Thursday, 29 June 2017

A Letter To Her-blogathon by Women's Web

My dear,

You would be wondering why I have chosen to write a letter to you when we talk to each other so many times every day. But I consider this necessary to share something with you before we get married. We must not keep any secrets from each other, should we?
So today, through this letter, I wish to tell you the story of a young boy and his mother.

He could give up anything in the world to see a smile on her glum face again. She would dutifully come to meet him, every month. She would bring his favorite food, enquire about his well being, studies and keep staring blankly at the dusty calendar on the sour cream walls of the meeting room.
I am that son. Son of a battered, trafficked woman who saw his helpless mother punched and kicked everyday by his drug addict father. A son who bore the ugly imprints of domestic violence and abuse on his impressionable mind and parched heart. A son who killed his own father because he couldn't bear to see his frail, sick mother being assaulted by his father when she refused to go for 'dhandha' that night.
He had been there for the past nine months, in the juvenile home. He had been convicted of murdering his own father.
His father...a drug addict and peddler, alcoholic, thief, beggar, pimp and a sadistic, cruel, violent man.
The narrow alleys of their street would often reverberate with the cries of a hapless woman. Even the morning sun failed to penetrate the foggy skies to bring some cheer to the frail woman who tried to hide the scars on her body and soul, howsoever unsuccessfully, from her teenage son.
Another dark night, another agonized wail rent the air, blinded with an ominous rage the boy grabbed a sickle and hit. His father collapsed. A puddle of blood slowly trickled out of their tenement.
The boy called the police with his father's cell phone. The juvenile court sentenced him to one year term in a correction home.
His mother's droopy mouth slumped even more. Uncertainty and apprehensions about her son's bleak future made her scarred face gloomier.
He urged her to resume her work as a house maid and be happy. She feigned a smile which did not reach her hollow eyes.
After an agonizing twelve months he came home. She rejoiced briefly, then fell silent again.
That night, as she lay awake on a shabby rag unable to blink an eye, she heard someone croon a lullaby. She froze in her mediations. Then slowly turned to see her son sing the lullaby she used to sing to rock him to sleep in his childhood.
From behind the lead skies, her s(u)n was born again! The droopy mouth lifted, and then she smiled......radiant like the full moon outside.

I am the son who served 365 long days and sleepless nights in a juvenile home in the fervent hope of seeing his mother smile again. I am that son of a proud mother who has not given her a reason to stop smiling since that day. Unfortunately, I am also the son of an oppressive father.
I am also the same man whom you love so much and who is going to become your husband in a few weeks from now, hopefully.
Although I am sure that the selfless, boundless love of my mother has rid me of the scars of my tarnished past, yet if you find the slightest traces of male entitlement and superiority in me, I request you to check me there and then. If you feel I am carrying and displaying the brutal imprints of my father's oppressive behavior towards you, do restrain me there and then. Do not remain silent, do not bear it thinking I am a man and it is my right to dominate you, I do beseech you. You would be wondering at my strange request against my own self, aren't you?
But my dear, in a marriage, man and woman are equals, none is superior or inferior and hence none should impose his/her will on the spouse. It is not a relationship of master and slave so no one should control the other.
Now that I have revealed all about my traumatic childhood, criminal past and my mother's oppression, would you want to go ahead with our wedding?
Would you be able to trust me if I promise to always be a gentle man-a man who genuinely respects and cares for women, a man who would never raise his voice on a woman let alone raising his hand on her, a man who wouldn't allow even the fading scars on his heart impact his love and respect for his wife?
Even if you decide against our wedding, let me assure you that I would never hold it against you. I would still want to be your friend and well-wisher.
If you would wish to have me back in your life, that is.

Affectionately Yours

Your best friend

Author's Note: This writeup #ALetterToHer is written as an honest admission of his traumatic, violent past by a young man to his future wife. He, as a conscientious man, wants his wife to never have to suffer violence and abuse the way his mother had to suffer at the hands of his father.
Thanks #WomensWeb for initiating this blogathon in association with #JuggernautBooks to raise awareness about domestic violence and abuse.

