When The Same People Worship The Goddess And Abuse Women Behind Closed Doors

What is the typical life of a girl in India? If you are lucky, your birth is celebrated, and if not, it is merely endured and who knows what else?

Trigger Warning: Child Rape, Abuse, Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking.

As I try to type the right words to write this blog post, I find it a little hard to do so, which is usually not the case. But unlike any other topic, I get lost every time I have to write about women in general. I find a piece of myself every time I try to portray a character, be it fictional or write about reality because I feel, maybe I am not an expert in doing justice while writing about these women!

But then why is it so?

We come across so many writings from literally worshipping the role of a mother to giving credit to a wife for creating a proper household, and social media and TV ads showing daughters pampered from father’s love as they showcase the happy faces of ‘Papa ki Paris’ (daughters are often referred to as princess of their fathers). And in India, our festivals also revolve around worshipping feminine energy! Then the question is, why is it difficult to write about real stories?

Because probably in a world that is obsessed with perfection and has its own standards of beauty, it is difficult to write about the truth that is ugly! Will it be liked by the readers? Will it find acceptance? I do worry!

But has truth ever worried about all these factors? So, I decided to write about two such instances, which probably will be difficult for me to forget. And, sometimes when I close my eyes, these stories do pop up in my brain.

Trapped in a situation of no return

It was probably during the dreaded Mumbai rains that I had somehow managed to reach my working women’s hostel after an arduous local train journey from work. As I entered my hostel. I ran towards the dining hall as I was dying of hunger.

The dining space used to be our daily meet-up place where we could meet other working women who stayed on different floors or the old building (yes, the hostel had two buildings and I used to stay in the new building) as it was never possible to meet them any other time of the day!

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So, as I rushed to get my seat and signalled with one of my hands to one of the bhaiyyas (what we called the servers) to get my dinner plate without any delay, one of the girls from the old hostel building came and sat adjacent to me. She was someone who had just moved in. She had dove-like eyes and a very earthy dressing sense.

What attracted me to her was her heartfelt smile every time she spoke with me. With cotton salwars and her long hair braided tightly, she would walk with a confidence that gave her very ordinary, homely looks, a distinctive feature of her own.

So, when the food arrived at our tables and our hungry tummies compelled us to shove a few morsels of hot roti and sabzi into our mouths first, we smiled at each other. We both were almost drenched in the rain, but were so famished that we didn’t feel like spending any more time going to our rooms and getting changed!

I remember asking her about her day and the moment she said, it was a tough day for her especially as she had to visit the infamous Kamathipura red light area, and would be doing so for the next fifteen days as per her assignment.

The moment I heard the word ‘Kamathipura’, I sat up straight! Seeing doubt and fear in my eyes, she laughed out loud and introduced herself as working for a local NGO that focused on women’s welfare. I recall her sharing a few stories that had a deep impact on my naive mind back then. When she had shown me a picture of a very beautiful girl, hardly in her twenties, who was sold to the Kotha (brothel) by her own father for a mere twenty thousand rupees, I could not believe what I was hearing with my own ears! The world seemed a shade darker to me from that day!

After many years, when my own little sister grew up to work for one of the leading NGOs in India, I got a closer perspective when she had to visit many such distressed sites during her post-graduation internships.

There used to be secret chambers, where any girl trying to run away was literally charred to death. In those places, being raped every night was a norm, till one learns to surrender to the fact that your own body, made of flesh, bones & blood is not even yours. But still, that very place had dreams, ambitions, and hopes in the hearts of those so-called ‘tawaifs’ (local word for sex workers) to make a better tomorrow for themselves, to try to get their daughters out of the same trade, despite death threats! After hearing such true stories, my understanding and respect for such women had gone up by many levels!

Is it not strength, to withstand so much pain and still want to progress? I wondered why is there never a word coined for men who visited brothels? I wondered why do we look down upon such unfortunate women who, despite their unwillingness, go through death-like situations, night after night? I wondered what would happen to the number of rape cases if these brothels were wiped out?

