Monday, February 25, 2013

To be a woman

As I entered the office, Sachin looked up at me and shook his head. I caught the look of grimace on his face before he bent his head over the laptop. He was the only one who had noticed my garish makeup and the long sleeved kurta that I had worn to office and he was only one to guess the reason behind it. On normal days I wore minimal make up, but today was no normal day in my life. I had to wear tons of concealer and foundation to hide the black and blue bruises around my eyes and lips. I had carefully selected a kurta which would hide the welt marks on my hands and arms. No, it was no ordinary day for me.

During our coffee break, Sachin asked me silently, ‘Shreya, why do you put up with that rogue husband of yours. I know you for the past one year. You are intelligent, pretty, confident and independent. But still you silently suffer the abuses from your husband. I really fail to comprehend the reason behind your tolerance of your husband’s behavior.’

We had had this argument before, but I answered Sachin patiently, ‘ Sachin, I come from a middle class family with conventional and orthodox beliefs. For us marriage is for keeps. And Raj was not an abusive husband from the beginning of our marriage, it’s just in the past one year that he has turned violent.’

I sounded lame even to myself, defending Raj. The truth was Raj and I had an arranged marriage 7 years back and I had met Raj a couple of times before the wedding. At that time he had seemed to be a kind, gentle soul who wouldn’t hurt even a fly. He had lost his parents at a very early age but he had worked hard and become a successful businessman. 

One year into the marriage and I realized that things were not as they seemed. Raj had a problem with alcohol and when he was in an intoxicated state, he did not have control over his actions. He became a beast. It initially started with verbal abuses; he used to insult me with words, calling me a slut. I remained silent.

My silence spurred him more and his actions turned violent, sometimes belting me or hitting me across the face.  The morning after he would beg me not to leave him and, promised to take help for his drinking problem.  For the next few days he would treat me like queen, taking me shopping, doing all the chores at house, being an attentive husband. But then the ugly face of demon would rise and he would return to being the monster.

I did not tell my parents as they would be shattered by it, I tried working on my marriage. I became pregnant after 2 years, Raj was ecstatic, he promised to mend his ways. And he did, for three complete years. I was on cloud nine; I got back my husband whom I had fallen in love with during our initial days after marriage.

The sunshine returned to brighten my dark, harrowing days as Riya, my daughter, was born. Raj was a doting father, protective and affectionate. 

But as Riya turned 3, Raj returned to his old ways, staying out late into night and returning during the wee hours of the morning. I did not dare question about his whereabouts as it antagonized him further. He still remained a loving father to Riya and I knew that Riya too would be crushed if we had a divorce.

Did I really have the courage to walk away or was I just using Riya as a pretext to remain in my farcical marriage?

As I returned back home, I saw Riya waiting for me at the threshold of our house. I could see she had been crying. I hugged her and asked her what’s wrong. She replied in her tiny voice, ‘Mamma, Veer hit me today and my legs pain a lot.’

Veer was a troublesome boy in her class. I checked her legs and, sure enough there were small bruises that looked like it were inflicted by a sharp object.

I asked her why she had not reported it her teacher or retaliated back. ‘I thought it was normal and boys had a right to hit at girls. Papa hits you and papa is a boy. You too never hit him back, no mamma’.

Her innocent statement was like a bolt from the blue. It upset me tremendously. What kind of a mother am I, to set a wrong example to my child? I wanted Riya to be a strong independent woman not a kind of woman who would suffer abuses. Not the kind of woman that I had turned out to be.

I went inside my house, packed mine and Riya’s belongings and walked out of my husband’s life forever. 

In the above story, Shreya was fortunate enough to realize her mistake. The mistake of suffering domestic violence, of not raising her voice against her abusive husband. She was lucky enough to walk out of her marriage before it was too late. But there are thousands of women who suffer domestic violence in silence and they are not as lucky as Shreya. When they realize that they are capable of saying a firm no and of leaving their marriage behind, it’s usually too late.

Who do women in India suffer domestic violence in silence? One of the main reason is because in all cases where women are victims, the society blames the woman itself. If a woman is raped, then she is condemned for the clothes she wore or for her conduct. If a marriage breaks then the wife is usually reprimanded because she couldn’t save the marriage. If the husband strays and has an affair, then fingers are pointed at his better half, and people blather on that maybe the wife was not good enough in bedroom, so maybe the poor husband had to go seeking pleasure outside his nuptial bed.

Disgusting, that’s the only word that comes to my mind. Since ages women have been targeted, have been scapegoats in a society that still thinks that having an extra leg in between two legs gives a person power over the other sex.

We need to educate, instill confidence in our daughters. Give her the power to choose, give her the independence to live her life on her own terms, treat her as equal to her brothers. If rules apply to her then the same rules will be laid down for her brother. 

Like all revolutions that happened in history before, this one too will take time and happen gradually over a period of time. But for that we need to empower, educate and emancipate our women. 

“Woman was taken out of man,

not out of his head to top him,

nor out of his feet to be trampled underfoot;

but out of his side to be equal to him,

under his arm to be protected,

and near his heart to be loved”

This post is written for Indusladies 4th Annual International Women’s Day Blog Contest 2013 to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2013. Proud to be a woman.  

This post was selected as one of the top 7 impactful entries for women's day


  1. Yes! A big part of the action against domestic violence has to come from the women who face it. Well written

  2. This was amazing! A child learns from the surrounding she/he is brought up in.

  3. I have a daughter too and I realise it is so imp for us to set the right examples for her.
    Well written ! Congrats !!

  4. Excellent! Congrats for making your way to Top 7!