Mar 8, 2011

Same Story - Different Endings (NaBloPoMo Post #8)

Story 1
Reema sat on the bed crying. Manish stood next to her trembling with rage. The belt was still in his hand. “So you want to go to see your parents. How dare you” He said. “But it’s my brother’s marriage” she spluttered.” I have to attend it”. “You leave this house and I’ll break your legs” he thundered.
After he left Reema tried to pull herself together. Her son and her daughter stood by the door, fear written large on their faces. She got up and went to the kitchen. She could feel the servants’ eyes on her, filled with pity. She drank some water, came back to her room, locked herself in the bathroom and dialed her mother’s number from her mobile. “Mummy” she sobbed as soon as she heard her mother’s voice, “they are not letting me come for Ashu’s marriage! Mummy Mummy, he hit me again today” There was silence and shock on the other side. Then - “What to do beta. If it’s not in your fate to attend your brother’s marriage so be it. You belong to that house now, you have to listen to what they say “. Stunned Reema couldn’t find words to say anything. Her parents had directly and indirectly told her many times to bear her lot. “After all we are a well known family in Amritsar. What will happen to our status if you come back home to us! How will we show our face in society?” “Is your status more important than my life” Reema had wanted to scream. But had kept quiet.
So the years rolled by. The domestic violence ceased when her parents threatened to complain to the police but the mental torture continued. Reema's parents were not unduly concerned. After all he was not beating up their daughter. She was well fed and cared for, what else did she want ?Reema was not allowed to visit her parents, call them even, she could not step out of the house alone and was taunted about everything she did. Reema often thought of breaking free, of running away. Even if she couldn’t go back to her parents she could always move in with one of her friends till she found a job. She was a trained teacher and it wouldn’t be difficult to find a job for herself. But Reema couldn’t will herself to leave. She was terrified of what society would say and what her poor parents would have to go through. And she didn’t want her kids to grow up without a father. Whatever sort of father he was, at least there was a male presence in the house. So Reema continued to adjust and accommodate, resigned to her fate.

Today, she is a broken woman. In her youth she was controlled by her husband, in her old age she is controlled by her son, who having seen women so ill treated in his house, assumes that this is the right way to treat women. He has no respect for his mother let alone his wife. Reema has no confidence, no self respect and no money to her name. Her daughter was married off as soon as she completed her BA into a rich business class family. She was told the same thing as Reema was – that getting married into a status family should be enough to keep her happy. Sometimes Reema wonders if her and her children’s life would have taken a different turn had she dared to assert her rights.


