I Will Survive

The months between November and February are difficult but the transition from January to February is particularly strenuous. This should have been the time of celebration of love but as February moves into Valentine’s day I am shuffling and dragging my feet, hoping with every ounce of faith in me to find a fast-forward button or an Einstein-Rosen bridge to help me move out of this dark, depressing and heart crushing period into bright sunlight where I can breathe freely.

Every trigger is painful during this period and the worst was a daily soap on an Indian TV channel which details the horrors of child marriage, rampart in North India. Even though the age of marriage might differ in my case with those in North India, the instances of torture are unfortunately very similar. It is the same story everywhere, abuse, molest, harass till such time the spirit and soul is broken beyond repair so that the girl cannot find an iota of strength to fight back.

Of the few who have dared to come out in the open with the horror stories, they believe that their counterparts living in the so-called modern cities of India, educated, financially independent and married well after the age of 18 years are better off. Sadly the reality is otherwise. Through decades, countless stories and horror tales of oppression have been testimony to the fact that PhDs and fat pay packages do not necessarily mean the right to be treated like a human being instead you are treated as a sex slave apart from a baby and money vending machine.

During the times I have a hearing in the court, the glimpses of numerous sad if not broken faces combined with heart breaking stories reported in the media every day, leave me depressed. But then again there are stories like these [Raging Angels] which bring hope to an otherwise frustrating situation. It is heartening to see women fighting back and making themselves self reliant.

A voice is rising [Insult after Assault] against centuries of oppression and humiliation. The voice is rising hopefully this time in unison not just to make the streets safe for women but also our homes. It is also about time a voice rises against the insulting character assassination defense lawyers use to their advantage on a daily basis in Indian courts.

This voice gives me the hope that when there is a will there is a way. This time we will not be tortured into silence. This time the mean and insulting words will not be enough to make us slink back into the corners of the house. This time we will come out and fight. This time we will survive.

This time I will not just survive but the live the life you so wanted to snatch from me and then, if you can at all, you will realize that I just enjoyed the best revenge ever.

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Security Provided by a Handbag

‘Who will give us money to eat?’

This was my question to my mother at the age of 3 when I saw my father leaving for an official tour. Despite countless reassurances from my mother who opened her handbag to show the money she had to provide for us during my father’s absence, I did not stop repeating the question till my father came back. My mother was a housewife in the early 1990’s and hence I always equated my Dad’s presence with safety and well being of our family both in emotional and financial terms.

This thinking was not surprising then for in a patriarchal society the power lies with the men because they earn, so any family without a man due to unforeseen circumstances is thought to be unstable, insecure and unhappy.  But something deeper entrenched itself in my mind and that was equating financial status with security and stability. Though over the years I managed to shake off this thinking by realizing the power of love for survival and also healing, the thoughts came back during my marriage where I was kept completely financially dependent on my ex and his family to prevent me from raising my voice or worse, walk out of the marriage. They also went to the extent of belittling me and portraying me to be unworthy of being given even paltry amounts.

So once again I am battling thoughts in my head which tell me that the more I work, the more I earn and the more secured my future is. I have also come to notice the change in my attitude in the times when I leave my house with or without my handbag. I have a certain spring in my step, confidence in my walk and a look as if everything is in my control when I have my handbag neatly tucked under my hand with my financial security in place.

The confidence grows when I recall the times I was berated simply because I was forcibly kept financially dependent in my matrimonial home. There are times when I cannot help but answer back in my mind, ‘Look at me now. I am earning and I am living for myself. More than anything else I can live my life according to the way I want and not bow down to anyone’s whims or fancies.’

So for the time being I am going to use the security provided by my handbag as a springboard to launch me forward into my life where the power to decide anything in my life, big or small, lies with me and not with anyone else simply because they can use my financial dependence as leverage.

Re-victimization of Women

The lawyer of three accused in the gang rape of a 23-year old medical student in New Delhi, Manohar Lal Sharma, has blamed the victim for the assault and said “respected” women don’t get raped. [Read further].

This attitude is commonplace in most patriarchal societies where as women we are first tortured and harassed and when we raise our voices we are tortured and harassed even more so that we are insulted to remain subdued to our male counterparts.

The Indian society is rife with many such instances where we have been taught that ‘respected’ women do not get raped, molested or divorced. It is such an attitude that allows every man, stranger or otherwise to comment not just on how we behave but our dress, attitude and also our sex lives. We are supposed to be virgins on the wedding night or else we are termed as women of loose character and we are also supposed to remain silent when we are beaten and battered because we ‘belong’ to our husband who has every right to do whatever he wants with us. If anyone thought that domestic violence is an issue of the lower classes and the uneducated must read this.

