The Kerala high court recently held a woman guilty of fraud for not disclosing her cardiac ailments to her husband before marriage. It ordered her to pay a sum of Rs 10,000 to her husband and declared the marriage null and void.
The following poem is for her, from one sick woman to another.
I tiptoe around you right from when I see you,
maybe because I am taught to do so,
you see no one told me to wear my illness
across my chest as a badge of honour.
I hid it in nights of a confusing pain in my chest,
my marriage was spoken about in hushed tones,
a damaged bride, sent off to an unknown land,
who would want this body, when I don’t want this body,
and it is mine.
So the day you came home, I hid it just as well,
like I was taught,
under layers of confusion, I wanted to blurt it out,
shout out and tell you I am not okay,
but your mother and my mother spoke of how
well I cooked,
and you smiled,
and I knew, I was nothing more than a glorified servant,
I wanted to shout no, standing in the kitchen
gives me palpitations,
but my mother’s eyes wanted this life for me,
and I could not say no.
My medicines are in a drawer in my cupboard
that I keep locked,
marrying you meant marrying into a life of
secrets and hiding,
I tell you I am okay, I am okay, I am okay,
I keep myself locked in a tiny drawer too,
every time my chest hurts, my face smiles,
my body aches from being contorted to
fit these lies,
maybe you will understand if I tell you,
maybe you will tell me it’s alright,
maybe I will not have to grieve alone.
I cannot live in fear forever, true love in movies
is about honesty,
and I really do want to fall in love with you.
I make you your favourite dish, even
though it tires me,
and then I tell you,
and you are confused,
about my body.
You ask me why it does not work,
I try to explain how an untreated infection made
its way into my heart,
you do not want to know the gruesome details of a
body which pleasures you,
you leave, and I stare at the dish in front of me,
clutching my chest, but still eating it.
You take me to a doctor, the car ride is silent,
you are angry, and I can see it,
I am angry too, at my body, at my hope,
we do not talk, and I tell myself its temporary.
In the doctor’s office, you ask me questions I had
never thought of –
‘Can she have a child?’
‘Can she have sex with me?’
‘Can she cook?’
as if these things matter the most, or
maybe they do.
The doctor says something about my womb
I cannot hear,
they talk of me as if I am not there, I play with my
fingers like a child, helpless and alone.
The court says we were never married.
that I deceived you.
They keep talking about how our marriage was never
consummated, how I was always tired.
I am tired to fight now,
tired to tell them how I am a victim of my body too.
Tired to tell them that my womb and my heart are not
tired to tell them that nobody would want me if I told them right there.
The court tells me to pay you money for
wasting your time,
was loving me a waste?
am I that damaged, that disposable?
I come back to my bedroom, not ours, but mine.
in my house, my medicines are on display in
my body aches lesser when my mother cooks for me,
she is angry, I know, she thinks I could have
but now my chest hurts, and I can spend a day in bed,
everyone knows now, my illness is in a judgement,
it is public record.
For the first time, it’s not stuffed in a drawer,
my glorious infertile broken tired body is on display.
and I, I am incapable of movement, let alone deception,
but finally, today I am not contorted,
I am free
Samidha Mathur is a final year law student, who spends her days dealing with, complaining about, and writing about her illnesses, and staring at her dog.