Night duty

Sometimes, there are stories I feel compelled to write and initially I was planning to write a short story collection titled American Malayalees, however lack of time is the limiting factor here,  there is no way I can handle a book project along with my work and my studies. If I don’t tell these stories, I will never be able to live with my conscience.

This is her story.

She was the oldest of 5 siblings from a very happy family. They were neither rich nor poor and she often talks about how wonderful and idyllic  her childhood was. She wanted to do medicine, but didn’t think she was smart enough, so opted to do Nursing. Her parents wanted the best for their oldest daughter and got her married to someone who was waiting for the family sponsored green card. Surely with her going to America, there is hope for her siblings to get the visa as well. pinney naalu perodu parayamallo, molu amerikkayil poyi…pennu nurse ayathu kondu avaru sthreedhanvum othiri chodichilla

He is well dressed, well mannered, active in the church and the community. Everyone who knows him sings praises of what a  wonderful person he is. But in him hides the monster that is  reserved for his wife and children. His brothers and sisters means much more for him than his wife and children. She told me how once after the caesarean birth of their oldest child, when his sister came to see the baby at their home on the first day she was discharged from hospital, he asked her to get up and make tea for his sister.

He has belittled his children from the time they were babies telling them how useless they are ( like their mother) and now they are struggling in college. ( He chose what they should study, didn’t even consult them or ask them what they wanted to study)

Her 85 year old mother stays with them,  after the death of her father. To the outside world, he is the best son in law, who takes such a good care of his mother in law. ( swantham ammaye pola avan ammayi amme nokkunne, evide kittum inginey oru ambotty payyaney)  Inside the house, he curses and swears at her, blaming the old woman for the way she raised her precious oldest child. He asks her often, why she doesn’t die? ( ningalkku onnu chathoodey, manusyane shalya peduthathe?). Often he tells her that her husband died early because God felt sorry for him having to live with her. Then to make it all better, he hits his wife in front her mother.

One would think that a woman living in US would know she has a lot more rights than a woman in India and would do something to protect herself from emotional and physical abuse. But she is still an Indian woman, trained from birth to bear  all the ills and suffer silently  in the name of family, culture and society. She will not ever leave her husband, she thinks this life with the monster is her destiny. Though she didn’t come under my classification of a strong woman, I am writing about her, because even in despair she found a way to cope. She works nights at the hospital and for the past 20 years she only sees her husband when she gets back home from the hospital in the morning and he is just about to leave for his work, giving him the opportunity to abuse her only two days ( when she is off duty) a week.

6 thoughts on “Night duty

  1. I know one couple like this in my family too.. I am not sure if he physically hurts his wife, but if someone confirms it, I will not be surprised..He is very pious, makes all his 3 kids 7 and under and wife kneel down for their daily evening prayers which goes on for an hour…He sent his son (7 yrs) to a boarding school in Kerala so that he doesn’t get spoiled by the American culture (!!).. She is a nurse. Except when she goes to the hospital he is adamant that his wife covers her body fully and allows only saree or churidar.. My H would say – if it was me, you would walk away from me in no time and I tell him – you never know.. It takes a lot of courage to walk away from a bad relationship especially when kids are involved. In most cases, your self esteem would be so low and you feel worthless. Thanks for telling her story, Sarah. She needs to be heard!

  2. My immediate family is like that. Except it’s not my dad, but my mom. Very close to my dad. I got belittled ALOT because I’m supposed to be the olden style malayalee girl and I used to get slammed for ridiculous things (mentioned in another post). I was hurt by it when younger but now know not to get offended by it, am a independent woman and know just to flow where life takes me. The way they treat you does affect your relationship not only with your parents but other family members. Have witnessed it first hand.

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