My Take on Violence

In my previous post, I had recounted the story of one of my friends. Its really hard for me to see her wasting her life in this fashion, and the thought that nothing I say can make her change her mind is even more frustrating. I have been thinking about her and have also been reading other’s stories on the VAWA blog and there are a few things that I find disturbing.

I cannot, for the life of me, fathom why any woman would take any kind of abuse from her husband or his family or from anyone for that matter. I for one, would never do that. Maybe it is my upbringing, or my financial independence or whatever that makes me think in this fashion. I don’t know. I know that if TS even thought of raising his hand on me, I would walk out, without a second thought. I know my parents will back me up, I know I will be able to manage on my own. And I think nothing merits physical abuse. Ever. Period. Nothing that a woman does or says gives a man the right to rough her up. And no, I don’t buy stupid arguments like- it offends a man’s ego, or its common in marriages for the husband to slap the wife. I don’t buy that. I don’t mind arguing or even fighting. Me and TS do fight over things but, we never make it personal. He never says a word against my family or my upbringing or anything. We fight and we sort it out, as two individuals. And no, there are no swear words, no abuse. We both have very short tempers but, we always manage to handle these issues like adults. And I believe that is how it should be. I don’t think violence is the answer to anything and that is precisely why I will not condone this kind of abuse.

Coming to think of it, I can understand why some women put up with these things. When I was in college, most of my classmates were bought up to believe that marriage was the be all and end all of their lives. That her husband and his family should be her world. They were all small town girls, and I was appalled by their attitude. Most of them didn’t even have any interest in their studies. Their only aim was to finish college so they could get married. And they did get married the minute their studies were over too. Most were not even encouraged to study beyond their graduation. It was almost like their parents were washing their hands off them. Yes, they chose grooms for their daughters with a lot of care. Yes their daughters were the apple of their eyes. But, I didn’t understand why they didn’t encourage their daughters to stand on their own two feet.

I was even more surprised at the attitude of the girls.Most of them believed falling in love or having a boyfriend was absolute blasphemy, that a woman’s place was always one step behind her man, that if you were employed it was always good to have a job that paid less than their husband, that they had to know how to cook and clean and that too food, that their husband and his family preferred and it was good not to work once they had kids, even if their families were around to take care of the kid. And many of them are living their lives as stay at home mom’s. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a stay at home mom. But I do have issues with their attitudes. Not wanting to work, treating their husband’s families as superior to theirs. I don’t get it. Not that I blame them, its the way they have been bought up.

From the time a girl is born, her parents start to worry about getting her married off. Not about her upbringing, not about her studies- they only worry about her wedding and the expenses associated. Even today educating a girl is not seen as a huge priority where I come from. I have people in my own family (very distant relatives, thankfully!) who thought my parents were making a huge mistake letting me and my sister go for professional courses. They said it would make it even more difficult to find grooms for us. They cautioned my parents against making us too independent. They said we were too opinionated. They said it was dangerous for girls to be so. They told my Mom it was a big mistake not to teach me cooking. And when I got a proposal while I was in the first year of my MBA, in spite of some of my family asking them to go ahead, my parents refused. They said they wanted me to finish my education and get a job before they decided something like that.

I was never bought up to believe I was inferior to someone. I was taught I was as good as any other guy, maybe better. I was never taught to suppress my likes and opinions for someone else. I was taught to express mine, and stick to what I thought was right. I was never taught to be submissive, I was taught to not take crap from anyone. And I was taught to not take any kind of abuse from anyone. I even fought with a teacher in school because she had this habit of belittling me in class all the time. I told her I would take her to court for emotional harassment if she carried on with what she was doing. She apologized to me. I apologized to her too for my outburst. Anyways, I don’t see why people should put up with this kind of treatment from anyone.

