Please read the full article on Women’s Web on the link above.
Attended an event by ‘We The Women’ yesterday where Tanushree Dutta spoke about what happened to her. She was in conversation with Barkha Dutt and Sandhya Menon, the journalist who started a movement similar to MeToo in India where women are being encouraged to write about sexual harassment they have faced at workplace. Here is what Tanushree Dutta said:
- She was shooting for a movie wherein she had a solo song. Allegedly Nana Patekar manufactured a scene in that song where he was supposed to feel her. She refused. She was told she does not have a choice. She was bullied. We have all seen the view of her in the car getting attacked. She faced the consequences of saying ‘No’.
- Her other allegation was that Vivek Agnihotri said to her “Jao, Kapde utar kar nacho” in the context of giving cues to Irrfan Khan for another song in another movie. Irrfan Khan supported her by saying, “Mujhe acting aati hai”. Sunil Shetty also added, “Main aaun kya cues dene?”
Some key points to note.
Was it sexual harassment?
Yes. In the first instance, at the workplace she was asked to do something without her consent and she faced consequences for refusing. The second remark was extremely demeaning and offensive. For women wondering if it was not a big deal, imagine how YOU would feel if someone told you “kapde utar ke nacho”.For men, if someone said that to your wife, would you like it? To all the people saying she did so much more in Aashiq Banaya Apne, well, that was consent! What people don’t understand is that just because a woman agrees for something one time, it does not grant a license to anyone to do it again. Consent is required each and every time. What happen to her is as bad as getting molested or raped? No. But does that mean it is not wrong? Should women only speak up when they get bruised and beaten? Why should we women continue to normalize obnoxious and crass behavior? Why can’t men start learning how to behave and talk instead? Is human decency really that difficult?
Why do you believe her?
Whatever she said sounded quite believable. For people who are saying she wanted publicity, Tanushree replied that she could have done the item song, made money, stayed in everyone’s good books and continued her career. Also, she is not coming back after 10 years. She had complained and raised her voice then too. But nobody really cared enough.
People in power dominate and abuse their power. It is the truth. It is not even a woman vs man thing. But yes, men have been more powerful than women in most cultures. A woman who may be very weak herself becomes a different person when she becomes a mother-in-law. Why? Power!
Another thing. Most of the harassment happens alone between two people. There is not much proof. Unless you get raped and go to the hospital immediately. In cases of verbal harassment, groping, touching, feeling, rubbing, getting flashed in the face, there is no proof for the most part. It is the word of the victim against the perpetrator. Or the perpetrator’s word against the victim. I cannot convince anyone to believe her. Neither do I wish to.
But here is my two cents:
To all the women reading this:
Yesterday Barkha Dutt asked women from the audience to come up and share their me too story. One lady, with all due respect went on stage and narrated an incident with much conviction about bullying she faced at workplace. It had NOTHING to do with sexual harassment. Please do not confuse the movement with getting back at employers who have not treated you right. Please go ahead and complain to your HR regarding your work-related issues. The metoo movement is for sexual harassment at the workpace. Let us stay focused.
To all the men reading this:
Instead of reacting because of your inflated egos, and crying that not all men are bad, and that poor men are being humiliated in public, please channelize your energy to something constructive. When your male friends crack sexist jokes, forward demeaning videos of women on that all boys group, comment on the legs of that new intern, do you even make any sound? If the answer is NO, then please continue that for our movement too. You do not speak up when you should so better keep silent now also. Not all men are rapists but many men cover up for each other, protect each other, adding to the damage.
I cannot get the following headlines off my mind:
I don’t want to specifically write about Anissia because it is still too early. We do not know if it is a murder or suicide. I don’t want to judge a woman I did not know. Especially a woman who was cremated two days ago. I also do not wish to scrutinize the life of a woman who died. Still, writing this article in the hope that it may help someone.
I read an article this morning on about how parents should support their daughters and make them get out of abusive marriages and not give dowry. I also read comments (probably from Anissia’s friends) getting defensive saying that she was very strong, and had supportive parents. Her father was in the Army. She was financially independent and it seems that money was no motivator was her to get stuck in the marriage.
Then what happened? Why is she dead?
