And that was that!
I have not anyone with such persistent, my late husband had obviously decided, the first time he saw me that I was the one, though it took me a long time to reach that conclusion, nearly three years to be precise! Though in the eyes of my family I was a loose woman”, in real life I was pretty modest and reserved when it came to the opposite sex.He relentlessly pursued me for three years, first by trying to assert his authority as my boss,by finding faults in everything I did! He was a perfectionist.
As a health visitor I had to have my work book and dairy signed and approved by him every month, these contained the record of the child birth I have attended and the record of vaccination and the rural midwives I trained. He will refuse to sign it if any line of my columns was crooked! Then he tried to tactics of offering me official jeep he had for his tours,so I could go the remote areas in comfort than walking the six or seven miles I was used to.
Slowly but surely I yielded! This was the first time a man was paying me such sustained attention and showing respect and trying to woe me. Otherwise in India, if a woman is on her own ,she is considered fair game,and is only good for a good time.
It was nearly at the end of the three years that we became an item.But of course these things are not easy,his family,and he has a very large family, he was the eldest of nine children. Had very domineering parents. His father made all his decisions, he even made him do medicine, his mother has forced him to marry her niece. His first cousin when he was 19 and has just entered medical school. He said his mother went on a hunger strike for three days,because he was not willing to get married. She, his first wife was just seventeen at the time, not had much education,has never been out of the four walls,and as he used to say had nothing to say to him. They were married and within two and half years,have produced two daughters. As in India, as soon as you are married,you must produce a baby within the first year,or you are subjected to questions and strange looks.
So when he told his family that he wanted to marry me,of course they were appalled,though second marriages are common place in that culture,but i was the wrong sort! First of all I was working,and that too as a “nurse’.I was too forward”, I worked with men,lived on my own and then i was a “Shia”,where as theirs was a “Sunny” family. So it was a big NO.
I look back on that period as the most enriching time of my life.I was helping to educate the local women on family planing and child care,teaching about and performing vaccinations against childhood diseases and empowering women to accept contraception. Having those conversations with women who didn’t know that it was OK to control their fertility, that they didn’t have to become pregnant every year,because their husbands will not take no for an answer and will not dream of using protection themselves.
I also worked in the field in the epidemics of Smallpox and Cholera. Going house to house in the infected area,to have the house disinfected, the victim isolated and the rest of the family vaccinated.Se of the sights will remain with me for ever,the young pregnant woman,lying there with a huge belly and covered from head to toe in small pox pustules.Her haunted eyes when she asked me if her baby will survive, I remember holding her hand and looking into her sad eyes and reassuring her, though she died the next day. We had no protective gear,just one mask which we wore all the time,as just a few were provided. We went from house to house and never gave a thought to our own safety,we must have developed immunity,as none of us got the disease. Cholera was something else, we had to give them intravenous fluids via a large syringe,before isolating them, the stench will be over powering. There were no hospitals nearby to transfer them, the district hospital was two hours journey,and anyway they didn’t take infected cases,and the isolation hospital didn’t have the capacity. In other words,once the people in the rural areas for these diseases they were confined to a certain death. They had to be isolated from the family, to a corner of the house,and very few family members risked going near them. So we the health professionals used to visit whenever we could and do what we could, which was not much. The hospital car, along with my husband used to drop me and a few other field workers in the morning,and we worked all day ,and then they will pick us up at dusk. The doctor himself never setting foot out of the car,but he will travel to the afflicted area!
I was young and full of a desire to do some “good”,I did what I could contentiously, and am sure some of my patients may still remember me kindly.
So after the period of some 3 1/2 years, i think my would be husband had decided that if he was to have a life of his own,he will have to leave India. In the late 1960s. the British government issued job vouchers to medical graduates,to come and work in the UK, as the NHS was facing dire shortages.
So he applied and was offered a job voucher to come to England.
He came here in 1969.
I was even then not very sure that our union will work out.We were so so different people. I came form a middle class very westernised family. My father had spent his formative years and had been educated in the UK. He was not religious nor did he believe in all the superstitions which most families are riddled with. And I was headstrong and determined sort of person. My husband’s family came from a village,he was the first to go to university,the women were all backward,and he was oo much under the control of his parents and siblings. I had met his father who regularly came to his work place and throughly disapproved of me! So I thought us being separated for a while ,wilful things a bit,and give us clear heads to think of things. I for one was not that interested in being married and settling down.I had my dream career and I was enjoying being useful.
My husband though was distraught.Once he arrived in the UK,he was terribly lonely,he was a quite man, not given to socialising or making friends.He started writing almost everyday to me,letters pleading and cajoling for me to join him. He even threatened suicide,when I suggested that may be we should wait for a couple of years before being together.
His fathers attitude though miraculously changed towards me! As their son was the sole provider,once he went to England,there was a serious shortfall in the family income.I was asked to “help out”. So suddenly this “loose woman” his family didn’t want to know,became a short gap provider. His father will turn up on the 1st of every month at my work place,and I will hand over all my salary,just keeping some Rs 50, for my own expenditure, it caused me a lot of hardship, but his father never once asked me how I was managing! For one year he will just turn up for his “dues”,and then I will never hear from them for the rest of the month. I was not allowed to go their house, as his first wife lived in the house next door,and no one has told her about our “liaison”, despite my pleas to my then would be husband.
As soon as he got a job in the UK, the pressure started on me to join him.He saved some and borrowed money to arrange for my ticket.
As I was working in a government department,it was not easy for me to go abroad,or even apply for a visa while I was employed. The red tape and bureaucracy was (and is) un believable. I had to give notice,resign and then obtain a no objection certificate,apply for a visa,then be invited by the British Consulate for an interview and a chest x-ray, while holding a pre paid return ticket to the UK.
Once I had resigned my job,I had to come to the city,as all the offices were there,I couldn’t do anything from the little village I was living and working in. So I had to give u the little room I was renting, that was the first place I could call my own. I had to think of where I was gong to stay in the interim. I was more or less homeless.
My would be father in law, once their son gained employment and started sending them money, has distanced himself, of course my parents and other relatives were out of question.
Then I thought of one of my maternal uncle, my mothers older brother,who was very fond of me when I was little,and once he came to visit my parents and told them off for being so indifferent to me.
I thought I will approach him, as it was only temporary, after all I was going to England! That should give me kudos!
To be continued.
And that was that!