And I don’t think fear of society should be a factor. Society’s opinion doesn’t matter. You are the one living with the abuse. And its not like society is taking care of your needs. Society just stands by the sidelines and watches all the fun. Its your life and you have to make the choice. It will be hard, especially if you are financially dependent. I cannot begin to even fathom what a victim of abuse goes through. All I can say is, know when to say enough. Know when to walk out and don’t let anything beat you down. That’s the only way to go. You are as important as the man in the relationship. You are not a second grade citizen that your emotions can be trampled upon, that your likes and interests are of little consequence. And to parents who believe that daughters are mere lumps of flesh to be auctioned off in the marriage market concealed under mounds of gold and money, I say, stop thinking that way. Your daughters are as precious as your sons or someone else’s sons. Encourage them to blossom and do well instead of teaching them to be doormats. Maybe then we can look forward to a better society.

I know my thoughts are disjointed here. I was reading some of the stories on the blog and was so upset and that’s what prompted this. I will write more on this topic as and when I think of something more. As of now, my thoughts are scattered. So forgive me.

A Story of Violence?

Its Violence Against Women Awareness (VAWA) month in the blogworld. I have been reading through a lot of posts in the past few days. And the other day, as I was talking to TS about it, I realized that I know women who have been through these violent experiences too. And by violence I don’t mean just physical violence, I mean everything from eve teasing to rape to emotional bullying. And these women come from all social, economic and religious backgrounds you could possibly dream about. Some of them have had the courage to walk out and rebuild their lives, some of them are still stuck in the vicious cycle of abuse,some of them are stupid to not even realize it is abuse that is being meted out to them, some of them keep up with the charade of normalcy for the sake of society and some of them have been bought up to think they deserve it. I will recount here one of their stories. There is no physical abuse involved but the worst part is the girl in question doesn’t even realize she is being abused. And in spite of trying to tell her countless times that she is being made a fool of, she still refuses to accpet it.

I met her when she was 18. She was an only child, much loved and treasured by her parents. Her every wish was fulfilled and she was truly treated like a princess, She was their star and everything she wanted was hers. She would get it through tears or any other means of persuasion. But mostly her demands were simple and her parents were only happy to oblige. She was extremely naive and innocent and lived in her little dreamland which was based on heavy doses of movies and M & B-esque novels. She believed in the “one true love” and being with him at all costs. When I heard of her ideas at first I shrugged it off as a result of her extreme naivette. I did try to tell her that life was different but never gave it much thought. It didn’t seem all that important then. We were all teenagers and I was not very sure of what I wanted from life as well.

That was when she met him. They were classmates. She noticed him first and was smitten. She kept telling a few of us, her friends, about him. We didn’t know much about him, except the fact that he was one of those typical Bollywood tapori kinds, whose only pastime was racing bikes and hanging out with a gang of like -minded guys. He didn’t seem like the guy for her and I told her so. She didn’t mention anything about him for the longest time and I thought she was over him. And then one fine day she dropped a bombshell. She was in love with him, she said. He loved her too. He had confessed to her. She wanted us friends to meet him and like him too. I met him, spoke to him, and didn’t like him. He was shifty, I felt, and not honest. He didn’t seem ambitious. I told her so, but, she defended him and said he was nothing like that. In the meantime, her parents managed to secure a seat for her in a better college. She refused to leave, citing a horde of stupid reasons. The only reason was she didn’t want to leave him. Her parents surrendered to her tears. I told her she was being stupid. She didn’t listen. I stopped telling her anything about him.

The intial few months, everything was hunky dory. They acted like any other couple in love- they were always together, always on the phone, talking late into the night, always out on the weekends. Everything seemed perfect and she tried to prove to me that I was wrong about him. I said nothing. Then the troubles began. He would ask her for money to go out with his friends. Initially, she would give him whatever he demanded without question. She would lie to her parents to get more pocket money so she could give him. She would claim she wanted to buy dresses and shoes. She never did. Then she started asking him why he wanted so much money. He always had a set of excuses ready. She never bothered to find out if they were true. She trusted him. Once she was all set to sell her gold chain that her parents had gifted her for her birthday ‘cos he wanted to buy something. We managed to talk her out of it.

