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 By Andrea Marchon
Raija, a pretty woman, she must have been in her prime, now gracefully ageing and accepting what middle age has to offer with a smile. Dealing with mood swings, hot flushes are second nature to her, smile intact, she goes about her days chores…… without a grunt…. and occasional sigh maybe. A mother of four children,  who are now grown into young men and women and what a fine job she did with them. She is now at a point in her life where she yearn’s for love, compassion and a friendship she never had.
Coming from a rich background, she had to do little or nothing as did all the other women in her family. Her urge to study drove her to excel to heights no other women in her family had ever reached. She had big dreams but her wings were clipped by her Father.  He just decided her fate one fine morning, just like that,  just like all the others known to her… Yes! she was to be married off to the son of a very close family friend… no time to think, prepare or question. Fahad was a handsome young lad, who seemed very modern in his outlook at the time and Raija thought of it as a ray of hope; hope to a better life… one that was free of bias. They courted for a little over two months, that time, being the most happiest of Raija’s life. She was beaming and thought ” I am the luckiest girl in the world ” … only did she realize that it was short lived. The day that lovely solid gold and diamond encrusted ‘RING’ sat on her delicate finger was the beginning of her “SUFFE “RING”. Reality dawned on her, a rude awakening  so to speak. Fahad was no different from the men she knew. He put her on ” PAUSE “. Clipped her imaginary wings and left her to do and be just like the rest of the women he knew.
Only someone who has been in her shoes will understand what it does to you, and there are probably many who deal with the same fate. Out of a 10, 9 women face this  day in day out, this is not a new story or a rarity, but it’s only a few that have the courage to free themselves from the shackles of mental and physical torture. Raija was one such woman… albeit it took 40 years, but like they say ” Better late than never “.
Fahad’s Job took them to different places. Dealing with new cultures, customs, changing of schools, handling each child with different personalities, being his slave in bed, performing acts of utter disgust to please her man, cooking three different meals, cleaning ( Fahad refused to eat food cooked by maids and insisted that his bathroom and bedroom be cleaned by his wife as according to him all these things were sacred to him.) The in laws were a pain too, making each place they moved to a holiday destination for themselves and extended family. It suffocated her but she had really no choice with the kids being her top most priority. She didn’t for once compromise their wellbeing ,upbringing and imparted to them what  a caring and loving mother would despite the odds. In their eyes everything was ‘PERFECT’, well at least that’s what she made them believe, and has no regrets that she let them.  Now all married and happy, living in different places and in a different world. A world very different from hers.
A silent sufferer at the time maybe….. but her dreams took her from one day to the other….dreams made her her smile … dreams kept her alive … kept her beautiful.
Fahad, hadn’t changed at all, in fact he got worse. Raija, was a woman who would stand by her man in times of poverty or any adversity without a doubt. She was compassionate, but nothing could have prepared her for what was to come. Worn out and tired on most days, she did mange to scrub up well and look like a million bucks at public gatherings. She was now 58 but when all dressed up, could pass off for a woman in her late 40,s. Her flawless heart and mind radiated on her skin much to the irritation of other women known to her. She still had men give her attention but she was not one to be flattered by it all as she had been there before.
It was 6.30 am, she was all dolled up waiting for a call from Fahad. They had an official dinner to attend and Fahad was to come fetch her. In-spite of all her misery, she had made up her mind to look good and be happy for Fahad who was on the brink of acquiring a multi-million dollar contract with this big American firm. Like all the previous times, she had to be there for him this time around too.
She glanced at the watch on her wrist and was about to reach out for her phone when the door bell rang. Her house help answered it and indeed their car was there to fetch her. She picked up her clutch and raced toward the door, instructing the maid about some job that needed to be tended to. She was looking for something inside her clutch when the driver opened the door for her so as to seat her in, so involved she was with her clutch that she failed to see that it was not Fahad who was seated inside, it was another man. A man she had never seen before.The driver shut the door closed and drove off.
She felt a cold chill run through her spine and was trying to be polite to this stranger whom she took to be a friend of her husbands who needed a ride to attend the dinner with them. He looked at her in a way that made her very uncomfortable and after exchanging pleasantries she looked the other way. In a split second he cupped her face and tried to force a kiss on her, his hands moving fiercely on her body. He was one strong man, she tried hard to scream but the driver was behind a soundproof glass and even if she did manage to send out a whimper, it would go unheard. A  million thoughts racing through her head all at once; she bit his lip so hard that it started to bleed. Her rage mixed with her tears, led her to not let go till the car pulled up in front of the hotel they were to go to. No sooner the door was opened, she pushed him off her and ran out, hailed a cab and asked him to drive… he asked her where to…and all she did was cry … cry really loud, giving vent to every ounce of her years of suffering. The cab driver probably got scared, thinking that she was a mad woman, but Raija couldn’t care less who thought what of her, she felt a sense of relief….. she felt she could breathe without having to explain herself for the first time in her life. She remembered the cab driver asking her ” where to mam ? ” and she said … “drive ….just drive…. don’t stop ”   needless to say Fahad helped her free herself from her misery.
She found herself outside a home that she could finally call her own, as much as it were alien to her, as much as the inhabitants were alien to her too, but it was home.
Changed name, changed identity, she now serves the old in an old age home, making people smile and smiling with them, loving people and hoping to be loved by them, being compassionate and hoping to get some compassion back. Looking for real friendships and she was getting it, albeit in small doses, but it was coming. She was finally … FREE .. TO DREAM …  TO BREATHE … TO LIVE. She wrote to her kids to say she was happy, happy to be free; telling them all. She wrote to Fahad just this, ” YOUR A MAN….. OH YES!! YOUR A MAN ON PAWS! “
Photo credit: Kamila Gornia / Foter

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