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Living Hell

"Whenever Daddyji [that's how he was addressed] came back home from work or for holidays, we used to hide behind the doors, under the bed, just anywhere to escape facing him..." This forms part of a narration of someone I have known since age 13. I have heard of domestic violence and abuse, and always thought about it as something fictional until this close, heart-to-heart conversation with my friend. Lets call her X. X's father was an army officer. To the world, he was a man of honour who fought many a battle and won laurels for the country. To his family, he was the ultimate sign of terror.

The abuse surfaced early on in life. As a toddler and as a pre-teen, X recalls how she often, unknowingly, walked into her father's room to see him invariably with a new woman each time. And each time she was flung out of the room with the choicest of abuses and beatings. Her mother who came in between was equally hit by this demonic creature who had reduced her to nothingness. The years grew worse with time as he tried to abuse her elder sisters. On many nights, X recalls how she collected heaps of shoes to play with them into the night and fling them on the wall of their room one by one so that the noise kept the monster at bay and her sisters were safe.

On other instances, the beatings were random. At one time, the cows had entered the garden of their Jorhat home and ruined the plants. He beat up the five siblings black and blue for having failed to chase the cows away. On another occasion, one of the batmen, in his cleaning spree, had climbed on the seat of the western toilet and left a footmark. This time the punishment was so severe because none of them owned up for something they, obviously, were not guilty of. So, he inserted pencils in between their fingers, twisted them and hit their knuckles. In school, they often lied about their bruises, and the lies just kept mounting...

When I heard these many, many stories of abuse, some of which are just indescribale, X and I wept for hours on end.

This Monday, X took the boldest step of her life. She walked into the police station after a scruffle with her father, who now tried to act fresh with her sister-in-law, her brother having just moved to the States. I was witness to a solemn moment. For once, I saw a bunch of policemen listening in absolute quietude to tales of horror as the two women, bound by a common faith, wrote the longest complaint I have ever seen, the silence broken by gasps and tears. The cops asked what they wanted them to do with the man who was brought in the police gypsy. In his defence, the man said he was a respectful, retired officer, a heart patient and that the women in the house were all whores. He then looked at me and told the cops, you can ask their friend, if you have any doubt on my character and if I have ever misbehaved. It was invalid to draw conclusions from what the man said, I told the cops. The women are not whores and that what they wrote were all true. It was the defining moment of my life as I was witness to a story for which justice was long delayed.

The cops wanted to put him behind bars and thrash him away to glory. But my friend instead asked for 10 days within which he should pack his bag and baggage and leave them forever. The police are doing the rounds of the house every night since Monday and it is the sirens of the cops that has kept the man from getting physical. X told me today that he was spitting constantly at the hall, hurling abuses, calling up all and sundry and telling them how he was humilated at the police station. I asked X,why they never took up this step earlier. She said they did not have the support system -- I can well imagine that in a country like ours, where abuse is preferred to social ostracism.

Meanwhile, as a witness, I am all geared for fighting this case, and standing by the side of someone I call a friend.


Unknown said…
Indira i dont know what to say but that i too stand by her.
Shanti Thokchom said…
I can well imagine how X is feeling.You did the right thing by standing up for your friend.I am sure she sure appreciates your gesture.Good friends are what matters most when needed in such situations!! Keep it up, gal!! I admire your courage!!
PierreF said…
Bold step for you and your friend Indy... proud of you! :)

Dr. D's words keep ringing in my head... (although a little out of context)

We can call ourselves a society... but we're far from being a 'civil'isation.
Anonymous said…
Hey Indira, what the Army guy has been doing is shocking. And I'm glad some measures have been taken.

Well done! The family needed your support... and you've been there in the ultimate way possible.

- Kunal
Unknown said…
Hey Indira, I always knew you are the Santa Claus when it comes to helping others. This one takes the cake. Kudos. Good going. Proud of u.

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