My entire body started to tremble the moment I opened the drawer. In a few moments, my eyebrows had drops of perspiration over them. My mind and tongue were numb and I did not know how to take in what I saw.
The drawer I had opened was the lowest of chest of drawers we used for storing all our Puja things (agarbatti, kumkum, haldi, camphor, small vessels, etc). Over the chest of drawers, lay our “Mandir” the platform where we had arranged the metallic idols of all our Gods. It was a small and cozy arrangement and I had personally decorated it with great interest when we shifted to this new house three years ago. I am not a religious or ritualistic person. But I have grown to think of all Gods/Devas like the elders of our family. If we have our homes, why can’t we maintain and cherish the God’s small abode within our homes? It took little of our time and effort. And also, just like millions of Indians, this small place in my home gave a sense of warmth, purity and blessings for all of us in the family.
But what I saw that day was as foul as blasphemy. There at the back of the drawer, was a full bottle of cheap “officer’s choice” whisky of half a litre. Alcohol ??? In the Mandir?? There couldn’t have been any worst insult to my faith and the Gods than this. I instinctively knew who had done it. Yet I could not just bear how unabashedly it had been done. Call me crazy, unreasonable, over-reacting. Yet the Mandir and the kitchen were the purest of the spaces my home had. And mutilating the sanctity of the place so shamelessly was something I just couldn’t take. I was shattered.
Three years ago –
We are a joint family including me, my husband, his parents, my daughter and my bachelor brother-in-law. The day we had the Vastupuja of our home, we had collectively decided that alcohol would not be brought inside our home. I am not against drinking. Far from it. I am absolutely fine with the men of the house enjoying their occasional drinks and non-veg parties together. Yet, I did not want it to be done within the confines of my home. I had seen that my husband’s family was notorious when it came to drinking. Once they start drinking, it quickly goes on to smoking and then playing cards and on and on. I didn’t at all want my house to get converted into a hotel cum bar. Because once I have had accepted it, it would have been very difficult to then put a control. And all of the members had happily agreed and respected my opinion. After all, there was no condition put on drinking outside.
First few months were fine. But later I realized that there were things happening behind my back. My brother in law and father in law would discuss something in hush hush and stop the moment I went nearby. I occasionally recovered use-and-throw glasses from cupboards while cleaning. Once I also saw a bottle of soda lying inside the deewan. When I asked about it – the men just passed the busk and the matter was hushed.
But on one Saturday while cleaning, I found a half full bottle of Smirnoff vodka inside my husband’s cupboard. Even before my husband accepted that the three men have been drinking secretly often inside our bedroom, I knew from my instinct. A couple of times they had also got drunk when I was out shopping or in the garden. My mother-in-law was blissfully oblivious to what was happening in our home. And even if she knew, she had no voice to oppose. I was really heartbroken and hurt. Besides, this was a gross exploitation of my trust. But I decided to take it calmly and asked my husband to stop this immediately. If I did not trust him anymore, I did not express it either.
However, my worst fears were coming to be true. After a month, I again realized that there had been a party when I was out of town visiting my brother. This time it had gone a step farther and I found the butts of cigarettes lying under the bed. I was breaking down from inside. Yet I mustered the courage to speak to my father in law about it. I coolly requested him to please stop these secret parties as we had together decided against them. He didn’t react much. A daughter in law reprimanding him might have been a first experience in his life. Yet, I could not let this go on and become a mute spectator. But I assumed that because I had spoken directly to the head of the family, it will now stop.
But I was wrong. Totally wrong. And that day was the biggest blow to me and my faith the moment I saw the whiskey bottle hidden at a place I considered the most sacred – the Mandir. All through the years of my marriage, I had been a good daughter. I had taken care of my in-laws just like my own parents – sometimes even going out of my way to make them feel comfortable. When we decided to not drink inside our home – it was not a question of right or wrong, legal or illegal, moral or immoral. It was just one of those decisions families take for the wellbeing of the home, for peace, for happiness – for the sake of the family members themselves. Yet, no one was interested to go by the decision. And what hurt me most was the secrecy of it all. Why couldn’t anyone just talk it out? We might have just done it once in a while.
All the while, I was just staring at the bottle and thinking what to do. It was a moment of now or never. I had to do something and I had to do it fast. What I would do then, would be having long lasting effects. By then, others had also got an idea about what was happening.
I very steadily took out the bottle, held it in my hand and went straight in front of my father in law. I stayed there for a moment and said in an extremely polite voice.
“Baba, today, I am taking this bottle out of this house. Tomorrow, I will be leaving out of this house with my daughter.”
I took the bottle straight in the passage outside my flat and I smashed it on the wall. All the remaining alcohol just spread on the floor. I went back inside my room. It was already evening. I spent the whole night in the bedroom only coming out to take food for my daughter. I did not talk. I just packed. Booked my flight. Next morning, I was in Bangalore at my brother’s home where my parents were staying for the time being.
Nobody thought I would actually take such a step. But nobody had the courage to stop me when I actually started to leave.
- For them, the entire episode was not important – to be ignored as a useless nagging. But for me, it was the question of trust and future.
- For them it was a big thing for me to leave. For me, it was a KadamChhotaChangeBada – A small step which I had to take for the peace of my family. For the future of my daughter.
My husband called me 3-4 days later. He had realized how important the matter was for me. And he promised to try his best and convinced me to come. “I can’t promise for father and Bhaiyya but I can promise for me at least” is what he said. I believed him. And came back.
The mood of the house was somber for a month after I came. But thankfully, there has been no hidden Vodka bottles. My father in law has not forgiven me. But fortunately, all the parties are out of the home.
And for me – I have decided not to discuss the topic anymore.
Every change begins with a small step, whether it’s a change within your family, or the whole country! India’s hero, Padman, had its digital premiere on ZEE5, on 11th May. Don’t miss this inspiring true-life story, only on ZEE5. Download the app and subscribe now. For every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.