I would want to read book When I Hit You ( by #MeenaKandasamy because it is a real life first person account of her husband's oppressive behavior and her struggle to overcome it. From her interviews and excerpts from her book it is quite evident that this oppression is not limited to any particular caste, religion or social strata. It is rather necessary for every woman to not only know her rights but also not hesitate in asserting herself when the need arises.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Not Done With Life Yet

This poem narrates the grit and resolve of a fiftyish woman whose family members are too busy to give her any time. They love her and acknowledge her efforts and sincerity towards her family's well being. They keep telling her that she must stop bothering about them now that they have grown up and are capable of looking after themselves. Despite being left to fend for herself for long hours she refuses to give up. She develops some new hobbies and interests to fight this sense of desolation. Time may be the first calamity in this fast paced world, time may not be on her side but she's not done with her life yet.
Once again I hear the same loving reminders and promises,
We are old enough, we can look after ourselves,
Mom, you are on the other side of fifty,
You must now care for only thee.
They say I am getting on in years,
So I shouldn't bother much about the nitty-gritties,
For years I have toiled,
And must get some rest, well-deserved.

Oh, am I really getting old?
The 'well-wishers' tell me half of my life is spent,
Days, months, years are getting limited,
Gather yourself before God's messenger is sent.
Oh yeah, the morn of my life is gone,
But the dark night of oblivion is yet to fall,
So many beautiful moments yet to be lived,
So much of life yet to be seen and cherished!

Everyone's busy in their lives,
In their hectic schedules, for me there's no space,
The young leave home early for their workplace,
Go for long drives, party and hangout with their pals.
They want me to stay at home, relax and chill,
I swallow my loneliness as the bitter pill.
What if I am no longer needed by them all?
I do need myself, I do care for my parched soul.

So no more the cantankerous shouts of news anchors for me,
With the first sip of my morning green tea.
Peeping through a foggy sky, the vibrant yellow sun rays,
Pearly dewdrops on the gently undulating leaves,
I choose the velvety, sonorous baritone of Arijit,
The nazms by Gulzar and the Gazals of a mellifluous Jagjit,
Chirpy sparrows squabbling for grains,
Agile squirrels flitting on the tree branches,
Magnificent red hibiscus, fragrant mogra and roses,
I'm mesmerized by these and the gaily fluttering butterflies.

Soaking in these beautiful colors, flavors and sights,
Illuminating the darkest nooks of my soul shining bright,
Unmindful of the what, where, why and when,
Get down to work-my camera, I and my pen.
Scribbling some new verses, spinning a few tales,
Humming a melody, capturing hesitant but sweet smiles,
Under the mysterious shadows dotting a silver night,
A dark horizon lit up by stars, twinkling bright.

The pitter-patter of droplets on the misty windows,
The tiny-tots floating paper boats in the tiny streams,
Cackling lightning and booming thunder,
Stir a storm of memories-sweet, gentle and bitter.
The desperate cry of a lone warbler lovelorn,
The echo of silence on a waning, dark night,
Bring to my somnolent eyes some dreams unknown,
And set the doused embers of forgotten aspirations alight.

A keen eye behind the lens of the camera,
An unsated heart expressing itself through the blue ink,
Nimble fingers tapping on the laptop keyboard,
Treasure the moments for posterity, strum a new spirited chord.
I may be getting old, but I am not done with life yet,
I may be alone but blissful is the still young, expectant heart,
My time may be limited but my soul is soaring free,
And to feel alive again I need just myself, only me!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