Why are so many intelligent, financially independent women in our society preferring to jump or hang themselves rather than being called the D word?
A friend of mine updates her whatsapp display picture every other day with a smiling photo of her husband and herself. What you cannot see is the bruises on her body which are concealed in her DP. Messages are sent to friends asking for helpline numbers. What is more regular? The injury or the status updates?
Friends try to convince her to get out. She says that there are happy times too. She is not willing to leave him.
Is it our fault that she is still with him? Are we not doing enough?
If you see Anissia’s social media profile, there are so many happy, couple photos. A good-looking couple posing and holidaying at beautiful locations.
This is common. Friends posting pictures with their husbands. Beautiful, happy pictures. People commenting:
Smileys. Emojis. Likes. Comments. Social approval.
What lies beneath?
We love the life we wish to project to the world. We are in love. We are in a blissful marriage. We are happy. We try hard to make our lives close to what we like to portray. Sometimes we believe it too.
In contrast, I have friends who are divorced or never married. They are into their 30’s, 40’s. Some of them want to get married. Others are okay being single. To the world, they may be “unmarried.”
Poor girl. She must find someone soon. Time is running out.
Bechari divorce ke baad decide ki shadi nahi karegi dobara.
Some of these women are actually living quite peaceful and joyous lives. Marital bliss is not the only bliss the universe has to offer. They may not get to flaunt holiday, couple pictures. They may not have done pre-wedding, pregnancy photoshoots. They do not get to add statuses like ‘Aww! Feeling loved with so and so!’ or ‘Woke up to this surprise from my sweetheart’. But they are still leading good lives. Every day that they wake up they don’t have somebody who makes them feel like filth. Yes, occasionally they do feel left out at family functions and weddings. But it is still better than being treated badly every day.
What am I trying to prove?
We all fall for social pressure. We envy people who seem to have love and money. We create a lie and then spend the rest of our life miserable trying to live up to it.
Don’t fall for the trap. Nobody, nobody has everything in life. You don’t have to have everything either. It is okay to not have a partner to flaunt. It is okay to not have a vacation in Europe. It is okay to be not earning a lot of money. It is okay to be not married. It is okay to not have children. It is okay to be divorced.
What is not okay is to be dead at 39 after jumping off the terrace. What is not okay is leaving behind old parents and a brother who will spend the rest of their life attending court hearings and running ‘Justice for Anissia’ campaigns wishing they were dead too.
And what justice will they get? Even if the husband and his family get punished (which I doubt) will this woman come back?
The society does not care about you. They don’t care if you are happy or sad or rich or poor or married or single. At least not for long. Please do not waste your life for the society. The only thing that matters is you. Please do what is right for yourself. I have written about this so many times before. Please, please be strong. Please do not commit suicide for such idiots. And please do not stay with them to test how much more you can suffer.
Yes, every marriage has good days and bad days. But if for you the bad days means getting hit and thinking about hanging yourself then it is not worth it.
Related articles link:
One of the most vibrant movies of Sridevi, Chaalbaaz was on Zee Classic over the weekend. Watching Sridevi on screen has always been a delight. But ever since her untimely death, it has been all the more hard to resist watching her movies, knowing that such magic cannot be recreated again.
I don’t know how many times I would have watched Chaalbaaz as a kid. I have it memorized. My mother and I were discussing how we like Seeta Aur Geeta more than Chaalbaz. Father disagreed. He said Sridevi’s acting was far beyond excellence. I went to the kitchen and missed a scene. My father called out to me, “Did you just see that? He grabbed her hair!”
I quickly ran back to the living room. Here was an angry Sunny Deol grabbing Sridevi by her hair. Reason: He thought he had seen her (her twin) with Rajnikanth, walking together!
He said to her something like, “Main to tumse sharafat se baat kar raha hoon. Aisa karne se to yahaan qatal ho jate hain”.
What a shareef guy! He did not kill her! Just abused her verbally and physically!
He said it so matter-of-factly as if killing a woman for cheating was a rule and not killing her was nice of him! Sharing the link. Scroll to 2:04.
All these movies I loved as a kid have been completely ruined for me now. Violence against women was so normalized! The recent killing of a woman who was stabbed multiple times, and its coverage in media brings us back to the stone age.
