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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 (bit.ly/Meenabk2by #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.

5 comments:

  1. As long as women are asked to ‘adjust’ in abusive marriages for the sake of ‘honour’ and tradition, abuse,dowry related deaths and suicides and will continue to happen.
    I liked it, not because its well written, but because it allows the girl to speak up..Create an awareness on these social circle, who always are in run for victim blaming..

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    1. Absolutely true! Thank you for reading and the post and sharing your thoughts on this very important issue.

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  2. You've raised some very important points here, Seema. There are so many reasons why women just choose to remain in an abusive relationship and abuse can come in so many ways, be it mental, physical or emotional. Really loved how you put across the last case as a means to show how that lady too was suffering herself but compared to others she felt she had a better deal. It is so natural to think that way and yet, it is not enough to stay in a marriage. Very well written. Kudos!

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    1. Sorry, this is Kasturi. This was an old google profile that I made long time back. :)

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  3. Yes, this is how women console themselves...by comparing their suffering with others and feeling they have lesser cause to complain.
    Thanks dear Kasturi, for reading and writing in a detailed comment.
    Btw I have posted another writeup for the blogathon-a letter from a man to his future wife. Please read that too when you have time. Would want to know your thoughts on that too. :)

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