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She hiccups as she nods, showing two fingers of her hand, that is, both her husband and son. I hug her and whisper, “Police… Complaint?”
Trigger alert: This has graphic descriptions of domestic violence, and may be triggering for survivors.
Translated from the original in Hindi by Sandhya Renukamba.
She is my neighbor. About sixty-five years of age. Husband, son, daughter-in-law and little grandson, I know her to have this small happy family.
She doesn’t know Hindi, or English very well, and I don’t speak Telugu, so often we just smile at each other when I catch her eye. Yes, sometimes hi-hello also happens. She tries to explain her words in two broken English words and I understand.
She is often seen walking the grandchildren outside the house, weeding the plants or cleaning the outside of her house.
Today my eyes meet hers while she waters the plants; she smiles but cannot hide the sadness of her eyes.
I ask, “Is everything okay?”
“Yes… yes,” she answers.
I’m about to turn back, when from behind me comes her voice, “Tea? Coffee? ”
I’m surprised. For the first time in so many months, she has invited me in for tea or coffee. I’m wondering what to say when she again speaks with some urgency, “Please!”
On reaching her house, she says, “Kuchendi!” (Which means sit in Telugu).
No one else is seen in the house. I gesture to ask for her grandson and others. She replies in a sad voice, “Mall.”
That is, all the people of the house have gone to the mall.
I ask, “You didn’t go?”
Her eyes cloud over. She suddenly grabs my hand and says, “Alone… lonely… sad… depression… Nobody cares.”
I press her hand softly and say, “Why depression? You should also go with your family.”
She begins to cry bitterly, “No family … nobody cares … I cannot speak.”
I try to calm her down, while she says, “I cannot speak to anybody.”
Holding a glass of water in his hand, I ask, “Why can’t you speak to them? After all they are your husband, you have your own son.
I am shocked at her answer, “They will get angry.”
And then she slightly slips aside her blouse from her shoulder, and I start as I see the red brown bruises.
I immediately ask, “Who did this? Your husband?”
She hiccups as she nods, showing two fingers of her hand, that is, both her husband and son.
I hug her and whisper, “Police… Complaint?”
She immediately tries to break away and says, “No police complaint.”
She is tries to get up again to go and make coffee, but I hold her hand… numb.
I think… is a woman’s life made only for being cursed?
Can someone, who is carried in her womb for nine months, raise his hand on his mother?
Has the husband with whom his wife spent her life, giving all, abandoned any sense of honour at the evening of her life?
Is an old mother-in-law just a babysitter for an educated daughter-in-law?
Are all relationships meaningless in the materialist era today?
How are we living in society?
I’m still trying to find answers to these questions but… the hope that I’ll get any answers is almost negligible.
Image source: a still from short film Amma / PocketFilms, YouTube
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