Being the second wife
A short story by Monica Ingudam
I got married very young. My life was perfect with a loving husband. But my perfect life was short-lived as my husband passed away without any warning due to an illness. He left me even before I crossed my teenage years. I was in shock and denial. When my sanity was restored, I was back in my maternal home. No one asked me what I wanted but it was decided in my best interest. My in laws didn’t protest either. I had no place in my husband’s house, and I had no son who will carry the family name. My mother and my brothers pampered me restoring my perfect life once again. But with the new status of being a widow, I remained a “kabokang” (water hyacinth), looked upon as a problematic species, something to be kept out of boundary never to be taken home.
Time changes and with time my brothers got married, had children of their own. And the vocabulary of “ours” got extended to “yours” and “mine”. As the family grows with more people, our family started disintegrating with different thoughts, different perspective and everyone believing they are right not willing to see the other’s point. The family separated by initially having their own kitchen under the same roof to slowly talking about splitting the ancestral property so that each family can build their own houses. You see I am a daughter and in the land I am born, daughters don’t have any right to the ancestral property and there I was in my own home or so I thought, questioning the concept of “home” as the discussion of dividing the land never included me and where I will stay, making me feel more alien in my own home. And of course the whispers of “Ningol Hallakpi” (Meitei-lon derogatory term for married daughter coming back in maternal home) amongst my brother’s wife didn’t help the situation.
Sometimes in life one takes a decision and the decision is influenced by his or her situation at that point of time. I was in my twenties and I met this guy who charmed me with his words, made me feel feelings I didn’t know I could feel, bringing out the best smile in me, smiles which I didn’t know existed and the world with him looked so dreamy, tempting and beautiful. And one evening I eloped with him to be in his world as his second wife. I was disowned by my family, I was not accepted by his family, I was looked down by people being the second wife, I was not invited in ceremony, I was this “Nupi Yumgaibi” home breaker to the first wife and quiet rightly so. I was so much in love with him and nothing else mattered. But who would understand, how a widow can fall in love and that too with a married man ?
He made our home far away from everyone, literally at the foothill, remote and away from people. We made a beautiful garden together. The soil was good and everything we planted grew well. In no time we had juicy pomegranate both sweet and sour, peaches, guavas of different type, mangoes and plums. We didn’t have to buy vegetables from the market ever. All possible seasonal vegetables grew ferociously including “hangam” (mustard leaves), corns, cucumber, “Maroi” (herbs), brinjal, okra, “Morok” (peppers). We had planted beautiful local flowers “Takhellei” “Aparjita” “kaboklei” “Numit Lei” and I was happy, very happy in my world raising our boys together. He disappears in between without announcement and no questions asked from me for we know in that silence where he is going. I went through conflicting emotions, tears and jealousy with his disappearance. But without fail he would return and I see his love in his eyes. I learnt to be the second wife, found my home and my world.
Collection of short stories written by Monica Ingudam. These stories are based on Life’s this and that focusing on Manipur and the people of Manipur.