AS, (48)
Hyderabad

My neighbour’s son fell in love with me when I was in the 7th standard. I shunned him. He then wrote me a love letter when I was in the 9th standard, and I replied after two years.

He was my first love. He also became my best friend.

He came from an illustrious Telugu family. My family was orthodox Tamil Brahmins. Our families were like chalk and cheese.

The day I returned home after writing my last graduate exam (BA Economics), my father sat me down and asked me what was going on. I couldn’t hide anymore. I told him about my love for the neighbour’s son and that we were planning to get married.

Dad locked me up in a room where I remained for the next 15 days. My older brother was working in Bangalore, and I heard my parents discussing settling down in Bangalore. “She will forget him, once he is out of sight and out of mind,” Dad told mum.

I managed to sneak a letter to my boyfriend through a friend’s brother who happened to visit us the next day. My boyfriend marched into my house and asked my dad for my hand. Of course, my dad rejected him. But I was adamant. Finally, my dad said: “If that’s what you want to do then you can leave the house. But not through the front door. Because you don’t deserve that courtesy.” And he opened the back door for us to leave.

Back then, I loved my man more than my parents. He was my world. We went to his house. But they refused to accept us. We walked out and got married the same day with the help of friends.

We lived as PGs, did the odd jobs and if we earned Rs.250 per day, it was a handsome sum. We would then splurge the money on food and beer. We were young, in love and we were living for the day. Both of us came from well-to-do families. But now we lived a hand-to-mouth existence. It didn’t matter. We had each other, and that’s what mattered.

A couple of months later, my husband’s older brother died in an accident. My father-in-law had a change of heart and asked us to return home. Soon, the responsibility of running the joint family household fell on me. Their ways, right from the food that was cooked to the traditions, were very different from my Tam-Bram ways. But, I gladly transformed myself. That’s what we women do. Soon, I had a son. My parents reconciled after the birth of my son.

My husband followed in his father’s footsteps and became a music composer. Life was running smoothly for many years before the cracks in my marriage began to appear. While I was busy being a mother, wife and daughter-in-law, my husband got involved with another woman. He started saying awful things. I was now either too fat or too dark or good for nothing. I was hurt by the rejection and also confused. What did I do wrong?

In 2003, we moved to Hyderabad, and I thought this would help our marriage. But things got worse. There were more women and more affairs. My hurt turned into anger, and I began to retaliate by finding solace outside. My anger would abate to only be replaced by guilt. It was a vicious cycle.

We had reached a stage where we hated the sight of each other. We decided to part ways. I signed the divorce papers. Both of us never spoke about those papers ever again. My son was 18 then. His life was in Hyderabad, and I thought it would be unfair to uproot him.

I came back to Chennai in 2007. I was 40-years-old. For the first time in my life, I took up a job. I learnt to use computers, create a Word document and Excel sheets. I felt free, strong and independent. Finally, I was doing something for myself.

Strangely, this separation brought my husband and me closer, and we once again became good friends. He encouraged me to pursue a career. Every three months he would fly me down to Hyderabad to spend a couple of days with the family. And he turned those days into a party. He began appreciating every little thing I did for the family. I started seeing the old love in him and he in me.

But now, I also had my own life. My own identity as an individual and I was reluctant to return to my old life in Hyderabad.

My husband, who used to drink a lot and eat very little, began falling ill. By 2015, his kidneys had failed, and he was bedridden. In January 2015, I returned to Hyderabad to take care of him. My father was my pillar of support.

My husband and I, we were best friends. We were each other’s, first love. In spite of all that we had gone through in life, I think we never stopped loving each other.

In April 2015, my husband passed away.

After his death, while sorting out his documents, I found the forgotten divorce papers that I had once signed.

Now, I am in Hyderabad. My son is 25 years old. He’s chosen to be an actor. A career that needs a lot of support. As his mother, I felt I should be there for him till he finds his feet. He is doing his first film now. I will be around until the time he is settled. Then I shall go do something for myself. Find love again, maybe.