The society teaches us that we must equate our husbands’ beating and abuse with love. After all, only because he cares he takes time out to beat you and abuse you, right? This, being taught from childhood causes the self-image to be so distorted that the woman might not see anything wrong with the domestic violence and might even go to great lengths to protect the perpetrator of the violence. Judith Herman has written in detail about the victims of violence and abuse clinging to their abusers. It is this attitude on which the perpetrators capitalize to continue if not escalate the violence and abuse.

Victims of crime such as rape and domestic violence are often questioned about their dress and attitude in a way implying that their behavior or dress might have ‘invited’ the crime. What many fail to understand is that crimes against women like rape and domestic abuse are about having absolute control and power over the victim and her life and very rarely about her attitude or dress.

In India almost 65% of the crimes against women go unreported because most women fear being ridiculed or disbelieved by the legal authorities. The negative experiences associated with reporting a crime such as being ostracized from the society, being questioned time and again by lawyers and the police about what you were during the time of the incident and the preconceived notions that exist about victims are discouraging to the extent of living with the crime and not reporting it.

As a society we are a long way from sensitization towards crimes against women but what cannot be denied is that the battle against re-victimization is layered and has several requirements of which the most important is that the sensitization process must start at home. We cannot make the streets of our cities and towns safe if we as women are not safe in our homes from marital rape and domestic violence. This must not be allowed to continue:

“As if the rape weren’t bad enough, I had to go through everything that I did with the police and doctors. It’s just more rape. The rape just keeps on and on,like you just can’t escape it.”  — A rape survivor

Mirrors Don’t Lie

There was a time when people complimented me on my sense of dressing, my immaculate style and my confident personality. That was the time I was in the prime of my youth, radiating with the glow of dreams yet to be achieved and paths yet to tread on. Even though technically I still am in the prime of my youth there is a heaven and hell difference between the two times. Mirrors don’t lie.

That was also a time when my spouse and his family chose to stifle my dreams, stamp out my confident personality, trash my whole existence to create a robot out of me which would do only their bidding. Every time that I tried to protest they found a new way to stifle me and bash me into a pulp, verbally and physically till such time I had no strength in me to get up and fight back. This unfortunately I realized is the story of every Indian girl pawned into the arranged marriage system by unsuspecting parents, conniving In-laws and equally manipulative groom.

While this has remained a norm in most Indian homes, in certain cases like mine, the conniving spouse and his parents make the mistake of not just undermining the courage of the girl but also her will to survive. So I fought back with every ounce of strength I could muster and I survived. I showed them that coming from a family where every second member has served in the Indian Defence Forces, survival is in my blood even though I am a girl and even when the society hinders me into being submissive.

But after the physical and psychological warfare, when I look at myself in the mirror I see a reflection of youth mixed with bitterness and cynicism. This reflection is not even one iota close to what it used to be, but strangely I revel in the changes calling them my very own battle scars. The creases on my forehead, the worry lines, the physical scars and the psychological scars are all testimony of not just the abuse but more importantly a testimony of my will to survive and the fact that I have survived.

So now when I walk into a room and people turn around to look at me,  not just for my beauty or fashionable ensemble but for the confidence in me of surviving in a situation and in a country against all odds, where it is considered to be a curse to be born as a girl, where at every step a girl is treated worse than an animal let alone a second class citizen and where a girl is expected to be submissive even when she is being raped.

The mirrors don’t lie since they tell the story of my survival in every inch of my reflection.

The Shy and Blushing Public Property

In India everyone has a say on a woman’s body, her life and her sexuality except of course, her. In India women are taught to stay within their limits or else they will be taught a lesson by being raped, burnt alive or if the person teaching the lesson is somewhat merciful he will molest her and let her off with a moral lecture. This is exactly what happened in the Guwahati molestation case and in the Delhi gang-rape case.

The last few days I have stayed quiet on this blog, first because the months of November and December are particularly hard for me and this time with such barbarities happening in the open, brought to the forefront what I had been shouting myself hoarse about in the last year.

As I watch the interview on a news channel the interview of the Delhi Braveheart’s friend I can unfortunately relate to the apathetic society and the cynical attitude of the friend towards the society in general. When he was waving at people for 25 minutes on 16th December, 2012 no one stopped, yes absolutely no one but later practically the whole city erupted in spontaneous protests. Though I am happy that at least the apathetic society woke up to protests for the safety and freedom of the women in India, reports of women being molested in the crowd while protesting throws a wet blanket on any hope that might have arisen in my mind.

I have had my ex’s neighbors telling me that just because they did not know me, I was wrong despite seeing burn marks and bruises on me. Yet most of these people have blogs on various platforms talking about women empowerment. What takes the cake is that my ex-SIL was/is a part of many campaigns against domestic violence yet was one of the worst perpetrators of domestic violence towards me. So yes, I am not surprised at the insensitivity or the apathetic attitude of Indian society because even I have been at the receiving end of it.

