It was a Sunday morning, the weather was confusing… cold enough to wear a sweater, but hot enough to sweat. I was boarding the metro to go to church.
As I entered the ladies’ metro coach, I found a seat, much to my surprise. The metro announcement speaker sounded, “Next station is Laxmi Nagar.” A 30-something lady rushed in to the coach, with her little daughter. She sobbed uncontrollably.
I wanted her to stop crying, and asked, “Where do you want to go?” Her tears fell down on her blue t-shirt and she said, “I’ll get down at Moti Nagar and take an auto. I can’t get down at the station near my parents’ place. My husband might follow me there.” Her daughter was hungry, and she gave her biscuits.
After a lot of prodding, she revealed how her husband beat her up that morning. 2-3 women came forward to comfort her, saying how her daughter would be affected by her. What no one understood was that the lady wanted to speak out about her problems. Seeing her crying, I tried hard to control my emotions. After a little hesitation, I told her she needs to be strong for herself. She nodded, still sobbing. A pause followed and she said, “I am a working woman. But, I never knew that I would face such a situation. I am going back to my parents’ place. I’ll never return to my husband.” Saying this, she wept again. Her daughter looked at her, understanding nothing. She held on to her doll.
For once, she stopped crying, and looked at me, saying, “This has been going on since 8 years. From the day I got married, he has beaten me, kicked me and abused me. I kept quiet all these years. After my daughter was born, I thought he’d change. But, the violence only continued. We didn’t give him the dowry amount as promised. His parents and brother force him to ask me for dowry. My husband is a good guy.”
I was stunned for a minute. Like an ‘adarsh’ wife, she found her abusive husband to be a good guy? I exclaimed, “The man who beats up his wife is never good at heart. He could’ve stood up against his family, when they demanded dowry.” She had nothing to say.
But she continued, “I’ve worked as a journalist with a magazine. I did two stories on women, one in Rae Bareilly and the other in Vrindavan. I thought I stood for women empowerment. But, today, he snatched away my mobile phone, broke the battery in to pieces, and tried to throw my daughter from the balcony. I stopped him; otherwise she would’ve been dead by now. He wasn’t letting us leave. Somehow, I ran away, taking her.” Saying this, she wept! I looked at the little girl. That innocent face made me wonder how any father could do such a thing. Aghast, I murmured, “He’s a monster.” Surprisingly, the little girl looked at me and smiled, as if she understood what I said.
The lady became paranoid and said, “I need police protection. He’ll come after us.” Some of us told her to lodge a complaint with the National Commission for Women (NCW), and that she would get adequate support. She nodded in relief. My station had arrived, I had to leave. She asked, “You’re getting down here?” I said, “Yes. I have to.”
I’ve read and heard many stories on domestic violence. I’ve read data, statistics and solutions on the same. But, for the first time in life, I came across a woman who shared with me her experience. It wasn’t a past incident for her; she was running away to safety.
I’ve always been told that a financially independent woman would never have to face domestic violence. Case studies are proving this wrong. And moreover, I met a woman who was a journalist and later joined a banking firm, and was violently abused. I am not saying that all men abuse their wives. And I also blame the in-laws for creating the entire ruckus! But, it still sends shivers down my spine, when I recount the details of her experience. Today, I am still hoping she’s fine. I am hoping that she’s found respite from her husband. I feel helpless, that I couldn’t do anything to help her out.
But, since that day, my approach towards women’s issues has changed. I am no longer getting into theoretical stuff on feminism. No, I am not saying this is unimportant. But, I’ve realised the need to sit and delve into the grass root problems surrounding discrimination against women.
So many women around us are getting hit and beaten up. What are we doing? It’s time we stop debating feminism with peers and just talk, talk, talk. It’s time we stop the blame-game. It’s time we stop misusing the word ‘feminism’ so much so that men get wary of talking to feminists, thinking they’re anti-men. It has also given rise to a term known as ‘feminazi.’
It’s time we stop debating feminism in air-conditioned rooms. Real action is needed. If one woman gets saved from her abuser by our efforts, women’s rights movements get a thrust forward. Women in urban and rural areas are victims alike.
I know my ‘lecture’ on feminism will be disliked by many. Some will criticise, some will just shrug it off. Some will understand, because they’ve got the same point of view. I don’t consider myself very knowledgeable in women’s issues, men’s issues, feminism, patriarchy, etc. I’m not even saying that I am now a champion of women’s issues. But, I’ve realised one important point – if we don’t identify with the real issues faced by many around us, this movement is not us getting anywhere.
By Sarah Jacob