BetiPadhao, BetiBachao’ the formal tag line, though released by our current prime minister only four years ago, finds slightly older roots in our modern society, with the belief that education will be the sole driver of salvation of the fairer sex. Awareness and exposure to difficult situations will empower our girls to protect themselves and fight against all evil. And then, we come across stories that force us to ponder, if by educating our daughters, we are making their lives practically more difficult. That ignorance really might be bliss in this society still governed by never evolving, patriarchal DNA.
She was two years junior to me in college. Good looking and attractive were the adjectives that were doing rounds about this girl with curly locks. She happened to join a student’s activity group of which I too was a part. A couple of short interactions later, I realized that there was more to this fair girl with dark eyes. Though she tried her best to be present in the moment, her wider than usual eyes gave her away. I gathered from her close friends in our group that she had trouble at home. I shirked it off as young adult issues and never gave it too much thought.
“The girl seems sensible, after all. She is doing well for herself. Why muddle my mind over something I do not have much influence over?” Isn’t that how we all think when we hear trouble stories of a distant friend, an acquaintance or a colleague?
At 17 years, when she joined an esteemed engineering college in the City of Chandigarh, Mina soon became a subject of discussion amongst peers and seniors for not only her good looks, but more so for her aloof attitude. She was seen to limit her interactions to whatever was necessary. People started to call her a snob, but it bothered me. I didn’t agree that anyone had the right to label anyone, without knowing what her life was like. To me, Mina was a smart young girl, with big dreams. Only held back by a shell she held close around herself.
From the tender age of 4, Mina had witnessed her mother being beaten up to pulp by her father. Not one occasion, but every single night. Little did she know, that the implication of the presence of another woman with her father in the next room, while her mother sat crying holding little Mina in her lap, was to dawn upon her only years later. She recounts that when her father decided to leave his family, to live in with this other woman Mina was almost thankful. At-least her mother would not have to bear with his cruelty.
Mina was once browsing through old photo albums and came across a snippet from a local Newspaper. Excited and confused, she couldn’t help thinking. The article celebrated the marriage of a young Hindu-Sikh couple (both architecture graduates) in Punjab, during the infamous Operation Blue Star. It was a heart-warming story of a young Kashmiri Pundit girl’s love marriage with a local Sikh boy, both from upper middle class families.
Mina took the snippet to her mother and asked almost outrageously. “Mom, if your marriage with papa was such a celebration, how did things become so bad?”
“You are old enough now Mina, to understand that a marriage holds some sanctity for a man and woman to be committed to each other with their mind, body and soul. I could bear with him not contributing financially to the household. I am educated enough to be able to fend for my family. But how could I give in to your father’s demands, and be with other men for pleasures that involve obscene acts of sodomy and beyond?” her mother bit her lip to keep the tears on the brim of her eyes from flowing.
“But Ma, you allowed him to be with other women?”
“You think I didn’t try to stop him? You were too young then. But you do remember me being beaten up, isn’t it?”
“Why don’t you just leave him? Why aren’t you accepting to divorce him, when he wants to?” Mina’s agony spilled out from her words, as well as her tears, “You are educated, financially independent and strong enough to be on your own.”, she pleaded.
“I may be educated and financially independent but I will bear the brunt of this failed inter-caste marriage, all my life. My parents too, will hear to no end about how they should have kept a better leash on me and my dreams, but, what I will not tolerate is for YOU to face any wrath. We live in a patriarchal society where the mere name of a father, holds more meaning than the efforts of the mother. I will not allow any misbehavior directed to you, because of a divorce.” Her mother held her hands close to her heart and kissed them, “I can’t trust that man enough to leave you with him. And by leaving him, I will not allow the gossip mongers around to judge you for a mistake that I made.”
And thus, Mina and her mother continued to live in that house, even years after her father deserted them, coming back every now and then to ill treat them and threaten them with the worst.
In 2007, Mina obtained a job through campus and made her mom proud. All those years of her mom bearing with a man’s monstrosity and sacrificing her self-esteem finally seemed to have paid off. Mina would now be able to spread her wings, conquer the world and take her mum along with her. Her career started on a very nominal note with a top IT company, but the big break came with a job offer from an Oil giant in Great Saharan Desert. Though she was in a dilemma whether to travel this far leaving her mom behind, it was her mom who pushed her to go and do her best in the dream job. Mina found solace in the fact that her father had not troubled them in the last couple of years, since the Supreme Court of India had refused his plea for divorce overruling his claim of unnatural behavior and desertion by her mother. That’s right! Mina’s father spent 20 years attempting to gain the legal refuge of divorce under the pretext that his wife was cruel to him, had made life miserable for him in society with her “obscene” acts. It was to his despair that his own aunt, amongst others declined his claims and called Mina’s mother a “noble soul”, before the courts.
