“Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.” – Nelson Mandela
Well, India as a nation achieved freedom in 1947 but 71 years down the lane, atrocities against women are still being committed and we still need to think how to tackle them. Women’s freedom in society is till date a far-fetched idea only real in the minds of great thinkers. Today I want to share with you the story of a middle-aged woman whom I met a few days ago; her story will compel us to think ‘Is it really 21st century! Are we still living in medieval times’!
Radhika (name changed) was a six months old girl when her father, a farmer, left her mother to remarry. Her mother, Seema belonged to a poor family and was uneducated. She had no option left other than to go to her maternal family which was a family of seven consisting of her mother and brother’s large family with four children and his wife. Radhika’s maternal uncle was the sole earner of family and now he had two more mouths to feed – Seema and Radhika.
Seema’s health had started deteriorating since separation from her husband due to depression and stress. Her medical expenses were an additional burden on the family which was hardly able to manage two meals in a day. Seeing family’s poor economic situation, Radhika’s maternal grandmother, at the age of 50 decided to find a job. She used to go from home to home doing massage sessions for small kids so as to help her family with some extra money.
Growing up for Radhika was not easy with a sick mother and a devil aunt. Radhika’s aunt (wife of Seema’s brother) didn’t like Radhika and her mother as they were additional mouths feeding on her husband’s earning. Radhika’s aunt used to torture her by depriving her of food or whipping her up when nobody was at home. Despite her home environment, Radhika was a hard-working girl. She used to walk to her school which was 5 km away from home in scorching sun; all in all walking 10 km a day for a 10-year-old kid. Since it was a govt. school, her primary education was funded by the school. Scholarship and private tuitions helped her fund the rest of her education journey from senior classes to graduation (B.E.D from a govt. college).
At the age of 20 when Radhika had completed her education, she thought she would get a job now and her life will be finally easier and the struggle will end now. But alas! Destiny had other plans for her. On her aunt’s insistence, Radhika’s uncle married her to an uneducated farmer who was a distant relative of her aunt without enquiring any details about him and his family background.
Radhika’s new family was also a huge one with 5 brothers and parents. Post marriage, Radhika’s in- laws had strictly prohibited her from taking up any job as they didn’t like it. Her daily routine was to get up at 5 in the morning, cook food for the family, wash clothes, clean the house, etc. From morning till night day was spent in doing all household chores; she got no time left for herself. Although Radhika was an ideal daughter-in-law but her mother-in-law was never satisfied with her efforts. She used to torment Radhika with her bitter comments. But her misery didn’t end here. Her husband, Suraj was an abusive drunkard who often in a drunken state used to beat her up. Suraj‘s brothers were equally abusive and didn’t spare Radhika as well whether misbehaving with her or sometimes slapping her when she didn’t behave according to their whims and fancies.
Time went by but nothing changed in her routine. Neither did her husband change nor his family. Eventually Radhika had 3 kids – one daughter and two sons. Post becoming a mother, main goal of Radhika‘s life was to educate her children so that they lead an independent life and not a life of misery and struggle like hers’. But her husband’s earnings were not enough to support their kids’ education so she decided to find a job for herself. Her family was against it and she was whipped and abused many times for this decision but this only made her resolve more strong. She applied for a primary teacher’s role in various govt. schools and finally found one after some months of efforts. This one was in a school at Haidergarh, 25 km away from her home at Saraj. Though her family obstructed her but she had no option but to accept the offer or else her children would suffer.
There was a bus from Saraj to Sidah which was 3 km away from Haidergarh. From Sidah to Haidergarh, there is no conveyance so walking is the only alternative. Radhika’s new morning routine was to get up at 4 am, finish all household chores by 7, catch the bus at 8 am from Saraj to Sidah and then walk her way to school. In the evening again when school was over, she had to walk 3 km back from school to Sidah and then catch the bus back to home. Reaching home at 8 pm in night, day didn’t end for Radhika as it generally does for most of us when we just sit back and relax. She was expected to cook for the entire family, patiently hear the abusive comments hurled at her by mother-in-law, getting whipped by her husband or his brothers for not giving them her hard-earned money and last but not the least teach her children. Sleep was the last thing on the list and after such an eventful and tiring day, it often wasn’t a sound and relaxing one. Despite the struggle and tormented life that Radhika had, she was never disheartened or discouraged; she just focused on her goal which was her children’s education.
Radhika’s elder son has just given his engineering exams. She had sent her son to Kota for preparation and paid 1 lakh rupees as admission fees to a famous engineering coaching institute. Radhika’s daughter is also pursuing B.E.D from a govt. institute. All expenses of education, hostel, etc. are solely borne by Radhika and she has no support from anyone.
I salute Radhika for her courage to go through so much and still stand strong as a steel pillar. Her story compels us to think about some questions – Why did Radhika’s father not take up her responsibility and throw her like someone throws waste out of the house? Why didn’t society or law reprimand him for not disposing of his duty? Who gave men the right to raise a hand at their women? Why even after doing so much, Radhika’s in-laws nature didn’t change towards her? Why is our environment not able to help such women who are bound in chains? Why was Radhika not able to walk out of this marriage when she was educated and independent? When will a women rise to her freedom? Why we see violence against women in India when its’ 2017?
In the 21st century when we are increasingly adapting the western culture, we say we are educated, open and modernized; there is still a part of India that still needs the light of empowerment.
‘’A woman’s freedom and respect is the identity of a modernized nation” – Disa Rastogi