I wrote something about someone a long time ago, which could probably be termed a violation of her privacy. My feeble defense at the time was that I explicitly told her I would write about her, changed her name, and hardly anyone knew whom I was talking about. Thinking back on it, it was a move made entirely out of frustration having to live with her, and I am not proud of it. However, I have since showed the post to her and she has made it clear to me that she does not care it is out on the internet. In fact, she has said that she would encourage people to talk about her situation and show them the reality of tiny villages on the supposed throes of progress.
So, with permission, I’m posting it again.
If you are one of the select few that remember my juvenile, undergrad blog, you would have heard of Mrs.Sims. Many of you might actually even remember her. Cute and childlike, and a living example of the Oppressed Indian Woman, who is so firmly believing of the prejudice that is played out against her, she projects it on to others without even realizing the harm she causes. Here’s what I wrote about her then:
I wanted to write about someone I know, just share my experiences with her here. I want to say first that the person I am writing about is someone I really care for and mean absolutely no offense. The only reason I write so openly about this person is, not many people who know her would read this, and want people to know that people like these exist still, in our shining country… what lack of proper education would do to a person, who can never fit anywhere, except her own people, no matter how desperate she is to get out. I am also, in no way, violating her privacy, as everything I write here has been gladly shared by her with anyone who shows interest. Also, a lot of my frustration might come out in the form of rude and taunting words, please do ignore that! I will not write a name here. Let me call her…umm.. Sims! So, Sims is someone I met less than a year ago. She is 24, and is married; hence, I’ll call her, Mrs. Sims.
Mrs. Sims comes from a backward (am I allowed to use that word?) family, whose members aren’t well educated, and live and abide by superstitions unique to their own village. She has studied all her life in a local school, without learning a word of English, and is currently about to finish her degree in engineering. She had completed her diploma (for those who don’t know, diploma is done after the 10th standard, for 3 years, and students are directly admitted to the 2nd year of whatever course they join. It’s really not a time-saver as most people say, as it is still 3 years), after school (12th standard), because there were no good professional institutes near near her place. And after 3 years of diploma, her father forced her to join engineering. He still thinks that he helped his daughter finish her studies early, apparently, even though it can be understood by a five year old that 2 years of Mrs. Sims’s education have gone down the drain.
Mrs. Sims is the stereotypical female simpleton you see in Hindi serials, who gawks at anything that shines and is scandalized when a man talks to any woman other than his wife. She is also a person who believes that Venus can’t shine because it’s a planet, and that thing I point out to her in the sky is definitely a star, maybe in our own solar system. She’s going to have a Bachelor of Engg. degree in computer science, and doesn’t know what ‘Recycle Bin’ is, on her desktop, thinks that if I hold the mouse with my left hand, it won’t function, doesn’t understand the concept of storage space in a hard disk, and has never heard of the ‘motherboard’ before I mentioned it to her (She actually thought I was pulling her leg with the word ‘mother’). I have had the most ludicrous arguments of my life with her, but never won, because I always give up. One unforgettable conversation went like this,
Mrs. Sims (out of the blue): We live in a college hostel, right? So why are civil [engg.] students also here?
Mrs. Sims: I mean, why waste hostel facility on students who study in a branch as useless as civil engineering? (verbatim)
Me: Useless? Civil engg. is not useless!
Mrs. Sims: Of course it is. These people shouldn’t be called engineering students. They work on construction sites! There is no need for them. Or that stream.
Me: What do you mean? If there were no civil engineers, who would build roads or buildings or bridges?
Mrs. Sims: Those things already exist. At least, civil engineers already exist. They’ll do the job!
Me: Then why do we need computer engineers? There are already people who do that job too.
Mrs. Sims: But computers are used everywhere! You need people to build them. Look around and tell me how many things you see that civil engineers have built.
(I imagine she pictured herself living in the jungle, without roads on which she drives her vehicle, and just a computer, connected to God knows where, and working on it, God knows how, as satellites are used only to take photos of the earth and not for communication.)
That was the first time I wanted to pull my hair out. My expressions of ridiculous shock slowly turned into curiosity, and then laughter to, pity, and now, nothing. Blank. And there were many more conversations like these, each one seemingly more surreal than the previous, especially considering the very serious nature of her questions.
Anyway, one year before her graduation was due, she was forcefully married off to her first cousin. She had never met this guy before (I’m not sure how that was). Her father’s sisters are all, again, villianesses out of Hindi soaps. Her own elder sister was married to another of their aunts’ sons, and when she got pregnant a couple of years later, her mother in law “tortured” her for being in such a hurry. (There were some arguments too. “It was your son’s idea!” “Don’t you dare say anything about my son, you chudail! Tujhe dikhati hoon, saali.”). Poor Mrs. Sims’s mother-in-law, unfortunately, is no different. What really surprises me is that her father knew his sisters very well, but still chose to have his daughter marry one of their sons. In fact, when Mrs. Sims protested, he threatened to kill himself. His consolation was that it’s the son she’s getting married to, not the mother. And he knew nothing, absolutely nothing about the son. They had met once, when he was ten.
