This is the second and final part of the interview – Sugar in a Plum. If you haven’t read the first part already, I suggest you to please read Sugar in a Plum – Part I before reading this part.
“And finally, you got married?” I asked again.
“Yes, finally, in 2014 a family came to visit us,” she replied, “An old couple who told us their son lived in America, and they will come again when their son visits. It wasn’t a big deal, a lot of families said they would visit or call again, but they never did. But this family, they visited again, and this time, their son came with them”.
“How did you like them?” I questioned.
“The parents, who acted very religious, were polite with me but there was something odd about them,” she said as she took a sip of coffee, “Their son was fat and bald, I wasn’t really impressed but I kept quiet.”
“If you weren’t impressed, why did you marry him?” I wondered this time.
“Do you think I had a choice?” She said loudly, looking shocked. “Don’t you know about our society? I had crossed thirty, I was way beyond the eligible age. My parents were anxious and they accepted the proposal without a second thought. They wanted to dispose me off quickly!!”
“Oh I see, and then you got married,” I asked feeling a little awkward about my previous question.
“And when was the Rukhsati?” I asked.
“It never came to that,” she said, “We had exchanged mobile numbers after Nikah, so he went to the US, and started talking to me on the phone and text messages. He was always connected with me.”
“How was he like?” I inquired.
“In the beginning, for about the first three months, it was like a charm.” She replied as she started looking away again like she was talking to herself, “He used to tell me all the time that he was so much in love with me. I was surprised because I hardly knew him then, and he was showering his love for me.”
“Yeah, err…men can do that, quickly fall in love, it is mostly just lust.” I replied scratching my head.
“It was nice though at the start,” she continued her monologue, “But then gradually he started questioning me about small things. I was the kind who liked to keep private matters private. But he’d post Facebook statuses displaying his love for me. He’d ask me why I didn’t sleep or eat properly, why I didn’t display affection publicly for him on Facebook. Small things really, just my habits, he started disliking the way I was.”
“Hmmm, he wanted you to change” I observed.
“I didn’t mind that though, I thought it was his love and he cared about me,” she said sighing deeply, “I wanted to be a good wife for him, so I tried my best to do as he asked. I was very submissive.”
“How did it go bad from good, is there a specific event you can refer to, I mean something you can tell me that this one incident changed everything?” I asked looking at her.
“One day I posted a message on a friend’s Facebook wall, a female friend’s wall, mind you, telling her that I missed her – I think that started it.” She replied as her tears started brimming in her eyes again, “He saw that and called me up and wondered that I could write that on my friend’s wall but not my husband’s. I was like I talk to you all the time, and I haven’t talked to my friend in a long time, what’s the big deal. We had our first fight over this!”
“Really?” I asked surprised.
“Yes, really.” She responded, “But that was just the beginning of a horrible nightmare.” She said as she wiped her eyes with her left thumb.
“If you are okay with it, can you tell me what came next?” I asked reluctantly as I could see her getting emotionally disturbed.
“I was so dumb, I liked a solo profile picture on Facebook of a person respected in our family due to his expertise in numerology and spirituality.” She continued, “He called me up and asked me who that person was, what was my relation with him? And he asked me to give him my Facebook and Email passwords. I declined so he started shouting and threatened if I wanted to save the marriage or wanted to see him dirty.”
“And you gave the passwords?” I asked with disbelief.
“Yes, I got scared, I obviously wanted to save the marriage” she responded, “and my bad luck, I didn’t even bother to look if there was anything in my inboxes that might look suspicious.”
“And was there anything suspicious in your inboxes?” I questioned looking into her eyes.
“Everything for a paranoid mind” she replied looking back with an exasperated look, “I had a friend named Saim, he was several years younger than me and was like a younger brother. We used to talk about our personal lives. I had sent him some emoticons and some comments about my husband’s family – nothing too awkward or sinister, just a talk between friends.”
“And he didn’t like that I suppose.” I guessed.
“He went barking mad, he called me and started abusing and shouting at me, asking me if I had an affair with Saim.” She replied with her eyes wet again, “I tried my best to assure him that there was nothing like that, and Saim was like a little brother, I swore before him, but he didn’t believe me.”
“So what did you do?” I asked.
“What could I do, I was desperate to save my marriage, I cried, I literally begged him…” she replied as her tears started trickling down her cheeks, “And you know what he did afterwards?”
I was unnerved as her tears kept flowing, I could hardly say, “What?”
“He somehow got my phone calls data, so he started calling every number in my call history just to see if a number was owned by a male or a female.” She said wiping her eyes this time with a tissue paper, “And he kept humiliating me for every number with a male voice”.
I paused to light another cigarette, “And then?” I asked.