I was reading through some of the comments of how some men believed that when a guy cares and loves a woman so much, spends all his money on her, yet she leaves him or cheats on him what is he supposed to do! Some men even wrote that there is no place for “nice guys” in this world that has been taken over by “faminists”!
Unfortunately, relationships don’t come with a guarantee card. As unfair as it may be, people can leave. At any time. Men. Or women. If a woman cheats on you, please feel free to leave her. But her life is not yours to take.
I remember having a conversation with two of my male colleagues about an article I had written on “honour killing”. These two educated, modern-looking men who I interacted with daily, had lunch with argued that “in that situation any man would feel so angry that he would want to kill the woman!” One of the the guys said that if his long – term girlfriend cheats on him, his first reaction would be to kill her too! Obviously, the women were shocked. So these guys ended up changing their statements later. They said we misunderstood. They were just trying to speak from the killer’s perspective, what goes in his head!!!
Bollywood has created so much crap during my childhood that took so long to unlearn. It did much damage to our mindsets. The fact that I do not remember this scene as something objectionable means I probably found it okay. I remember another movie in which Aamir Khan had slapped Madhuri Dixit and he now truly regrets being part of such show of false sense of masculinity. Not only this, women like me also grew up believing we deserve abuse!
Mindsets take time to change. But some people love to be stuck in the 13th century even today.
Women’s Web shared this article again yesterday. You can read it here. I had written it more than two years ago.
This article has been very popular. I receive messages from women who may be going through something similar. Yesterday, also I received a message from a woman who is in a horrible marriage. Let’s call her Riya. Her husband and in-laws treat her very badly. She is extremely unhappy.
“I am always angry”, she said.
I know what that anger feels like….
To constantly hear ill from someone who you live with and his entire family… When all of them gang up against you. The abuses. The taunts. The disrespect. The humiliation. It is never worth it…
I asked her if she is financially independent. She is. I asked her then what is the problem. She said her parents are not letting her get out. It has been just a year. They believe she should make it work because anyway she will be miserable as a “divorcee”. Plus, everyone has “problems” in their marriage. It reminds me of the movie, Dil Dhadakne Do in which Shefali Chaya’s character tells her daughter, played by Priyanka Chopra , “Todna aasan hai. Nibhana mushkil hai,”. Or something like that. I do not have the patience to go through the movie on Youtube and find the exact dialogue.
Just like Riya, I am also very angry. Every time the conversation of divorce comes up in Riya’s family, her mother emotionally blackmails her by giving example of a lady who had a heart attack because her daughter got divorced. Riya asked me what if something happens to her mother if she takes such a step.
I do not have an answer for her.
Why are her parents behaving like this? Isn’t she going through enough? Is it fair that one of the considerations in this already complicated decision would be her mother’s possible heart attack? No. She is not even a heart patient!!
Riya is earning well. If she separates from her husband, she can afford to live on her own. She will not go back to her parents’ house. She already lives in a different city. Why is her divorce so much about her parents, and not about her?
Probably because the marriage was also about her parents. We know how most arranged marriages work. The parents (girl’s side mostly) pay for the expenses. The jewelry. The functions. The photographer. The makeup. The grand venue.
I also remember a relative telling me four years ago, “Your parents have more stake in the marriage than you. They are the ones who spent their savings. You are so lucky they are okay to forego all of it because you don’t want to be with that guy anymore. “
I heard variations of this again and again:
Parents spend so much money on the daughter’s wedding. They would not want to lose it.
Second time around also they would have to bear! (if you are lucky to have a second time).
I am not even worried about you. I know you are a strong girl. I am worried about your parents who have to see this in old age.
You are not the victim here. It is your poor parents. They must be going through so much stress! Oh God.
Don’t be so selfish! Can’t you just make it work for your parents’ happiness? Do they not deserve peace in old age?
I don’t know how many of you know about the “Ring Theory”. It is a theory that helps you understand where you stand in a crisis situation and what you should do. Psychologist Susan Silk and her friend Barry Goldman wrote a piece about it. Quoting,
“If the crisis is happening to you, you are in the center of the ring. If the crisis is not happening to you, you’re in one of the outer circles.
