“He suddenly went mad and started beating me,” sobbed my maid Pushpa on a bright Monday morning. I patted her back awkwardly and glanced at my watch. This was almost a daily morning ritual and I was already ten minutes late for class. I would have to rush.
“I’m buying your mom a Titan Raaga watch for her birthday,” my dad told me over the phone. After I had suitably ‘ohhed’ and ‘aahed’ over the idea, I turned my attention back to an important writing assignment. As I bit my lip and searched for inspiration to write, a thought hit me out of the blue. How different the lives of two women could be. It seemed rather ironical. There was my mother with a loving husband and two healthy children, and probably the only time she had been mildly worried was when my dad decided to go on an African Safari. And then there was my maid. Her life often seemed like a ‘Kollywood ‘movie and not a very good one at that.
As I ‘googled’ domestic violence, the WHO site http://www.who.int/gender/violence/en/ popped up. A WHO's World Report on Violence and Health notes that, "one of the most common forms of violence against women is that performed by a husband or male partner.” This type of violence is frequently invisible since it happens behind closed doors. Moreover, legal systems and cultural norms often do not treat it as a crime, but rather as a "private" family matter or a normal part of life.
I was in shock. With a warm and loving family like mine, I simply can’t envisage dealing with such a situation. What would I do? How would I react? I cannot imagine my father, brother or uncle hurting a woman in the family under any provocation. Why was Pushpa’s life so different and why did she put up with it? As a barrage of questions rose in my mind, I realized that I had not been very sensitive to her that morning. As pages of grim statistics and heart wrenching stories popped up on my computer, I decided that even if I couldn’t be empathetic towards Pushpa’s situation, from tomorrow I would at least be a little more sympathetic.