My brother in law’s long hands (Makhut Sangba Enao Nupa)
A short story by Monica Ingudam
I was in my late teens, I thought I was going for a date with my boyfriend. It started as one until we got into a conversation where he overcame with jealousy and insecurities knowing about a guy’s proposal for marriage through my mother and our date ended up to elopement (eloping is quite common in my place in Manipur). I was young and naïve. I didn’t know the gravity of changes, responsibilities which came with marriage. My mother cried so much, I thought it was pretty romantic and giggled throughout. And we got married.It was a whole new world. I was raised pretty carefree and didn’t do much house chores. Initially I loved playing the new daughter in law (Mou anoubi) waking up early, sweeping and moping the house, taking bath in ice cold pond water, collecting drinking water from our community water tap, cooking, wearing my new matching clothes (phi and phanek) and doing all the house chores but later I found it quite tiring and tasking. It was 5 of us, my parents in law, my husband, his younger brother and me. His younger brother, though older to me calls me “Eteima” (sister in law) by relation.
My days was filled with house chores and picking up things around the house. But I was happy filled with my husband’s love and I waited eagerly for his return from work, every evening. When I see him, nothing else mattered. And I loved the way he will come to the kitchen as I cooked, steal a kiss or hold my hands seeing the where about of his parents and brother. We had our own room but no door ( it’s a common style in Manipur, rooms without door) but it had a curtain flying high with the wind flow through the house. Our walls of our room was bare bamboo where you can hear every conversation or creak of the next room. Maintaining our privacy was a big challenge with anyone walking in anytime with no door nor concept of knocking.
One morning, I woke up feeling the hands caressing my body and as I turned and opened my eyes I just screamed “Ho Ema Ho Ema” ( oh Mother oh Mother). It was my brother in law and he ran out quickly out of the room. Everyone came running into the room and I just cried. I said nothing, I was not sure what to do, whether my husband will even believe me and what would be the implications if I tell him. I looked back and thought about the moments I felt watched or seen shadows as I was taking my afternoon nap, bathing or changing which I brushed off as over thinking too much. I felt so invaded and disgusted.
I continued with my morning routine, did my morning worship and was cooking. I saw my brother in law who looked through me without any guilt or shame. I felt so humiliated and angry. I went to my room. My husband was getting ready for work and hugged me seeing me really disturbed. He asked me what I saw in my dream and coaxed me to share with him. I told him what happened. I was afraid he won’t believe me, he got so angry and muttered “he won’t even leave his sister in law” and left the room calling out for my brother in law’s name. Things happened so quickly and the next thing I saw was my husband beating my brother in law, my father in law pleading to my husband not to make it public and my mother in law watching as she mutters “Ei sibana phare, ei sibana phare” (better I die, better I die). My husband was so angry and just screamed. I had never seen him so angry, so angry he threw all the furnitures, vessels in the house. We had a beautiful pink bougainvillea in the front porch which he cut into pieces. After that he came to the room, broken and cried like a baby and kept saying he was sorry. We hugged and cried together.
That afternoon itself, My husband extended the house, started building our own little home with doors which could be locked. He literally made the house with his own hands with bamboos, which were plastered with mud from our community big pond, mixed with finely cut hay. And he finished with coating of smooth sands, sands from the banks of Imphal “turel” (river) and whitewashed the walls beautifully. And we moved out making it our home. The house was covered with tin and we could hear rains or hail stones. I felt safe and happy with the doors locked, in my home filled with my husband’s love.
My husband wouldn’t talk about it but I learnt that my brother in law has multiple remarks in the community of such incidents. But it was always hushed up with my father in law, laying flat on the floor, touching their feet and begging it will not happen again and not to make it public. But it happened again and again with different people. And no one warned me about it. I don’t know of any law which can punish him. And the victims, including myself won’t talk about it for fear of being stained by society. I try to avoid seeing him but I do see him and his sight gives me the goose bumps with a deep feeling of disgust. But he walks free and continues his acts without any shame or guilt.
~ The End~
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.