Here are the basic rules from Silk and Goodman’s article:Draw a circle. In this circle, write the name of the person at the center of the crisis.Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In this ring, put the name of the person next closest to the crisis. In each larger ring, put the next closest people. As Silk and Goodman state, “Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones.. Here are the rules: The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, ‘Life is unfair’ and ‘Why me?’ That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring. Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.”
The concept is ‘comfort in, dump out”. The person in the center is suffering the most. That person can say anything they want. The persons in the outer circle may also be very upset. They can share what they feel. But to people in outer circles.
So, in case of a divorce, the person in the center is the person getting a divorce. The parents would probably be in the very next circle. Followed by siblings, grandparents, bua mausi, chacha, mama, cousins etc. But they are not in the center. The center is for Riya.
But it does not work that way in India. In the center are parents, grandparents, family, honour, father’s pride, mother’s dream, grandparents’ last wish, sister’s chances in the marriage market, neighborhood aunty’ s uncomfortable questions. I do not even know where to find Riya in this. Somewhere under the dump. Lost.
Yes. I know. Any parent would not want their child to go through a divorce. Everybody wants their children to be happy. In any part of the world. But sometimes things don’t work out.
I will again come back to the movie ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, where Ranveer Singh’s character tells his mother that she did not get out knowing about her husband’s philandering ways because she had nowhere to go. Yes, it is the harsh reality. Earlier, also marriages may have been bad but women had nowhere to go. So please it is not about our “family values”, or low divorce rate or the fact that so many people adjusted.
I am sorry parents, but your children’s divorce is not about you. Even if you paid 30 lakhs on the wedding and jewelry, it is not about you. (You should not have done that in the first place).
This is about their life. Your daughter need not suffer every day, be miserable and angry so that the wedding you attend once a year is free from uncomfortable questions. It is not about you. Or about your neighbor who asks, “Where is her husband”. Her marriage is not about you having peace in your old age. It is about the years and decades ahead of her that she has to live through.
You may know of someone who is going through a divorce. Her divorce is not about you. You do not get to be disappointed in her life and then tell her about it. Please don’t tell her how shocked you are to hear about it. And how you cannot sleep at night. . Remember comfort in, dump out. You should give her strength. You should try to help her. She is dealing with enough. It does not mean your feelings don’t count. Please feel free to tell other people, in outer circles who are not as vested as her. But she cannot deal with your disappointments, your pain, your shock, and your horror. She has enough on her plate.
I am sorry Riya. I am sorry you have to go through this. I feel for you. I am also feeling angry.
For the past few minutes the doorbell was incorporated as part of my dream. Finally, after it rang for some time, I realized it is not a dream and I need to get up and open the door.
Shashikala walked in.
“Goodmorning Didi.” She said in her usual chirpy voice.
“Hmm.” I replied coldly. She had not come to work the day before. I was giving her the silence treatment.
“Didi, I will make chicken for you today,” she said trying to lure me with my favourite food.
“No need! There is a lot of leftover from yesterday!” I gave a cold reply again.
The silent treatment did not seem to be working. She either did not understand I was mad or she did not care. I broke my cold war and blurted out:
“Look at all those dirty dishes! I had guests over yesterday! And you just ditched me! I had told you not to take an off for these two days! Your work is the last priority for you. You took an off to look after your friend!! She does not have anyone? You have to disrupt your work to attend to her?”
“No Didi. She is not my friend.”
“Oh so what neighbor? Stranger! Even better! You come to work only after you have solved all of humanity’s problems.”
“She is his first wife….”
Shashikala was married off when she was about 18. Her husband was abusive. He used to take all her money for alcohol and beat her up. In the next five years, she had two sons until one fine day he just left. After a couple of years he showed up again, asking for his children. Shashikala refused to give them up. He told her he is doing well in life and would be in a better position to support the kids. She said she does not want to live with him. A compromise was made. The husband took her elder son. She kept the younger one.
A kind aunt of hers thought that it is time she remarried. The prospective groom was okay with having her son around. So Shashikala agreed. Once the marriage was solemnized, she was in for another shock. This man was already married, something she had no idea about. The first wife was still living there. Shashikala left him and came back with her son.
