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Composers for Relief: A Cup Of Peace

by Vidya Sury December 30, 2013 53 comments
a cup of peace vidya sury story

My story is set in the 1950’s – 60’s – somewhere in India.

A Cup of Peace

by Vidya Sury

I sit in my armchair, with my cup of coffee peace.

As I lazily watch the little sparrow hop across our yard, pecking at the scattered grain as if in a hurry to get its share before the pigeons descended, I marvel at the miracle that is my life.

Filled with serenity, I see my two-year old daughter run towards me, laughing. I set my cup down and open my arms to her, careful to keep the hot liquid out of her way. As she settles down comfortably in my lap, I lay back and allow my mind to wander into the recent past.

Sometime in the late 50’s

I was just married and the new daughter-in-law in their household. I was only 13. I cooked, cleaned, washed and helped with the family business, making and packing pickles. Each member of the family – there were six of them besides the constant stream of guests – rolled out orders as if it was their birthright and treated me like a servant.

They did not think twice about abusing me. I bore the physical and emotional abuse. I tried hard to please them. Had I not promised my father that I would do my best to make my in-laws happy? I kept my promise, little knowing the price I would pay.

I was afraid of the man who was my husband. He was nothing like I had imagined. I knew what marriage meant, but had no idea what was expected of me. I need not have worried about that, though. He treated me like dirt. The only concession he made was to allow me to cook and clean for him, launder his clothes, and wait on him. Oh, he also raped me when he felt like it.

Then one day, his mother suggested he took me out. I dressed in a pretty sari and accompanied him to the movie theater. He showed me where to sit and disappeared. Ten minutes later, just as I began to panic, he returned with another woman. Throughout the movie they were absorbed in themselves. When it ended, the woman went her way. We returned home. I served him dinner. Then I cried myself to sleep in the corner of the room, yearning for my Father’s kindness, my Mother’s love and the laughter that had abandoned me.

I was not allowed to write to my family or keep in touch with them. I couldn’t understand it. What had happened to the friendly people who had visited us before the wedding?

Life went on. And things got worse. I juggled avoiding being molested by my brother in law. Only my younger sister in law was kind. My father in law was tolerable, so long as I helped in his pickle business. He had no voice in the house anyway. My mother in law made sure I was tired. When I was not deep in housework, she sent me off to fetch coal from the railway station for fuel, or to the market to buy vegetables for the week. Those bags were really heavy and it was a long walk.

Was this how life was going to be? What about my dreams of studying?

One day merged into the other.

Sometime in the early 60’s

I was now 17 and barely surviving. Being raped was now routine. But being kicked and having cigarette butts stubbed on my thighs hurt. A lot. I had no friends – I was not allowed to talk to the neighbors. Then one day, a visitor to the house mentioned that she never saw me going out with my husband. My husband laughed. Somehow I knew that did not bode well for me. He asked me to be ready that evening to go visiting. When we reached our destination, a woman invited us in. They chatted for a few minutes while I watched, quietly. Then, they got up and walked into the bedroom. He beckoned to me. Curious, I went in. They asked me to sit in the corner in a chair as they moved towards the bed. I then realized what was about to happen.

We returned home. He was triumphant. I felt humiliated. For the first time, I confronted him. In response, he beat me, raped me and kicked me to the corner of the room.

The next morning I tried to tell my mother-in-law what had happened. Like her son, she just laughed. I got busy. I must have dozed with something on the tava (griddle) when I was startled awake to see my mother in law grinning and holding my hand down on the hot surface.
Another phase began in my life, when I discovered I was pregnant. I was thrilled, yet afraid. What world would I bring my child into? What life would I give her? The days passed. The Gods were kind to me. My baby survived in spite of the abuse from her father. Just two months before she was born, he decided to go abroad to pursue higher studies.

My life changed when my daughter arrived. Finally I was going to visit my Mother for a few months. I recovered my health. Then, sadly, it was time to go back.

Motherhood unveils a woman’s true strength. I was protective of my baby. Nobody cared about her. I often considered running away with her.

And then one day it happened. A blessing in disguise. We got news that my husband was now married to another woman. My mother in law planned to get rid of us. She admitted me in a hospital for the mentally ill. I managed to escape with the doctor’s help. I came back home to see my daughter sitting on the doorstep, looking hungry. I grabbed her, holding her close, my tears mingling with hers. Filled with fury I pounded on the front door. My mother in law opened the door and I gave her a piece of my mind. She shoved me out, slamming the door.

