She got married when she was 20. If only she would have said “No, I don’t want to get married right now. I would rather study.” But she didn’t say it. She could have had her way. She had that will to fight.
But I guess the idea of getting married appealed to her. It was exciting and romantic. Besides, her mother was too anxious to marry her off as her father was old and about to die. And she wanted to be done with that cumbersome task in his lifetime.
With her marriage came that inevitable change in our relationship. Sometimes I wonder why it happens. The friendship between female friends alters rather drastically if one of them gets married. Not always, of course. But in most cases it does.
It has happened with me in many cases – friends, cousins and even my sister with whom I was a buddy and shared many things. There is just one friend with whom the quality of friendship has remained very much the same after her marriage.
And why does the relationship change? In their early marital bliss I find them totally enveloped in their dreams, desires and expectations – something which they can’t share with me and neither do I have any desire to know about their very personal dreams. When this bliss wears off in twelve months or so they come to me with their tales of woes, their tiffs with their in-laws and the adjustment problems with the husband who is after all a human being and no prince charming.
I do listen to them because out of our mutual trust they deem it fit to tell me without any questions from my side. After sometime they harden, or compromise, or whatever.
By the time they realize they have to resolve their own conflicts, they stop talking about it. When they have children, they start talking about children. Or rather, they get involved in child-rearing (I understand it’s a 24-hour job) and have no time left for friendship.
The most crucial change after their marriage is that they lost interest in me. They will never ask me what I am doing, what’s happening to my life and so it all cools down. Some revival of friendship does occur when their children reach age three plus.
So there she was, lost in early marital bliss and had nothing to say to me. Prior to her marriage she had appeared in her Intermediate exams and flunked in English. I advised her to appear in the supplementaries. But she didn’t bother. After a year I again told her to clear the paper but it seemed she had lost all interest in studies.
She was happy, initially. And the thing she was most excited about during the first few weeks was the discovery that her husband was interested in fiction and poetry. “He reads books,” she had told me proudly. That was the only information she gave me about her husband.
It was only after six children, one abortion and immense hardships ten years later that she accepted she had known the very first night of the wedding that the man she had gotten married to had some sort of mental problems. “There were a lot of pills – antidepressants, etc. He could never sleep without them. And yes, he had epileptic attacks once in awhile,” she told me.
It was something she could no longer hide. Because her husband met with a minor accident and lost his mind. I mean literally. (He took three years to recover). Psychiatric examinations didn’t reveal anything specific, anything organically wrong except an epileptic history and a psychologically weak personality with frequent bouts of moderate depression.
So all those years she was living with a man who wasn’t capable of anything except impregnating her and she had a real tough, miserable time.
A friend of mine says the stories of women who had suffered from bad marriages, lousy husbands or poverty and struggle emerge as strong and heroic, are nonetheless clichéd tales of human sufferings. What’s extraordinary about it? I mean, why should I write about her?
So I reflect on her life. And I don’t find any cliché in human suffering. For some people, it becomes a circle, a carousel that goes round and round and which they can’t stop and neither can they get off it so they have nothing else to do but to hold the reins tight lest they fall.
After all, why should a person who had a manic-depressive father, end up with an epileptic, neurotic-depressive husband? I don’t find any logic in it. Sometimes I think life is absurd.
But at times, I am an incorrigible optimist. Like when I look at her twelve-year-old daughter. She had the sadness in her eyes that comes with the wisdom of age and the sufferings of a lifetime. It seems as if she has seen and grasped too much in a very short time and the pain, incomprehensible, inexplicable to her, has frozen in her eyes.
She is a very bright and intelligent child. She is in class eight and always stands first. My friend wants to make a doctor out of her. “But who knows!” she wonders. “And who has the money for her education in a medical college?” says her frail old mother.
“It’s not that expensive. If only she gets good marks in F.Sc.” I say. “In four years’ time she’ll finish her Inter Science. Let’s see. This year admissions in Dow Medical College closed at about 74%. So after four years I guess it would close at 78%. So you have to work real hard, baby,” I tell her. She gives me her silent smile. And I look at her woman-child face – beautiful, like her mother’s – with some of the most beautiful features I’ve seen in my life.
I know she is going to make it. She is going to have some control over her life. A partial, yet significant control over destiny that comes only with education.