Ok, I can see people shaking in dread and preparing to navigate away, before they notice the 'ex' tag and settle down warily to read what this is all about.
Warning: This is a long post!
How we got In
The year was 2000. The husband who was not yet the husband then, was working in Bangalore, one of the thousands of young software professionals who start their careers in the big, faceless corporates every year. He was staying with college friends all of who left one after other for on-site assignments, job change or because they got married. The man was young and bored. And lonely.
Then, one day he gets introduced to a guy, a successful s/w professional who lives in the US with his wife, also a s/w professional by a friend. I have come to expand my business, the man says. I am looking for sharp, young people to diversify with. Come over and we will discuss. The husband, who is tired of frequenting the pubs and the bars of Bangalore and is just craving to meet some nice people, goes willingly.
He is enchanted. He finds a room full of people, young and energetic. People who are very, very succesful in their respective professions. The whole place is filled with fun and laughter and energy. People are extremely warm and welcoming. When the time for the meeting comes, people move into a room while the host shows them 'the plan'. The name of the company comes right in the end..and even then does not mean much to the husband as it is fairly new in India and not many people have heard of it.
He finds the products expensive - ridiculously so...a bottle of detergent costs close to 400 bucks. But even before the thought has fully formed in his mind, it is scorched away by the host. All the products are concentrated and will work out cheaper than the market products if you use them the way they are meant to be. And they are such WONDERFUL products, he says. And thus, the first bit of mental programming happens. This is what the husband would repeat, over and over again, during the course of the next 5 years when confronted with the high-price accusation.
The middle years
The year 2002. Marriage. Enter yours truly. Moved to Bangalore with stars in her eyes and dreams of a new life in her heart. And, to give credit to the man, he has not disappointed.:D. But I digress. My first introduction to the 'business' as this travesty is called was at a 'seminar'. A rally is a place where a highly 'succesful' person in the business will come and share his story with the more unfortunate individuals who were not yet succesful in the business and still struggling.
I found the whole setting larger-than-life. Men wearing dapper suits. Women in glitzy jewelry and lovely clothes. The 'achievers' walked on stage to the music of 'Rocky', waving their hands and feeling no less than movie stars. I was a young bride. Straight out of college and eager to please. Over-protected and from a small town. I took the bait, hook, line and sinker.
And so I sat at home for the first 6 months after marriage trying to do 'business'. 'You'll never have to work', my uplines(people who introduced us into the business), told me. 'You'll be a millionaire and will travel around the world and be treated like a queen'. 'Yes, yes', I told myself as I tried desperately to sell products to anyone remotely human that I came across.
But right from the word go, things did not work out between me and the upline lady. I remember the first ever time we went to their house and she told me, 'You have to be more submissive'!! What the fuck?? I was contributing to her business by buying 4k worth of useless products and I had to be submissive to her? That was the first time I had a fight with the husband.
Soon, the fights became regular features. I started working and suddenly time was at a premium. I would be expected to put in a hard day at work, go to the uplines' house at 7 pm for a meeting every week and stay on till 11. Or 11.30. Or 12.00. And then be accused that I am not spending enough time with the 'team'. Every friday night would end in tears and a fight.
The beginning of disillusionment
Looking back at it today, there are so many, so many things about the business that I positively abhorred. The total lack of freedom in your personal life. Whether it was buying a car or having a baby, we had to get 'permission' from the uplines for EVERYTHING. The total lack of personal time. We would have 3 meetings every week. And then we would be asked to go forth and spread the word of the business lord during all the remaining days. The expense. Whether we liked it or not, wanted to or not, we had to buy products worth 4k every month. The lack of personal choice. I could not buy my favorite toothpaste or my favorite cream from the local store. All products HAD to be from the business. We were even encouraged not to watch television and, in fact, did not have TV at home for the first 3 years of marriage. Now I am totally against TV anyways, but I am so totally pro-choice today that I am appalled I ever went with that.
The fights increased. In intensity and volume. I was horrified that this gentle, totally rational man I was married to, was, for the first time, refusing to see reason. He was refusing to quit. I did not know it then, but he was exhibiting all the classic signs of a person in a cult. Even though he was doing well at work, he had begun to identify himself in this business so much, that a life in the 'outside world' with 'negative people' must have sounded terrifying to him. Our parents were both foaming at the mouths at the 'devil' that had gotten into us. My career was in tatters.
The redemption came in 2004 when I decided enough was enough and we needed to have a baby, pronto. By that time, our success was too little and too far between and, I think, the hubby had realised that it will not work out. But even then, he was reluctant to shed the last vestiges of bondage and walk toward freedom till Kuttan's birth. Kuttan brought with him not only laughter and joy for us, but also freedom, in a way. It has been 3 years since we quit. And I thank the Lord every day. For kuttan and for the wisdom that made us do it.
If someone asked me what I regret the most about my MLM years I would say, the lost opportunity. I got married as soon as I finished college. The husband was barely out of college himself. We had 3 golden years between our marriage and the time kuttan was born, that we could have used to spread our wings and soar in the sky. Careless and fearless. There was a wealth of opportunity that we could have explored and did not. We could have travelled. We could have studied. We could have made real friends. We could have spent long hours at work and advanced our careers. Instead, we let our wings be clipped and closed our hearts to the worTld. And that is why I will never, ever be able to forgive 'the business'. And why, to some extent, I resent the husband to this day.
Well, as they say, all's well that ends well. Our 'uplines' zealously followed up with us for a few days and tried to get us to come back into the fold. When it didnt work out, they gave up and moved to greener pastures. And yes, it's a little late in the day but today we are doing things that we should have, would have, had it not been for the business. So we do it a little slowly, dragging around kuttan everywhere with us. But we will still get there. And be happy while we do. The nightmare is finally over.
Disclaimer: This has been a cathartic post for me. It has not been easy to write it but I have, nonetheless, because, well, if it helps someone, why not. It is all about MY experience and perception alone and probably someone else may have a very different take on it. If I have hurt someone's feelings, I did not mean to. Each to his own.