Stunned, I slumped on the doorstep. A movement caught my eye. It was my father in law, beckoning to me. Gathering my daughter, I followed him. He apologized and advised me to go back home to my Mother’s. He put us on a train with a small packet of biscuits.

Today -1965

I watch my daughter, breathing peacefully as my heart swells with love. I feel the now-familiar tug of gratitude. I am no longer haunted by constant fear. I feel safer than I ever felt before.

At 20, I finally believe I have a future.

I am filled with a sense of hope, a promise of rebirth.

I rise again, healing.

I am born again.

a cup of peace vidya sury devi

On November 8, 2013, the deadliest natural disaster in Philippines’ history, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), stole the lives of over 6,000 mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters, and countless children. More than 16 million are affected.

Over 30 gifted composers hailing from 16 countries collaborated on an inspirational album, initiated by Peter Ebbinghaus, to raise funds for the victims of this catastrophe.Each of the 28 tracks in this album instills a sense of hope, whispering of a new dawn, the promise of rebirth, strengthening the power of will to rise again.

In the spirit of collaboration, 28 writers from across the globe will write their story, to the notes of each track. The final tales will be compiled into a companion ebook anthology for the album. All profits from the album, and companion ebook, will go to Gawad Kalinga (“give care”).

I am honored to participate in Samantha Redstreake Geary’s Composers for Relief: Supporting the Philippines musician/writer collaboration. Together, we are a commanding force for change, forging a global act of kindness that will ripple through the sea of souls and restore the broken, battered pieces of humanity.

Vidya Sury A cup of peaceGorgeous Album cover, designed by the talented, Ryo Ishido

I chose to write my story to a beautiful track called A Cup of Peace by Attila Áts (You can listen to all the tracks in Sam’s sidebar)

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richa singh December 30, 2013 at 5:29 pm

I had gooseflesh in the end. I had no idea what had hit me really. It was flawless and yet it tugged at my heart, senses and of course that thing I call humanity. What is worse is that this is a reality for many… and few get a beginning as hers..

Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 10:37 pm

So sad, Richa. Thank you for your comment. 🙂
Vidya Sury recently posted…Christmas Means a Little Bit More

Jairam Mohan December 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Although this was a fictional post, this was just so powerfully written that it tugged at my heart strings quite a bit.
Jairam Mohan recently posted…My Days in the Underworld – Agni Sreedhar – Book Review

Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Thank you, Jairam.
Vidya Sury recently posted…Composers for Relief: A Cup Of Peace

N.Balasubramanian December 30, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I read the story after I had replied to your personal e-mail about it. Now I know what it was that you expected me to get upset about. My heart goes out to the great lady.

Vidya Sury December 30, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Thank you, Pa. Reminds me of another instance back in 1997 – when we were out distributing invitations and bumped into someone, unexpectedly 🙂 So nice of you to come and comment!

Kajal December 30, 2013 at 10:51 pm

I am so so sorry Vidya but I could not control my tears while I read the whole of it. I just don’t know what to say! This is such a realistic account of the brave woman’s life. Motherhood, I guess, does turn us much stronger. I am so glad she found her peace/solace in her daughter.

Vidya, I am all shook up!

Vidya Sury December 30, 2013 at 10:53 pm

🙂 Thank you for reading, Kajal! It is a very sad story, I know, and heart-breaking to write it! I really appreciate your warm comment. Thanks again!

Corinne Rodrigues December 30, 2013 at 11:13 pm

You told this story so beautifully – the mental and emotional strength of that woman comes shining through! Thank God for happy endings! ♥
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Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Thank you for being with me, Corinne. I know you understand. ♥
Vidya Sury recently posted…Composers for Relief: A Cup Of Peace

WriterlySam December 31, 2013 at 1:37 am

Such a tragically courageous account that, though fiction, rings true of countless lives affected by abuse. I admire your heroine’s bravery in the face of such atrocities, and relieved she found peace in a quiet life with her daughter. Your heart-wrenching interpretation of the music tugged at my emotions, Vidya, and I know this will lend strength to those who need it most.
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Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Thank you Sam.I am glad I have the opportunity to write about it. This happened in the 60’s…and it is disturbing to think it happens even today, half a century later!

