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“He started hitting and abusing me as slut, and said go and sleep with anybody, but bring money, I want money from you, that’s why I am allowing you to step out of this house.”
It’s 9.00 in the morning. Astha is offering prayer in her Pooja Room. Suddenly door bell ring. While chanting mantras she comes out of the pooja room and opens the door. Her maid Malti is standing there. Astha just gives her a look with a smile and turns her back towards her. She continues chanting and moves forward towards pooja room. Malti comes inside closing the door behind her.
They both busy themselves in their work, Astha in prayers and Malti in her daily household chores. Almost after 20 minutes, Astha comes out of pooja room. She looks for Malti, who is sweeping the floor. Astha offered her prayers to the sun from balcony and come inside the room. This time Malti is in another room.
Almost 30 minutes pass and they haven’t seen each other face to face.
“Malti, would you like to have tea?” Astha asks Malti from the kitchen. She asks again thinking that she must not have heard her voice. No response. She pours water with ginger in the pan and put it on gas to give it a boil. She moves towards the room where Malti is working. “Malti, do you want some tea…?” as she uttered these words, she stopped short, staring at Malti’s face. “Oh! My God. Today again! Again he hurt you!? Why are you tolerating all this torture? Why couldn’t you stop him?”
Malti inhales a deep breath and starts crying. “Didi, what should I do? Sometimes I feel that I should end all this mess either by killing him or myself. But the only thing that is stopping me is my concern about our child. He doesn’t think about anything and anybody, neither about me nor our child, and if I do stop thinking too, then what…? The whole day the only thing he does is drink alcohol and spend all his money on misdoings. And after the money goes off, he asks me to pay off his loans. Didi, from where should I pay off his debt? The money I earn after working in 3/4 houses like you, get spent in ration and other emergency needs. But he…” she starts crying again. Astha puts her hand on her back to sympathise with her. “What happened today?” She asks Malti.
“Didi, yesterday he asked for money again. I told him that everything gets finished for household necessities, and still, three days of this months are left. He said go and ask for advance payment, but I want money. I said, why don’t you go out and work for money. I will not ask for any advances. He started hitting and abusing me as slut and said go and sleep with anybody, but bring money, I want money from you, that’s why I am allowing you to step out of this house.”
With that, she takes deep hiccups and starts crying. Astha pulls her into her arms. Astha makes her sit on a stool in the kitchen. She pours some water in the glass and offers her to drink. There is the only noise of Malti’s crying hiccups. Astha makes some tea and offers her a cup with some biscuits. Have tea and calm down, Astha says to Malti.
Almost after 20 minutes…
“Malti, let’s go to the police and file a complaint against him.”
“No Didi, nothing concrete will come out of it. So many women from my colony went to the police station to file complaints against their husbands, but by the next day, they are out on the request of those women only. Didi, he beats me, abuses me, but when he uses words like slut, then it goes beyond my tolerance. That time I wish to do whatever he is saying about me. Otherwise too, he never ever thought and respected about my body and my feelings. He imposes himself on me whenever and whichever way he wants, neglecting my wishes. I swear Didi, sometimes I think of giving sense to whatever name and blame game he is playing. Being a woman and that too a poor one is a curse. I think prostitutes have a better life than us. At least whatever they are doing is by their choice. We housemaids are not doing anything like this and still, we are getting a bad name in our homes and society.”
“No, Malti it’s not your mistake, it’s his. In fact, it’s about men. When they have nothing to push back the spirit of a woman they do a character assassination. That is, if she is going out or achieving something of her own choice, it’s all by some wrong means. It’s about patriarchy. If he himself goes out and does whatever unethical he wants to do, it is his right. Oh! yes, he is a stud then. A macho man. The MAN, you know. (pathetic) But for women this society has only bad adjectives, to blame her and to raise the question of her character and dignity.”
“Didi, I want to confess something.”
And then there is silence for a minute.
Malti starts again.
“Didi, I belonged to a middle-class orthodox family living in a small village in MP. I was the 3rd amongst the five children of the family. I had two brother and two sisters. I was the owner of a beautiful and curvy body, because of which I became arrogant. Males whether young or old, praised me to impress me which made me more arrogant and selfish. My husband was our neighbour, who was 4 years elder than me and wanted to be an actor. He showed interest in me and at the same time aroused the desire in me to be an actress. And one day we both ran away from our houses and came here. Here he introduced me to some people saying they belong to the industry. Truly speaking Didi, that time I was so deeply engrossed in my arrogance and proud … The first time I had sex, it was pleasurable for me. I enjoyed it. And when I got money, without giving it a second thought I accepted it… and that made me totally blind and more arrogant.
Now I started enjoying this very profession of mine. I forgot about why I came here. I was not at all feeling guilty about anything. And my husband, he praised me more and more, so that he can benefit things from me. I was giving him money and pleasure both. By now I started working as an extra in some movies also. At that time I was unaware about the class of movies. Then suddenly one day I came to know that I am pregnant. He abused me, but instruct me to keep quiet. He told me to go with abortion. But I don’t know why I refused. He tried everything to lure me but … I remained strict over that issue. By that time, I was aware of some of the facts, so I increased my charges. As he saw more money flooding in he became greedy and he proposed to marry me. Didi, I was in love (Ahh! I don’t know if it was love or infatuation) with him since my childhood. And this way, we got married and he became my husband.