Now, she lives with her younger son. The elder son (who is with his father) is in a hostel and he visits her sometimes. Both the husbands show up at her house once in a while to create some drama!
Her story came flashing back in my mind.
“What happened to her!” I asked her. The anger was now replaced with curiosity.
“He came the night before to eat. He said that she has not been keeping well so there is no one to cook for him. You know he is very selfish Didi. He did not even take her to the doctor. She was in pain. So I went there. Took her to the hospital. Got her the medicines. Cleaned her house. And cooked some food.”
“Why do you care so much about her?”
“Unknowingly I did her wrong Didi! I married her husband and hurt her! This is the least I can do.”
I read a lot of articles online. The latest trend is romanticizing cheating. I have seen a lot of reputed publications publish articles on cheating and how it is all about “being in the moment”, “living your life”, “love and sex are different things”, “it just happens” and other such excuses. When I express my disgust in the comments some cool people respond,“Why are being so judgmental”, “To each to his own”. It seems we have no idea how to be progressive.
Here is a woman who did not exactly have a smooth life. One bad marriage is enough to break a person. She had two! It could have been convenient for her to bitter. But she chose not to. She had self-respect. She did not take back her first husband when he came back. She left the second husband the moment she found out he is already married.
But these things did not change who she is as a person. It did not change the kindness within her. The kindness that made her feel the physical and emotional pain of another woman.
Yes, good women uplift other women. They hold their head high in times of turmoil. They do not let the unhappiness in their lives change their judgment, and conscience.
Shashikala, you are a feminist to me. You may not get any recognition. But you have taught me one thing:
We are who we are. No matter what happens in life, there is no excuse to cause someone pain. There is no reason to not live by our principles.
I remember the joy on your face when you found my old laptop at Grandma’s place. You managed to crack the password. You were surprised that the password was not Myarya_21, unlike my other devices. But you know why. It was long before you were born.
Your joy soon turned into a rude shock. You saw a picture of my wedding. A wedding with a man who was not your father. It was our joint decision to wait until you turned 18 to talk to you about my previous marriage. But since you felt betrayed, I think it is important that I tell you my story.
Almost two decades ago, when I was barely 22, Grandma and Grandpa had arranged my marriage to a suitable man. He was charming, intelligent and witty. People who had limited interactions with him thought he was a great guy. Sadly, he had a narcissist and manipulative streak in him. A secret only his wife knew.
He yelled at me for almost everything that he did not like – whether it was the not so apt salt in the gravy, the newspaper folded the wrong way, or his call being missed. I would bear the brunt of his poor appraisals and his disagreements with friends. While I struggled to cope up with his temperament, he would shatter my self-esteem by saying that he is doing me a favour. He would call me names and humiliate me. And one day, he slapped and pushed me for the most trivial argument. When I told him I would report him to the police, he laughed.
‘In this country men get away with burning their wives! You don’t even have a bruise as evidence!’
‘I will break your bones if I see that look on your face again!’
‘No other man would be able to tolerate you with all your flaws!’
I wanted to leave him. People said that my situation was not so bad. At least he had not hit me black and blue. Aggression is a ‘masculine’ trait. Once I have a child, everything would be okay.
I walked out of the marriage.
I had never thought I’ll remarry. But years later when I met your father, I understood that not all men are bad. He was sensitive and caring. He restored my faith in everything good and beautiful in the universe. We got married. Then you were born. When I held you, I felt so thankful.
Arya, in a few years you will start dating. You will fall in love. You may get married. As much as I would love to, I cannot protect you from meeting the wrong men. Abuse can be physical, emotional or psychological . You don’t have to ask people if you what you are going through constitutes abuse, or is it enough to end a relationship. What does not feel right for you is not to be endured.
Any time you have doubts, I want you to remember your parents. We did not give birth to you, and love you with every ounce of our soul so that you can grow up to become a doormat. Your mother did not wait to be assaulted brutally to justify her choice. She left at the first instance of abuse. Your father is the perfect example of a gentleman. He has set high standards for you. He is kind and gentle. He has never raised his voice at you or me. Being aggressive is the folly of a coward. Someone who is a slave to his insecurities.
I want you to promise me two things if God forbid, you ever find yourself stuck with someone who does not treat you well: First, that it is not your fault. The shame belongs to the person who deserves it – the perpetrator. Second, have the courage to get out as soon as you find out.
