My parent’s marriage was built on a broken promise. My dad had made it clear to my grandma that since he was not working, he could not take the responsibility of a wife. My maternal grandma had promised to look after my dad and take care of him if he got married to my mom. (Even today being a House Husband in India is looked down upon)
My mom was almost 30 and in the 70’s a woman in India had 2-3 kids by then. Parents did whatever they could to get their kids esp. a daughter married.(they still do, 55-60% of marriages in India are arranged) Even though India has legally banned dowry, a girl’s parents still gives stuff to the groom or pays for the entire marriage celebrations all in the name of ‘Streedhan’ (Streedhan is the property that a woman gets at the time of her marriage, it differs from Dowry in the way that it is the voluntary gifts given to a woman before or after her marriage and has no element of coercion.)
So, my parents got married and during the reception, my dad got drunk and created a ruckus. This incident pissed everyone from my mom’s family and they decided not to keep him as a House Husband. This infuriated my dad and his family.
I was born sixteen months after they married and during that time my mom kept shuffling between houses. Now my dad lived in a chawl (a large tenement house especially in the cities of India) with his parents. My mom lived in a bungalow with six rooms. It was difficult for my mom to adjust with him and his family and no sooner they would have arguments she would pack her bags and come to her mother’s.
When my mom went into labour both my dad and my grandma was bickering over who would pay the hospital bill. My mom paid the bill finally.
I find it strange but neither my mom nor my grandma (forget about my dad), thought of taking swaddling clothes to wrap me up, as a result when I was born I was left naked for a few hours. It was only when my dad’s sister came visiting seeing the pitiful sight, donated a few hand-me-down swaddling clothes that belonged to her kids, that I was finally wrapped.
I had an umbilical hernia at birth, looking at me my dad refused to pick me up saying only the destitute have such diseases and he didn’t want to be contaminated by it.
This widened the gap and mom started living separately. My maternal grandma used to help my mom to take care of me.