*Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence*
Poornima was married in 2010 at the age of 29 (seen as too late in a town like Satara). Although she was a lecturer at one of the engineering colleges in Pune, it did not suffice to find a groom for her early in her life, apparently because she was not fair, tall and had a blunt nose. All the features are exactly opposite to those expectations described in matrimonial ads.
While growing up listening to the taunts from family, relatives and friends about her “average” looks all her life, what she aspired for was a handsome husband. Having found such a person, she decided to marry him. However, just a few days before the marriage, she was asked if her vagina was pink enough and whether she was a virgin, which she thought she (un)fortunately was.
Somehow, it didn’t feel like an absurd question, since she had done all that was necessary to make herself a virtuoso in virginity, and passing in this exam was very important for her and her family, her prospective handsome husband, and his parents, everyone’s extended family and rest of “chaar log”.
But even after passing the virginity test with merit in the general category, the “handsome virgin” man (household employer after you get upon highlighting virginity in the main life exam) started doubting her meritorious character. Any minute late from college would result in her having to face his derogatory questions, “Who are you seeing?”, “Who is he?”, “What were you doing so late in college?”
Soon enough, all such regular commotions converted from verbal assault to physical assault.
She started staying away from him, with her mother and father and did her job travelling 4 hours a day. By then, she had gotten pregnant, and like a majority of parents, her parents also asked her to keep the baby as the only hope for her husband to change a little.
After 9 months, the husband visited to see if the child was really his. Upon seeing the facial features that were similar to his, he kind of accepted the baby. Unfortunately, the acceptance of the baby didn’t help stop the physical and verbal assaults.
Poornima had to take care of the child and was disturbed so much that she could not focus on herself or her career. She kept trying to match up with her husband. The thoughts of separation kept occurring.
She also complained once at the police station and the women’s cell. The procedures were so lengthy that she gave up. It solved nothing but added to her assaults, “How dare you complain against me?”
She, hoping things would normalise, stayed with her husband. Her child was enrolled in the school too, but nothing changed. She and her child, now 10, kept moving from her parents’ place to her husband’s place. They would settle for a while. Tired of the husband’s assault, they would go back to her parents’ place.
The parents’ inability to emotionally support them and accept the marriage’s failure would force them to stay with her husband again. In this process, she lost all hopes in life. She lost her confidence to a level that she could not go out alone and talk to strangers. She felt she needed a man, and without him, she was nothing.
After many years, in 2017, she got herself admitted to an MBA course as the only hope to find a decent job and be independent of her toxic relationship. However, even after 2 years of completing her MBA, she does not have a job.
The pandemic came as a curse, adding to her hardships. She was locked down with her abusive husband. There was little relaxation in the lockdown with her parents. The child is also suffering.
Being an engineer and now an MBA, all she received is another subject for a derogatory remark: “Dekho itna padh likh kar bhi koi job nahi hai.”
Only education and being highly educated does not solve the problems. What we need to incorporate is skill development in education. What we need to do to empower women is provide constant support: emotional, financial, social.
There need to be more resources to help women who have had a career gap because of childbirth or any other reason. When the interviewer asked Poornima why she had a 10-year career gap, she did not have an acceptable answer in the job market or the confidence to portray herself as the warrior she is.
It’s the system to be blamed and not Poornima. It’s the societal system that, from an early age, makes women feel inferior based on their body features. It’s the education system that does not ensure Poornima is skilled to do or even find a job. It’s the existing culture that does not look at divorce as liberation but as a fault of the woman.
It’s the patriarchy that ignores the flaws of a husband and expects a woman to adjust, keep adjusting her entire life and forget that she herself is a different human being, irrespective of her family members.