“Raise your level so high that even the sky has to spread its wings to protect you.”
Being a woman is the greatest challenge in our chauvinist society. A society that is an open forum of criticism, judgment and analytical theory and reflection of all these traits can be seen in every second individual you meet. Though we have started talking about equality and equal rights which are expected to be exercised by each person irrespective of their caste, creed or sex, that’s just not how things often work out.
I was once a victim of a ruthless incident. I was the subject of an ordeal, a victim to my perpetrators and a ‘bechari’ to my sympathisers. My marriage was chaotic. And there was no one interested in knowing my side of the story.
So, marriage is, of course, a prestigious and honourable affair involving two families. Five years hence, our relationship is now broken and in its third year of a court case. This is my story. I was married in the year 2010. The wedding was performed according to Hindu rituals and supplemented by dowry (which is still a right of the groom’s family). Everything was going absolutely fine. But, after a month things changed drastically. It was as if my in-laws and husband were waiting for the niceties to end. They were suddenly not supportive. Instead, they became more dominant and forbidding. My husband and I have an age gap of seven years, so the family’s high-end expectations were way beyond my reach. My life was limited. I was confined to my room and handled daily chores. I was a print journalist before my marriage but I couldn’t pursue my passion due to the domination of my in-laws.
My husband was the only-but-adopted child. His mother was the central figure of the house and never allowed him to work on his own terms. He only assisted his father at their restaurant. At certain times, the hours of privacy shared between my husband and my mother-in-law was too awkward. My husband devoted most of his time to his mother behind a locked room where my entry was constrained. He never had the confidence and wisdom to decide and balance his responsibilities of being a husband, a son and later a father.
In 2012, I was blessed with a baby girl. I thought that my prevailing condition with my in-laws would get better but it was just a notion and a sedentary thought. My condition was getting worse day by day. On every petty issue, I was treated like an outsider for weeks on end when my in-laws wouldn’t even talk to me. The burden of this mental torture was unbearable. The condition was such that I was forced to believe that I was a lunatic and no good to the family. I started questioning my abilities and skills. His mother at the time of our fights used to grip my mouth and shut it hard so that I was unable to scream and call for help. She then thrashed me hard. Such moments quashed my strength and desire to live. At that time, my only concern was my daughter so I had no way out but to bear through the torture. I certainly realised that education or knowledge is of no worth if you don’t have the courage to fight for your life.
My mother-in-law repetitively threatened me and made every possible effort to negate my presence in the house. She not only controlled my husband but my father-in-law too, they both were mere puppets in her hands. I gave five years trying to salvage and save my marriage.
I was struggling with everything and my mind was bogged with numerous thoughts at the same time. There was nothing left of my self-confidence. Every day was grey and every moment was bleak. I couldn’t stop wondering, “Why was this happening with me?”
My parents were not really aware of what I was going through. I made every possible effort to make my husband realise my condition but unfortunately, he never bothered.
In October 2015, I suffered a paralysis stroke both in the right and left side of the body which slurred my speech. This was a direct result of my acute depression. The moment couldn’t have been more tragic. I was under observation and underwent multiple procedures of MRI and tests. Initially, I was being observed by a neurologist but as my condition worsened, a psychiatrist had to step in. My three-and-a-half-year-old daughter was devastated to say the least. My family lodged an FIR during my stay at the hospital. During the process of investigation, the police didn’t cooperate with me or my family. My husband’s family were supported and aware of each and every step. I faced a lot of challenges, rejections, insult, and disappointment from our law enforcement unit. My family was constantly posed with offensive actions and trial.
My husband and his lawyer misbehaved with me and my family in the court and also misused the power of RTI against my parents who are government employees. In this despair, I lost all my hopes in the system.
My husband and his family even lied to us about his educational qualification. He qualified to be a CA before marriage, but to my utter shock during the court trial, I got to know that he is only a high school pass out. He dared to forge his documents, and the same were used in various reputed institutions for my daughter’s admission and for his other fraudulent activities. My in-laws were involved in other court cases too. They had a history of being crooks. I lodged another complaint about his forgery. It’s been a year, and the police have taken no action against this abusive behaviour. They are trying their best to beat the time and make my case null and void.
Now, after more than two years of separation, my husband has filed for a guardianship court case and is asking for my daughter’s sole custody. In all these years and after the registration of the case, he did not once try to contact or show interest in me or my daughter. Isn’t it ruthless to use a child for meeting his end and harming the interest of a child who has already been through so much trauma?
It is unacceptable, appalling and disheartening to go through such crime and agony. How far does a woman have to go to fight for her rights?
Women who choose to speak out against domestic violence are often called names and looked down by the society. And it amuses me that the men are still not held accountable in most cases for their actions.
My life in the recent past has been daunting, but somewhere the light of hope is still there in me. While fighting in these adversities, I found a path of glory and peace. Today, the courage that I and my daughter have instilled is because of our practice of chanting the mantra ‘Nam-myoho-renge-Kyo.’ I am a staunch follower and believer of Nichiren’s Buddhism. I have handled enough of hue and cry and still facing it upfront. I have not given up and I never will. I demand justice for my daughter and me.
The phase which I encountered is a learning for every woman who is undergoing similar challenges in her matrimonial life. It’s important to understand the urgency and sensitivity of the violence. Speak and act bravely and take the right action, it’s your life.
Do not hesitate to chase your life’s goals. This journey called life will never be smooth. Fight against the odds of the society and norms and stand out in the crowd. Be the change, you want to see.
Domestic violence is a criminal offence. To unfold the route, we need to take bold steps to advance. Fight till the end and fear nothing. You are and will be a conqueror. In the end, I would like to quote my mentors Daisaku Ikeda’s’ words which always brim in my heart and give me the zest to fight:
“May you live in such a way
that other will say,
‘She is a woman
who, though ordinary,
somehow stands out,
and has a beautiful story to tell.'”