Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunaina

Today it is my sixth consecutive day of absence from work. It has become my habit to disappear suddenly without informing my considerate employers. All because of my alcoholic husband’s malicious habits. He is a daily wage worker, works at his whims and hammers me at his wishes.
I often wonder why my employers never thought about my being so accident prone. When enquired about my gouged eye or many blue black marks on my body I lie to them about the small accidents I meet with.

Oh, I forgot to introduce myself.

Hi, I am Sunaina. Thirty six years old, frail, weakly built and thoroughly thrashed, mother of two young girls. I work as a maid in nearby society flats to run the family. That is all for my initial introduction.

Right now I am feeling miserable and helpless. My husband has been missing since last four days. Normally at the end of the day he goes to that desi liquor shop in the nook of PR road and comes back heavily drunk at around midnight. Being an old customer to that shop and an acquaintance of the shopkeeper, he gets the hooch on credit and sometimes a place to sleep over in the shop itself.

My husband is a simple uneducated man. Responsible or not, till date I am not able to figure out. He has taken a life insurance policy of Rs 1 lakh for my gloomy days and always dreamt of a small house of our own. He had taken care of me when after the second childbirth my condition had got deteriorated and there was very little hope of my survival. He also helps me by dropping children to school.

After a family dispute with his parents and younger brother over a one roomed chawl and us being thrown out of the only roof we had, it was an extremely tough time for both of us… At that time I was carrying his second child; his job & income were irregular and so I was forced to look for sundry jobs. Since then I have been working and he has been drinking.
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And just now, the people who had gone to search for him have come back.. come back with the news of his death. His body was found near the railway tracks 2 Kms away. I am blank. I don’t know how to react. Slowly people have started pouring into my small tenement. I am still not been able to hear anything from my painful right ear which bore the brunt of his anger a week back. It is swollen and an odorous liquid is oozing out.
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Now the usual stuff… praising the dead, mourning and contrived crying have taken over. The very close people (or the "family") have started to assess the profit & loss. Apparently they found out that profit rules over loss.
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Two days have gone by; I am shifted to the same place from where I, along with my husband, was thrown out. Tomorrow we all leave for our native place to perform last rituals and also to decide the fate of me, my daughters and all my belongings/savings.
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I am sitting in a corner in our native place where all the decisions are being taken by elders. Some decisions have to be taken now, just now. They can’t wait for the grief to subside.

Although in our caste, remarriage is allowed, they have decided that I will never remarry. To my utter surprise, my younger brother-in-law has willingly taken over the responsibilities and so all my belonging and savings are now his. Also, since I don’t have any son, the entire property (however small) including the chawl in the city will go to him.
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We have come back to city again. It is almost two months now. The mourning is over. The money that came from my husband’s policy is with my brother-in-law. He needs it to buy an auto-rickshaw which in turn would help the increased daily expenses. After all, we three are dependent on him now in addition to his own family and the parents-in-laws.

I have taken their permission to join work to supplement the family income. All this time my employers have been kind and patient and have tried to help me in all respect.
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I have rejoined work and I hand over all my earnings to my in-laws. Life is extremely difficult now, not that it was easier earlier. Now it includes doing more chores for a bigger family before I leave empty stomach for work and by the time I hit that mat in the corner, it is past midnight.
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Off late, my daughters are falling sick very frequently. I can not take them to doctor as I neither have the time nor the money. The elder one has been pulled out of school as she has to help and look after younger kids at home. The other day she was not given food because she did not do so. I feel miserable. Is protesting a crime ?
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No, this is not the life I had wanted. Good education for my daughters, full meals, our own roof on our head not a borrowed shelter, a good peaceful life and a caring father for my daughters... that was all I had longed for.

I want to live life.. for me and for my daughters. I am not going to givein. I will accept the offer of madam where I work, to open a bank account and will start saving. I’ll again enroll my daughter in school. I know my current partly emolument is not enough but I am determined to make my wish true.

I’ll do whatever I can.. to live life… my life.
The dawn has started. Time to get up.
And some decisions have to be taken now, just now.

Note:- Recently widowed Sunaina works as a maid in our house. Slightly different version of this story was published in this month's issue of Justfemme.

Current song- Katra Katra Milti Hai, Katra Katra Jeene Do – Asha Bhosale
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15 comments:

Catmoves said...

cuckoo, what a bitter sweet tale. Sunaina has no rights under India's laws? No protection, no help from any state agencies?
It might be time for India's women to gather under a strong leader and insist that they are, indeed, living people with certain rights and needs.
Cuckoo could be a force to be reckoned with.
Best of luck.

