“It began with broken objects and verbal abuse, gradually escalating to character assassination and forced intimacy, whether I wanted it or not. That’s what women are often taught in India, isn’t it? Keep your husband happy at any cost, even if it means sacrificing your mental and physical well-being.”
TW: Domestic Violence, Abuse, Self-Harm
It all began well, with cheers and shenanigans on March 13, 2020. A dream came true, and hope sprang to life, promising a lifetime of love. Everything seemed perfect until it wasn’t. Perhaps I had read too many poems, books, or watched too many movies with happy endings (or beginnings), and I fell into the circus of threatening charlatans who played a devious role in my life.
Just ten days later, the COVID-19 lockdown arrived, and I mistakenly assumed that the long hours we would spend together would be perfect for nurturing our love and building a life together. I was so excited, yet so wrong. It started sweetly with cooking, laughter, shared meals, and watching series and movies together at home. Then, his factory reopened, and the violence didn’t begin at that moment; it had started a few days after we returned to Pune from Kolkata following the reception party.
The verbal abuse had already begun, and as a mental health advocate, I foolishly believed it was a result of the lockdown. After all, who wouldn’t feel suffocated living under such fear and pressure? The fear of death and the claustrophobia of being confined within four walls seemed to have taken hold of him, or so I thought.
It began with broken objects and verbal abuse, gradually escalating to character assassination and forced intimacy, whether I wanted it or not. That’s what women are often taught in India, isn’t it? Keep your husband happy at any cost, even if it means sacrificing your mental and physical well-being. My mental health started to deteriorate as well, and the suffocation and sinking into an unknown abyss began to take a hold on me. But I stayed put.
Soon, he left for work, and I remained inside those four walls, working from home, managing the house, and trying to keep two families happy simultaneously. Nobody ever inquired about how I felt with my husband away for more than 12 hours every day.
Struggling to Survive
The struggle for survival was painfully real. He would return home either drunk, late, or annoyed. Then, one day, he let the truth slip out, “I never wanted to marry you, but I didn’t have the courage to defy my father. I wanted to marry my ex; you were a rebound gone wrong.” Those words pierced me like an arrow, and my heart bled, a wound that still refuses to heal. I felt like an unwanted fruit left to rot inside the fridge, neglected and forgotten.
My soul remained trapped. In Indian society, especially when you come from a small town and a judgmental family (except for my parents), escaping an unwanted marriage is a daunting challenge. So, I stayed, until I couldn’t bear it any longer. People often ask me why I stayed. For a while, I had no answer. Maybe it was love or perhaps it was fear. Now, I know. I stayed because I believed in Emily Dickinson’s words, “Hope is the thing with feathers,” and I hoped it would one day land on me as well. I stayed because I didn’t want my parents to endure the mental, physical, and legal trauma they are facing now. But I realized that being a divorced woman is better than being a dead one.
The physical abuse began in late 2020. My father sent a legal notice to him and my in-laws. To my dismay, my sister-in-law and mother-in-law supported him and his abhorrent behavior. My mother-in-law even rationalized it, saying, “Men do this; it’s in their blood,” without considering that she, too, had a daughter, and her daughter had a daughter.
Both families reached an agreement that it wouldn’t happen again, and in January 2021, I returned to Pune, where we both lived and worked. It remained quiet for a while, but the abuse started anew, leading me to file a complaint against my ex-husband at the local police station. Unfortunately, the law let me down, and nothing happened to him. The abuse continued until June 2022, when I finally couldn’t take it anymore. He has been absconding ever since.
I returned to my hometown, Varanasi, and filed a section 498A case, among others. However, it’s still hanging in the air. The Indian Legal System moves slowly, and domestic violence seems like a mere cry for attention to them. If courts can accept marital rape, then this is just a trivial matter for them.
When he abandoned me, I was unemployed, as I had fallen into severe depression and couldn’t handle work. In the months following our separation, I suffered from severe PTSD. One day, as I saw numerous women outside the Women’s Complaint Center at the Varanasi court, I realized how fortunate I was to have escaped an abusive marriage and to be educated enough to understand my rights. Something inside me clicked, and I knew it was time to get out of bed and take action.
