Back in 2015, I wrote a blog about why a lot of women trapped in abusive relationships or marriages do not get out, despite the torture they are put through every day. (https://insanereverie.in/when-dreams-die/) It was not encouraging these women to go on suffering; but an understanding of the “why” behind it, rather an end to the “practicality-based judgement” I used to have against women who refused to leave. Even now I do write down my feelings every time I hear about an innocent girl’s death after a long battle in an abusive relationship. But I make sure that my writings are never questioning her lack of courage to leave, or her decision to end her life in the case of suicides, but a question on her own kin’s inability to give her the strength and support that she needed, that could keep her alive and someday, happy too.
However, I see so many posts, especially on such suicides, talking about how these girls should have found the courage to leave, how they should have proven their strength to the world by living their lives with their head held high and so on. It irritates me to the core because more than a genuine sadness, the feelings behind such posts are mostly on the lines of “Those who commit suicide are cowards”. It is definitely important for us to make stories like that of Anie Siva viral, for her display of absolutely amazing grit and courage in the face of adversity, her willpower that led to her triumph, as hope and motivation for girls who suffer. I wish more such stories came out as a beacon of hope for those who need it. But why do people share those stories along with statements that subtly belittle the ones who gave up or ended their lives?
While for others it seems like they took an easy way out, can you even imagine the fear and pain they would have gone through before taking the ultimate plunge? And for them to do something as drastic as that, can you even imagine the kind of helplessness and desperation that they must have felt? And do you have any idea how much it must have affected their mental health, pushing them to complete depression and how that ultimately decided their fate? Can you even imagine what you would do if you were in their place? No, you can’t, because you write about courage and living life boldly, sitting in a bubble of what you think is privilege and blessing, but in reality, is nothing but pure luck. And I know I say this for quite a lot of women out there, including myself.
Growing up I was never really the “ideal daughter” who obeyed everything my parents said, one who never questioned anything or let them make all my decisions for me. I never displayed any of the “qualities” attributed to an “ideal daughter” by the society. Quite a lot of it had to do with the childhood molestation episodes which turned me into a rather independent person, who never really trusted anyone. While I wish the reason wasn’t that trauma, I am still happy about the person I turned out to be. Because if I hadn’t become this person, and I wasn’t lucky enough, I could very well be one of these girls, maybe not dead, but definitely tolerating a lot of abuse – mainly emotional – in the name of “compromising as a wife”. It hurts to say that my upbringing was supposed to be that; it just didn’t happen because I was a “rebel” in others’ eyes.
I do not come from a family where domestic abuse happens. My dad has never harmed my mom ever. They have their spats and fights, but they have never been the abusive kind. And my parents are the best parents-in-law anyone can dream of, and I don’t mean only for the son-in-law, Hari. My sister-in-law is extra close to my parents because they treat her even more dearly than they treat me or my brother, do everything to make her feel as loved and pampered as possible and in short, have made our home nothing short of a paradise on earth for her. There has never been a single instance of them looking at her as an outsider, asking or even expecting her to make any sacrifices for my brother or our family, or treating her as someone inferior to my brother. In fact, my mom puts in extra efforts to make sure that she feels the love.
But the very same mom has told me multiple times from the time I was a kid that “a wife should always be 2 steps below her husband”. She has told me a million times how once I get married, my husband’s family will be my family and how I will need to make sure that they are happy, even if that means a lot of adjusting and compromising from my side. As a woman who never faced domestic abuse and one who fiercely protects her daughter-in-law from anyone even making a bad comment against her, she still enjoys the 90s movies where a guy slaps his wife for her arrogance and says with complete conviction “Ah! She really needed that!” For anyone who knows my mom, this will be a shock because for outsiders she is everything a feminist should be – independent in every way, strong and bold in facing any problems. Of course I am proud of that exterior of hers in which she has achieved so much more than I could ever wish to. But the sad part is that, even with that exterior, her mind is still so strongly tied to her upbringing and conditioning as a child. Even with all her boldness and strength to do everything independently, she still believes in her mind that a woman is second to man. Sadder yet, that is what she tried to teach me too.
My dad has never been the kind to give out such ‘words of wisdom’. But I know that “compromise and adjust” would be his mantra too when it comes to a dysfunctional marriage laden with abuse, unless it is too overt to ignore. I have seen them and most of my family members talking about the “inherent good” in some men who drink and abuse their wives and other relatives, as if that compensates for all the bad they do. I have also seen women in my own extended family put up with all kinds of shit, not necessarily physical torture, because “In life, you have to adjust. You don’t just break relationships.”
I had mentioned in one of my “fun” blogs (https://insanereverie.in/story-of-my-groom-not-to-be/) about a jerk whose arranged marriage proposal I had got, how my dad didn’t talk to me for a year only because he didn’t believe my version of the conversation I had with the guy and chose to believe the lies he said. This was a guy they had never met, who they hadn’t even talked to. Still their response was that it must have been something I said and that I didn’t “try enough”. So imagine how things could have been if I was married to the jackass. That is why I called our bubble, a bubble of pure luck and not really one of privilege or blessing of having an understanding and supportive family.
If I grew up on the lines of the conditioning that I was tried to be given, I would have ended up a woman who would keep adjusting for the sake of saving the relationship. Even if I grew up the way I did, but ended up in an abusive marriage (and I mean emotional abuse, not necessarily brutal physical abuse), the question would always have been “What did you do?” and the solution would always have been “You need to adjust in a relationship.” I am sure that my parents would not have left me to die or be killed, if things were extremely bad. But if at all I did walk out of the relationship, I would always have faced the judgement of my own family. None of this means that my parents do not love me. They do with all their heart. But they would never be able to change the mindset they held on to their entire lives, simply because the conditioning that they have been exposed to is too strong to break out of.
Trust me, explicitly or implicitly, this is what a huge section of parents in our society think like and this is the message they try to convey to their kids too. So for a lot of us women, it is either “being a rebel” or ending up with a good guy that has been the life-saver or at least “happiness-saver”. It is difficult to accept this fact. But learn to accept that and thank your stars instead of coming out with “Why didn’t she…?”, “Couldn’t she just…?” and “She should have…” If she could have, she would have. If she didn’t, that is only because she couldn’t, whatever the reason be. And if she has to, we all have to do our part, in our own little ways.
Also published on Medium.