Sunday, March 8, 2009

Alkabai

We had recently moved to Pune, and my mother had hired Alkabai as our maid.
I didn't pay much attention to her at the time, but now when I think about her, the mental picture that comes up in my mind is that of a beautiful, tall woman, impeccably dressed in a clean saree, neatly combed hair, a friendly smile on her lips. She was very efficient in her work, and soft spoken and caring in manner. The very picture of a happy, content person.

This picture got tainted the fateful day when her husband knocked on our door. He was dead-drunk in the middle of the day, looking for Alkabai. My mother said she was not there, and warned him never to come back to our house. He stood there asking for Alkabai's salary,
saying he was her husband, and needs the money. My mother simply asked him to go away and shut the door. He hung around peeking in through the windows for some time, then left cursing everyone, from Alkabai to my mother and anyone else that he could think of.

Alkabai was hiding somewhere in the house all this time, shedding silent tears.
"यह तो रोज का है, माजी. रोज पिके आता है, पैसे मांगता है. पैसे नहीं दिए तो मुझे मारता है. आज देखो मेरे पीछे पीछे यहाँ तक आ गया, और आपको परेशान कर रहा है", she said when asked what this was about. My mother did not know what to say to her.

A few days later, I walked out of our compound and saw the guy, unconscious on the ground with a rock by his bleeding head. People were gathered around him, and someone said that Alkabai finally got fed up and smashed his head.

Anytime I hear the words "Domestic Violence", Alkabai's face magically appears before me.

This was 17 years ago. I used to think that this happens only to uneducated, poor people. How wrong I was! Domestic Violence (DV) plagues each and every strata of our society and our world. It is the most rampant crime, and also the most under-reported one.

Why would anyone want to beat someone up?? Especially when they are family?
The answer is simple. Control! Domination! Insecurity! And it is easier to get away when it is family, because people do tend to keep such dirty laundry under wraps. Women are taught to be "resilient" and "silently bear" everything for the family's sake.

How did this ever become acceptable! Isn't it violation of basic human rights?
The main reason this is acceptable is because of the way our society is structured. Even I have been brought up to believe that "We live in a male-dominated society. If you learn to accept that, then you will be happy".

I did not think to object to this when I was 17. Thankfully, I have grown up, and now know better than that.There are a couple of key points in this statement that make me bristle today.

The first one is that of domination. Why anyone should dominate or control another is beyond me.
The second one is that acceptance of this domination is the key to being happy. This is the exact opposite of the truth! How can anyone ever be happy if they are being suppressed! Accept it? How??? And why?

Unfortunately, this statement sums up what most girls grow up believing and continue to believe.

I wonder why Alkabai didn't dump her husband before things got to the point they did.
Society is to blame again!
A single/divorced woman is looked upon with scorn. She might even fall prey to other lecherous men if she dumped this one.
She might have been afraid that he might come after her with renewed anger and force.
She might have been brain washed into believing that she deserved to be beaten up!
Maybe she just got used to it, and didn't realize that this is wrong and life can be different!
Maybe she had no support system, no one to turn to. So she just continued to be with the abusive partner thinking that "something is better than nothing"
Maybe she did not know that she COULD do something, that she COULD report to the police!


The effects of DV are deep and far-reaching. Not only does it affect the woman, but also any children in the household. Boys may grow up believing that it is okay to hurt someone, to control someone through violence. Girls may grow up with very slow self-esteem and also believe
that they deserve to be abused. And the cycle just does not end!

So what can we do to prevent DV?
As far as I know, most of us tend to ignore these matters thinking that it is the personal affair of the people involved. It is not for us to interfere. Truth is, DV is a crime. And crime is no one's personal matter. This crime needs to be dealt with just like any other. I agree, it is difficult to decide when it is time for outsiders to intervene since relationships are sensitive issues.

Yet, there ARE a few things that we can do.

If you see anyone being abused, stop them! Interfere, say something completely irrelevant, say nothing, anything that you can think of at the time, just do something to stop the chain of negative thoughts in the perpetrators mind.

If you know of someone who is routinely being abused, but is not doing anything about it, offer help. Let them know that you are there to support them in case they decide to take action. Make them aware of the laws that protect them against DV. Make them aware that there is life beyond their relationship!

Lastly, I think, it is critical to educate children in school about domestic violence. They should know what actions qualify as DV, and what laws exist for protection against them. If this is taught to them at a young age, I am confident they will grow up to build lasting and loving relationships!

It is time for everyone, regardless of cast, creed, sex, religion, every single person on earth to live with pride and dignity! Let's take the steps necessary to eradicate this monster!

Happy Women's Day!

23 comments:

Aathira said...

