“I am a very homely and educated girl. My parent supported me in getting formal education, as I am the girl child. I have been brought up with good family values, and I dream of a nice, supportive life partner after marriage,” says 32-year-old Hina*. But things didn’t quite go according to her plan. She tells me about “the worst phase of [her] life“, where she was constantly told she had not brought dowry. “From the day I entered at my in-laws’ house, I tried to do all kinds of household chores to please my husband and mother in-law. I try doing it to the best of my ability. But I honestly don’t know what went wrong. After a few days, my mother in-law started berating me for being dark-skinned, and saying ‘Gori bahu aur dahej chaheyee aur tum kuch bhi nahi layee (I wanted a fair daughter-in-law and dowry, and you have brought nothing).’ She further stated, in a very pain-stricken voice, that her in-laws usually say ‘Tum to kaali ho aur tumhe yehan laa kar bahut bari galti ki hain (You are black-skinned, and bringing you here was a big mistake)‘.
“Meanwhile I delivered a baby boy, and it give me strength. After the arrival of son maybe the torture will diminish, but it continued and my suffering has a no ending point. I was abuse every day for everything. I did not say anything, because I thought it may just add fuel to the fire, I didn’t tell my parents because I thought that they will feel very bad. However I adjusted with all my emotions torn out in the three years that I faced all kind of brutal abuse.”
With no ray of hope, she finally shared her prolonged suffering with her parents, who tried every possible way to men her relationship with her husband. “I cried, refused to eat, and shunned everyone,” she says. “I was so depressed and shattered by the emotional abuse that it was affecting my health.” She tells me that all her husband does is belittle her and tell her she is wrong.
Frustration, helplessness and utter loneliness, she says she felt so scared, in spite of living with people who were supposedly meant to care for her. “The suffocation and toxic relationship worsened day by day, so I decided to move out and come to my mother home,” she says with tears rolling down her cheek.
The constant tension and criticism hurled at her made her blame herself. She stopped talking to anyone, suffering silently, and never sharing her story with anyone. With her anxiety in a full swing, bringing back all the memories of the past, she reveals all of this to me after she has taken her first counselling session.
“I hated my existence, but there is a light of hope: I can live because of my son, otherwise I think there is nothing left to live for.”
She heard about a one stop centre through an NGO’s outreach session that was held in her lane. When the team spoke about the services at their clinic, she thought, “This is a place where I can seek help and support.” When she met the counsellor, she relayed her story: “Trauma and the loss of hope manifest from the abuse translated into depression and phobia.”
Speaking to me, she continues, “I am extremely lucky that I have an understanding mother who helped me to survive, and that I found a one-stop centre to rely on. First, in the counselling session, I was given emotional support and professional help to come out of the trauma. It was after these personal counselling sessions that I have been able to accept that this is not my fault.”
Soon, Hina became comfortable opening up and dared to speak about her past. She is now self-confident, and you can see it on her face.
After developing coping strategies to re-ignite her strength, she was able to see her future; beyond the dark side, she saw that life is always about moving forward, and never giving up. Today, she has graduated, and when she started start looking for job, she got one in the hospital.
“It took me a long time to come out of my shell and fight for my rights. I want justice for the suffering and pain during that period. Being a survivor, now I am to file a complaint against my husband, and demand compensation for the same,” she says confidently.
Hina tells me she is grateful for the NGO’s clinic and the counsellor for healing her and making her stronger. It is because of the guidance and care at the centre that she can now see the bright side of her life.