By Shilpa Raina*
For six years, Anna Marie Lope lived in constant fear and depression. Exhausted by continuous emotional, physical and sexual abuse, she twice attempted suicide, only to enrage her husband who would then doubly punish her for finding different ways to “escape” their marriage.
The trouble was her family was in continuous denial of what was happening to her and would often suggest not to confuse “marital discord” with “domestic violence”. And her husband believed he had successfully caged his wife in his prison forever.
Little did they know she, with support from her friends, had decided to leave the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for good in a true Bollywood style thriller with a meticulous plan in place.
“The first time he physically abused me was in 2007 when he got to know that I was thinking of leaving the marriage. And the punishment for this was 30 minutes of beating during which he used belts and punches to teach me a lesson,” Lope, who now lives in south Delhi, told IANS.
“That was also the first time I attempted suicide and then again in 2010 because I had no one to talk to and I had to put up a happy face whenever I went out to meet his friends and family. I was living under his constant surveillance. I was living a dual life,” recalled Lope who was born in the UAE and moved to India in 2012.
The 28-year-old now works as a programme officer in communications at Maitri, an organisation that works with vulnerable population.
Not always is the “domestic violence” a trigger to charge your courage. Women in our society are still seen as “homemakers” who can have conventional jobs that require them to balance their professional and domestic life.
But Delhi-based Omkari Devi always wanted to do something that was different as she admits studies were never her cup of tea. So when she learnt about driving classes she jumped with enthusiasm to take on to the road.
However, the hurdles were many.
“My family was completely against this idea of driving. They told me that I had gone mad because it is only men who are drivers. ‘Auratein yeh kaam nahi karti’ (women don’t drive) was the most common statement I heard from everyone, including my husband and daughter,” Omkari Devi told IANS.
The 35-year old was in no mood to give up and worked extremely hard to prove for the sake of her happiness.
“I knew this was something I wanted to do. So, during those 8-9 months of training, I would get up at 4 a.m. to prepare meals for my family and then head for training,” she said.
This hard work has paid off as for the past four years, Omkari Devi has been working as a commercial driver and her family has adjusted to her erratic timings.
The courage of these women along with a few others was acknowledged by SRL Diagnostics, which honoured them for their achievements.
One of them was Anjina Rajagopalan who calls herself a mother of “orphaned and abandoned.”
Way back in 1988, on her way to work, a man was mercilessly beating a boy. Her heart melted as she witnessed this incident and brought this deaf-and-dumb boy home, much to the chagrin of her parents.
“My friends and family told me why I was getting involved in something that was useless. Bringing this boy right into my home was not at all welcomed, but I always knew that I wanted to do something for the orphans,” the 61-year-old Rajagopalan told IANS.
So she started “Sai Kripa”, a home that looks after the abandoned and orphaned children and gives them shelter, educates them and even arranges their marriage.
“People will always find ways to discourage you, especially if you are a woman. They would question you and mock at you, but as women we are compassionate and courageous to take bold steps, only if we believe in ourselves,” she said.
Today the shelter houses 60 children and she chose to remain single to dedicate all her life to improving their lives.
For Lope, adversaries in life are the best lesson to prepare you for a great life ahead, as she admits she finds it difficult to trust anyone, especially a man, but she hasn’t given up hope on marriage.
“I completely believe in the institution of marriage and companionship. And this phase of life has left me with a deep desire to be loved and I am willing to give marriage another chance,” she concluded.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at [email protected])
(International Women’s Day is on March 8)