This is a story about 2 women, from my town—lets call them Su and Sa, both from a lower-income group.
This is the first story. Sa is a hard-working woman in her late forties. She got married around 9 years ago. He told her he had nobody and she says she felt sorry for him. Also, her mother had died and she was staying alone in the house she had built and thought having a man around would be a source of strength for her. Some source of strength!!
Firstly, he said he was very ill and had something wrong with his brain for which he had to go to see a doctor far away from the town, which required a great deal of money, as far as they were concerned. She worked hard and gave him the money. Then there was some business he wanted to do, of planting ginger (or whatever). All of that was financed by her. She bought a TV on loan, got a cable connection, made the house as comfortable as was possible with her work. He was usually too ill to work. It was only after about three or four years that she found out that many of the times that he said he was ill he was just plain drunk!! Then he started beating her up occasionally when he was drunk. Mind you, he and she were around the same size. She could probably have defended herself, but didn’t.
But one day he overstepped himself. He sold gold jewellery that she had carefully collected over the years, while she was out at work and what was even worse, sold the goat that she loved like a child. That was too much for her to take. She decided to take up a job which required her to stay out of the house.
Even so, out of sympathy, on Onam—the biggest festival here in
But their saga continued. He locked her out of the house. When he found she had a key too, he changed the lock. Recently he set fire to the house while he was drunk. The precious TV, on which she had just finished paying back her loan—burnt too. She went and confronted him. All the neighbours came out to listen. Believe it or not, a neighbour, a politician & woman mind you, spoke on his behalf, telling her she should take care of him as she had been living with him for so long!!!!!!
The story of Su is similar. But she is already a grandmother although only in her late 30s, as she got married at 16 and has two daughters, the elder being married. Her 2nd daughter is studying nursing.
But in this Sa has far more advantages. 1. The house and property are in her name. 2. She is not legally married to this man, luckily for her in this case. So the law is on her side. 3. She has no children. 4. She can easily support herself as she is so hard-working. 5. She is not a meek woman. Also, while she is working to get him out of her life permanently, she has a secure place to sleep and a safe place to keep the rest of her possessions which she moved from the house.
But for Su, as she told me, “Where can I go? The house is not mine. My daughter is still studying. Also my elder daughter is married & lives very near to my house. If I leave my husband will never allow me back. Then where will I go and how will I be able to see my daughter and grandchildren?” Her only insurance is this daughter, who is studying nursing, who she hopes will take her of at least a little.
What then is the meaning of being a woman?