You may have family, friends and laws for support. But the biggest barrier may be in your mind, which only you can overcome.
We want you to be the heroine of your life, not the victim.
Much love and hopes,
This is a fictional piece written for the Blogathon Theme ‘#alettertoher’ organised by Womensweb to spread awareness on domestic violence. I would like to read Meena Kandasamy’s new book, ‘When I hit you,’ because it is time to break the shackles of abuse, and pass on the shame to the one who deserve it – the perpetrator.
I read about Manjula Divak’s suicide the day before yesterday.
Excerpts from the article:
Manjula’s father said, “She was a brilliant girl. She was going to complete her thesis next month, but her husband and parents-in-law wanted her to come back to Bhopal and do household work.”
Mr. Devak told The Hindu that he had already made it clear to the family before the marriage in 2013 that Ms. Manjula would pursue her Ph.D. “They had agreed then but later started torturing her,” he said.
Her husband had allegedly asked Manjula to arrange ₹20 lakh from her father so he could start his own business. “Was my daughter going to wash dishes and sweep the floor after completing her doctorate,” asked the father.
My first reaction was why would such a brilliant woman, a PhD student at IIT Delhi who is capable of being financially independent not opt for divorce but tolerate dowry demands by her husband and in-laws?
Until I read another article which had screenshots of her whatsapp conversation with her sister. It suggested that she did want a divorce. The talk had been initiated with her father-in-law who was supposed to send a ‘rough document’. Her father-in-law had said that if she has to tolerate a couple of beatings to sustain her relationship, then what is the problem?
Manjula had said to her sister that she does not want a second marriage. These people were too horrible. She is happy alone. Her sister said that not everybody is bad, and that life is too big. Sister had said ‘love you’.
I could not hold back my tears. I was in a similar situation few years back. I could relate to Manjula.
How much pain her parents and sister would be feeling now? And how hopeless she must have felt to take such a step?
Manjula got into an arranged marriage at 24 because the ‘horoscopes had matched’. Her story sounds much too familiar. An academically inclined young girl is married to an unknown man because her family feels this is the best thing for her. The boy wants a qualified girl who should wash the dishes, sweep the floor, whose family should provide him dowry for starting his business.
I hate the idea of arranged marriages, that too at 23-24 when girls have just finished their education. But love marriages prove no different either with spineless husbands siding with their parents. Unfortunately, most Indian men’s families are like Manjula’s husband’s. The state of women remains the same.
Manjula was brave enough to consider divorce. But she got scared of her uncertain future. She lost her faith in goodness. She hung herself.
When will things change? What do these men and their families think, that they have hired a life-long slave? The parents of girls in India have pathetically low standards. Their sense of ‘normal’ has been skewed for generations. They feel that all girls have to ‘adjust’. Their daughter is no exception. And what can be worse than having a 35 year old unmarried daughter?
Let me tell you what can be worse:
A bruised daughter.
A daughter broken in spirits.
A dead daughter.
I agree that marriage is important. Being single for a girl has its own challenges. Whether the woman has been divorced, or remains unmarried, she would probably be seeking companionship. Every new relationship that would not end up in marriage would break her heart, reminding her that she is single while her friends are having babies. But here is the thing:
She would be going ahead in her career, without having to sweep the floor before going to work. She would probably have discovered new interests by now, which she would not have at 21-22 when she was busy studying for exams. She would not be hearing taunts all day about how inadequate she is. There would also be hope of finding a better man. A hope that is lost when she remains married to a loser.
It is still a much more dignified life than a life dedicated to serving an abusive, inconsiderate, man who happens to be your husband and a bunch of entitled, manipulative, greedy in-laws who are the by-products of this disastrous mistake that should not have happened in the first place.
To all the girls reading this and stuck in horrible marriages, I understand that the happy family Hallmark card may be every woman’s dream. But if yours is not, you have to get out, and find your dream elsewhere. It may or may not involve a man immediately. But by leaving cruel people and standing up for yourself you are not just doing a favour to yourself, but a favour to society at large.
The future generations of women would be grateful you did not pass on the legacy of ‘adjustment’.