Bangalore, to me, was not a culture shock. It was more or less a place where I could finally be myself. I fell in love with the city because it gave me the most important thing – freedom. The kind of unabashed, untainted, unrestricted freedom one could ever imagine. The discussions that usually surrounded me back at my home town never haunted me here. No one seemed to care about getting married, having kids or running a household. I was happy. I had finally found an escape from nagging mothers forcing their daughters to be ‘perfect little girls’ so that in a couple of years they could be ‘perfect brides’ for ‘rich’ and ‘well-settled’ boys. Bangalore was not this. It was bliss.
But heavens don’t exist. And life, well, let’s just say fairness is not its strongest suit. My sense of freedom came crashing down when, in 11th std., a classmate of mine left college to get married. Wait a second. At 17 she was getting married. Married, as in, she was going to live the rest of her life with another man because of a decision taken by her parents. She would not graduate pre-university. She would be married and further education would be pursued at the whim of her in-laws or not at all. It hurt me. I felt despaired and sorry. And humiliated. And eventually, the only emotion left in me was anger. Another friend tried to calm me down. ‘It’s so common in our
community also. Why are you getting so angry? It’s nothing new.” My friend said this with a look of resignation, as if she had accepted this reality at her very birth. It was very common in our community, yes. But, it still shocked my conscience. If Bangalore, the IT capital of my great and progressive nation would not provide me my heaven, my freedom, then who will? If a developed city could not keep the demons of narrow-minded traditions at bay, were my relatives really at fault who had lived their entire lives in backward towns and villages?
In our country, daughters don’t live in their parents’ home. Before being married off, they live in training houses where their mothers teach them how to please her husband and make her in-laws happy. Her entire existence is confined to making herself ‘suitable’ to tolerate the existence of a man who would beat her, abuse her and exploit her for the rest of her life while she strives to keep him ‘happy’. One would be forced to think if these parents don’t love their own kids? Doesn’t their heart go out to see their child suffer? Leave the father aside. He is a man, a perpetrator of evil patriarchal norms, a person beyond redemption (its sarcastic, please). But what about the mother? She is not a man. She is a woman, who herself suffered the evils of this practice. Why would she subject her child to the same pain? Force and even train her daughter to live a tortured life. How messed up is that?
Seen as burdens since their very birth, most girls don’t even make it alive into this world. And even if they do, they are married as early as possible so that the burden is someone else’s. But marriage or no-marriage, her sufferings don’t end. They just get more barbaric. Imagine your childhood. It probably was happy. Very happy, maybe. You had loving parents, who did not fight and gave you all their attention. You had lovely siblings and cousins. Doting grandparents. Caring aunts and uncles. They would get you gifts and toys and chocolates. You were their little princes and princesses. Now imagine one day you all go out. You are sitting on your uncle’s lap.
He is holding you. Touching you. You thought he loves you. But suddenly, his hold tightens, his hand wanders. They do not caress your skin anymore but pinch your body. You feel pain, not comfort. His hands then settle on your chest. And now, he tries to feel your breasts. But, he can’t. Because they don’t exist. But he keeps pressing them, fondling them, trying to get hold of whatever little part of your flesh that he can. And now, you no longer feel loved. You feel scared, so you jump out of his arms and run to your mother. She holds you. You are crying and telling her that uncle hurt you. That your chest hurts because he pressed it too hard. Your mother stops comforting you and turns stern. She tells you to stop acting out in front of the entire family and tells you that uncle was just loving you. But you do not understand this love, because it hurt. You refuse to go back on his lap. You forget. And then, that night, your room opens. Suddenly, you feel a hand on your stomach moving down to your little skirt, trying to lift it up. You see your uncle bending over you without his pants. He pulls your panty down and tells you that you are going to get punished for your behavior in the morning. You say you are sorry and beg him not to punish you. But he slowly pulls your tiny legs apart, puts his weight on your tiny body, closing your mouth with his hand. And then you feel a pain so sharp, you thought he was cutting your body in two.
The next morning, you are all bloody. You run back to your mother. You cry. You tell her how Uncle poked you down there. Between your tiny legs. She slaps you. Tells you to stop making stories. To stop complaining. She tells you its love which leaves you confused because love isn’t supposed to hurt, right? It’s supposed to keep you safe. But your mother did not keep you safe. She let your Uncle, the evil perpetrator of patriarchal norms, the person beyond redemption, hurt you. Being a woman, she did not protect you. She handed you over to patriarchy. In a platter.
The statistics related to crimes of child marriage and child sexual abuse have been pushed down our throats in every possible way. But are they just statistics, numbers? No. They are millions of lives that are destroyed every day because of our women. Our women who have become the biggest agents of these patriarchal norms. Our women are the reason why our daughters suffer. Child marriage happens because our mothers decide that we are no more than burdens. Child sexual abuse happens because our mothers tell us that it’s okay if people hurt us because, after
all, they love us.
So why do we keep going on and on about the men in our life being indifferent and cruel to us when the women in our lives promote these practices. How long are we going to play the victim card and still trample our own kind? I don’t have the answer. I wish I did. But the only truth I know about our kind is that ‘a woman is another woman’s biggest enemy.’ I just hope we can prove this wrong in our lifetime.
Crabs in a Bucket is a cover story run by the Editorial Team of The Spokesmen.in this article is the third edition, click on the link below to read the first and second of this thread.
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