Thank you for your presence here today. Hugs!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Composers for Relief: A Cup Of Peace

vanita December 31, 2013 at 3:39 am

next time you must must warn me before you make me cry. i love that you told her story and i hope that you will write her whole story one day. it’s heart breaking but at the same time, her achievements after all of that, will give so many others strength.
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Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Hugs, Vani! ♥ I will. And I am relying on your support and encouragement to do it. She’s my hero!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Christmas Means a Little Bit More

Tammy December 31, 2013 at 4:21 am

Vidya. You are amazing. This was riveting. And brutal. What a strong woman. Well done.
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Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Dear Tammy, thank you so much. I am grateful to you for coming by and for sharing this post! ♥
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Danny Simon December 31, 2013 at 8:33 am

Well written….you had me engaged till the end!
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Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Thank you for reading, Danny! I loved your post about playing santa to your baby!Looking forward to the good news!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Composers for Relief: A Cup Of Peace

Suzy December 31, 2013 at 11:22 am

A beautifully written post that really tugged at my heart. I am horrified that people can be so cruel. But we don’t know the great strength we have until something occurs that shows us we can stand, survive, love and live. What a truly awesome lady. Some things are truly blessings in disguise. Hugs.
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Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 6:02 pm

She was very awesome, Suzy.
Thank you for your comment.
Vidya Sury recently posted…Christmas Means a Little Bit More

Seeta December 31, 2013 at 11:30 am

A very moving post… your writing made every word seem so real…unfortunately this story is probably true of many women 😐
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Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 6:02 pm

That’s true, Seeta.
Thank you for commenting.:)
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Shilpa Garg December 31, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Such a poignant story, so beautifully narrated, Vidya. I didnt breathe till I reached the end. Sadly, this is could be true for so many girls and women. Glad that she finally found peace and hope.
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Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 6:03 pm

The story goes much farther than this, Shilpa. Disturbing times.
Thank you for commenting. I appreciate you!
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Lisa Shambrook December 31, 2013 at 8:04 pm

So beautifully written Vidya, touching and powerful!

Vidya Sury December 31, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Thank you, Lisa! I was enchanted by your story. And a bit nervous about mine 😀 Hugs!

Latha January 1, 2014 at 1:41 am

I didn’t want this to be a real story. There cannot be things more brutal than this. I wish all stories have happy endings…
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Kathy Combs (@Kathy29156) January 1, 2014 at 3:31 am

What a sad story. How one person could survive such abuse is beyond me. It was riveting but sad. Was this a true story?? It is horrific if so. I can’t imagine surviving such a horrible existence. Congratulations on being one of the contributors. Very exciting, and I am sure your story will strike a chord with many. ♥
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Vidya Sury January 1, 2014 at 9:47 am

Yes Kathy. it is a true story. Thank you for your kind comment! Love you!
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Betsy/Zen Mama January 1, 2014 at 6:48 am

This is a very powerful story. I long to hear more.
Is it your mother’s story?
Tragic, truthful and beautifully written.
Thank you!
xoxo and Happy New Year!
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Vidya Sury January 1, 2014 at 9:48 am

Yes, Betsy, it is.
It has been a turbulent life up to a point. I always try to dwell on the happy bits, but I’ve realized that writing about the sad parts is necessary, too.

🙂 Love you. Thank you for your comment, and yes, you shall hear more….eventually.

Happy 2014 to you and your folks!
Vidya Sury recently posted…A Star Is Born

Proactive Indian January 1, 2014 at 10:26 am

Vidya, it takes immense amount of courage to speak about this. But it must be done. Many people think such things happen only in films. The sad thing is they do happen in real life. Unfortunately, victims of discrimination and torture do not talk about it for various real or imagined reasons. Hence, the perpetrators get away.

Many of us believe that ‘Everything happens for good’. I wonder.
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Canary January 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Heartbreaking but this is the sad reality for many women not only in India but across the world… men are brought up to believe they are the masters and the superior race, women are told it’s best to be servile and obedient.. making a noise about it though movies, songs and media may be a small step towards changing it..

thanks for your efforts in this important direction Vidya…

Mary Stephenson January 2, 2014 at 3:15 am

Hi Vidya

I just read one of the comments that this was your mother. How very sad. I find it hard to believe, but I do know it happens, but why parents would give up such a young child (13) into marriage. I know the culture is different than in the US, but usually if someone that young gets married they would at least believe they were in love. May even be pregnant, which would at least justify a marriage. But to send a young girl off with a man, her parents had to have known what was going to happen to her, beyond her mind of 13 would understand.

