“It was a summer noon in the year 1984 in the city of dreams, Mumbai. I was 17-years-old and was the youngest of three siblings; I had an older sister and a brother. I knew my mother loved me, but her attention drove towards my older sister who suffered from a medical condition we knew nothing about during the time – Anorexia. I often got jealous of her and would wish she would get married soon so I could be the cynosure of my mother’s eyes. That was a Sunday noon, a good-looking and a charming man was coming in to ‘see’ my sister (India’s favourite synonym for a marriage proposal).
He wore Rayban glasses and an ironed white shirt. No doubt he won over my family’s heart. I was told not to be seen anywhere around the guests as plenty of times before, people would come by to see her and ask for me. I wasn’t a beauty but was a ‘healthy’ fair girl which subconsciously and sometimes quite bluntly is the choice for an Indian bride.
It happened again. I peeped in and he went back with an answer a week later that he wanted to marry the younger girl instead; that was me! Once again I became a barrier in my sister’s marriage plans. She really like him and that broke my heart. My dad was not financially sound and I was given in marriage to this man who was 15-years older. What I didn’t know was that he had two daughters from his dead wife who were below 5 years of age. He did not want a wife but a mother for his young children.
As a 17-year-old girl with dreams in my eyes, I decided to accept the title of a mother even before I reached adulthood. I fought the world everyday to prove I wasn’t the ‘evil-stepmother’ that movies portrayed. It was a year since I got married, a year wiser, a year of battling to fit in with my step-children. I got to know I was pregnant with my first child. I told my husband and he didn’t seem happy to hear the news. I was upset and depressed. He came to me next morning and said, “We will need to abort the baby, I don’t think I can take another chance where it may be a baby girl again. That very moment I cursed my dead father for pushing away my entire life. I refused to abort the baby. My older step-daughter was just 6-years-old and I still wonder how she understood my agony. She never spoke a word and she just held my hand to assure me that she will stand by me.
After many months of being stubborn on my decision, I finally gave birth to a baby girl, much to my in-laws and my husband’s disappointment. However, my two step-daughters refused to leave the side of their new born baby sister. They lacked motherly love and I knew I couldn’t give my new born baby more attention than them. A few years later, my step-children reached puberty. I was still in my late twenties! That’s when my life changed!
My husband never loved me, he never gave me the care and attention I craved for. My step-daughters were my companions and each time my husband would come back home drunk, or would hit me, they would stand up for me. He was abusive, difficult and arrogant. My husband never spent time with any of our children, and he couldn’t believe they were standing up for their step-mother and not their biological father.
I’m now in my late 40s, my husband is still around, but I live with my older step-daughter. It would be a long story to say why I left my husband to live with my step-daughter; In a gist, he made me go through such physical and mental agony, that my daughters feared for my life. They chose to let their father go and live with me. I’m proud I single-handedly brought up these fine women who have learnt to stand up for other women. My three daughters are my life and if not for my step-children, I would have probably been dead.
This is why I always tell people, not every step-mother is evil and not every step-daughter is loveless. Every story is different.”
(This was narrated by S. R, a resident of Mumbai to Deepa Kalukuri)