  Story 2
Veena sat huddled near the charpoy, her body wracked with sobs. Her arms hurt and welts were appearing where Suresh, her husband had hit her. Blood oozed out from her cut lip. Her two daughters, Kavita, six and Savita all of three sat whimpering nearby. Veena waited till Suresh had left the room and then slowly got up and gathered her crying daughters in her arms, trying to soothe them. Her mind went back to the reason for this recent beating. She had plucked up enough courage to say that she wanted Kavita to go to school. Admittedly it was hardly a school, just a few rooms with a tumbledown roof and two teachers, but at least her daughter had a chance of education there, better than sweeping floors and washing utensils. Suresh had refused pointblank and told her that if she wanted her daughter to do something, she better take her to work with her and get her started on some menial task. “That way she can bring in some money. If you couldn’t have given me a son, at least make sure these daughters of yours bring in some money to pay for their keep.”He had said.
This was not Veena’s first beating. The reasons may have been different, but the anger was always quick to come. Anything from delay in bringing tea, to refusal to satisfy his demands in bed were reasons for a beating. Till now she had submitted to them mutely. She had tried revolting, even gone to her parents but they had told her pointblank that they couldn’t help her, her brother too had refused to let her come back, worried about supporting her and her two daughters.” Your life is with your husband now “they had told her categorically and dismissed her pleas for help.
As she sat trying to comfort her daughters, Veena decided that she had to give her daughters a chance to lead better lives. She wanted to give them a chance to grow up in a happy peaceful environment, away from this hell. “My life might be finished, but theirs is just beginning” She thought resolutely. So that night, once her husband had passed out in a drunken stupor, Veena gathered the meager savings that she had hid from him, took her two daughters by their hand and fled home. She reached the station and took the first train leaving. It was going to Chandigarh. She reached Chandigarh at 6 in the morning, shivering equally from fear and the cold. She left the station with her daughters in tow and went to the first residential colony she could see and started asking for work. None came her way. Night fell and she bought some roti and sabzi from a local shop and fed her kids. That nights all three of them sat huddled under the shutters of the closed shops. The next morning she got talking to a few riskshaw wallahs who told her the best place for the homeless was the local Gurudwara. So that is where she went. They ate at the gurudwara and at night slept in the long hall meant for the homeless. During the day she walked all over the city looking for work. On the third day, a local dhabha hired her to wash their dirty utensils and sweep the shop every morning. After she got her first salary, Veena shifted to a small room that was more like a thatched hut. It was far from her place of work but it was cheap. Every day she brought her daughters to work and they played near her while she washed other people’s dirty utensils. Finally after a few months when she had some money saved, she took Kavita to the government school and got her admitted there.
A few years passed and Savita joined her sister in the school. Veena continued working at the Dhabha, but the job was tiring and back breaking. Now that she was more confident of her bearings, she stated looking for an easier job. A teacher at the school her daughters went to told her that a private school nearby needed an ayah for the small kids. She applied and was accepted. Now she had a full time job with benefits and finished work the same time as her daughters finished school. She took up extra work of repairing clothes in the evenings. Her first customers were the teachers in her school. The years rolled by. The daughters finished school and entered a vocational school. Kavita chose to learn nursing and Savita to learn dress making.

Now Veena is retired. She owns small two bedroom room house in mohali, a small town near chandigarh. Kavita is a nurse in PGI .Savita stitches clothes from home and one day plans to open her own tailoring shop. Veena is content with the way things have turned out.

These two stories are based on true incidents. Be it an urban educated women or a rural uneducated one, emancipation of women can only work if she herself gathers the courage to stand up and fight for her rights. Sometimes all that is needed is courage to take that first small step.

Today is Womens day - We dont need appreciation mails from people thanking us for the work we do and the sacrifices we make. What we need is equal rights, equal opportunities and equal freedom.

10 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I liked the second story!:)..

    'Initiation' is what can bring wonders to anyone..so be it repressed women..unprivileged out-castes..or poor...

    Well enunciated!:)

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  3. @Sharad - yes, sometimes all we need to do is take that first step !

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  4. How did I miss these stories!!? Loved them! Shared them on Buzz. You can submit them for Women's Web's Feminspiration contest.

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  5. Lovely. I have seen both these types of cases, they are more common than one thinks. More often than not, all it takes to change your circumstances is one small step at a time, and a strong resolve

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  6. "....emancipation of women can only work if she herself gathers the courage to stand up and fight for her rights"

    How true!

    Ruchira, why haven't you used paragraphs in your stories?? That would be easier for reading as well give a better impact. :)

    I absolutely agree with your last sentence: We don't need appreciation mails from people thanking us for the work we do and the sacrifices we make. What we need is equal rights, equal opportunities and equal freedom.
    Yes!!!!

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  7. @IHM - Thank you so much ! I have sent thsi post for the contest !
    @PhoenixRitu - yes a little bit of determination is all you need to change things !
    @Shail - Thank you ! I get seriously annoyed with the mails I get on womens day appreciating the "sacrifices" we make !
    Have used paragraphs now ! Thanks for pointing it out ! :)

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  8. That's a really powerful post, Ruchira. Thank you so much for it.

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  9. @sue - you are welcome ! womens rights is something i feel strongly about !

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  10. Very very thought provoking post. You drove the point home!

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