Didi, I know I had time to earn and save money until my baby bump was seen. So, I increased my number of clients and my charges. I started saving money too. Exactly after 6 months, my baby bump started showing. As I already knew, all clients went on a back foot. I hadn’t blamed anyone for my pregnancy, but still, because of their so called status and reputation, they all showed their backs. As I told you I was already ready for this change. But, one Sahab, I think he started loving me, he hadn’t left me. I kept on going to him.”
She stops for a while look at Astha. “Didi, I am telling you all this, and after which you will start hating me. You too will doubt my honesty and character. Didi, you are right in your place. Didi, I want to share all my pains and sorrows with you. I don’t know why today, but, I want to share. Didi, in this whole one year you had been like an elder sister to me. You gave me love and respect. I know things will change after this but, I don’t care. I can’t hide my life’s facts from you. I will feel relieved after that. Let me be honest, at least for once.”
Astha remains quiet; she just gives a glancing look to Malti and again starts peeling vegetables.
Malti starts again, as by now she is much aware of the meaning of her silence. “Didi then my boy came into the world. My husband was having his old high time so he was enjoying his life. Because of my pregnancy, my body became shabby and clumsy and my clients started showing less interest in me. But that sahib he remained sturdy. Once I asked him, that as I no longer looked the same attractive woman, unlike my other clients why he had not left me. He told me that he started falling for me the day he saw me. But he saw love for someone else in my eyes. LOVE… by far I had forgotten about this word. He loves me so he wants me near him, he wants to marry me too, but foolish me. I was trapped in so called love for my husband. When I told this to my husband, he didn’t care. He was only interested in money from my side, not anything else.
Didi, three years passed and that sahib and I kept that relationship on. By now we had become soul partners. And one day, he told me that he was going abroad as he had got some project there. He asked me to come with him, but, I told him that like you love me unconditionally I love my husband that way too. I wish you all the very best for your life. As he left the place my life took a u-turn. Misfortune came my way. Now nobody was there to give me money. Husband was already a lazy spoiled brat and my son was growing up. That sahib’s love had totally changed me, now I didn’t want to earn money by that profession. I promised myself that I will not look back and will earn money from good means. I looked for work as a house maid. And then I got myself registered with an agency, which later sent me to your place. I decided to live a life of an honest and decent person.
And you know I did exactly the same.
But, Didi my husband remained the same. He never ever loved me, but, I did love him, but now I doubt if I do. Whenever he imposes himself on me, I only fantasise about that sahib; his face comes in front of my eyes. I only think about him while making love with my husband. But one day, while enjoying I uttered that sahib’s name, and from then till now… ”
A long pause.
“Didi, I don’t have any regret. I don’t get anything vital from my married life. I tried to live a happy and contented life, but what I get is domestic violence, both physical and mental. Whenever he abuses me, I think of going back to that old bad world, where whatever I do was my choice. It’s my body, and I have all rights reserved over it. My body is not meant to be used as an object. That sahib had loved me and my body the way I want. He had respected my feelings with the love that I deserved. So many times he had touched my soul without touching my body. I have not done anything wrong in fantasizing about him instead of my husband. Didi, his love is the only reason I am here and living my life, without preferring my previous life. He taught me what is love and how to love. I am indebted towards him. It’s only because of his love that I am standing by my husband.”
Malti wants to stand up but loses balance. She looks at Astha who was busy in her doing. Malti knows that she is upset over the revelation. She tries to stand up again and silently does all the work.
Almost after an hour, she says, “Didi, I am going.”
There’s silence in the house. Like everything has stopped over the revelation of Malti. Does it really matter? Why, wonders Astha to herself, is she disappointed with the truth? And that too when she thinks that she is a feminist. Where is her part of feminism gone? Is it only for the elite or the unknown people, or just for social recognition? No, she tells herself.
“Didi please close the door, I am going.”
“Tomorrow, try to come early, I have an appointment with my doctor.” Astha walks towards the door while saying this.
“Didi, you are a very kind lady. Didi, I am so sorry. Didi, trust me I won’t let you down.”
“Stop crying. I understand whatever you had gone through was tough to live up to. It’s not your mistake. It’s all about our society and its hypocritic standards. The man is allowed to do all the misdeeds, whether to abuse women, beat her, impose himself on her, everything is so correct and fine for him. But if a woman tries to live her life her way with her own choices, even thinks for a second, then she is a floozie. In my view, you are not wrong. You have all the rights to live your life your way. And talking about the matter of trust, it been a year you are working here and I have seen you closely. A good deed can be done by single hand but for a misdeed… it needs two to clap.
Stop blaming and hurting yourself. Start living your life and be the woman of your own good deeds and choices. There is no need to be a victim of domestic violence. Think and make up your mind. We’ll file a complaint against him if you want. I’ll accompany you. Once he goes to jail, he’ll learn his lesson. He’ll be out of his hangover and fantasies.”
A loud laugh surrounds the foyer. They both look into each other’s eyes. Malti’s eyes saying Thanks to Astha and Astha’s giving an assurance to Malti that everything will be fine. Malti has a new shine in her eyes, the shine of a relief, after a self-proclaimed confession. And Aastha learnt a new lesson of life.
Image source: pixabay
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