Furthermore, I wondered how many families (the so-called Indian joint families) will remain intact if these places do not exist? I wondered, how can these distressed women have the strength to drink so much poison belonging to the society that calls itself modern! I still wonder!

So, when we talk about difficulties, I believe our problems are minuscule compared to what these strong women endure. And I aspire that we, as a civilized society give them the dignity of a living human being with proper health care facilities and at the least, liveable conditions!

The ‘happily married’ Indian woman

What is the typical life of a girl in India? If you are lucky, your birth is celebrated, and if not, it is merely endured. And if you are lucky, you get the chance to get educated and if not, you are always taught to sacrifice for the ‘preferred shehenshahs’ (preferred male child) of the family.

You are taught that being married at a perfect age is the best, advised to be a devoted wife, and a dutiful daughter-in-law and become the epitome of sacrifice after having children right after marriage and be a ‘paraya dhan’ and ultimately forget your own house, and that’s how you bring glory to everyone!

Really, is it that easy? I can only laugh in disbelief when I think about the sad reality that many women face in actuality!

The single mother who brings up her child all alone, the young widow whose life gets shattered and who picks up her life from pieces, the divorced woman whom this society never fails to taunt and belittle, the separated wife who is looked down upon for not tolerating her husband’s extramarital affair, the opinionated unwed daughter who feels like a burden on this society… and the list goes on!

Recently, I came across a woman who shared her own ordeal with me. She is young & beautiful, owns a salon, and to the outside world looks as if she is leading a blissful married life. Even I had thought so. I came to know the reality only when she described that despite having a love marriage, her dreams were crushed just after getting married.

She used to be a housewife and probably that was an eyesore because till today she does not understand the changed behaviour of the man whom she once loved! She had revolted when she was mentally tortured, and physically abused. But when she felt a little hesitation from her own parents to take her away during her pregnancy, she decided to walk through this path of hell for her child. She vowed to endure every hardship. Love had long died in her relationship at the very moment when respect had been lost between both of them.

She slowly got trained for becoming a beautician and opened her salon with her meagre savings and a little help from her sister and step by step, she grew.

Of course, this too had its repercussions, when she faced resistance from her in-laws. It was only when she started contributing financially to her in-laws every single month, without fail, did the interference subside. But the love, the harmony, the so-called bliss in her marriage never returned.

When asked about her choice, she promptly replied:

“Tell me didi, how can I love the man who deceived me to believe that he felt any closeness for me? How can I respect a man who has slapped me in front of all? How can I call a man, a man, who never has the spine to take a stand for me even though everyone else is wrong about me? I do not even know where he spends his nights sometimes, even though I am his wife! And about me, I have made peace with my loneliness by becoming a workaholic. I sustain this relationship only for my daughter. I wish she becomes someone, someday!”

As I was leaving her salon, I could only give her a tight hug, but say nothing!

So, writing about the struggles of women is not easy because they are invisible in nature! A woman creates life, nurtures bonds and is considered the glue of the family, and has the power to withstand pain and difficulties. But does that mean that it is wise to let her go through such ordeals?

Is it okay to use her feminine softness to make someone believe that they are stronger than her, just because they can overpower her physically? Why is worshipping female idols in temples and at the same time maligning women behind closed doors so normal?

I do not know if women will ever be treated as equals! We are far from that as a nation! But I feel privileged to be able to write about such women who deny giving up despite all odds, who deny being objectified, and who, no matter what, inspire us through their invisible struggles!

Kudos to women who fight silent battles every day! May your spirit never die!

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Image source: Pixabay

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About the Author

Chinmayee Gayatree Sahu

Author of two books - (First - FivePetals; Second - Heartfelt symphonies both available on Amazon), Chinmayee Gayatree Sahu completed her MBA in Marketing and went on to join the Corporate World. She worked as a Product Manager read more...

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