Saleha Begum, a middle-aged woman of about 42 years of age, works as a part-time maid in the Sivasagar town of Assam. She resides in a place called Disangmukh near the Disang River with her spouse and four sons. Originally, she hailed from a place known as Kharupetia of Darrang district of Assam.
Kharupetia is located at a distance of about 300 kilometres from Sivasagar town. This town is at a distance of about 84 Kilometers from the city of Guwahati. Most of the residents of this town are businessmen. It is one the biggest markets for vegetables and agricultural crops in Assam. Vegetables grown at Kharupetia and its neighbouring areas are supplied to various parts of the North Eastern states.
She belongs to the Bengali Muslim community. She was married off at the age of 15 years by her parents. She had never been to any formal educational institution but can read the Quran – which is a religious compulsion for the community. Saleha and her family had migrated from Bangladesh a long time back.
Her husband, Alimuddin Ali, works as an apprentice under a mason. But he is a lazy man, for which his employer refuses to take him to work. Alimuddin is not a good person. If he earns a hundred bucks in a day, he spends the whole sum in consuming alcohol, or loses all the money on the gambling table.
Saleha is blessed with four sons, namely Nazim, Sahil, Tohid and Ramzan. Nazim is the eldest of her four sons, who works in a shop and earns pretty well. He does not look after his parents and has started living separately after he married a girl whom he loved. Being a mother, Saleha visits his son once in a semester or so.
Her second son, Sahil, has epilepsy. He is also a drug addict, and his addiction is getting worse day by day. Sahil often starts beating up his mother, abusing her with slangs.
Saleha works as a part-time maid in four houses where she does all kinds of domestic work, like cleaning, sweeping, dusting, washing clothes and utensils, etc.
Saleha earns ₹130 on a daily basis from her job, but her husband Alimuddin comes home drunk every night and snatches all her earnings – and drinks more liquor with that money. Saleha is even beaten up, mistreated and raped by her husband every night. Many a time she wakes up with scars, wounds and swollen body parts. Since she is a daily wage earner; she can’t help but work all day long with her aching body.
Alimuddin did not even spare Saleha when she was expecting Ramzan. He left her for months for another lady. She has been told many times by her employers that she should file a case against her husband for abusing and harassing her, both mentally and physically. But, Saleha being a vulnerable and illiterate woman, is hesitant in putting her husband in trouble, having lived with him for almost 20 years till now.
Saleha’s health has been deteriorating day by day. She conceived her first child at 15 and never got proper nutrition and care. To add to that, she goes through regular mental and physical agony.
Leaving aside all her troubles, Saleha manages every need of her family by tactfully saving her earnings. She is a very tolerant and strong lady, who has been working hard for her family despite the torture by her own husband and sons.
Names have been changed for confidentiality.
The author is a student at Tezpur University.