TO MY FAMILY,
This road is not an easy road. I know what awaits me. I know that eventually, you and I will become strangers, each believing the other hurt them more. Each believing they were right to do what they did. I know this, because I am in love with him. I want to spend my life with him.
He is white. He is an atheist. I’m an atheist too now, I think. I certainly don’t believe all the things I was raised to believe. I have great sex, a collection of full bodied red wines, and enjoy a good sausage sandwich. I don’t read the Quran like I was taught. I wear what I want.
We live together and have a wonderful home, so full of love. We have portraits on our wall of us with our cat. We eat together, then go upstairs to bed. On most mornings he wraps his arms around me and I push myself into him, feeling his strong arms and his warmth. He makes everything OK.
When I first had a migraine in front of him he cried, seeing me go through that. He held my hair as I vomited and put a cold cloth on my forehead, and he was there when I woke up after falling asleep, exhausted from the pain.
I recently found him in my wardrobe, going through my handbags. He was making sure there were painkillers in every bag so I was never caught short. He even drove over 100 miles to take me home when I developed a migraine during a training course.
He tweezes my eyebrows when I ask him to, because I like the feeling. On days when I don’t feel like leaving the house because sadness has consumed me, he brings me chocolates, crisps, cheese and wine.
When I told him what had happened to me, we were on our first holiday in Egypt. We were sitting on the rooftop of the hotel with a view of the Nile. He sobbed in my arms, unable to contain the grief that comes with knowing the women you want to protect was violated. I loved him, then. We’d only been together for a few weeks, but I knew he was special.
My heart breaks knowing you’ll never accept him – this man who makes me so happy. Who loves me unconditionally. He had no control over the colour of his skin, or the religion he was born into, but if he’d been Indian and Muslim, you’d have loved him.
You’d have told anyone willing to listen just how lucky I was. He’d have been the guest of honour forever. Whenever we’d visit, you’d have treated him like a celebrity. You’d have told me off if I didn’t put him first in everything in life. If he lost weight, you would have blamed me.
But he’ll never experience the love you’re capable of giving, because he is white. I’ll never experience the love of a family, because I’m deemed to have done wrong by dishonouring you all.
I don’t know what else I could have done. I could have killed myself in India, but I didn’t. I got through the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of my forced marriage. Surely that kept the family honour? How can it be that something called ‘honour’ is more important than your daughter’s happiness?
I think I could understand your viewpoint if I’d chosen a lesser man than I have. A man who beat me, didn’t have a job, couldn’t provide for me. But I haven’t. I have a man who’s more than anything I could ever have dreamed of.
When I imagined my partner as a teenager, I thought it would be normal to be hit by my husband – to serve him unquestionably and spend my days cooking for him and his family. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d find someone like I have.
He’s been the best thing in my life for close to a decade, and gave me hope when I had none. He stood by me through the anger, blame, self-harm, tears and irrationality that come with post-traumatic stress disorder.
I’m so angry. Not for what happened in India – years of therapy helped me forgive you for what you did. I’m not angry for my lost youth, or at having such a difficult time enjoying sex. I’m not angry at having my virginity snatched from me.
I’m angry because there’s nothing I can do to make you love me again. Nothing. I’m angry because my wonderful partner will never experience the love, kindness, generosity and humour you possess. You’ll never truly accept any children we have. You won’t be their grandparents, as you are to your other grandchildren.
But most of all, I’m angry with myself – that I still feel sad, and miss you all. I’m angry that I want to have you in our lives. I want to take everything the world tells me and believe it. I want to believe you’re monsters, I want to believe parents who truly love their children don’t do what you’ve done to me, but I just can’t.
Because I know you’re kind people – kind people bound by cultural constraints, and lacking the understanding of what real freedom means. You never had the freedom I’ve had, which I’d I would fight tooth and nail to hold onto.
You haven’t experienced the love of a man like I have. Your husbands don’t sit with you, cuddling you on the sofa. They never talk about periods or cook a meal or bring you breakfast in bed. Your husbands don’t back you for the wonderful, strong intelligent women you are.
I’ll always love you. But I have to find the courage to walk away now. For my own sanity, I have to come to terms with being alone, and not look back. But I’ll still miss you all. More than any of you will ever know.