education for she was bright. 
But her parents knew better! They exactly knew what she wanted: what to study, when to stop, when and who to get married to, more importantly what her dreams were. 
They knew it all and she thought she did too then.

“My husband went to Saudi after a week of our wedding”, Sushila said after three years of marriage. A man she is supposed to love and cherish and spend rest of her life with: He has been sending her money and gifts. Now she has some money to herself, the loan her husband took to go abroad is almost paid back. Occasionally she speaks with him over the phone.  Hearing his voice reconfirms his existence. However, his face is a blur at times. She doesn’t know much about phones and poor net connectivity in hilly village she resides in does not allow for video chats. So, she finds pictures from their wedding album. She tries to put face to the voice but the wedding pictures have too much going on, exactly like her current state of mind.

She has started taking tailoring lessons now. It lasts about one and a half hours. Although it is 45 minutes’ walk to reach the training center, she doesn’t mind. She doesn’t mind for she is not a “buhari” (daughter in law) for three hours in a day. 

Within her, she spots a stranger she knows nothing of, yet relishes the company. This stranger within her questions everything and dwells in the realm her parents never told existed. The realm is beautiful but dangerous as it allowed her to envisage a different life. Mostly posy questions she has no answers to. Or maybe she does! Questions come easy but the answers are complicated.
So, the two way walk is not always relaxing. 

What if?
Lately she has been wondering and contemplating what ifs. What if her parents listened to the teacher? What would it be like? What if she went to the city to pursue higher studies like some of her friends? Last time she visited her parents’ home, she heard one of them completed the nursing course and is about to start a job. What would life be like away from the unending taunts from the in-laws and the continuous struggle to make them happy? 

That one time she accompanied the neighbor of her age back home, her mother in law accusingly said “ko ko sanga salkidai chhes” (who are you hanging out with reeking the tone of linkup with the man). That night she was afraid her three hours of diversion from reality would come to an end. Lately the thought of annoying one of her “family members” scares her. Her lessons and some free time could be curbed. Everything could stop.  

Last week her husband announced, he has arranged to come for Dashain holidays. First one in three years, first one after the marriage! She should have been happy, she should have been excited but the trickle that went down her spine reeked uncertainty of what she feels versus what she should want. She is unsure if she loves the man she has been calling her husband for the past years. 

She did everything right. She obeyed, she followed and she nodded without any questions asked. Why the questions now? 

Her husband is a stranger. Pote and sindur she wears on his name lately feel heavy. She wants to run away but where, to what end? 

If she does run, what will follow? She hasn’t been to many places but knows the world is a cruel place for a single woman. What would she do? Her lifelong preparation to become a perfect housewife doesn’t scream strongly on the resume. 

The obvious pinning on her character with chimes on what her mother-in-law already stated would be a fact. Affair with another man would be the best explanation for them.

Sometimes she wonders if she is discovering herself. If so, why is it so complicated, challenging and uncomforting? Why are her thoughts betraying the “created dream”? She isn’t supposed to feel this way. Her parents knew all along. They knew what was best for her, they knew what her dreams were. All she had to do was walk on the roadmap laid out for her. Others were doing just that and seemed happy. But did she want different things from life? The perfect painting only had grey colors. Was she rooting for green, blue, pink and yellow?

What would her, the stranger of a husband say? Would he echo the same thoughts? What if he loves her and she doesn’t? Would this make her a terrible human being? Is she the one to blame? Does it even matter who takes the blame? 

Or could it be her parents did not know what they were doing? They did not know what was best for her, what her dreams were.

Would they ever consider the blocks they were building had a weak foundation? Did they care to glance once, dare ask what she wanted? Were they so blinded by their own definition of blissful life that happiness became a generic association to marriage with a “man who could take care of her”? Why couldn’t they go beyond? Why was it so difficult to believe she could watch out for her? Why can’t we create our own meaning to happiness and follow through instead of following the herd? Whose fault is it? Does it even matter if anyone claims responsibility? What if “the supposedly good for her” is in fact not what she wants? 
This she knows now. The stranger within is devising a plan.

The author is Research Officer at International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

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