Monday, October 30, 2006

Death Trap

I had met Sripriya online three years ago while looking for a roommate. She was a victim of a physically abusive marriage and had recently undergone surgery for a leg that her husband had broken in a fit of rage. She was legally separated at the time and was looking for a roommate to help pay the bills as she recuperated. We never ended up meeting in person as I did not need to move to her town in the end. We stayed in touch by e-mail and phone.

Talking to Sripriya always leaves me emotionally drained. Knowing her condition, I feel guilty when I don't respond to her e-mails or try to call her at a time when I can get by with leaving a voicemail message. I realize how she feels desperately lonely in a situation that seems like a death trap - that she just needs to talk to save her sanity. Talk to someone she thinks would have empathy for her - it is just too overwhelming to be that person.

She has a twelve year old daughter who lives in India with her family - a helpless pawn in a game involving a two adults - one dangerously violent and the other precariously helpless battling through a complex legal maze. For the longest time I though Sripriya was divorced or was at least on trying to get out of a marriage that was making a physical and psychological wreck of her. I would have sworn she had told me the very first time we spoke that the papers had been filed. She pines for her child who is growing up alone in a hostel in another continent, feels like a failure for not being a mother to her, compensates by mailing gifts and spending any time she can in India.

Sripriya used to be a practicing physician when she was in India. Today she can hardly speak in coherent sentences. Thoughts collide with each other randomly as she moves aimlessly in space and time - you hear one thing now in fifteen minutes she has contradicted herself ten times. The same events are recounted endlessly in several different ways and it is up to the listener to arrive at the truth. She has been through so much that she probably cannot distinguish between truth, lie, fiction, fear, hope, dream and despair. There is a breathless, anxiety about her high-pitched speech that makes it impossible to interject with any dispassionate thought that may help her step outside her situation for a little bit and see issues for what they are.

Yet this cannon ball of confusion, contradiction, self-pity, hopelessness verging on borderline insanity is one of the most loving and generous people I have come across. I remember telling her that I was in the US trying to get a steady job so I could afford to bring J to live with me and she said "I would not dream of asking you to pay me rent. I will find another roommate and you can live for free like my sister". This from a woman who had her utilities disconnected for not being able to pay for them. I was moved to tears at the gesture.

I talked to Sripriya after a long time last evening. I was glad to see her pause between her sentences, to have her explain her legal situation in terms that finally made sense. Some things have improved but a lot remains the same. The divorce is yet to come, her child still lives in India, the husband has put out a paid online matrimonial ad and says that he still wants to stay married with her.

I would love for time to heal her completely turn her back into the person she must have been over fifteen years ago. I pray Sripriya, that you get back the life you have lost and much more.


Anonymous said...

I get the feeling she is not ready to let go. It is amazing how much forgiveness women have in them to tolerate all kinds of abuse. Work/career gives that much-needed "identity" during those low times. Hope she gets the confidence that whatever she is doing is the right thing and nothing to feel guilty about..All she has to ask herself is..would she have allowed her daughter to live with such a man...


togetherwebond said...

I am stunned. I dont know what to say or feel or how to react to this.

Sheis one the millions of women who has been a victim of domestic violence and there will be more coz women are vulnerable to that. I really hope she does well and recovers and moves ahead in life.

My heart goes to her and I only hope and pray she does well in life.

Is is possible for you to share the article with togetherwebond with a solution in the end or a warning to other women in our group that they must be aware and careful with themeselves and their little ones. Please email

Anonymous said...

I feel very sad after reading this. Apparently there is a lot more going on in her life that we, the readers, do not know. But I really feel her loneliness and helpnessness. Please tell her to join a support group. For some people, it works wonders.