Twelve years ago, when I walked out of my marriage after years of domestic violence and hardship, my elder son was just five years old. My younger son was starting to take his first steps. All I brought with me that day was a few clothes and my sons. There was nothing else to save from our marriage – neither money nor love. During the six years of marriage, my husband had transformed from lover to oppressor. His family too gave me only hatred and ridicule.
My father-in-law was a retired teacher, so his own family did not want even if they were not very rich. In comparison, my status was even lower than a maggot. My alcoholic husband thought nothing about his sons or me, and his family refused to even talk to me or my children. There was never a day when I had a proper two meals, and most times my sons went begging for food in the neighbours’ houses. My own family too had disowned me for marrying him.
So, when I decided to break all ties with my husband that day, I did not know what the future had in store for me or my sons. All I had was the determination that I would no longer continue to submit to my oppressors. My silent challenge to both my husband and his family was that I would rear my sons and make them worthy citizens without taking any help from them. My own family laid down the conditions that I could come home and stay, but that I should send the children back to their father. I refused and persisted that my sons would stay with me.
It has been a long and arduous journey to the present. My challenge kept me going, so much so that I did not even feel ashamed of going to other people’s houses to cook and clean for them. I was only around 27 years old then. But I was determined and I educated my sons and looked after all their needs on my own. The present education system in Manipur pinches parents so hard in many places. The majority of the government-run schools do not have benches or desks or in some cases even walls. It is the privately run schools that are doing the real job of imparting education, but these are so expensive for mothers like me. Then again, whether our children are in government or private schools, private tuition becomes a must if you want your child to excel.
I did everything I could within my means, for my main concern is that my sons should not fail in life. Recently, my elder son took his high school exams and passed with excellent grades. When he came home after checking his results the first thing he said was: “I have not let my mother down.” His words wiped away all the hardships I had faced in a moment. I see my aspirations being fulfilled one-third. Another one-third will be fulfilled when my second son also completes high school.
The remaining one-third is on the verge of fulfillment: with the help of a governmental housing aid scheme for people living on the verge of poverty, like us, I have managed to start building my own house on my husband’s familial land. After his death, his parents agreed to give me and my sons our share of the property. Right now I sleep with my sons in a corner of the small kitchen of my parental house. Soon, we will also have a roof over our head. In a way, the constant oppression and violence I had received from my husband and his family have strengthened me. The journey from victimhood to self-reliance has been long and trying, but today I can proudly say that I have made the journey.
As told to Thingnam Anjulika Samom