My eighteenth birthday was celebrated with the two people that I truly love the most in this world. It's slightly annoying that they don't really approve of each other and are forced to be nice to each other on my behalf. But I also love the fact that they're ready to do even that for me. They make me feel special. My boyfriend Joseph and my best friend Simi.
I'm finally away from that shit-hole that some people like to call home. I opted to do a Diploma in Pharmacy because the course is only for two years, after which I will be granted the license to open my own medical store. I am ambitious. And I want the easiest way out. I need to stand on my own feet as soon as possible without depending on the people who already treat me like a burden. The course fee isn't too much. And that is a relief to Vappa who complains about every single penny that he has to spend on me. But my college is in Cochin, which means he has to pay for my hostel accommodation. The only thing I am grateful for apart from the fact that I got into a good college on pure merit is the fact that I get to be away from home and that I get to enjoy the freedom that comes with it. And what's more, Joseph also joined an engineering college in the same city. Simi has been with me since the days when I used to help her finish her lunch at school. She was one of the only girls who didn't have a problem sharing lunch with me in the days after Mustafa's birth when Umma was always too tired to care for her daughters.
Joseph, being a Christian, is not as conservative as the Muslims I know. He, unlike most boyfriends, doesn't really control me regarding the clothes I wear. This could probably be because I dress very conservatively anyway. I have stopped covering my head these days because we discussed that I'd have to convert to Christianity in order for his family to fully accept me. This is something that took time for me to digest. But, I'm not naive and I know this is how things work in our society. Also, what's more important is that we belong together and I will not let anything come in our way. I'm ready to make this sacrifice for the greater good. I have, in fact, started visiting the church, just to get a feel of things.
"He doesn't like it if I'm friends with other boys. I am not even allowed to talk to the boys who study with me."
Joseph gives my life meaning. He knows everything about my family and my past. He understands and loves me for who I am. We've been together for over a year now and he knows that I fully belong to him. Then why is it so difficult to just accept that and stop being so insecure. He is not the usual kind of controlling boyfriends that I see everyday. He is different. He doesn't like it if I'm friends with other boys. I am not even allowed to talk to the boys who study with me. This is actually fine by me because I don't really care. All I need is him. But he gets too jealous and sometimes very mean when he finds me talking to the others. On one occasion, we were travelling back to Trivandrum together and a few of my male classmates saw me at the railway station. They were nice, friendly guys but I never spoke to them in class. Unfortunately for me, they came over to talk to me. We spoke for about 2-3 minutes while Joseph stood by my side, unsmiling and looking very, very pissed off. I had to pay for that by carrying both his and my luggage all the way to the very last compartment on our train. He purposely made me carry that weight and walk the entire length of the platform, just to punish me. And of course, he didn't talk to me for two whole days following that incident. I am, however, certain that this will change. I just have to show him how much I love him and that I am truly his. And he will see the truth and change for me. I just have to give it some time. He does have a point when he tells me that he is simply protecting me from the kind of guys who used to call me a whore back in school. He was also my classmate in school and knows everything they used to say about me. He has not, till date, told me most of those things they said behind my back because they're too demeaning and would hurt me if I were to know. But sometimes when I talk to another boy and Joseph finds out, he does quote some of those very mean things to me. Just as a reminder of the reputation I am to try and escape. Joseph is, after all, trying to set my reputation right. I wish it didn't hurt as much as it does.
Now that he's the only one I need to care about, I paint my nails and apply kohl under my eyes when I'm in Cochin. I like to look pretty for him. We meet at least thrice a week and I always try to look my best for him. But the weirdest thing happened a few weeks ago. I was at the hostel and had just come out of the shower when Joseph called to tell me that he was with his family at a store close to where I was and that he wanted to meet me. I made him assure me that I would be meeting only him and not his family because I didn't think I was ready yet. He said everything was under control and that I could meet him at the said address. Convinced that it was just Joseph that I was to meet, I walked to the location without as much as brushing my damp hair. I didn't even wear presentable clothes because I intended to come back to the hostel within an hour. To my great surprise and dismay, I was received by an audience comprising of his parents, aunt and uncle. They were all shopping at the store where I was to meet just my boyfriend. His mother seemed slightly taken aback by my appearance but she was being generally civil and nice to me. I knew, of course, that his family was still getting used to the idea of him having a Muslim girlfriend and since we were only 18, they didn't care to take us too seriously. I did not in any way intend to weigh my presence down on them by staying for a minute longer. I was mad at Joseph for warning neither me nor his family about being forced to spend time together. But he seemed oblivious to the air around him. His uncle did not speak much and seemed truly indifferent to the situation. He probably just felt that I was not going to last. His aunt, on the other hand was being bitchy by trying to make harmless jokes about me. I didn't even know how to respond when she laughingly asked me if my parents knew where I was and what I was doing. She made it a point to make me feel like an outsider by effortlessly engaging in a conversation with everyone present, talking about things I couldn't possibly get a context into. But these people were absolutely fine when compared to the treatment I received at the hands of Joseph's father. Hands down, I can say that I have never been made to feel so bad by a stranger, ever in my life. He did not try to engage me in a conversation except when he asked me something about my course and pretended to look into his phone and not listen to me when I began to reply to his question.
