Ananya was in splits, giggling furiously at her brother’s antics. She was beautiful, with a mouth that spread into a smile at every little thing. Looking at her fondly, her mother waved a hand over her head and said, “Nothing less than a prince for my precious jewel”. She colored immediately and looked away.
A few months later….
Ananya looked into the mirror, bedecked in all her wedding finery, she could hardly recognize the reflection that stared back at her. Gone was the pale, scared girl, instead, she saw a confident,beautiful woman. Ramesh was a nice guy, everything that she had ever wanted. She was so happy.
The crowd was cheering, a dim shehnai music was playing in the background and the pandit was chanting mantras, the heat of the fire was overbearing. She stole a look at Ramesh through her veil, his face was set and he looked grim. His look confused her, she looked at her parents, her mother looked like she was about to burst into tears and had tightly gripped her father’s arm who looked like he had been asked to swallow a bitter pill.
It was a month after her wedding……
Ananya was cooking, all her dreams of true love, castles and prince charming had been dashed into smithereens. Ramesh didn’t love her, neither did he care about her, the whole house treated her like vermin just because her father had given them a dowry of 9lakhs instead of the promised 15. The only thing that Ramesh and his family could do was order her about and treat her like a piece of the household furniture. The only time he spoke to her was to rebuke her for her mistakes. Her mother-in-law came into the kitchen, looked at her and started muttering curses. Ananya kept looking down and continued to cook. Her mother-in-law came and stood in front of her, “Where is my medicine box?” she demanded. Ananya looked up and said that she didn’t know and before she could add that she would help her find it, her mother-in-law had upturned the utensil with the heated oil on her and had deliberately walked out of the kitchen, Ananya’s simpers of pain echoing after her.
Every time her mother would call, the mother-in-law would stand in front of her with a threatening gait, daring her to say anything out of the ordinary. At night, Ananya would bite into her knuckles to stop herself from crying out loud lest she would wake up Ramesh and get a beating from him. Her beautiful skin was already mottled with dark bruises, her eyes always red and the lips always pursed together in a grim line. The pretty, happy girl was lost.
A year later…….
Ananya gave birth to a daughter. The little proper treatment that she had received in the past nine months were gone. Now even the doormat looked happier than she did. Her mother knew all about the ill-treatment that she used to receive, “Dear, you have to compromise, they are your family now” that’s all that her mother could say which made her feel all the more helpless.
Her daughter had only turned a year old, Ananya was cooking in the kitchen when she heard her screams. She rushed to her and saw her mother-in-law lashing at her with a belt. Suddenly, the meek Ananya was gone. A vein burst somewhere in her head, she rushed forward and snatched away the belt. She still doesn’t remember most of it, but at the end of it her mother-in-law didn’t even have the strength to raise her arms to fend herself. Ananya picked up her sobbing daughter and walked out of the house without a single backward glance.
Now, Ananya works in an NGO that provides assistance to women who have been victims of domestic violence. Her daughter is a happy girl of 12, she goes to school and aspires to become a lawyer someday.
“Veiled Rebellion” a very powerful and stirring piece of art by photographer Lynsey Addario that addresses the issue. Another glowing example of how photography can affect our lives and change our thinking process. Domestic violence and women oppression is something that is still not unheard of in many parts of the world. The photo essay on the women in Afghanistan, post-Taliban oppression, is a very moving piece that brings out the atrocities committed against women in the country as well as the stark difference among the women living in the same country and their vastly different stories. On one hand there are women like Bibi Aisha whose husband cut off her ears and nose to stop her from running away and on the other hand there are women like Habiba Sarabi, the only female governor in Afghanistan who promotes education and equal rights in women. The situation is no different in India, veiled rebellion is not a thing of Afghanistan only that we can turn our backs on it and think that it doesn’t concern us. As a woman, it should concern each one of us.
Women bound and helpless, who are too scared to come out of their shells should know that there is help at hand. They too can break free, out of the shackles binding them, out of their dried skins of helplessness into blitheness and a life without dictates and oppression. Why to sit back and let people walk all over you, when you can take the reins of your life in your own hands and ride into oblivion. All it takes is just a little courage and determination.
We are not alone.