Sunday, October 21, 2007

Conquering the demon within

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?

18 comments:

mathew said...

With the kind of torture you have mentioned I would still prefer somethin bit more harsher..there is a limit to which a person has to play the all-suffering-compassionating role..there is always a red line where you have to suffer all along for the sake of holding up.Maybe she has to open up and talk sense with this guy.really sad for her.am surprised these incidents still happen back home.i thought they were all gone for good.

aaron said...

the very few malayalee women i know are my cousins and those 'achayati' girls don't take no shit. they certainly know to take care of loony men and make them toe the line.

i am distressed by what i have read. i hope that there comes a day when she can summon up enough courage to teach that MCP a lesson, that life&society should have taught him earlier - to respect ones wife and cherish her as your own or face the consequences.

Rockus said...

Hope that she will eventually gather enough courage to stand up against her husband. Men like this ought to be taught hard lesson.

Scribbles said...

This is not the case with Mallu women. Yeah, there are cases like this in Kerala but then its more predominant or worse here in the North. The mallu women whom I know wud not take much of this nonsense...Reason being they are educated, parents are educated and encourage them to fight against such chauvinism. but of course its not the same throughout the whole of Kerala.
Last week there was a session on Gender related issues which I attended. I could not put myself in their shoes though.. The troubles that my Gujju (and other north Indian ) colleagues face are incomparable to a mallu household. Till recently I lived in Kerala and had a majority of Mallu frens. Many of them were married too... In almost all of the cases there is a mutual understanding between the husband and the wife.. its acceptable for a gal to reach home late(even the society accepts it)...mayb its the middle/upper middle class alone that am considering here.... but in north India even they (the upper middle class )does not tolerate this. The wife is supposed to be home before her husband reaches .... and in laws have a huge control over their lives...The scenario is diff if u stay in a metro and ur in laws live in another corner of the world...
Comparing the case of a mallu husband and a northie guy here, a mallu guy is ok with helping his wife in the household chores.. and believe me, i ve gujju frens who respect that and are jealous of my married mallu frens for that...
Secondly a northie guy needs piping hot food coz he is not used to re-heated food from the fridge.. a mallu guy has no problems with it ...
Mayb am talking outside the context but it was bugging me ...the fact that the gals here dont react to it...

Alexis said...

Sad but these are the facts of life and there are many such incidents. if you read the newspapers and I don't think that this happens only in Kerala; similar things happen in TN (I know one such case first hand) and I think it will the same anywhere in India.

In Saturdays newspaper there was a story about a 4 year old boy who was kept chained along with the dogs, so that the parents could go to work. He was tortured--beaten and burned. He was rescued and the parents and grandparents are in jail.

Thing like this, things that we can even imagine are happening everywhere. I think people are becoming more evil (calling them animals will be an insult to animals)by the day.

Jeseem said...

hmm
i hope mingling with u and ur friends will give her the courage to stand up against her husband.

and well how many malayalee women fight back. i think a lot will. women are finally taking there place.

mathew said...

@Alexis
there are even horrible stories outside India..In the so called developed United states,Kids have died of sun burns and heat coz parents forgot(or were careless)and locked up kids in cars outside in a sunny place only to come back hours later to see this gruesome death.:-(

@Scribbles

Tell me what you want for writing that about mallu men..am gratified.We dont get to hear this very often!! ;-P

KP said...

its time for her to stand up and fight! poor lady...I really hope things get better for her...:) only way to get out is start fighting...i am glad she took the step in the right direction...:)

silverine said...

mathew: These incidents never stopped!

aaaron: I think it is evident from my post that she is a simple girl with no great deal of an educational or social background.

rockus: She has made the first step :)

scribbles: I cannot speak for other communities as my impressions will be based on one off incidents. I don't know about the mallu men/women you talk of but I am simply glad that someone like Teresa took the step to freedom.

Alexis: Of all the people who meekly take torture, Teresa stood for herself :)

Jeseem: I hope too :) People from Teresa's strata of society rarely fight back. So we can call her a trail blazer :)

KP: Exactly!! That is what reallyy gladdened me...that she took the first step, however timid :)

ap said...

I really dont understand ,why her parents are not actng?????

neermathalam said...

:(...I have a rock solid belief that all people are good and only circumstances make them evil.
But seeing and reading many many incidents like this...my belief has now become a rock salt one...everyday getting diluted.. :( Someday I may have to belive human beings are evil and only circumstances change them to do good.

Sometime staying single is bliss than a marriage of convinence

Anonymous said...

i can understand the plight of teresa.. There are hundreds of them out here (esp in tamilnadu from which i associate).. They work in offices as their husbands and also do the housework with full meals three times a day (for lunch they prepare - sambar, rasam, poriyal, kootu, rice etc and then leave for office apart from regular tiffin!!)..and they sell their jewllery in buying house.. Pay off car loans etc. And get treated like shit..abuse and tongue lashing - words like "prostitute - in tamil" is a common word used by husband to address - i know coz i come from such household!! And i dont react back. For the sake of children - thinking what society will think. This being the case where we had a so called LOVE MARRIAGE!

Jiby said...

this shows teresa has grown from the simple girl she was prior to and after marriage...there is no need for us to feel sorry for her...like u said she has begun her quest for self-respect.

i notice many girls before and just after marriage pamper their men a little too much...once the honeymoon phase of marriage is over, most men are used to demanding far too much that women just cant keep sustaining. i know there are holes in what i just said, but i have seen this happen far too many times.

silverine said...

ap: They did, but teresa wants to do things her own way as she is a prisoner of her own timidness.

neermathalam: lol! Super analysis :))

Jiby: Exactly! The girls in their newly married zeal spoil their men!!

Inji Pennu said...

It doesnt matter whether Teresa is mallu or gujju or anyone. Another human being is tortured. We need not bring a cultural/linguistic angle into this. That makes it look worse. but silverines question to the Mallu crowd is appropriate since we need to take smaller steps and at least ask these questions among us.

I am proud of Teresa too!

ഫ്രാന്‍‍സിയര്‍ said...

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abhishek said...

You inspired me to write about Melissa.

Alameen said...

Am sure that your words have consoled her...

Not a surprise for me. Have seen and heard about the similar ones..

nasra's blog


Still wonder when things will change...