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And the End is Nigh

Omkar Goswami

Though neither will admit it in public — at least not before the divorce is finalised — it was a poor match to begin with. As with many Indian marriages, the wife had to pander to every whim of the husband from the very first day, or behave as if she was doing so. The man would do nothing whatsoever on the home front. Indeed, he was a husband who neither pulled his weight at home, nor earned an income for the household, nor even cared to be considered a part of the family — on the ground that he was “supporting her from outside”. As far as I know, most men who support a woman from outside are known to be more devoted to the needs of that woman than the husband. That was not the case here. There were odd occasions of reluctant support, often after much hectoring and finger wagging. And for each such miserly instance, the husband tried to extract a heavy price one way or another.

The poor woman suffered silently. For one, she had initiated the marriage — and could hardly admit to the world that she was seriously wrong in her judgement, especially in the first couple of years. For another, she kept deluding herself that somehow things would actually work out. Such denials happen to most women in the initial years of a love marriage going sour.

Moreover, there was the issue of who controlled the estate. On the sideline was the enemy from whom the woman had wrested the property by a whisker, who was dying for revenge. Little did she know then that the enemy would repeatedly shoot himself in the foot and become a limper of repute. For her, it was better to join forces with an errant husband to keep the rival at bay. Also, she truly believed men eventually come around.

Well, this one didn’t. He had no intention to. The girl was not his type, nor ever would be. He, too, had agreed to “a relationship of convenience” to keep the enemy out — and to use the time so gained to explore other possible alliances.

For close to three years, this unhappy marriage continued. Often, the wife would be forced to neglect the household and the needs of the estate to pander to the husband’s demands. The property needed many things to be done for it to bring greater prosperity for the next generation. The wife knew was needed. But like a traditional Indian woman, she always asked her husband’s permission. Very rarely, she got a surly nod of assent; generally she was refused flat-out. And, quite often, while drinking cups of lemon tea with his mates on the veranda of the manor, the husband would criticise the wife loudly enough for the poor woman to hear as she was cooking dinner or folding clothes.

One day the wife sensed a great opportunity. A powerful guy with whom she was developing warmer ties wanted to cut a major deal — one in which she could keep her honour and develop new ties, while he was willing to forget the past. After hard bargaining, she got a good deal. That made the husband go ballistic and threaten dire consequences. For months she tried convincing him. No go. “It is either me or the deal”, said he.

It was the last straw. The woman, while still conciliatory, stiffened her spine. “I look after the estate. The deal is on”, she said. Now a divorce is on the cards. The woman thinks that even without the husband, she has a slim chance of holding on to the estate — perhaps with other partners. Besides, she realises that it is better to live with honour than cringe like a household slave.

Should she wait for the husband to humiliate her yet again, before he leaves the household that he did nothing for? Or be a modern Indian woman, call the shots, and throw the man out? You tell me.

Published: Business World, October 2007


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