“The merely human , is denied me still, Even the best believe, they have that right, Believe I say, I mean, what I mean.”
Today I reached my factory premises, in a very foul mood, mentally cribbing about how the maids never really wanted to work . The watchman opened the gate for me, and greeted me with a loud “Good morning mam”‘,which I could barely acknowledge as my gaze met a woman watering the plants. The eye contact lasted just for a few fleeting seconds, yet I could sense the curiosity in her eyes.
As I entered my office my receptionist greeted me with a wide grin showing off her Colgate teeth and blood red pout and popped the question right at me, if I liked the new recruit. I curtly replied that it did not matter as long as she worked well and did not take off whenever the work pressure increased. Door closed, work time.
When on the laptop, time just flies, a proposal made, an offer letter and an appointment letter drafted and then the rumbling tummy made me realize it was past lunch time. As was leaving for the pantry with the tiffin in my hand, my receptionist reminded of the new recruit and said that she would send her in, to warm up my food.
While I sat on my desk, the same woman with a worn out appearance, with the dupatta draped around her head as if to hide every single strand of hair on her head, walked up to me and in a very meek, barely audible voice asked me ” kuch kam tha madamji”.
I took a closer look at her and recognised her ‘pahari’ features, her well built frame and her clear complexion, further ascertained the fact that she was from the hills. I asked her what her name was and she said Shaheen.
I was fishing for a usual fake smile on her face, which you are supposed to keep at your work place in keeping with the decorum, but I found none. Following the so called employer code, I started chatting with her further, “where are you from I asked?” , “Kishtwar” she replied. “Where are you putting up ?” I asked, she said she had rented a room for herself.
I asked further “Husband kya karta hai” and then she replied , in the most unemotional and honest way,that there could be “Kuchh nahi madamji bas Marta hai”.
I, for moments, was taken aback by that honest yet ruthless statement, Shaheen probably gauged my bewilderment and suddenly off came the tightly draped dupatta, and I could see numerous bruises, from the shoulder heading straight up to the neck. Then like a soldier narrating her war front story, she went on and told me that she had been married for 13 years to Ashfaq, had two children, a12 year old girl and a 10 year old boy and from the day she got married she had been thrashed by her husband for no reason and no fault of hers, only because he had seen his father do the same to his mother, and his father seen his own father hit his wife too. So obviously the pressure of legacy and the power of belonging to a supreme human race, a ‘Man’ has all the rights, to do so.(sic)
She continued, but this time when he hit her she saw her son watching and enjoying the show, she realized after 13 years, it was the time to hit back and she did. She pushed him hard enough to bang his head on the wall, he fainted and then she grabbed some money, and clothes and with her children, she fled. And then she said ” Madamji wahi rehte to meri noon ko bhi ek aur Ashfaq mill jata”, had I stayed there any longer my daughter in law would have got another Ashfaq.
Shaheen made me realize it’s not your education or the social paraphernalia which we surround ourselves with, that gives us courage, it a small reason which when kept in perspective can be a big social cause.
Today, there are many more Shaheens, who are striving to break free yet are unable to muster, the desperately needed courage, to do so.