Spotlight — What Went Wrong

The Times of India, New Delhi's leading English daily carries a fortnightly column written by Kiran in an attempt to educate the society of their duties and responsibilities.  It carries real life stories of people who have either committed errors or were forced to do wrong by others. Remedial measures have been taken up by Kiran and India Vision Foundation and efforts are made to rehabilitate the subjects. A translated version in Hindi is carried out simultaneously in Navbharat Times. The latest version which appeared in the columns on 21 March 2002 is represented here

What Went Wrong

Women are their own enemy

I am just a teenager, barely literate and already a widow.  I was married at the small age of 15-16, to a government employee, who was on contract labour duties.  The man I married was a widower.  He was also twice my age.  On a simple reference from a neighbor  my mother without consulting anyone in the family, rushed through the relationship.  In my marriage, I was given whatever was possible, namely, furniture, television, sewing machine, 101 utensils, jewellery both for myself, my husband and his relatives. My parents also gave me Rs. 21,000 in cash.  All went alright only for sometime. However, all this while I had no access to my husband’s salary for he would give all his earnings to his widowed aunt (Bua) living in the house.  She was in fact the de-facto mother-in-law of the house.  She actually dictated, dominated and controlled everything and everyone.  

Around 3 months after our marriage, I found my husband taking to alcohol.  And the quantity of the intake increased day by day.  I saw him drinking neat from the very morning itself.  Since the toilet was outside the home he would take his bottle or pouch with him and drink even in the toilet and return home drunk. We had many violent fights but he wouldn’t listen.  I would smash his bottles but he would replace them with more pouches.  No body in the home i.e. his younger brother, his sister or his widowed aunt i.e. Bua came to my help.  They would say, “he is your responsibility and you deal with him”.  My husband would vomit around in the house and even lost control over his stools.  I would spend all the time cleaning the rooms of his filth.  Over the weeks and months, he became irregular in going for duties and managed medical leave or even his attendance on false grounds. Now he was no more getting even his wages.  

He started to borrow money.   At times I did not even have a rupee with me to get milk for a cup of tea.  I too begged and borrowed but there had to be a limit.  After a while all sources of borrowing dried up.  

My husband finally drank himself to death within one year of our marriage.  I grieved on his death for I did not want to be without a husband, whatever kind he may be. 

Merely a  fortnight after my husband’s death, my relatives and our village Panchayats came home and decided that I should do the ‘Tilak’ and be considered as the wife of my brother-in-law and be considered man and wife immediately.  But my husband’s aunt i.e. Bua did not agree and instead said she would allow only the ‘Tilak’ at this stage and would consider a proper formal marriage only after a year.  The date too was fixed.  But instead of sending me away to my parents house I was kept back.  The following day I was pushed into the room of my brother-in –law by my aunt and bolted me in.  I protested but my brother-in-law now said he was anyway going to ‘own’ me.  The next morning he gave me some pills which I was asked to eat daily.  I didn’t even know what they were meant for.  I was now living with him as man and wife. 

After a few months, I received some cheques from the office of my deceased husband as after death allowances since I was his nominee.  I was taken along by my aunt to open a joint bank account and deposit these cheques.  Thereafter I also received some cash amount which again I deposited in the bank.  On this my husband’s aunt rebuked me and physically assaulted me for not giving her the money.  Now she asked me to get out of the house. I never wanted to go for I was married as I thought.  But she physically pushed me out.  None of the neighbors came out to help me.  For they all knew what a shrew the aunt was.  I had no choice but to go to my parents’ house and be a burden on their meager resources.  Despite my two brothers in the house my parents live on bare minimum for the daughters-in-law do not let my brothers do anything for them. 

I have been informed that the aunt and my brother-in-law or my husband (sic) tried to persuade the bank officers to let them operate my account by saying that I was the wife and not well to come - - - - but luckily the bank officials did not allow.  Now I realize why they kept me back after the death of my husband and why they threw me out! 

But I still want to go and live in my deceased husband’s house for it is my house too!  I do not want to be married to any one - - - - Please help me go back to the house or help me get the share of the property howsoever small it be. 

(Navjyoti is referring her case for legal help to Lawyer’s Collective.  Meanwhile she has been motivated to join in the Navjyoti’s vocational training centre to help herself to be her own provider sooner or later.) 

What Went Wrong

  •  Legal rights for hapless women come at a price which they cannot afford.

  •  Rights and security of women are being violated with the active aid and abetment of women

  •  Economically dependant women remain a liability even for herself.

       

       

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