Very nice.

I have seen that DV prevails in all strata as you have said. And also that this is something which might start as a small smack, a small slap and then with time the control and domination devil over rides and then its too late to even think what exactly happened and led to this!

I think it is important for every woman to never ever let anyone raise a hand on her! One might just lead to many more unseen ones!

aneri_masi said...

Very good point Athira, about how it starts!

And not just raise a hand, but also no one should ever verbally abuse, put down or insult a woman.

Renu said...

I saw the same situation when i was in kanpur, my maid was the sweetest person I have seen, and she was always beaten by her husband after drinking, and i wanted to go to her pplace and talk to her husband, but she never let me, saying that .....madam pyaar bhi to karta ha woh mujhe, maarta ha to kya ha, ham logo me to yeh aam baat ha

--xh-- said...

the basic steps to stop DM should start from home itself.. good post abt DM...

♥ÐÅyÐяєÅмє®♥ said...

wow...that was a awesome post... I hope it helps the cause..coz I am fed up of this menace indian girl are facing starting from domestic violence to sexual incestuous abuse ...

it amazes me most of the time..how can one be such a pervert to ravish another human beyond the level of tolerance just for the carnal pleasure..

I hope alkabai has some peace now..

Chirag said...

Ya Dm, is often taken as something personal and Ghar ki baat hai. Which shouldn't be the case, and should be dealt with proper seriousness.

Great, keep writing about such elements which may be dangerous to a someones life.

Ria said...

thts an amazing post for women's day coz not many wud like to write abt this side of a woman, most of us wud write the good things the happy things abt being a woman. And i feel we as women need to stand up for ourselves and others.

I am said...

happy Woman's Day Kashmira and Nice post.

Princess Mia said...

i guess times r changing n yes woman r standing up for their rights now.....its slow but gradually i hope some day we can get rid of DV

aneri_masi said...

@RenuDi, isn't it sad that this is what they think love is? This is exactly what I meant when I said, maybe they don't know life can actually be different!

@xh, that is true, but even people who do not face this in their own homes need to work towards eradicating it.

@sourish, tum kab samjhoge ke relationships, marriage is more than just sex?

aneri_masi said...

@chirag, thanks :)

@ria, thanks! I hope they start educating kids in school about this. I feel it is a very effective way to spread awareness.

@tanu, bass itna hi? aur kuch nahi bolegi? :)

@mia, I don't know, re :( Koi khaas farak nahi pada hai :(

my space said...

I see Alka Bai`s around me all the time. And not restricted to the so called uneducated class only. A campaign called BELLBAJAO is actively educating people to take action against this menace..i think the website is www.bellbajao.com

my space said...

oops! Just read ur post on bell bajao!!!

aneri_masi said...

@my space, lol, I was wondering why you were saying what you were saying :)

Ankur said...

i really 2nd u on this... i have never understood y women have always been treated as the secondary part in living life!!
i was coming back from Goa and i met an elderly uncle who was well learned and he still thinks that women shld give up everything to raise a child... i even had a discussion with him over wearing jeans... and i asked him brutally, why are u wearing this pant-shirt... isnt this western!!

the bigger problem is that girls give it up easily... everytime, in the name of love and life, they give it up with some excuse and when a frnd like me tells them not to take it on.. i m wrong.. haha...
may b it is right that we can never understand woman!!!

but i still agree with u on everything!!

aneri_masi said...

ankur, the answers to your questions about why girls give up is in the post :) All the "maybe's" in there? That's what they are explaining. Basically, we (men and women both!) have been conditioned this way over the centuries. It needs to change now that we know better!

ceedy said...

Very good post.

When kids see this - sometimes its not that they feel ok that they can do it too.
Some sensitive kids are left traumatised and weak after seeing someone in their house constantly badgered for no reason. They live with an inherent fear of being bashed if they fail and this stops them from doing anything....

aneri_masi said...

@ceedy, of course, I agree. We cannot even begin to imagine what impressions/opinions/fears get lodged into young minds. That, I guess is also a crime towards little kids!

Ekta said...

fab post aneri!
I have personally also experienced this nonsense with my ,maids in india and is sad to see how these women get stuck in their lives....

I am said...

nahii :)

aneri_masi said...

@tanu, tu pagal hai :)

KoolKap said...

When I was a kid we had maid names alka. She had five daughter.. your post reminded my childhood days.. but its just not with the economically lower class that face DV... Even Educated people do the same.. I think its mentality of people sadly in India its difficult to change.. I believe things are changing these days

aneri_masi said...

@KoolKap, yeah, that is part of what I was trying to say, that it is not limited to a particular class of people, or a particular region or religion. It is everywhere!