I should have done this post last month (VAW) , but it lay in my drafts as I struggled through work and a hectic life at home. But its never too late to look for answers and suggestions.
We have two house-helps. One is a cook, the other does the utensils and clothes. They both started working for us around 3 years back. But that’s just one of the similarities between the two. The others being –
- both have abusive husbands
- both have husbands who do not earn or earn less than them
- both have children dependent on them
- both have zero support from relatives
- One has teenage sons who demand everything from video games to mobile phones.The other has a son-in-law who beats her daughter black and blue if his demands are not met.
The cook’s husband is an alcoholic. She had taken steps to get him admitted to a local self-help group for alcoholics…he was even clean for 3 months. But Diwali poured water over her efforts as her husband drank enough to ooze the booze through every pore! Thats her statement, by the way, not mine ! She has been single handedly running the household, with two sons studying in good English-medium schools. She wants to give them a good education and a better life (Any mother would).
Post Diwali, her husband is after her to purchase him an auto-rickshaw. He has demanded the same from her father. Obviously, everyone is reluctant to give in to his demands. One of the key reasons being that he had an auto-rickshaw earlier that he had to sell-off to pay his alcohol-debt. She doesn’t want her father to pay for something that her husband has no respect for and will most likely sell off again. Her own refusal results in either a black-eye or bruises all over her skeleton-thin frame.
What has she done to deserve such treatment, God alone knows.
What keeps her from walking away from this man and starting her life afresh (not that she isn’t doing everything herself now), she alone knows!
The maid has a teenage son who has nothing better to do than pick fights with the basti-boys, get beaten and laid up in hospital for days. She has a husband, who for all his efforts, isn’t able to earn enough for his family. Also, he beats up his wife whenever the mood strikes him. Her daughter was married off early and now suffers because she isn’t allowed to go out for work and her husband expects his in-laws to fulfill his demands, the latest being, he needed a gold-ring which was allegedly promised to him at the time of marriage, but never materialized. When the maid expressed her inability to purchase said ring because of rising gold rates, he resorted to beating her daughter black and blue. The hapless mother went around begging for money to pay for the ring.
I took the trouble of informing the maid that the more she ran around for that guy, the more he was likely to make her daughter suffer. He knew her weak point for her daughter, so if he can do it once, he’ll do it again and again. Surprisingly, the maid thinks that all those beatings are a small price to pay for her daughter staying ‘married’. Because walking out is NOT an option, however rotten the guy. And not so surprisingly, the cook too thinks the same. For the record, the cook is Hindu and the maid is a Muslim. And both women believe strongly that marriage ties are NEVER meant to be broken, never mind if they break their own bones in the bargain.
I’ve been fretting over these two ladies and I wonder why the maid’s daughter doesn’t pack up her kids and come to Pune and stay with her mother. She can contribute to the house by being a house-help herself. I wonder why the cook cannot move out and live with her parents for a few days until she finds accommodation for herself and her sons. She has no dependency on her husband whatsoever, so why should she put up with his tantrums and his wayward ways?
I have a healthy respect for the institution of marriage, because I can see how it benefits me and my family. If these women had the kind of security I do, I wouldn’t question them on their decision to stay married.
But suffering abuse day-in and day-out does not a marriage make!
Suppose the sides were turned. What if the man was the bread winner and home-keeper, both. What if he looked after the kids and made sure his wife was well-fed and also paid for her *gasp* bad-habits. How long do you think that man will suffer such a wife? It would take seconds for everyone around him to suggest separating from such a wife.
Whereas in the case of these women, all their relatives, including the in-laws, beg them to ‘adjust’. To stay for the sake of their children. To bear the pain now for rewards which will appear in future (magically, I assume).
It is rather hard to watch these women struggling through such a life. I know life for them will be loads better if only they had the guts to walk out. I know a lady who walked out of an abusive relationship, worked hard and made a living in a new city, with a daughter in tow. I was privileged enough to stay in her house as a paying guest during my PG days. Life wasn’t easy for that lady either. She alone knows the efforts she had to put in to make life successful for herself and her daughter. What helped was that there was no one to decide for her. No one to beat her up lifeless for days. No one to fear.
And I wonder, what do my house-helps fear when they are the ones who keep the gears of their family greased? When they are the decision makers, they are the bread-winners, they are the mother and father both, then why do they let a non-entity tear their self-respect and pride to shreds? Why don’t they simply take hold of a rolling pin and give it back to the abusers?!!
Am I too violent in my thinking or do you agree with what I say?
Note: Image courtesy - Google images.