For 3 years, Mina worked through excruciating desert conditions, but felt assured that a secure future lay ahead of her. Mina’s mother kept pestering her for marriage, but she was far from thinking about settling down.
“No Mom! I need to focus on my career now. It’s the only way I can ensure our happiness.” said Mina with grit and gratitude. But I guess the almighty wasn’t done testing her perseverance. Oil recession hit the globe and Mina was amongst the first ones who lost their job in the industry. With some decent savings and a hope in her eyes, Mina came back to her mother to spend some time with her before embarking on a new journey. It was May 27th, 2015, when Mina had secured an interview with a prestigious firm in Gurgaon. Minutes before the interview started, Mina’s phone rang, and panic set in when she heard from her mother that some goons had shown up at their doorstep.
They mercilessly pulled Mina’s mom out of their home and threw out all their belongings. She found herself frantically calling for support from friends and the police, while finding her way to the airport. Upon reaching her home, Mina found her mother locked up outside their home, with all their belongings damaged and thrown. It was at her father’s behest that they had now been rendered homeless. He wanted them out of the house so that the court would grant the divorce on grounds of the wife deserting the matrimonial house.
Mina gathered the scattered bits of their 30 years of life thrown out from their home and checked-into a hotel with her traumatized 55 year old mom .Following the incident her mother took very ill and needed help with meager personal errands. Mina looked after her mother at the hotel, while she ran from pillar to post, meeting lawyers, putting legal papers in place and simultaneously applying for jobs.
Her legal battle against her father took an ugly turn when she learnt that her grand-parents had sided with their son in removing Mina’s mother from the matrimonial home. They claimed to have no place to live and exerted before the courts, their rights as seniors in the society. All this, when their actual residence was a self-owned lavish farm-house in one of the most affluent localities of the city. Amidst all this, everyone seemed to have forgotten about Mina. The ONLY child AND grandchild to her family. Their true heiress was thrown out on the roads, and was given no answer as to why?
Having fought for little mercies in life, Mina was now conditioned enough to not get deterred by anything that came her way. While she ran from the lawyers office to the court all the while single handedly taking care of her mother, she applied for admission to a management course in a university in Canada. She realized that while in India, she could never earn enough to cater to their needs, and thus immigration was the only solution to their woes. Given her academic and professional record, she was offered a scholarship.
Once again life looked upwards and the next year went by in the rigor of an extremely demanding coursework. When it was time to look for a job, she accepted one in a jiffy to get some cash inflows. All this while, she was hopeful of putting life back on track for her mother and herself. Everytime on a video call, Mina’s heart ached when she saw how dull her mother’s beautiful green eyes had become. How, devoid of any joy or hope her mum’s voice had started to sound across the phone line.
As soon as Mina accumulated the resources to meet the conditions for her mother to travel to Canada she made the necessary arrangements. She only hoped that it wasn’t too late, when the older lady was detected with an auto-immune disease.
A few months ago, the mother re-united with her daughter in Canada, their new home. Mina shared with me that when she saw her mother at the airport, her joy knew no bounds. But tears rolled down as she saw her fragile mom being brought on a wheelchair. “The last three years have shaved off many years off of my mom’s life and I must do everything to bring them back” Mina thought to herself.
Today, Mina lives with her mother in a tiny apartment. She works in a sales job and travels across the length and breadth of the city on a truck selling products to clients. But her heart stays at home with her mother. Her mother worries too much about Mina’s future. She feels dejected, because as per her all her forbearing and sacrifices have gone down the drain. She silently observes Mina’s struggle to re-start their lives. Helplessly, praying to God for courage and strength to help her daughter.
“My daughter is still fighting my battle. I don’t know when she will finally settle down happily and live for herself.”
But she is happy that at-least she is with her daughter.
On the other hand, Mina knows that giving up is not an option for her. That she needs to do whatever it would take to bring health and heartiness back to her mother and also make her proud.
Mina has no hope of responsible behavior from her father or her grand-parents, and her only grouch is against the Indian Judiciary that provides for alimony and maintenance for a woman who decides to separate from her husband, but has no provisions to secure the living conditions and future of a woman who wishes to keep her husband’s name for the sake of her children. Over a recent chat over the phone, Mina exclaimed, “Is our judicial system oblivious of the social thread of our country where a divorced woman has to go through multiple challenges at physical and psychological levels? And the future of kids from broken marriages is even darker. They are easy targets for public judgment and all kinds of social evils.”
I sit, stunned in silence, as her words reverberate in my mind, not knowing how to provide her any comfort. And then I decide to do what I can. I bring to you this story of two beautiful, educated women, bound by blood, love and a lifetime of pain. Each other’s well being and happiness remains the foremost concern for these two women symbolic of the True Beauty of a mother daughter relationship.
I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.
Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.
Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY…