Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Internalising violence

Heena is like most other 30-something woman -- married with children, working in a small time organisation, and trying hard to make ends meet especially with a husband who enjoys getting violent. We just knew that this was a similar pattern among the women of Awaz-E-Niswaan, the organisation that was helping Muslim women to fight back. But Heena's warm laughter about her situation putrefacted my gut.

Heena has four children -- the eldest is a 12-year-old girl and the youngest is a two-year-old toddler. Her husband has no fixed job while she works in an office to bring in the dough every evening for her children. Her husband doesn't want her. He has already divorced her. Now he wants the house -- a tiny matchbox room -- to himself. So he doesn't shy away from going to any extremes to get Heena and the children out of the house. Heena has suffered his kicks, slaps, thuds for 14 years. Her eldest daughter is already a terrified soul.

But Heena won't leave the house. "He married me, bore me four children. I wouldn't ask 'where am I to go?' because I know that me and my children have equal right to safe shelter."

Behind her high-powered lens, one cannot miss Heena's beautiful eyes. Her husbands also admits to that fact and that was the most-recent cause of their squabble, which left a deep scab below Heena's right eye. "How dare you ahev such beautiful eyes? How dare men look at your eyes directly? You must be the one who seduce them!" and thud! he banged her eye but missed it by an inch.

"I picked up the bamboo and hit him back that day -- the first time ever in the 14 years of cohabitation," says Heena, as she lets out her ferocious laughter before us. "i should have picked up the bamboo or even an iron rod many years earlier, but now, I am also always eyeing the gutter below my house. Next time he decides to pounce on me, i Know where to push him," she says confidently.

Ask the five-feet tall Heena if she could really do that, and she says that nothing would now stop her from doing so. I smile, and ask, "How tall is your marad?"

"He is bulky -- but I will kick him."

I sigh; I am left wondering; I am only praying.

I am pulled out of my moment's prayers when I see her pointing towards her thigh rather animatedly, I regain my composure, rub my hands so as not to feel my goosebumps, but her words defeat my curdling of blood -- "He once stabbed a knife into my thigh! Can you believe it?" and she laughs as though it was the best-laid practical joke. Only, it is on herself and her married life, and she has internalised the joke.

"He throws the cooked food and my friend Tabassum, who keeps a tab on my children, calls me to report this."

"What do you do then?"

"I buy andaa pav...I can afford that for sure for my children."

Heena laughs through each of her statement. I smile, not knowing that as my lips curve, she receives the impetus to go on and on to give me more examples of the way he tortures her, which she narrates rather vividly. Is she glad to be able to spill it all out? Has she already gone past those ideas of covering up? Or is she merely entertaining my evening with her gory narratives, to which I can do nothing but only feign a smile?

No comments:

Post a Comment