Very well written but very sad. I wonder how some people can survive such abuse, but it does show that we do what we have to in order to live. There was a girl here that was kidnapped at age 12 and was constantly raped, ended up having 2 children by the man. Eventually someone figured something out and she was rescued 18 years later. Amazing what women are capable of.

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Damyanti January 2, 2014 at 12:22 pm

That was a scary story with a beautiful ending. Sadly, this is the fact of many women’s lives in India today. Thanks for writing this, Vidya!
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Vidya Sury January 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Damyanti, thank you. I was eagerly waiting for your story and just saw you posted in the group.
Yes, I know…scary. And life doesn’t get easy overnight either. Thank you for your comment!

richmiraclefiles January 2, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Hi Vidya
Your story encapsulates the daily grind of thousands of women born into less advantaged homes.Their entire life is an incessant account of turmoil,tears,fear,exploitation,pain and anguish.This is compounded by heart rending misery due to poverty and helplessness.
You have written an account which maybe fiction,yet not surprisingly,very likely to be replicated in real life in exact same detail.
Great stuff.Rises gooseflesh!
Thanks Vidya
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Elise Fallson January 2, 2014 at 3:56 pm

What an emotional story. By the end I wanted to hug her so tight. This is the kind of story that’ll stick in the back of my mind for a very long time. It’s tragic knowing that though fiction, this story is far from make believe, and so many women share a similar story, many of which do not end well. Thank you for sharing this with us, Vidya.

Carolyn Hughes January 2, 2014 at 10:23 pm

What a heart touching post. The strength of the human spirit to overcome the past never ceases to amaze me. Blessing to you Vidya 🙂
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ML Swift January 4, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Holy smokes, Vidya. This was a powerful piece that had my emotions all over the board. Mostly anger at that cruel family, so much so, I wanted to go back in time and kick some ass before saving that woman.

And the saddest part is, I know this is a reality for many.

Very well done. I’m so glad she got away and started anew.

M.L. Swift, Writer: The Best is Yet to Come
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Vidya Sury January 4, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Thank you, Michael! The story freaks me out. I am glad she got away… that’s why I am here to tell the story. She was my Mom. I am so glad you stopped by!

ML Swift January 4, 2014 at 8:00 pm

I had a feeling, due to the timeline. That is so sad to hear…ugh. Honestly, I don’t know how some people have it in them, regardless of the culture or tradition. I couldn’t do that to another human being…heck, another living anything. Thanks again for this piece. It was so touching. Your Mom would be proud of you.
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Vidya Sury January 4, 2014 at 8:14 pm

In spite of everything, she was an amazingly positive person, Michael. To think she’s gone, and all the others (including her mother in law) are just fine sometimes leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. After she passed away, I started writing to “chat” with her. I am violating my own rule and posting the link here: Coffee With Mi

By the way, your story more or less describes my own experience. Thank you, Michael. Very glad to connect with you.

Vidya Sury January 4, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Thank you, Christopher!

River Fairchild January 4, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Such power in this, Vidya! My heart cries at the injustice, which I know still goes on today. Your mother gave you a great gift, her courage and a voice to speak out against the abuse. Beautiful.
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My Inner Chick January 6, 2014 at 12:09 am

***am filled with a sense of hope, a promise of rebirth.

I rise again, healing.

I am born again.**

Love Love Love You.
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Michelle Wallace January 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm

An amazing story… and a sad reality for countless women across the universe…
Your mother was a courageous and admirable woman! What a testament to the power of the indomitable human spirit!
Michelle Wallace recently posted…Composers For Relief: Supporting The Philippines

Ceridwen January 7, 2014 at 8:33 pm

What a strong woman. Thank you for sharing such a sad but hopeful story.

Shiva January 8, 2014 at 1:50 pm

What a life and what a come back!!! Motherhood really brings the best in people.. I read the whole thing with a lump in the throat .. Hats off to the resilience and strength of the amazing lady … Thanks Vidya for sharing this story..I know it would not have been easy
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Sunila September 20, 2016 at 8:16 am

Vidya I read this with tears flowing down all through. Hugs hugs and more hugs to you and to the memories of this great lady ❤️????

Vidya Sury September 20, 2016 at 8:45 am

Thank you Sunila. Hugs!
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