A Letter To Her-Blogathon

My dear friends,
I still remember how your tear filled eyes had pierced my heart! I was furious, really furious.
Your snooty and overbearing husband had always treated you with disdain for your bare minimum education and rustic appearance. You had borne all his abuses, taunts and jibes stoically although they caused you immense pain. You didn't complain, you accepted it as your destiny. You loved your three children and hoped things would improve when they grew up and stood up for you. You served all of them quietly and patiently from dawn till late night only in the hope that some day your husband would relent and acknowledge your contribution to the family. As an inexperienced. naive young newly wed woman I had seen how you sacrificed all your desires and even health for your children but you broke down the day your 14-year old son also called you foolish and senseless. You cried your heart out to me that you were ruined. But you tried to find a justification saying it was perhaps because you were not so educated and also because of some shortcoming in your upbringing of your children that he had spoken so insolently with you.
You had met me as a new bride, the wife of my husband's friend, a sweet, simple and homely girl from a small town. You were quite shy and spoke very less, almost only when you were spoken to. To be honest sometimes you appeared to be a little low on self-confidence too. I could relate to you since I was also from a small town although I was quite well-informed about social-political-economic issues and could hold my ground in any discussion and debate. You seemed to be under the shadow of your husband and preferred to remain on the sidelines. Many a times we would be engaged in intense discussions and unnoticed by anyone you would quietly retreat into the kitchen. A year later you became the mother of a lovely daughter and then gradually it became more obvious. The husband's veiled but snide remarks about your incompetence in running the house and how he had to engage a cook apart from the regular house help because you were unable to manage the chores on time would hurt you no end but you would keep mum.
And then one day you asked me a question.
You were staying with me for a few days when my husband and her husband had to go out of city for some official work. While our daughters were busy playing and we were watching a movie-a typical boy-chases-girl kind of stupid Hindi movie, you asked me if my husband beat me! I was aghast when you confided that your husband-a handsome, suave charmer and a management grad-hit you at the slightest of mistakes. And then you mumbled in a choked voice that it was perhaps your fault that you were not a city smart woman and were not able to come up to his expectations. You felt this was the reason he was forced to raise his hand on you.
You were a bindaas girl, a smooth talker, jovial happy-go-lucky mother of an infant. Yours was a love marriage and you both looked so much comfortable doing household chores together and helping each other in looking after your son. You would be cracking jokes, teasing your husband, even pretending to beat him with a stick in jest. You were the most perfect couple in our group of young couples. Nobody would admit it but many of us women were a bit in awe of the easy camaraderie you shared with your husband while our husbands would act snooty and superior to us.
Then you guys moved to another city for better future prospects.
Two years later you came back and met us all. While you still joked and laughed I could see that your smile didn't reach your eyes. You looked unhappy and stressed but kept up the pretense in front of your husband and son. The next day when we were alone, 'I'm going to commit suicide' you blurted out suddenly and burst into tears. Shocked to the core, I held your heaving frame to pacify you. Your husband had ostensibly fallen for a young student but was refusing to accept it. When you confronted him he claimed that the 20-something girl was like a daughter to him and in fact wanted you to accept her like that. Sniffing your tears you revealed to my utter disbelief how your husband had also forced you to go in for an abortion some months ago because he wanted to undertake the responsibility of that girl.
I was enraged every time you guys cracked up narrating your husband's misdemeanors and assaults-physical, mental and emotional. Yet I tried to help you tap your inner strength and find reason for staying on in your marriages...its women who are supposed to bear the responsibility of keeping the marriage intact and family together, don't they?
Little did you all know at that time that this was my way of self-help, my way of gaining inner strength to deal with my own skeletons, silently, hiding my tears from you.

When I tried to calm you down telling you that your son was just a child and he didn't actually mean to hurt her while deep inside I knew the son had already imbibed the venom of male superiority and entitlement from his father.
Just as my husband had from his family elders. He kept his money out of my hands as per the well-meaning advice of 'don't be too generous with your money before your wife' by his uncle. If I asked for money and he was not in the mood, he refused to hand over his wallet like a 'biwi ka gulam'.

When I tapped on your trembling hands to pacify you telling you that things will improve with the passage of time, inside my heart I was relieved my husband only shouted at me, he didn't hit me. He was embarrassed at his inadequacy in English and forbade me from conversing with him in English. He was overawed by my debating skills and confident speech before other men and would silence me with an arrogant snub 'you are so stupid', even in public. Yet I should not complain since he never raised his hand on me.