"He made it a point to make no secret of his unhappiness in the events that followed."
After spending an appropriate amount of time with them, I decided to return to my hostel. I didn't think I could stand the humiliation any longer when Joseph forced his mother to force me into having lunch with them. I didn't even know how to react to this situation. I didn't know how to refuse her offer without offending her. And I was surrounded by a keen set of spectators in the form of his aunt and uncle. Another spectator who was watching me closely was his father who was very obviously disappointed when I agreed to dine with them. He made it a point to make no secret of his unhappiness in the events that followed. During lunch, I had the misfortune of having to sit opposite the man who obviously loathed me. I didn't know exactly what I had done to offend him except that I fell in love with his son and was born a Muslim. Throughout lunch, he kept jabbing at me by either proclaiming to the entire table that since everyone present was on a fast for the holy month of Easter, vegetarian food was to be ordered and that anyone who had a problem with this may leave OR by stating casually that Joseph was no longer interested in the little things that he used to enjoy as a child, like ice cream, because his interests lay somewhere else these days. The icing on the cake was when he decided to order ice cream for everyone present. As I mentioned earlier, I was sitting right opposite to him. So he started off by asking the person sitting closest to him on the left, the aunt, about the flavor of ice cream he should order for her. He then asked Joseph who was sitting next to his aunt. My turn should have come next if he was following a clockwise pattern while ordering. But instead, he asked his wife who was sitting to his right. Then he asked the uncle who was sitting next to Joseph's mom. I was now officially, the only one left to be asked about my choice of ice cream. And this man proved himself to be one of the cheapest, meanest and most insulting human beings I have ever encountered in the 18 years of my life by refusing to even acknowledge my presence at the table. The only person who felt embarrassed by this was not even Joseph, but his uncle, who immediately asked me the question before the waiter went away. I managed to mumble that I had a sore throat and didn't want ice-cream without getting choked on the tears that were threatening to fall down my face. The minute we stepped out of the restaurant, Joseph's mother turned to me with a smile on her face and extended her hand. She shook my hand and said, "Okay, nice to have met you. See you next time.". And she got rid of me. Just like that. I didn't turn to say goodbye to even Joseph and walked right on. I walked away from them, in the direction of my hostel, except that I didn't go straight to my hostel. I couldn't face anyone right now. I couldn't face even my reflection in the mirror. I couldn't be expected to smile at a single person around me. Tears shamelessly fell from my eyes while I walked the whole distance to the park nearby. I collapsed on to a bench, covered my face with my hands and burst into tears. I didn't care about the little kids and their mothers who were looking at me suspiciously from the swings. I didn't care about anything except for the fact that I had been utterly humiliated and destroyed by a group of strangers that I had in no way harmed. I was angry at my boyfriend for having done this to me and at myself for not leaving when my gut told me to. That night when he called, I didn't tell Joseph how I felt about his family and the way they treated me. I didn't have to, because he was there. Instead, I asked him if they'd said anything about me after I'd left. I wish he had kept it from me, like the things my old classmates said about me. In all these years that people showered me with praise for my looks and effortless grace, I never expected to be told that I was ugly. It had to be my future in-laws who had to find me ugly. Perhaps it was because I had taken zero effort to dress up and look good but their first impression of me was that I was ugly to look at. And nothing was going to change that. Apparently it was his aunt and his mother who specifically felt that way. I felt crushed that day. I felt that I needed some space. I hung up soon after and cried myself to sleep that night.
Joseph knew that I was upset. And he didn't know how to cheer me up. I felt sorry for him and didn't want him to be mad at me for taking so long to recover from what was by far, the most scarring incident of my life. So when he told me that he had a plan to make it up to me, I pretended to be truly enthusiastic. He told me that he was going to take me away for the weekend. He had apparently booked a room in a resort in Allepey and wanted to spend one whole day with me over there. The prospect was exciting but I wish he had asked my permission before actually going ahead and booking the place. It would cost him a lot of money to cancel the booking. Moreover, I was not too scared because I loved him and was certain I would marry him. I wanted to give him everything I had and maybe in this way, he would see how I was just his and how he didn't have to feel so threatened by the other guys. I had my proof of age and we were going to pretend to be a married couple if anyone asked. I don't have any friends or family in this part of the state so I was positive that I wouldn't be spotted by anyone. And so, we went on our first weekend getaway together.