Sam said...

hey girl... u knw my take on such stories.. so i won't say much!!

btw, wrote another story.. u might want to chk it out!!

@catmoves: there r such organisation... but unfortunatel tehir realm of operation is very limited and they r hardly able to reach out to all... to top it off, most Sunainas grin and bear it accepting it as their fate.. they very rarely step up to demand wot they rightfully deserve....
again, the male-dominant society fabric allows little freedom to the female folks to express their views... in most parts... even a seemingly modern family would actually be deep-rooted into such practises... wer to start?? wer to start the correction process??

Pijush said...

Waoww.. Nice one Cuckoo.. Loved the way you have written it. Good work and keep writing.
@Catmoves, Oh Dear, no one is safe and secure in India, no law to eradicate poverty, no pension for non-govt people, nothing is free here. The unemployment is more than 50% (A guess,if not more). Many of us like Cuckoo,me want to change it excepts the idiots who is ruling the country.

Raghu said...

A Sad tale..... but i appreciate Sunaina's deterministic attitude to get her both daughters educated. I think education is the only way to make people independent and face the soceity.

Guruprasad said...

read both the articles...

the sunainas in the cities have it slightly better than their counter-parts in the villages.

and i don't think the picture is as grim as pijush and sam make it out to be. eg. most of the labor force (including maids and house-helpers) in kerala are organised, have benefits and minimum wage norms.

and i don't think we can blame the government for everything - bad roads, corruption, child labor, sunaina. if anyone, we must blame ourselves for the leaders we elect (or allow to be elected by not exercising our franchise)!

here's something i had written about maids - http://guruprasad.blogspot.com/2007/01/life-without-maid.html

~nm said...

I liked the ending! The awakening! The realisation! This will at least make up for some of the sad times.

bEAST said...

I wonder how many such Sunaninas are falling victim to our obsolete and yet in practice beliefs. Have seen many such Sunaninas myself. Ek gareeb aurat ki zindagi mien aur hai hi kya. Shaadi ho to problems, and shaadi na ho paye to problems. My maid lost her hubbie to liquor last year. Soon after her hubbies death she started complaining about men in the society trying to take advantage of her, talking dirty to her and disrespecting her. Now she says "Jaisa bhi mard tha mera, kamm se kamm uskae hotae huae mere izzat to mehfoos thee". In a way it Sunanina is lucky that she was accepted by her hubbies bro. I hope she has better times ahead for her.

Craver Vii said...

"I often wonder why my employers never thought about my being so accident prone."

Ouch. I hope I am not blind to the hurting people around me.

AJEYA RAO said...

I agree it is very important to make the women more emotionally strong but my personal opinion is, we must more concentrate on changing the mindset of the men in this class, we need to change their behaviour; this would help break marriages and will bring in mannerisms. SOmehow i feel the activists are doing much bad than good to these women, which may not be noticed now, but will be in future.

Pyare Mohan said...

Hi,
Read the story of Sunaina.. it is beautiful..
probably getting under the skin with the first person narration is what brings out the pain..

great work cuckoo.. keep writing, keep typing...
the keyboard is mightier than the sword!!!

take care,

backpakker said...

Stories like this are both touching and makes one feel both strong and weak..but you know Cuckoo, most of the time , people like Sunaina need the courage to fight and take decisions and having people like us to help them is a positive sign

niki yokota said...

fingers are crossed for Sunaina's survival.*tear*

Cuckoo said...

Catmoves,
Yes, as Sam mentioned, we do have laws and rights but the limited no. of organizations can not cater to the ever increasing population. Also, even in cities most of the times women are unaware of their rights. Some just accept it as their fate.

Sam,
Yes, I know your take.
Thanks for replying to Catmoves on my behalf.

Pijush,
Thank you for liking the post. And thank you for replying to Catmoves.

Raghu,
Yes, she is very brave and determined. Had she been a bit educated, things would have been different.

Cuckoo said...

Guruprasad,
Yes, I agree. Sunainas in cities are better than their sisters in villages. Well, what both Sam & Pijush wanted to convey was that the % is very less if we want to see the ratio.
Yes, we also have to do something, can’t expect govt for everything.

NM,
Thank you.

Beast,
Exactly !!! Even if the husband is cruel and irresponsible, the wife is still safe. Thanks a million. She has adjusted to her future very well.

Craver,
Me too hope so.

Cuckoo said...

Ajeya,
Everything is a big vicious circle… poverty, education, mindsets etc.

PM,
Thank you, coming from you, it has elated me. :-) And I wanted to experiment with that first person thing.

Backpakkar,
Thank you very much for liking it. Yes, I agree.

Nikichan,
She will definitely survive. :-)