Healing like a Wildflower
My healing journey had begun, a path toward growth and strength. I applied for a Criminology and Forensic Psychology Diploma and completed it in 2023. I channeled my pain into art, capturing my emotions in photographs and painting them on canvas. There were good days and bad days; moments when my room remained in darkness, and I felt blank or wept, and other days when I pushed my hyperactive mind to explore all that I loved, even though I had almost forgotten the meaning of love.
I had developed an aversion to the sun, finding solace in darkness, my heart and soul had gone numb and remain so. I could feel empathy, but love, especially for myself, seemed elusive. Self-care was not a priority then; expressing my anger in a positive way was. Gradually, I began to place self-care at the forefront. I started a mental health page on Instagram to help others and another page dedicated to criminology to expand my knowledge and share it with others.
The unholy things that happened to me, I wished on no one else. I detested seeing my reflection in the mirror with all my scars and cigarette burn marks. I have 37 tattoos, each with its own story and meaning. I turned to these tattoos to find strength. I embarked on a transformation journey, both physically and mentally.
People assume I am strong, but there’s a wounded soul within me that remains concealed, deep beneath the surface. My friends say I will find love again, perhaps I will, or perhaps not. For now, my priority is to heal, assist, and set an example.
My story can serve as a survival guide for many, and that’s why I’m here. I create art from pain, craft poetry from the broken pieces of my heart, study diligently, and work hard to become the strongest version of myself.
In our country, despite what the law says about protecting women, it’s not always the case. It’s a slow, agonizing, and disheartening process, often involving uncomfortable questions for the victim, especially if she is female, while the perpetrators roam freely. I no longer expect anything from the law; instead, I am growing back my clipped wings on my own.
If there is a God, there is Karma. Meanwhile, I work and make progress each day, with its ups and downs, because healing is not a linear journey, and it’s perfectly okay not to feel okay. Your feelings matter, and you matter. That’s what I tell myself, and that’s what I want to tell everyone out there struggling with something similar.
Even if you’ve been shattered, remember that a wildflower can flourish even after a wildfire. Healing and rebuilding trust while focusing on self-growth is a lengthy process. I, too, lost faith and trust in the process, but I clung to hope. I let hope nurture my roots and help them bloom into vibrant flowers. I allowed the monsoon to wash away unspoken feelings, let autumn leaves fall in harmony with my bruises, and embraced winter in its misty days.
It’s not always about survival, as many may think, or about being lonely. For us survivors, we have always lived in fight or flight mode, but now it’s more about finding peace, solitude, embracing life, and nurturing our inner child.
I’ll conclude with a poem I wrote that metaphorically defines my journey:
Things that Burn Me
Burn, it’s not always the fire that scorches, nor the heat from the blazing sun, nor the steam from boiling gas;
Sometimes, what burns you isn’t even related to heat; it can be icy cold as well.
The things that have burned me have left countless invisible scars,
They are the words spoken by lovers when they depart, not even glancing back at the path where they left me, with tearful eyes and nimble footsteps.
I’ve been burned by mockery of my body and mind, by rejections and failures, and by unethical and diabolical deeds.
I’ve been burned by images of happiness while I’ve sat there, staring at my vulnerable, scared body all day, wondering who would ever love me that way.
I’ve been burned by helplessness and bitter lies that were force-fed to me.
I’ve been burned by hope and hopelessness simultaneously, as the clock seemed stuck in a never-ending limbo.
I’ve been burned by abandonment and deceit, by loneliness and shattered pieces; my heart, which I can no longer mend like a corset.
I’ve been burned by ink and colors that sometimes refuse to cooperate with me, and I’ve been burned by love and lust simultaneously.
But, most of all, I’m still burning;
With painful and vivid memories of the past and those that can never be forgotten,
They dwell within my heart like a raging fire.
Rupsha hails from a journalism background, holding an MA degree in Mass Communication from BHU. She worked as a full-time journalist before transitioning to the corporate world, where she specialized in content and branding. Rupsha remains actively engaged in independent journalism, focusing on social, psychological, and criminal cases. She has also earned a diploma in criminology and forensic psychology, enabling her to analyze various solved and unsolved cases worldwide and in India, with the aim of eventually joining law enforcement.
In addition to her passion for journalism and criminology, Rupsha is a talented visual artist, a published author, and a poet. During her free time, you can often find her reading, writing, creating art, pursuing photography, appreciating nature, or indulging in True Crime, Espionage documentaries, and thriller series.