I felt really really lucky: lucky, privileged, and blessed.
I was walking into the shelter with a huge smile on my face. However, the expression on my face couldn’t have been more different when I left the place. There were tears in my eyes and I was struggling to keep them from dropping. I had witnessed something so terribly sad; it hurts just to write this.
The shelter was one for victims of domestic violence. It is a part of the organization, Seva Mandir. In rural Rajasthan, the legal system is not ideal for women experiencing spousal abuse and violence.
In a small room at the shelter, there were numerous women sitting on the floor with small children running around them and babies crying in their arms. What stood out to me were the black and blue hues on their faces and the striking pain in their eyes. Some of these women were abused for years: they were beaten up by their parents, their husbands tied them up and left them in a room for days without food.
This wasn’t even the worst of it: they’ve been through so much more. They couldn’t speak unless spoken to and were deprived of their basic human rights. They were treated like objects. They were raped. These women went through hell.
One woman who had been tied to her bed for 4 days said, “My hands still hurt because I tugged on the rope too hard, I even have a few scars. I don’t know what I did to deserve a husband like [him] or what he did to me.” She stayed with him for 3 years after that incident and finally found the courage to take her son with her and run away. She went to the shelter where they take care of her and her son. They provided them with temporary residence, legal advice, childcare, and livelihood training for financial independence. They teach them how to earn money (sewing, working as a maid) and provide them with a safe forum to talk about their experiences.
While walking away from the women, it hit me that my issues were so trivial in comparison to theirs. I was angry that I couldn’t go to my friend’s place one day. I was angry about such a small thing when these women didn’t complain at all. They were thankful to just be out of it. They’ve been mentally scarred yet they didn’t complain at all. They were gracious. They thanked me for spending time with them, and for taking care of their kids.
They were amazing, I couldn’t believe I complained about something so trivial. I was ashamed. I felt so weak in front of these strong women who brought themselves and their children out of a toxic and dangerous environment. I want to be strong. I want to have just a fraction of the strength they show on a daily basis. I want to be like these amazing, bold, and wonderfully capable women.
Nupur Agrawal is the Features editor of The Woodstocker
Edited by Navya Sethi