Tormented by Her Mother-in-law
She looked up in horror as the older woman rubbed the bleached-soaked cloth roughly over her face.
''This will make your skin whiter and make you look better, ‘she said harshly, grinding in the bleach. The pain was unbearable, the smell overwhelming.
''Please,'' the girl begged, ''wash it off, it is burning me. Help me, help me!''
The old woman ignored her cries. ''You must wait,'' she muttered, enjoying every second of the girl's discomfort.
The old woman may sound like an evil witch from a fairy tale but for this Indian woman just married into the family she could not have been more real.
The incident was the final straw for this young woman; she could not take this anymore, who had suffered in her disastrous marriage almost from the second she had taken her vows.
Living in London, and the first woman to sue her mother-in-law, under the Harassment Act.
Instead, the emotional and physical torment she had endured took her to the brink of a nervous breakdown.
It is customary in her deeply religious culture, the attractive, petite woman with a man who had been brought to her father's attention by a matchmaker.
''The first time the whole family sat in as we chatted about things such as work, and travel but we also got to talk alone for an hour.''
''I really liked him and thought it could work.''
By the time her wedding day had arrived, the naive twenty two year old who had never even been on a date before, had no idea what she was getting herself into at that point.
Yet, she threw herself into the week-long celebrations with joy and enthusiasm falsely.
The couple exchanged vows in an Indian temple in front of two hundred people. Reena was taken to her husband's four-bedroom home, in their London home to start their new life.
Things went wrong from the start of their introduction, Her mother-in-law Bilkies, told her not to bother unpacking as he would not need her Western clothing.
Instead, she was given traditional Indian clothing of loose trousers and a matching top, exactly the same as her mother-in-law's outfit.
Reena didn’t want to show disrespect for her new family so she took the clothes.
She hoped the two of them would later bond but it wasn't to be.
The young woman soon realized she was nothing more than a modern-day Cinderella without the fairy godmother to help her escape the nightmare.
Speaking as she would be to a domestic servant. Bilkies, the mother-in-law instructed her daughter-in-law to follow a strict regime allowing her an only a half-hour break.
She had to mop the floor, but was not allowed to use a bucket she had to wet the bedraggled mop, which had only a few strands, from a tap.
To clean the toilet she was provided with just one glove and an old rag instead of a brush. Her mother-in-laws stood over her, insisting she stick her hand down the bowl.
Reena confided in her husband, telling him how unhappy she was, but her words fell on deaf ears.
He was simply to scared to stand up to his mother and end his wife's abuse, and just began her life of hell.
At first, poor Reena was caught up in the traditional belief that the mother-in-law is always at the top and the daughter-in-aw at the bottom and felt she had to accept her situation.
The Bullying Mother-in-law
Were you Tormented by your Mother-in-law?
Reena was too embarrassed to contact her own family she felt it would mean she was a failure as a wife.
The harder the daughter-in-law slaved the more her mother-in-law found work for her to do. Soon she was working seventeen hours daily.
She had wash and iron all the towels everyday polish her father-in-law's shoes and make, serve, and clear all the family's meals.
At the end of the day she was exhausted. As she toiled her mother-in-law dozed, occasionally walking to check on her and give her more to do.
Reena was forbidden to leave the house and could call her parents only once a week as her cell phone had been confiscated.
She wasn't allowed to attend her uncle’s funeral which devastated her. Television and newspapers were banned so she had no contact with the outside world and did not even know the Iraqi war had started.
Eventually the she shattered young woman her hands infected by cleaning agents was so tired she fell asleep at the kitchen table. Her mother-in-law woke her roughly, screaming at her to carry on.
She then bought the energy drink Red Bull and insisted Reena drink it in order to keep working.
Still Dina did nothing about the abuse of his wife from his mother, even when his mother's abuse started to affect his wife's physical appearance and Reena was forced to cut and color her beautiful, floor-length hair.
She had never cut her hair before because of her religion. Bilkies, the mother-in-law took her to a hairdresser and motioned she wanted it cut to collar length.
As she saw her hair fall to the floor it made her feel degraded and like a Zombie.
Her humiliation did not end there. Next her mother-in-law bought red hair dye and covered her head in it, telling her she would look much nicer if they both had hair of the same color. Then she applied the horrific bleaching incident.
''I don't like the color of your skin,'' her mother-in-law told her.
''You will look much nicer if it paler.''
The pain was excruciating and left Reena's skin red and raw but Bilkies the mother-in-law refused to give in to her daughter-in-law's cries.
Eventually what seemed like an eternity, the screaming was so loud the mother-in-law relented and held Reena's face under the tap.
Reena knew she looked awful but did not have the energy to care. When her husband and his brothers came home they laughed and called her Reena a poodle.
Their ridicule finally made her crack and she ran to her room in tears, telling her husband she could no longer live in that house and wanted a divorce.
Happy she had finally achieved her goal the mother-in-law wasted no time and telephoned Reena's parents, telling them to fetch their daughter. As is customary in the Sikh Tradition no questions were asked.
Reena was ashamed their marriage had failed she felt so utterly broken but at the same time so relieved. She did not go back and they divorced a year later. The devastation was to remain with Reena for the next two years.
She was constantly depressed and could not work. Her only salvation came when her divorce lawyer suggested suing Bilkies the mother-in-law for harassment to at least allow her to move on with her life.
Reena was awarded thirty five thousand pounds but insisted it was not about the money.
She felt a sense of justice; Reena was treated as an incomprehensible attack, and endured four months of hell.
Her husband never stood by her during this ordeal.
© 2013 Devika Primić