When I heard of your husband's infidelity I was so glad my husband didn't have a roving eye even if he had a nasty tongue. What if he didn't shy away from hurling a plethora of expletives and profanities at me for the slightest hint of disrespect for the 'daamad ji' from my relatives, what if he would taunt me that even my parents wouldn't let me live in 'their' home if I dared to leave 'his' home, what if I fell into depression, my confidence was shattered and I suffered from a deep sense of insecurity, he was my husband and Indian marriages are meant to last till eternity, right? I consoled myself that he cared for me when I fell ill, he took me out for movies and shopping specially after his bouts of anger and shouting. He doted on our daughter even though he had yelled continuously at me for days when the baby developed some complications in the seventh month of pregnancy and the doctor had warned us about the baby's well being at birth while mandating complete bed rest for me. He had a right to reprimand me for not ensuring the well being of 'his' child, didn't he? He loved me, I made myself believe!
When you cried that you wanted a divorce from your wayward husband, I asked you to think of the happy moments, the special moments you shared with him. I asked you to think of your son's future before taking any drastic decisions. Society doesn't treat 'abandoned' and divorced women kindly. You don't have any financial security, how would you manage your life if you leave your husband, I had asked you.

Inwardly, I repeated the same advises and questions to my own tormented heart.
You drew strength from my words.
I drew strength from your forbearance.
You all stayed on in your marriage.
So did I.

Did we do the right thing? Are we happy today?
Perhaps yes, perhaps not.

But should we advise our daughters, sisters, friends, colleagues to be as tolerant, as adjusting, as compromising as we had to be if they, god forbid, ever face such situations in their marriage?
Certainly not!

Let's raise our daughters as strong, confident, assertive and financially self-sufficient individuals, not just a girl whose sole purpose of life is to get married and serve her husband as her God. Let's give them the confidence that they are not 'paraya dhan' and that their parents' home would always be their home even after they get married-a home they can come back to at any time, without any hesitation or fear of being unwelcome. Let not the fear of 'what would the society say' and social stigma shackle our girls. Let's empower them with the wisdom to differentiate between love and possessiveness, between genuine concern and blatant domination, between appreciation and jealousy, between advise and abuse. Let the women take their own decisions judiciously...when to give in and how much to give in to save their marriage and when to stand up, for themselves, their self-respect, their sanity, their health and their life. Let's tell them that silence is not always golden, and so is not domestic violence-mental, emotional or physical. It's better to speak up loud and clear than remain stuck in an abusive marriage. It's better to shame the abuser than be a victim and suffer in silence.
It's equally important for us to choose our words carefully with our sons too so as not to instil in them the sense of male entitlement and superiority.
We must remember to raise our voice for our daughters-in-law and sisters-in-law too if they are a victim of violence in our own homes and extend them moral, emotional and even financial support to fight the oppression.
Lastly but most importantly, if any of you is still being oppressed, stand up for yourself. Raise your voice for yourself first, then only you would be able to help anyone else. Please know that it's never too late to achieve freedom and happiness. So get rid of your inner demons, speak up and seek help.

May the force be with us, and every other woman!

Author's note:This is a fictional account of the life of four women who chose to keep quiet about being abused by their husbands in order to save their marriage. But it reflects the plight of many hapless women who continue to tolerate similarly abusive relationships and suffer domestic violence silently for years, for the fear of social stigma, lack of emotional and financial support, for the sake of their children as also for the fear of being alone in their old age.
It's been written as a #LetterForHer for the blogathon by Women's Web in association with #JuggernautBooks to spread awareness about domestic violence and abuse.

I would like to receive and read the book When I Hit You ( #MeenaKandasamy because it's important for every women to know and make fellow women aware that it's no longer ok to let the skeletons of abusive marriages and domestic violence be hidden.