A young girl in saffron stood with her arms folded in prayer and welcome. She greeted me and said, ‘welcome to Gurudaan Madam Anna, I am Beena’ and garlanded me with a string of marigolds. I soon learned that all women guests were called “Ma’am” and men were called ‘Sir’ or if some extra respect was to be shown as ‘Sir, Jee.’ Sir Jee was a sort of effendi raised to the power of n.
There was a deep throated hum which reverberated through the house. I asked Beena where the sound was coming from and she said that it was the power generator. Gurudaan was fed by the government’s electrical grid but there were frequent power cuts. The generator only powered essential things like fans and lights. Air conditioners went on the blink when the generator was on.
I was beginning to doubt my choice of spiritual asylum. My apartment in Toronto is noiseless. I cannot stand loud sounds which included my angry abusing husband whom I suffered for a long time.
It is so strange for a girl from a normal peaceful family to suddenly find herself in an abusive relationship after marriage. Constant beatings followed by extremely unctuous demands for forgiveness are the order of the day. I soon lost my self respect and independence. I thought I could no longer operate without the overpowering wisdom of my husband who used domestic violence as a sort of right. He seemed to think he had a divine ordinance concerning the taming of the shrew. I was no shrew but within a couple of years I was a tattered shadow of my pre-marriage self. I once loved to meet people and laugh around. I was a good employee but soon I was confined to the apartment attending upon the whims and fancies of a tyrant. The Stockholm syndrome soon manifested in my life. I trembled at the thought of going out into the world all alone. I became bad in my job whereas I had been a leader once. I began to think it was my fault or the fault of my genes as alleged by my abusive husband. I became a classical case of ‘Norrmalmstorgssyndromet’ or as I said before the Stockholm syndrome. To be exact I think it should be called ‘The Battered wife Syndrome’ in my case. In order to avoid further beatings I would perform like Pavlov’s dog. Obey absurd commands to avoid a beating. I would run from my office to be on time to serve soup and dinner to my true master. It was a neighbor who showed me my face in the mirror after one such beating. She gave me the courage to run away and seek help. I got out of my ‘learned helplessness’ and ran far from my tormentor to this sanctuary of hope –Gurudaan.