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Hell Hath No Fury...

As speculation emerges that Osama bin Laden may have been betrayed by his first wife, that old saying seems to be re-validated In 1697, the English author William Congreve wrote a poem called The Mourning Bride which ended with the following lines: ‘Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d. Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.’

brunch Updated: Mar 17, 2012 17:07 IST
Seema Goswami

As speculation emerges that Osama bin Laden may have been betrayed by his first wife, that old saying seems to be re-validated In 1697, the English author William Congreve wrote a poem called The Mourning Bride which ended with the following lines: ‘Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d. Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.’ More than 400 years later, these words still carry a angry resonance as speculation rages that Osama bin Laden was tracked down not by brilliant spy work by the CIA but because his first wife Khairiah Sabar betrayed his location.

Great betrayal: The Bin Laden clan believes his first wife Khairiah Sabar was jealous of his Yemeni-born, much younger new wife

Apparently Sabar, Bin Laden’s first wife, a Saudi woman now in her 60s, fetched up at the Abbottabad complex sometime in February or March 2011. When challenged by one of Osama’s sons as to why she had come back after such a long time, she replied enigmatically, “I have one more duty to discharge for my husband.”

The extended Bin Laden clan now believes that it was Sabar who betrayed him by leading the CIA forces to his door. And all because she was jealous of Osama’s latest wife, the Yemeni-born, much younger Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada with whom Bin Laden shared a bed (while Sabar slept alone in a bedroom on another floor).

So, there’s a lesson for you. While the entire might of the US army and the all-seeing eye of the CIA could not bring about Osama bin Laden’s downfall for well on a decade, his scorned wife managed to do so in a matter of months.

For readers of a certain age, this will bring back memories of that 1996 Hollywood hit, The First Wives Club, starring Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton. The three women are dumped by their husbands for younger models and decide on revenge: by taking their husbands for everything they have. As yet another infamous first wife, Ivana Trump (married to ‘The Donald’), putting in a cameo appearance in the movie, says, “Don’t get mad; get everything.”

But, of course, that is easier said than done. First wives do tend to get mad – and sometimes very mad indeed. As one man found out the hard way when he left his wife and moved out of the family home. When he came back to collect his things, he discovered that she had cut off the right sleeve of each one of his Savile Row suits. Yet another ex-wife crept into her ex-husband’s house and sewed up prawns in his curtain hems (yes, you really can’t get more bonkers than that).

Smear campaign: Heather Mills suggested that former Beatle Paul McCartney had been physically abusive towards her in the course of their marriage

Others take an even more direct approach. Remember Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods’ ex-wife? When she found out about his posse of mistresses, she chased his car down, golf club in hand and bashed the windscreen in. (Tiger later gallantly insisted that his wife had been unfairly maligned – to widespread scepticism in the media.)

And then, there are the women who wait for years, even decades, on end, before trying to extract a horrible revenge for the humiliation heaped on them. In the UK, Chris Huhne had to resign from David Cameron’s Cabinet when his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, recently revealed that in 2003 he had prevailed upon her to take some penalty points he had incurred while speeding on her own driving licence. But in an ironic twist, Vicky found herself charged alongside her husband for trying to ‘pervert the course of justice’.

Across the Atlantic, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich found himself in the ex-wife trap on the eve of an important primary when his second wife, Marianne, crawled out of the woodwork to announce that he had asked her for an ‘open marriage’ in the last years of their relationship. Not exactly the kind of thing that a candidate hoping to make headway in the puritanical heartland of America wants to hear, right? And sure enough, since then Newt’s appeal among women voters has gone down sharply.

Heather Mills tried a similar smear campaign when Paul McCartney asked her for a divorce, suggesting that the former Beatle had been physically abusive towards her in the course of their marriage. But such was the goodwill towards McCartney that nobody paid the slightest attention to these allegations. No wonder then that when Mills scored a paltry 25 million pounds (yes, you read that right: 25 million pounds) in her divorce settlement, she showed her displeasure by pouring a jug of water over McCartney’s attorney, Fiona Shackleton, in a classic case of misdirected anger.

That’s not to say that men don’t behave badly in the aftermath of a marriage, but their acting out mostly takes the form of retaining a tight control over joint resources while women fall back on restricting access to the children – in other words, each party plays to their strengths. And yet, sadly, both sides lose as a consequence.

So, perhaps the best revenge for a scorned woman is not to get mad or even get everything – but to just get on with it. Move on with your life, rebuild the torn corners of your world and wrestle some happiness out of it. Because more often than not, living well is the best revenge of all.

Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami

From HT Brunch, March 18

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