"Things got slightly out of hand one time when he got drunk before having sex with me."
It was absolutely amazing and he did make it up to me many times that weekend. I lost my virginity to the man I love. This led to many such weekend getaways together and the routine every time was similar. I don't know why, but I started to feel exceedingly uncomfortable with the way he always made it a point to call up his friends and tell them where he was and with whom. He once even stopped on our way to a hotel to meet a friend and to tell him that he was on his way to a hotel with me. He would send them our selfies and it made me feel like he was boasting to his friends that he was getting laid that weekend. Things got slightly out of hand one time when he got drunk before having sex with me. This was the first time I was seeing him drunk. And he brought up Munaam. He brought up the names of all the people I have had a crush on, and those who used to lust after me at school. He called me a whore and asked me how many of them I had slept with. "You're sleeping with me now and we aren't married. So how many such guys have you slept with before?", he asked. Things escalated quickly when he began to beat me. He dragged me by my leg and pulled me away from the bed. He kicked me when I landed on the floor.
By then I had completely lost it. I was terrified and screaming and bawling on the floor. So he immediately began kissing me and he fucked me right there on the floor. And he fucked me hard. Next morning, he was in good spirits and was trying to joke about the previous night. He was telling me how I was acting crazy and would have had us kicked out of the hotel had he not fucked me on time. He said that he knew what he had to do to make me happy because the only thing that shuts me up is his cock in my mouth. I felt sick and just wanted to get away from that place.
In a week, I was okay again. I realized that things would get better and that he would change, after all. I decided to love him unconditionally and I knew that true love always prevails. Simi was beginning to get on my nerves because she openly hated Joseph. She has begun to let go of her considerations for me while speaking about him. She told me that I should leave him. And the fact that she was being a bitch who couldn't see how my entire future and happiness rested with this man, was making me want to hit her in the face with a brick. Even when she said nothing, I knew that she was being judgmental and superior. She's still mad at him for beating up one of her guy friends. Here's what happened. One of Simi's friends told her that he knew Joseph. He told her that Joseph would refer to me as a slut to his friends. Simi immediately told me this and hurt my feelings. I couldn't believe that people could be low enough to make up stuff like that. I couldn't believe that my own best friend would actually come up to me and say such a thing. So I told Joseph everything including the guy's name. He tracked him down and beat him up for calling his girlfriend a slut. When Simi got mad at me for telling Joseph, I simply asked her if she wouldn't have told her boyfriend had she heard something similarly ghastly. Ever since that day she has been maintaining a distance. Not that I care. What is most important to me is Joseph and the relationship that we share.
And I know for certain that he is not at all fond of her. Not that he makes a secret of it. He keeps telling me that I have the worst choice when it comes to friends. He thinks she's an attention whore who always likes to show off. Which, in a way, is probably true. I never realized how much she used to do it while we were kids. She'd keep bringing her new school bag and her new pencil case and her new lunch box every other day. She knew I could never afford such luxuries and yet she always flaunted them to my face. Even when we were just in school, she used to wear make up and do her nails just to show off in front of the boys although she knew that I wasn't allowed such kinds of indulgences. And I always felt that she secretly envied everything that I had. I always had the better grades and she envied me. I always had the good looks and she envied me despite being one of the popular girls herself. She was never happy for me whenever I found true love. And she looked at me disapprovingly when the whole episode with the senior took place because she envied the fact the a senior took to fancying me. I see it all now.
"I just stood back and watched"
We completely fell apart when she accused Joseph of sharing her pictures with some of his friends. I was sure that he didn't do such a thing and he assured me that he was innocent. But she would have none of it. She was convinced that he had done it and went on a rant about how my boyfriend was a "cunt". I couldn't tolerate one word against him. So when he and his friends cornered her one day and trapped her in a circle to throw abuses at her, I just stood back and watched. Joseph told me that he was a man and was saving a man's honor by doing so. And his honor was my honor. If she wanted to come in the way of my happiness and my man and the future that we dreamed to share together, I'd only sit back and think, "Fuck that bitch". So Joseph and his friends formed a circle around her outside our college and screamed all kinds of abuses at her. I knew this was going to happen and I knew when it was happening. I simply went back to my hostel and watched from a window. She didn't deserve my sympathies. She didn't deserve my help. If she decided to not be a part of my life, I'd be happy to tell her that I'd already made the decision for her the minute she turned malicious and belittled the man I love.
Read the final chapter here.
You might also be interested in reading Part 1 of this collection.