When I think about all the things that have taken place over the past few months, I would like to say that I have been lucky enough to survive an ordeal many would prefer to wash themselves out with. A tide that consumed everything in its way; brought down hell none compared to my recent rendezvous with chaos – both emotional and physical. But only so, I wish there was a tide; one such that would have brought rain or water in any form and crops- crops to follow; then tomorrow would not have appeared as bleak and drab as they are to me right now. Yes I am one of them, to a third person we are just as obscure and hidden away as the National page News articles but the fact remains – I Am A Poison Bride!

I was born to a well-off family with five siblings and agricultural produce suitable enough to nourish us through every passing day. Tilling, ploughing and weeding were just another part of the day and rural Maharashtra was as scenic as one would picture it to be. Running around the fields, playing hopscotch with my sisters and chasing the cows- my life was a joy ride which I hoped would never end. Education was not something our father thought to be essential because to him someday all of us were to bid a teary farewell and be off to our in-laws’. So while our brothers went to school and burned many a night lamps during their semesters, I just let the cool breeze drift through my hair and feel what not many were lucky enough to be living.
Childhood soon gave way to adolescence and playtime slowly reduced to cooking in the kitchen and sifting through the grain silo.
Friends I played with during my growing up years were getting married and I knew that my time is not far away. For long I dreaded being married to an inhumane, fifty year old man suitable enough to pass off as my grandfather. But call it lucky; better sense prevailed and my parents thought of the contrary. Soon enough they found me a very ‘suitable’ groom. Not the swish city bred kinds but one of our own. A farmer by profession and agriculture for a living. To me it was all just a daze that I was hoping would pass away.
16 years and four months old- that’s how old I was on the day of my wedding. Too young, I know and I would not advise the same to my kids or to anyone for that matter. But nevertheless I tied the knot with a deep sense of fore brooding already whipping up a storm inside me. Marital life was not bliss like how the word of mouth praises had sounded it to be. A rather grueling task of cooking, cleaning and tending to a humongous family’s request lay at my service. And I was expected to comply with the same and adhere to the rules laid down by the family.
Despite my wishes, I was advised against working in a small scale industry and was told to stay at home. Despite the fact that I pointed out that this could come handy as an extra source of income, my offer to work was flatly refused and ignored from the start. So I carried on with my marital ‘bliss’ and stayed aloof from half the world outside my periphery. Even though this was all meant to be the initial adjustments of settling into a household; I did not take in the wrong spirit and no sooner had I managed to fit into the family mould and how bad could it get after all?
Years passed on and I was now a mother to three happy kids who had added more meaning to my life than ever before. Watching them grow before my eyes and spending time trying to make the best of the day for them had gradually made up for any lack or shortcomings that I could complain about. Life to me was just another view of having a peek into the life of my parents’. Get married, earn a living, have kids and work towards a better tomorrow. This is what encompassed an idealistic day for me and that is how it was to be or so I thought.
And then the famine struck!
Initially it started out as the absence of rains far and few. An eager anticipation would eventually build up in everyone’s hearts as the season approached but would die down during the night with rains not gracing the day. But then there came no rains and slowly the water held in reserve started being used up as we were left with no other option. With fast depleting water resources and rains showing no sign of gracing this side of the country, panic began to set in.
After a month or so of no rains, we farmers were on the edge of our nerves knowing not what to do next and with no extension of relief from the government’s side as well. Agriculture was and has been our way of life since as long as I can recall. This sudden occurring threw everything for a toss. Our crops withered away and whatever was left of it, had to be fed to the kids and no one in the market wanted our produce because of its undernourished quality.
Desperate times gave way to desperate decisions and it was then my husband like many other men from the area decided to borrow money from the landlords or the moneylenders. We did not have money to pay back. But in the hope of surviving the today and to live for the tomorrow, we decided to loan out the money. After some investment in seeds, manure, etc. the rest we utilized to keep the family going. The rains were nowhere on the horizon. It was like fate had dealt us with the wrong set of cards and we were playing along like a bunch of dummies.
To a common man a loan of Fifty Thousand may not be a big deal but to us in our present state of affairs it was. Earning 10 rupees was proving to be cumbersome now and surviving through the day – an ordeal.
Then disaster struck!
The government had by now declared the state to be in famine and that help was on its way. But after months of wait and a hill of interests on loans piling
up; people had given up hope. Suicides, as unheard of were now cropping up in conversations around the village and though drastic many thought of it as an
easy way out. The most crushing was when our neighbors with no money to pay off their debts decided to end the family together.
The last we saw of the Sawant’s was their 2 year old kid playing on the front porch. Rat poison they say, but I would not believe it.
How could this be happening? Why us?
Watch out for Part II where the story of the poison bride will be continued
Nimisha Nair