Stand taller, stronger – 16 June 2010

Her prototype is seen everywhere. She is good-looking and educated and, of course, well-groomed. She is a good cook, and looks after the house and kids very well. Of course, today, or say for well over 90 per cent of her married life of two decades plus, she has been a housewife.

She looks contented, or at least one feels so, until one scrapes a little beneath her skin. Then floods out her pent up emotion – her anguish at not being allowed to work, having to give up cushy jobs just because her husband could not tolerate her coming home a little late; also her deep-felt sense of insult that her husband did not mind beating her up for almost no provocation; her sense of frustration that the husband also instigates the kids against her just because she is more popular in family and friends.  This woman has given up a lot of her own self only to keep the family together. And she is found in many homes in India. 

Once, a friend asked her to put up a fight. She followed the advice, fought back whenever the husband behaved badly. But in return, all she got was more repression. Then, the friend advised her to get out of the marriage. But the kids came in the way, and then a sense of shame and also a feeling that she would be dubbed a bad woman, not just by the larger society but by her dear husband and unthinking relatives.

In fact, she is so well-educated that getting decent jobs was never a problem. And she got jobs, too, whenever she sought those. Yet, for reasons not within comprehension of many, this woman has put up with gross injustice in her life. She, thus, represents a category of people who get life’s bad blows without any actual reason. She also represents a category of people that need real emancipation.

Her story has been told innumerable times, and yet makes good reading material each time it is retold. And I tell this story this time because I came across one such woman again, felt a pang of compassion, and also anger, and wished to tell her and many others like her through this column that she is suffering unnecessarily. I also wish to tell her again that she has every right to live a life of freedom from bad home, freedom from household violence, freedom from social stereotypes. She needs to stand taller, and stronger, than her husband, and opt out of the grossly bad situation and lead a life where there is no repression, no deliberate insults, no beating, and no fear of getting misunderstood by kids who are now grown up and are in a position to think independently that their mother is not a bloody fool to be fooled around with, and that she got out only because she was forced to do so. In all probabilities, the children may stand by her, and not by their despotic father.

For, the children will also remember that their father had beaten them up, too, for almost no fault of theirs, had misbehaved with ‘their’ mother, not allowed ‘their’ mother to be her -self, spoilt family peace for no reason. If this happens, this woman, heroine of my column this time, then will stand vindicated.

I will never suggest any breaking up of a home. No, never. But I also cannot put up with such behaviour with any person, whether a man or a woman. I cannot even imagine that anybody could be so ruthless and so criminally callous, a man or a woman.

In ‘Geetanjali’, Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore painted the picture of people whose heads are held high in self-honour and natural pride for their own good qualities. If there is anyone who has no respect for this simple, baseline principle of good life, then he, or even she, has no right to make a family and mess up someone else’s life, as has done the husband of my heroine today’s column.  

Such a thing can happen to a man, too, in his own family, and he, too, has every right to stand up taller not only than himself but also his wife. That is all for now.

Published in The Hitavada Womens World – 16 June 2010

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