“Then, he just won’t stop humiliating me.” She said painfully. “He contacted my cousins and friends, telling them how characterless I was, and I was having several affairs and probably have been sleeping with others too while he was religiously committed with me. My cousins and friends did their best to tell him that I was not like that, but he…he just didn’t believe what people said”.
“And you kept on tolerating this?” I couldn’t believe my ears.
“Everyone started disconnecting with me, they told me to stop contacting them and to save the marriage, I was limited to a room and I had no one to talk to.” She replied, “And by then he was so overcome by paranoia that he wanted to see me on camera at all times no matter if I had to go to washroom, had to change, or had to eat…no matter what!!”
“And you did that? That was too much!” I asked shell-shocked.
“Yes, mostly, sometimes if I was sleeping or was in the washroom and made the mistake of missing his call, he would accuse me of talking to someone else on a secret phone, and he would see things, things that weren’t really there.” She responded with immense pain in her eyes.
“What do you mean things that weren’t really there?” I asked wondering.
“He would see a cell phone, for example, lying on my bed when there was nothing” she replied grief-stricken, “or headphones hidden under my clothes or my hair, and he would start abusing me because of my supposedly discreet connections – calling me with words I had never heard before except things like bitch…or slut!”
I didn’t know what to say, “Err…he saw that and there wasn’t actually anything like that?”
“Of course not, how could I dare talk to someone else when I was in front of him all the time?” she said loudly in anger with tears in her eyes again.
“Obviously, you are right, I didn’t mean to doubt you, I just found it ridiculous that he saw things, was he mentally sick?” I replied trying to reassure her that I believed her.
“He definitely was, self-righteous bastard!! He never believed me” She said as her tears trickled down faster, “He called me a liar and a cheat, always asked me to undress before the camera, to show him if I was hiding headphones.”
“God!” I couldn’t say anything further, shaking my head horror-struck.
“And I would stand there in front of the camera half-naked for I don’t know how long each time. He would ask me to turn around, to shows my arms, lift my hair, walk around to see if there were headphones or…a freaking boyfriend somewhere…I was made to parade nude as if I was an animal!!!” She screamed as she shot up from the chair and ran to the washroom crying.
I sat there shaking and puffing rapidly as I heard the sound of water coming from the cafe’s washroom. She came back after several minutes, her eyes swollen and face washed. I was looking at her thinking what to say next as she was looking away again.
“You’d be thinking I am a dumb woman after all for doing all that for him.” She said after a while turning her head towards me, with suspicion and anxiety in her eyes.
“Honestly! I don’t know what to say, I mean I shouldn’t say this,” I replied, “But you should have stopped tolerating his filth a long while ago”.
“You are a man too, you are probably thinking I am making this all up.” She asked me with doubt still in her voice.
“No! Why would you make this all up?” I replied, “But I was just wondering why you tolerated this for so long, this was unbelievably horrible.”
“I tolerated this because of my parents, my age, the society – everyone is responsible. I actually wanted a normal married life, I don’t know what I did to deserve all that shit.” She said with disgust in her voice.
“And when did you exactly decide it was enough.” I inquired.
“It was a similar such naked parade on the camera that I finally got tired and I told him to piss off.” She replied, “I gathered my courage to tell my parents I couldn’t tolerate that psycho anymore. And then I filed for divorce.”
“You should have done so a lot earlier in my opinion, but it’s no one’s place to judge you, and I assure you didn’t deserve that.” I tried to comfort her.
“I know people judge me,” she said with a pale smile, “But no one can imagine what I have been through, everyone has deserted me now, no one cares how I feel about all this so I don’t mind how they judge me.”
“How long did this torment last?” I inquired.
“About a year and a half – including the period involving the divorce case which took about 8 months.” she said.
“Okay, my last question to you, what are you going to do with your life now?” I asked her.
“Live it, as far away from men as possible, and I don’t care what people expect from me anymore.” She responded sighing deeply with a stern face.
She then told me that she wanted to leave. We came downstairs and walked out of Gloria Jean’s, and she waved at a Rickshaw passing by to stop it.
“I don’t know if I should thank you for telling me your story, I have caused you a lot of pain by making you revisit it, but I thank you for your trust. I am truly sorry for what happened to you, and I pray God help you find a better life ahead.” I said to her trying to comfort her further.
“Bilal! I don’t know why I told you this, probably I needed to tell this to someone, and I have no right to ask anything from you, but please don’t write about it.” She said politely, as she stepped inside the Rickshaw.
“No! Please let me, for all the torment you went through, and for your trust, it’s a debt I owe to manhood. I assure you no harm would come to you from my writing” I replied reassuringly.
She nodded at me with her jaws tightly sealed and left.
Note: Some portions of the interview have been intentionally edited to protect the interviewees’ identity.