This story is by Aneri Naik and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Flashback to the November of 1993 in Ahmedabad India, It was the happiest days of her life, warm fuzzy days and starry nights, She had finally decided to get married to the perfect Christian man, tall, dark, handsome and rich and even her parents had approved of him and his family.
And that’s when Riya snapped back to reality and thought, “Maybe that’s when I jinxed it all”
Flashback again to a week prior to her wedding, when a simple phone call turned out to be the evil stepsister to her happy days, The ex-wife of her soon to be brother-in-law had called, with a brief and courteous warning about the otherwise humongous secret that her husband and his entire family had purposefully hidden while arranging this dreamy marriage…
With just a week left to her big fat Indian wedding and with so much on the line like her parent’s name and respect in a society as cruel as hers, She knew right then that she had no one to turn to anymore.
And in a dizzy state of mind, she saw her fiery-eyed father, a teary-eyed mother and sister.
As well as a devil-eyed future with a big hole dug out for her by fate with no other option but to jump right in.
Back to reality, she stares into the cold night in December in a town far from what she could call home, she could hear her husband, Jimmy, pouring himself a glass of whiskey and popping a blue pill which he did every now and again, and every time she heard the click of the box in which he kept these pills her mind raced back to the damning phone call. Riya repeatedly regretted not paying heed to her little sister’s advice, even though Riya had been so dumbstruck by Jimmy by their very first meet out of the two they had before the marriage, Diya her younger sister, had very strong doubts about Jimmy’s behaviour. Diya had a strange feeling that something was off with the hasty wedding that Jimmy and his family were planning and proposing and how despite being wealthy they had visited for a total of two or three days in the otherwise ridiculously short period of four months before the date of the wedding. Diya continually complained to Riya about something being fishy all along and how there was something very wrong in the way Jimmy acted around everyone else when Riya or her parents weren’t around.At this point, Riya recollected how there was an eerie mystery lurking around the way he stared at the painting in her parents’ drawing room. But now it was too late, She was married off to a “madman”,and she feared for her life in this far away town, with no familiar faces to turn to comfort for, she would pray every single day for this nightmare of her’s to end and that Jimmy would wake up the next morning a new man, a man slightly resembling the man she had once dreamt of. She could never have imagined how in just a month all her dreams and hopes of marrying the perfect man would have turned around with such a horrid twist of fate. She sympathised with Jimmy, how he constantly begged for help in the way he looked at her, how he had showered with such expensive gifts to compensate his erratic behaviour ,how he tried so hard to fight the basic instinct to act wildly and crazily. She knew he was as stuck as she was in this nightmare but the only difference was that he was living the nightmare since so many years and in his heart, he knew he would be living it forever…
By January of 1994, not a day had passed by when she did not think about the irrevocable mistake she had made by marrying a schizophrenic man, a mentally unstable and damaged man, who had stolen her right to live a normal life. It was so hard for her to believe that the man she had chosen to be her life partner, had turned out to be the worst mistake of her life.
It had been two months to her marriage and everyone around her she were still ignoring the fact that Jimmy had an incurable and unmanageable disease, they would still walk on eggshells rather than talking about the stage of Jimmy’s unmanageable Schizophrenia had progressed. Lately, the medication he took every alternate hour stopped working and so every now and then his attacks would get stronger and somehow all of his triggers were related to something that had to do with Riya.
By February, things had taken a turn for the worst, Jimmy was no the same man he used to be, He had lost all his money in bad business deals and was in debt even before he married Riya, Every time Jimmy walked past her, Riya shuddered, she could feel him gawking hungrily with his insatiable urge to have her around him, always under his control, always following his command. And what else could she do, she did not have the strength or support she needed to face his wrath.
But In March she received a letter from her hometown from her beloved Uncle George who lived in London, telling her that he had recently learnt from a distant relative about her impromptu marriage, and how he could not attend her wedding but would love to visit if it was feasible for her and her in-law’s. He had even asked Riya to call him at his personal landline number.For the first time in so long, Riya felt like she had someone to turn to, someone with whose help she could get out of the hole that fate had dug out for her.
