Thursday, 3 October 2013

A manner of hell

I want to tell you about a lady I know.

She meets me everyday and has a one-sided conversation most days. I think she just wants to be heard and I'm listening.

I asked her if she could help me for a few evenings and she told she'd have to ask her mother-in-law. After a while, she told me that if her child was not attended to, she'd not be able to.

I feel sorry for her sometimes, when I remember her life is worse than mine.

When I met her, she told me that she had been married seven years and only recently had had two children. At the start of the marriage, her husband lived in Goa and her mother-in-law insisted she needed someone to help her in her household chores, so she had to stay behind in Mumbai.

So the young lady became the family servant, cleaning, cooking, washing the clothes of her sisters-in-law, their husbands and children and working for a living.

All the while, her mother-in-law told neighbours and friends that the daughter-in-law was not bearing grandchildren for her. On a trip home, the young lady told her mother about what was happening at home and that her husband didn't seem to want to be a spouse or have children or take her with him to Goa. And she refused to return to Mumbai.

After a couple of months, her husband went to the village to get her back and his mother-in-law advised him to try and make his marriage work. He did all that he promised.

And the young lady had a baby. A girl. And her mother-in-law was upset. She told all her neighbours that she wanted a boy and what would she do with a girl. One of her daughters shouted at her for constantly putting down her daughter-in-law for not having a child... and when she did have one the mater was quibbling about its sex. 

The second child was a girl. And there were more laments. But my friend told the family she wasn't going to have any more children just to aim for a boy.

My friend told me, her first meal of the day is usually past 2pm. Most of the time she is living on very sweet tea. After everyone else has had theirs. Apparently that is cheaper than a meal. I am not sure how she produces breast milk if she is unable to eat well. After she's done housework for all the extended family members and her own, she eats something.

All of what she earns (very little) goes into the household and paying for her mother-in-law's frequent pujas. She recently had to have a big do for her daughter's birthday because the family and neighbours expected them to splash out on a party. She said she was distressed at having to spend money she didn't have on people who didn't value her or her daughters.

She says she's usually angry when she goes home after work, because no one has helped with any chores and she sees her baby usually sleeping, unwashed and and in food-stained clothes. Some days she bangs the unwashed pots in anger, but she is never able to say anything about her situation. Once she asked her mother-in-law to do a spot of sweeping and was told, 'look whose being my mother-in-law'.

Hell is closer than we think.

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