There were fights too. Over everything imaginable. He wasn’t interested in attending classes and would force her to bunnk classes too, so that they could spend time together. If she refused, he would pick a fight. She would keep calling him up to apologize and he wouldn’t pick up. He would yell at her in front of her friends and his friends. She would just cry. He wouldn’t even appear for exams sometimes. She would beg with him to focus on his studies, but to no avail. She still defended him, said he would still make something out of his life. We always tried to tell her otherwise but she chose not to believe us. He would drink heavily too, even come to college drunk. She would cry and make a fuss, and that would send him into a rage. There would be more fights. When he regained his senses, sometimes, he would apologize to her, tell her he would mend his ways. She would be blissful for a couple of days and then the fights would begin in earnest.

Then, her parents found out. They disapproved of him. He took it as a personal insult and insulted her parents. She listened in silence. She tried to convince both sides but failed. Her parents, who had till them given in to all her demands, refused to give in to this. They tried to stop her from meeting him, but she would always manage to find a way around them. She tried to convince him to do better at studies and find a job, he said his interests lay elsewhere. They were almost at the fag end of college by then. She was all set for her higher studies, he hadn’t cleared a single year of college. Then he declared he was off to pursue a degree in a different subject elsewhere. She rejoiced. She told her parents he had decided to mend his ways. She started dreaming of a future with him again. He lasted a month, and then went back to his old ways- friends, partying, booze. Her parents started forcing her to move on and tried to ger her married off. She threatened to run away. They stopped forcing her. They wanted their daughter with them, come what may.

She wanted things to work. But he was fighting with her again. He told her he didn’t love her anymore and had no interest in getting married to her. She persisted. She found out that he was seeing another girl behind her back. She refused to believe it. The girl called her up and spoke to her. She decided to forgive him and blamed herself for it. She said maybe it was her attitude that drove him away. The other girl dumped him immediately. Meanwhile, she got a job. I remember her calling me up and telling me about it. She said she was happy, and that they could get married now. I asked her how she could do that since he was still unemployed and not even a graduate to boot. She said she’d support him with her salary. Her being employed drove him over the edge I guess. The fights became more frequent. He abused her and belittled her all the time. He badmouthed her parents, put her down at every opportunity he got, questioned her, cut her off from her friends, made fun of her job, and even questioned her character. She suffered in silence. She would call me up once in a while in sheer desperation, seeking advice. I would tell her the same thing every single time- dump him and move on. She would agree with me and go back and make up with him. And she would tell him everything about our conversations. He forbid her from talking to me- said I was a bad influence on their relationship. I didn’t care about him, but, I still hoped she would see sense.

I stopped taking her calls after that, because I realized that irrespective of the number of times I told her to dump him, she wouldn’t. I felt sorry for her parents. They had become hermits. The couldn’t even speak to their relatives. They were all pointing fingers at them, and blaming them for their daughter’s foolishness and irresponsible behaviour. They persuaded her to get married. She almost agreed once. She called me up and apologized for not listening to me earlier. But again, she went back to him. Last I heard, he had managed to get a small job at some company. He still hasn’t completed his graduation and doesn’t seem inclined to do it either. She’s doing well in her job and enjoying it. Her parents are still opposed to their relationship. And she, foolishly, still believes things will work out. She still wants to get married to him. She still believes her parents will come around. She doesn’t even have any qualms about leaving her parents for him. She’s considered doing it too. Her parents have threatened to disown her, have threatened her with suicide if she decides to marry him. They view the daughter who was once the apple of their eyes with suspicion and anger. They don’t trust her or anythig she does. She still defies them and meets him every opportunity she gets. He doesn’t care how the whole thing plays out. She’s still blinded by the fairytale ending she has envisioned for the both of them.

I don’t know how this story will end. I hope it doesn’t end in tragedy. I hope she comes to her senses before it is too late. Sometimes I think she’s still with him because of some twisted belief that she will be able to reform him. Sometimes I think it is the fear that he might destroy her life if she chooses to leave him that makes her stay. I don’t know. I don’t know if this qualifies as abuse or as foolishness. Maybe its a mix of both. I don’t talk to her much these days. I am tired of giving her the same piece of advice wrapped in a different colored paper every time we talk. I am tired of trying to dissuade her, trying to make her see that she is being abused, that this is not how a healthy relationship works. I don’t know what more I can do to bring her back to her senses. I don’t even know if I should try anymore. I have been trying for the past 8 years anyways. What do you guys think? Any advice?