Teresa is a contract worker with us, who was bought by her employer to do some data entry work in our office. She is been with us for two months now and her work will get over by next month. She is totally intimidated with our office environment, people and practices. She can type good English but cannot converse in the same language.
It took me some time to get friendly with her and persuade her to sit with us for lunch. Last week she was very despondent. I thought she was sick. A little bit of prodding and she revealed that it was her son’s birthday. I was shocked to hear that she had a son. She looked like a baby herself!! Teresa has an 8-year-old son and a husband back in Trivandrum.
Her story told in bits and pieces over the week has left me angry and very very frustrated. Teresa was the only daughter of her folks who worked in the Gulf. She was not very bright in studies, besides she was a simple girl. She managed to do her computers course and a graduation and was married off to a guy working as a contract worker with the Kerala government.
Soon after marriage, Teresa’s husband laid down rules and regulations for her. Breakfast should be at least three courses, lunch at least 5 courses and dinner the same. Anything less and he flew into a rage and threw the food out. Teresa had to come back home by 6 pm or he would make a scene drawing neighbors and sundry passers by with his rants. And this being Kerala, neighbors too would join in chiding her for coming late. Many a day when she worked late she came home, to a door bolted from the inside and had to go to her parents home to sleep. Next day when she returned home, she would get a tongue lashing for her ‘misdemeanors’.
Teresa had to put red coloring in her hair parting so that people knew that she was married and a mangal sutra too. Failing which he flies into a rage accusing her of deliberately hiding her marital status.
Her parent’s advice to stand upto him was of no avail as Teresa was too used to the abuse. Besides she didn’t want to lose her son, whom her husband refused to part with.
Fed up of the constant strife, Teresa applied for a job in Bangalore with a Branch of the Data Entry Agency where she worked and was selected. She told her husband that she was transferred. He had no choice but to let her go as she pays the loan of the house they built. The house is in his name.
Every week Teresa’a husband calls up and inquires if she has put the red kum kum in her hair. Every six month he lands up at her one room home and makes life hell for her by asking neighbors about her timings. This being Bangalore, luckily neighbors do not entertain such requests.
After paying off her housing loan, Teresa has barely any money to buy clothes or food. The free lunch in my office is a boon to her. When I asked her why she took such abuse, she smiled and said that coming away to Bangalore was her small way of raising her voice. She hopes that Bangalore and the distance from her husband will change her.
I felt so proud of her when I heard that! Teresa realizes her shortcomings and is fighting back, in her own way. How many Malayalee women do that?