“Can you suggest topics for the women’s forum we run in our organization? Every month we have a topic discussed by experts.”
“Hm, interesting. How about Domestic Violence?”
“What! Come on, we don’t have a crowd with such issues.”
“Really? Is domestic violence specific to a market segment, city, economic class or street?”
“No yaar, it is just that we have an educated crowd in our office, this population would not get into such bizarre acts.”
Her bulging stomach was announcing a life growing. She walked in distraught, beady eyes like faded marbles. Her husband was beating her regularly, for some reason or cause. Colleagues who noticed her long hours spent at work and the vacant, expressionless eyes, wondered, “God! She is pregnant. Doesn’t the husband have some sensitivity for it?” He didn’t! Finally, one morning, barely conscious and completely battered, she called her parents who lived in the same city. Heartbroken parents carried the half-dead daughter home.
I knew the father who used to come regularly to pick her up from office when she got delayed. Happily feasting on dreams, she used to wave at all of us, walking out breezily. One year and a marriage later, the father still came to pick up a daughter; married, beaten, pregnant, separated and bruised. He still did not want her to initiate divorce, as he was worried what family and friends might say.
“We should try for reconciliation; he might change after the child is born.”
Everyone envied her, happily married for 10 years, obedient children, homemaker with no worries other than what to make for lunch. She missed our kitty party where the intention was to bitch at all and sundry. Worried that she missed such an important get-together, we called, only to have her break down on the other side of the line. Her husband slapped her frequently, and that day happened to be his slapping day. Not wanting to share her grief with us, she had decided to stay home.
“How the hell did you not tell us that violence is involved?”
“But it is not domestic abuse or violence, he only slaps.” Frail, cheeks hollowed, looking like a ripe palm fruit fallen in the wilderness, plunged, broken and spilled, and she thought slapping was not violent. In accepting the grief and the slap, she crafted unknowingly a shadow and a thought in her son that it is ‘alright and fine’ to beat your spouse, and in her daughter, a half bodied thought to take what life offers, unquestioning, acquiescent.
Life condemned, parched and pungent, “Why do they languish? Is it ignorance to the point of not knowing what qualifies as violence or the mortification of social stigma? Is it children, lack of financial independence or plain worry of what is out there in the big bad world?”
While they pine in unsung courts swallowing powdered glass, we live satiated, our lives brimming with mirth and music.
‘It does not happen in our world’ is a common misconception, or maybe the failure to accept that domestic violence is not exclusive to the drunk, uneducated brutes seen in movies, but even in the classy homes of educated, well-employed men who can wear a charming smile outside and hide a terribly twisted self inside.
Acceptance is a cracked feet away from the action and after, whereas it is easier for me to fester and let the wounds dry; tears and pus evaporate in the mindless heat, riddled with spices, living in the land of Sita, Draupadi, Savithri and Gandhari too.
Illustration – Steffi Stanley