The statistics for crime against women have been on a rise in India. From rapes to domestic violence to trafficking, there's no respite in sight. While some of us living in the urban cities might live in oblivion and think that all these crimes happen in the rural areas or on the fringes of the city, we often oversee clear signs of abuse in our own homes.
A child gets sexually abused and no one comes to know because he/she hasn't been taught how to talk about it. A woman goes through years of domestic violence and brushes it away as a mild abrasion caused by falling or bumping in to a door. We choose not to see, even though our eyes are wide open. We lie.
Humans Of Bombay is a reservoir of moving stories, but some stories stand out more than the others. And one such story is that of this woman:
“ At 17, We met when we were at medical school. He started pursuing me and within a few months we were seeing each other — it was like a fairytale. I was one of the toppers of my class, had big dreams for myself and I’d been dating the man I loved. I realised later that his parents wanted him to marry a Marwari girl while I was Punjabi. They also wanted me to give up my education, but that’s something my parents didn't allow — so even though I completed my masters their condition for our marriage was that I would never work — I was so madly in love that I agreed to everything.
It started on the first night of my wedding when I didn’t bleed and he was convinced I wasn't a virgin — he tortured me the whole night accusing me of sleeping with someone else. After we returned from our honeymoon he beat me up because I bought a kohl pencil for my sister —this happened in front of his parents who agreed with him. I had to wash clothes, cook, clean but never work. They allowed me to go to my father in law’s clinic but only to dust his desk— I was given strict instructions to never attend to any patient.
After a few years I got pregnant and he sobbed because it was a girl — he accused me of not giving him a boy. He began to drink, woke up at noon everyday and went to work whenever he wanted, because his father handled everything.
I never told my parent’s any of this but I broke when I was pregnant for the 2nd time. I’d just returned from England and was trying to talk to him when he told me to get lost. I took my daughter with me to the hall to sleep when he came out drunk, accused me of brainwashing our daughter against him, sat on my stomach and beat me until my entire face was bleeding. I called my dad at 4 in the morning and his parents came too, but instead of stopping him, they said I must have done something to ‘provoke’ him. My parents said they would call the cops and that’s when he said, ‘I won’t beat you again but I will fuck your mind.’
That’s exactly what he did — after his father passed away he would drink from 8:30 pm until 7 am and gamble instead of paying our daughter's fees. At night, he would throw cold water on me and say ‘be thankful it’s water and not piss’, he would touch me wherever he felt like and call me all sorts of names in front of family and friends. My daughters were terrified, but 3 of us would sleep together and let him keep banging at the door. My older daughter is an athlete so we would wake up at 5 in the morning to go run at Juhu beach, while he was still drinking. Sometimes he would follow us. He would go upto my daughter in front of all her friends and say, ‘where the fuck is your mother…who is she fucking now?’ My daughter would try to calm him down and say that I was just walking with the other mothers.
The breaking point came when his verbal abuse passed onto my daughters. He started calling them sluts and whores and my older daughter had a nervous breakdown in school. I decided to leave him and when he came back home after being in rehab for the 4th time we decided to not let him in. Even after all this, I helped him get back on his feet, start practicing and even lent him my own money…but then he got me removed from the hospital where I was filling in for him while he had been drinking. Until today, he hasn’t paid for anything for my daughters... even though he has 3 clinics.
At first I didn’t know what to do but after 20 years I decided to open my own clinic —I didn’t want any form of dependence. I work round the clock - pay for the clinic and house expenses. That man has even taken a loan against my name and he refuses to give me a divorce until I leave the house that my father and him bought together. It’s been a dreaded 20 years, but my daughters have kept me going. They stick little notes on my wall saying ‘we are strong’ ‘we love you mom’ — and that has given me the strength to give them the life they deserve and finally be…free.”