By Ms. Geetanjali Tripathi
Podcast by Mr. Sumangal Haldar
One fine day I woke up with a thought of calling my school friends, from whom I had lost touch due to my busy work schedule. One such very good friend was Neha, with whom I had completed my entire schooling. Interestingly she had got married just 3 months before, and as I could not attend her wedding I was prepared for the taunts and puns that would be coming to me in some time.
She used to be a King of sarcasm, back in school days. Even my other batch-mates could not mess with her in any sort, as she would rip apart the person publicly through her satire, which people feared the most. Waiting for her to answer my call, my mind was already in an imbroglio. After a few seconds of wait, finally I got to hear her voice.
Neha: Hello (in a very calm way)
Me: Hii Neha! What sup? How are you?
Neha: Good!! What about you? Heard that you are not in Jaipur!
Me: Yes I have left the city some time back.
The chit-chat continued, surprisingly, in a very formal way. Even after 10 minutes of deep within the conversation, I felt that the person whom I’ve called is either angry with me for not attending her Big-Event of Life. After clarification on that and being assured that everything was fine, I realized that she is not the same person- the very lively and Chirpy girl, I had known since childhood.
All throughout her statements I was finding it hard to believe that how could a person be so quiet when talking to her close friend after months! With first initial thoughts of her demeanor an outcome of married life, I asked her: “So how is your married life?” After a brief pause and a long breath she replied in a very cold way: “Good!”
Seeming discontented with her answer I asked her again: “Okay! Are you happy staying at a new place and in your new home?” She still gave that same cold reply, but with some extra words: “Yes! I have all the things which make me happy, according to my family and this society- a well-paying job, an accomplished family, and a rich and handsome husband.”
Listening to this statement I became skeptical that something was not fine with her, so I asked her again: “Can you please tell me what you are facing in your life? You can confide in me what you feel or are facing.”And she replied again in that usual cold way: “Will you really be able to understand? Because even I am not able to understand whether what I am feeling is right or wrong! Is it just my perception, or the society by large also feels that going against somebody else’s wishes is immoral and inflicts pain on the person.”
Her statements had by now started sounding gory and giving me panic attacks. However I gathered courage to assure her “Neha you may trust me with your secrets. You may hold an opinion that I won’t understand them, but I am sure that I will help you. I know it’s my fault that I have not kept in touch with you since long, but that doesn’t mean that you suffer with your problems without sharing it with your closest friend! I request you to please tell me what you are thinking!”
After my repeated insistence and monologues, a silence prevailed on the phone. “Hello! Hello! Hello Neha!! Are you there? Are you listening to me??”
From the other end of the phone came a reply: “I am raped by my husband!” All I could hear after that were incessant sobs.
Hearing this I became blank of any expressions and felt at loss of words to console her. With someone knocking on her house’s door, she asked me to call her later. Meanwhile, I was still in that state of shock. My chain of thoughts where I was lost, was broken by Kamli (our maid), when she walked into my room with breakfast.
I looked at Kamli and got reminded of a conversation between us sometime back. On being asked if she is sending her daughters to school, she explained the domestic violence she has been facing on a daily basis. Her husband would spend all her earnings on alcohol and would not allow her to spend a penny on their children’s education. With a heavy heart she told me that she has accepted her “fate”and is trying to live with the reality.
I did not find much of a difference between Neha and Kamli, except for the social strata and economic group each of them belonged to. While the former had accepted living a life of despair just because of the fear of what people would say if she tells them about the assault she has faced, and the mud-slinging on her character thereafter; the latter had accepted her fears as her destiny and was trying to lead a life amidst that.
Just because Neha was an educated an independent girl, she knew that marital rape existed. But when she faced it, she was under the shackles of societal fear and projection of her family, which led her to quietly accepting everything. And while Kamli’s options to the outer world were limited, she lesser knew of the evils she had been facing in the form of domestic violence and oppression of her voice. At the face of it, both these women looked happy with a family to look after. On one hand Neha’s family’s affluence and social status made the outer world feel that she is an accomplished woman; Kamli’s family of five consisting of her husband, two daughters and a son, on the other hand, made people feel that she is leading a contented life. There are many such women who are being denied their basic rights every day but still are coming out of their homes with a smile on their face, creating a facade of a happy world they live in… However, the truth is different!
The author is an MBA in marketing from ITM- Navi Mumbai and works as a Client Account Manager at MyGate