For a week, every passing night, she wondered, What would she tell her uncle? How would he react? Would he want help her? Could he save her? and more importantly, Would he save her?
By April, Riya had only stared at the telephone booth in the neighbouring market almost ninety nine times, but she could never muster up the strength to call Uncle George and ask him to take her away from this forsaken place, and the hundredth time, she collapsed there in the middle of the bustling market. She woke up in the town doctor’s clinic, the doctor was a calm and composed lady with a joyful cheer hidden in her smile, she reminded Riya of her mother, and in that moment Riya wept, she cried and cried, till she was left alone with the doctor, the doctor ordered a rushed blood report and concluded that Riya was pregnant, and expecting a child by the end of October…
And in that moment it was as if Riya had a good long look at herself after ages. She stood up looked in the mirror and saw the petty reflection of what she had aimed for in her life. She just wanted to be happy and for that, she needed to get out of here, start a new life and crawl her way back to a life she deserves.
In May, She had already plotted her smooth escape from Indore back to Ahmedabad, As it turns out Uncle George had agreed to help her out from start to end. He explicitly told her that he was going to be her rock through all the turmoil she was going to face in the near future. The safety and well-being of her unborn child were here priority and she retraced every step of her escape every day, in order to ensure a safe and quiet exit from this hellhole. She even made a checklist of the things she would need to get back on her feet after she got out of here, her educational certificates to get a job as soon as she reaches Ahmedabad, her gold jewellery to sell off as basic money she would require to get a house on rent and basic supplies and most importantly evidence of Jimmy’s ailments for an easy and assured divorce so that she could gain sole custody of the one thing giving her the strength to fight her battles, her pure and innocent baby.
In June, with a reenergised aura and strength, Riya boarded her train to Ahmedabad, Even though she had managed to lie to everyone on her husband’s side that she was only going home for her sister’s marriage, Jimmy was eerily softer and repeatedly kept apologising for his behaviour and for ruining her life. But Riya knew that she could not make the mistake of trusting those deceiving eyes ever again. But once she was seated, Riya looked at Jimmy one last time, and in that moment, he knew she was never coming back.
In July, She temporarily moved in her uncle’s house and set out to finding a decent job and start earning as soon as possible, her uncle had a friend who owned a shipping company and was in search of a temporary manager to head the Ahmedabad office in his absence. Seeing her struggle so bravely and happily, Riya’s parents also asked for forgiveness and welcomed her back with open arms.
By August, life started to pick up pace and Riya was not only the star performer at work but instead of being a sad story or a bad example she was an inspiration to all her relatives and neighbours, Irrespective of the topic she was the talk of the town and she sure loved it.
In September, things were looking up, She rented an apartment close to her new job as a permanent junior manager at a big multinational shipping firm, thanks to her uncle, It was the perfect job, and because of the quality of her work and the promising potential she showed in just a month, She could have flexible timing till her child was old enough, and that’s when she learnt that some things in life are just meant to be beautifully twisted.
In October, As the due date got closer she was surrounded by relatives and friends who made sure that her food habits were healthy and that she was rested and stress-free. Her best friend, Sanjay had also returned from the US, after completing his studies, he had clear intentions of marrying Riya and adopt her unborn child.
Riya, on the other hand, was so wound up with the overwhelming experiences she never expected to have after she decided to get divorced. She made mental notes to write down in a letter to her child, one day, her child will know every detail of how much it was loved even before it came to life. She was the happiest she had ever been, her divorce to Jimmy had been finalised and she had the sole custody of her child and now it was as if she could finally breathe.
On the 21st of October 1994, Riya’s beautiful little baby girl was born, She named her Angel.
Fast-forward to twenty years later, Riya is forty-five, and the youngest CEO of a large import-export shipping freight. Angel is an undergrad at the Oxford University and a young and promising writer. And for of you wondering what happened to Sanjay, Well he married Riya. Angel also set up a charity fund for her biological father Jimmy so that he gets the medical attention he needs
Guess what is the motto of their lives that there’s always some happiness achieved after the struggle we must go through in life, no matter what holes life has dug up for you