The numerous thoughts in my head and the anger simply gushing out at times have made it difficult to create a coherent post. So till then bear with me of re-posting links or posting tweets. In saying that here is an extremely inspiring post by a woman who refused to be victimized despite facing a spectrum of horrible behaviors the Indian society could display. [I fought for my life-and won]

A Blast from the Past

I have had my reservations about social networking ever since I was introduced to it back in 2002. Over the years the reasons for my reservations changed ranging from information overload to social networking increasing instances of emotional infidelity but one reservation remained constant and it was that the social networking websites unfortunately put you in touch with many people you would rather forget especially those who quite made high school living hell for you.

A friend request on Facebook got me thinking this morning about this one reservation that I have had since I first began using the various social networking websites. This particular friend request was thankfully not from someone who tormented me in high school but rather from a person who had been tormented himself and even though there were many of us who tried to help him, his reaction was not civilized, to say the least.

This guy, let’s call him A had become my classmate in 8th grade and even though we studied in the same school for 3 years, we were in different sections and hence I was unaware about his existence. But within 2 weeks of being put in the same classroom I started hearing about the various nicknames A had earned and some of them though in vernacular could not be mentioned in polite conversation. One of my friends who sat next to him in class actually started feeling sorry for A, since he basically had no one to call his friend and my friend along with few others of us decided to befriend him to try and make life easier for him.

We tried by inviting him to our table during lunch, tried sharing our lunch boxes with him but to no avail. We decided to get him to play on our team during the games hour and even partner with him by turns during lab hours. But this guy just would not respond. In our naivety (honestly given his subsequent reaction I do not know what else to call it) we decided that he just could not trust anyone being nice to him and hence we kept up with our efforts. Over the course of 2 months that we tried befriending him, the best we knew in 8th grade, he simply would not respond. We were close to stepping up our efforts when his first reaction and his last reaction to our efforts left us dumbfounded and a friend badly hurt.

One monsoon afternoon we were all filing down the staircase to get into the school buses, a friend of mine offered A shelter under her umbrella to cross the massive playground into the bus. She asked him once. No response. She asked again even more softly to show her sincerity and dispel any fears A might have had that we were would make fun of him after gaining his trust, he turned around and kicked her. Yes, kicked her, for all the care, friendliness and civility my friend had shown this guy. He then proceeded to utter certain words which showed that he considered himself supreme simply because of his gender and words my friend would remember for many years to come with tears in her eyes.

Needless to say we gave up every effort we had made earlier and shunned him like everyone else did. For several days after the incident I tried to search for any hint repentance in his eyes for hurting someone who was only nice and polite to him when everyone around him made fun of him and taunted him. But no, he looked smug whenever he crossed paths with any of us or my friend looking almost as if he would start his discriminatory and violent rant all over again. The next year he was expelled for his transgressions and most of us soon forgot about him. I doubt if my friend did, who bore the brunt of his tirade but time as they say is the best healer and waits for none…

Until this morning when I looked back, not before shuddering at the comment A made on my profile picture, stating that I looked pretty and he wanted to befriend me only because of that and I should be glad he considered me worthy of being his ‘friend’. Without a second thought I ignored his friend request.

Serial Killers

A few days back I was watching a documentary on Discovery Channel about serial killers and the infamous tag that USA has begotten for being the country with the most number of serial killers, even though reality is otherwise. For starters, the first serial killing was reported in UK with Jack the Ripper and second, in most developing countries crimes go unreported due to the lack of proper disciplinary infrastructure and a wide variety of other reasons including corruption.

But mostly it is the apathy in India which makes this country seem relatively safe in terms of serial killers, if you go by the official statistics. India is no stranger to serial killers especially those who lurk in matrimonial homes silently killing their daughter-in-laws every day. Few that get reported are in the form of dowry deaths but the instances of mental cruelty that occur every minute of the day go largely unreported. The constant taunts and berating tone is worse than any knife stab. The psychology being behind it that, with stabbing and killing you are finishing everything, the pleasure is gone in few seconds but if you mentally and physically torture someone the pleasure continues for a protracted duration and you can enjoy every second of the day.

The taunts about the way a person dresses, talks, walks, eats or looks can kill him or her from within. The constant refusals to provide food, proper shelter and clothing coupled with abusive language and snatching away every ounce of dignity takes place every day in Indian homes and is common place for most Indian DILs. There are many of us who even expect this to some extent once we get married. Combine this scenario with the social stigma of a broken marriage and you are staring down a lifelong situation for most Indian DILs unless of course she has the courage to walk out or her parents are sensible enough to remove her from the toxic environment.

So if anyone is thinking that USA is home to the most number of serial killers look into the Indian homes and trust me you will find on an average at least one in every locality.