“Memma Chenkhre” (The married lady who eloped with the Bachelor)
A short story by Monica Ingudam
It was the talk of the “Leikai” (community) that a married woman, mother of 5 children eloped with the handsome “Pakhang” (Bachelor). And such stories flies really fast from leikai to leikai, “Keithel” (market) to “pan dukan” (small pan shop). As I was browsing vegetables in the Keithel, I heard the story and people passing judgment, severe judgment on moral grounds, calling names to the woman “Nupa Phabi” “Oktabi” “tou-ngumbi” (woman who catches/traps guys, loose woman etc.).
They were talking about me. I got married when I was a teenager. My husband worked in a government office. I knew nothing about him before I married him but it was one of the common event of eloping on the first meeting arranged by friends on words that the guy is very good, working, from Imphal and life will be good “Nupa do yam phabani, thabak tourabani, Imphal dagine, nakhuta hamaga charani“. I grew up in a village in Manipur, life was hard with farming and Imphal sounded very attractive. We had exchanged couple of letters, unspoken shy glances on the road, prior to our first meeting which lead to the eloping event.
I got married, got pregnant almost immediately. Before the life of marriage sunk in, I was coping with this new changes in my body with morning sickness, constant emotional battle with mood swings. And my husband had worse mood swings than me besides being drunk, breaking and throwing things in the house which slowly transitioned to beating me up. And his mood swing would be triggered by anything from food not ready when he came back from work even on days he came earlier than usual to his drinking water was not warm enough. It was a constant struggle with him, finding fault in everything I did.
I had my first kid, a beautiful daughter. But he wasn’t happy. He wanted a son. Before we knew we had 5 children, a child almost every year. I was a mother of 5 children before my mid twenties. He had a voracious sexual appetite and crossed lines of dignity in getting his needs, irrespective of my health or mental condition, after beating me, in front of the kids, fingering and dragging me in front of other people to get his needs. He was rough in his ways, too rough tearing me inside out. My body took a toll with multiple child birth, satisfying his needs, his beatings and the mental trauma.
I didn’t have a place to go, not even my parents. I didn’t have any money. I saw no other ways other than to stay strong and raised my little kids who looked at me with eyes filled with fear. We grew up together, stayed a life of fear and did everything to please him. The little ones would come running shouting “Baba Lakle” (father is on his way) warning so that we can be prepared to set his food, water, clothes ready for his likings and the kids learnt to go out to the other room pretending they don’t hear anything, when he starts acting up to get his needs. And I would run and hide to escape his beatings and come back after my kids will signal that he has cooled down.
Time passed and my life took a turn after I was forced to seek work to feed the family after my husband was suspended from work. I started going out of the house to work and started earning. It was a newfound freedom, freedom to fulfill little things in life, have little surprises for my children. It gave me self esteem and I found a voice to fight back my husband. I had this confidence that I could survive without depending on my husband and surprisingly he stepped back. It’s true but financial independence can change one’s life.
Time passed, and my first daughter got married and I felt satisfied seeing my children growing up and getting independent. We had this closeness after going through so much that we could communicate through our eyes. I have crossed my forties when I met the “Pakhang” (Bachelor). Despite my situation, the age gap there was this unspoken connection from the first time we met. After being in denial, fighting myself, fighting the conflicting thoughts of society norms and moral, we fell hopelessly in love, a love which I never felt before giving me such happiness. After months of conflicting thoughts, with my first daughter speaking more with her eyes than her words “Ema, nung chatlo. Eiena loina yengshunge” (Mother you go, I will look after every thing) one evening I eloped.
My children and grand children visits me in my home, the small hut far far away from Imphal. I am looked down and spitted on by society. And I continue living my life taking one day at a time. Life is a struggle and never perfect but I am happy and at peace.
Collection of short stories written by Monica Ingudam. These stories are based on Life’s this and that focusing on Manipur and the people of Manipur.