The son, in short, is a complete something I will refrain from saying because my family reads my blog. He’s very obviously cheating on her: he was on the phone with another woman on his wedding night, has lewd text messages and sleazy photos in his cell phone that he doesn’t bother hiding from Mrs.Sims. He is also a mama’s boy. His mother has, apparently, given him permission, in front of his wife, to have another “girlfriend”. So he has a couple of other paramours where he lives, while Mrs. Sims lives with me.
Two more words that would describe him would be ‘incestuous pedophile’. This guy’s elder brother has a five year old daughter. This little girl likes the very childish Mrs. Sims and tells her her “secrets”. When Mrs. Sims tried to tell the husband’s family about his actions with the 5 year old kid in question, she was verbally thrashed for doubting her husband. She cried for hours.
Mrs. Sims can never leave her husband because, “in our family and even in hindi movies”, all the women say that it is morally right to be with only one man, and “pati waise bhi parmeshwar hote hain”. So she embraces eternal monogamy. But either she is living in the 12th century, or she is living in the 12th century. And she is living her life according to dysfunctional Bollywood movies – the puke of many a psychotic brain. Mrs. Sims’s life was like the most cheesy, most ridiculous, over emoted dramas in the history of television. There were a couple of other living principles she borrowed from Karan Johar too, which I remember being stupefied by, but can’t remember now.
One vivid conversation that stands out in the minds of many people present then was when we were watching a hit Hollywood movie. At the end of the movie, the leading pair is reunited, kiss, and it is implied that they eventually go to bed. She thankfully understood that this time, but:
These English people na, so dirty. Why do they have to do all this when they are not married? There is no reason!
X: It is instinct, Mrs. Sims. They don’t plan it, it’s something that is natural. They do it, it’s their wish. People all over the world have sex.
Mrs. Sims: there is nothing natural about it. And there is no need! People shouldn’t get feelings like that before they are married. You should do that only when you want babies.(Off the top of my head, I can name at least 12 people who share these views.)
Me: Alright, this is a movie. Not real life.
Mrs. Sims: Hindi movies don’t show anything like that. so it’s not real.
Ok, understood she didn’t know what fornication is, but Hindi movies don’t show sex?
Mrs. Sims, innocent and unknowing as she is, has faced a lot of ridicule from her husband. When she shared her unrealistic dreams with her husband, such as wanting a laser eye surgery to get rid of glasses that make her look ugly, her husband told her that he would transplant a goat’s eyes into hers (and she tried for ten mins to convince me that there are people in her family who do have goats’ eyes to rid themselves of glasses, even though they can’t see after that! In the same thread, she also thinks that, birds are asexual, as there are no gendered words for them, and that crows and mynahs mate, and lay 2 eggs: one becomes a crow, and the other one, a mynah.). She also dreams of leaving the country and her family as soon as college gets over, but doesn’t realize the importance of obtaining a passport for herself. She and her husband haven’t spoken a word to each other in the past 5 months, since her mil spread a rumour in the family that her father is having an affair.
Not only does she talk like a 6 year old (*nasal* yay! I am going to sit on your bed today, wish me all the best!! Yay! I sat on your bed, congratulate me!! Uh-ha uh-ha uh-ha!!), she has the mental and emotional maturity of one too.
Out of the deepest regions of my heart, I feel bad for her. I wish I could help her, but I don’t know what to do. The women of her family have a violent streak that I do not wish for her to experience. Her own ignorance is so ingrained in her that, try as we might, we can’t get to admit that she is wrong. She is a very nice person, mind you. It’s just that when I have conversations like the below, I realize how helpless she is, and how, now, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, and how there are at least one hundred thousand other people like her in this country.
Me: Why don’t you apply foundation to your neck too? Your face looks ten shades fairer than the rest of your body.
Mrs. Sims: Let it be na, who’s gonna look at me? I am fat and I wear glasses.
Me: Then why are you putting on makeup in the first place?
Mrs. Sims: Because I have to go to college and attend lectures. And i am not fair, like you! (nasal here)
Mrs.Sims: So? There will be people on the roads, Sandy! (horrified expression accompanying)
Me: So they’ll look at you? Then why don’t you apply make up properly?
Mrs. Sims: Chodo na… who’s gonna look at me anyway?
And it the loop went on twice, in the exact same way, before I quit.
She came back on Facebook the other day. I don’t want to talk too much about what she is up to these days, but it’s safe to lay a blanket she’s still stuck. An engineering degree and a paying job later, she now has twin babies and is still a victim of domestic abuse. Especially from the man she’s married to. He makes my blood boil. He has two daughters now, and it scares me.
Stories like Mrs. Sims’s highlight two of India’s biggest problems – patriarchy, and the quality and value of education. However, we know the cause and are yet to arrive at a medicine. We’re yet to even agree on a path to be taken towards progress.
But when you know first hand people who suffer every day in ways unimaginable, what should you do? Exactly how much should you intervene? I am sticking to doing nothing, at least for the moment. She is happy and considering the members of her family, I’d have to say that her being complying would work greatly in the favor of her own safety. I think that’s important because I am in no position to help her in any way, and I’m not sure there are many people who care about this closeted person to do anything for her. I very strongly feel that it is wrong for her to stay in that household and for the children to be brought up there. It is wrong to live with a man who abuses women and molests children. It is wrong to let tiny babies be exposed to domestic violence. I know how people like that have turned out and I have seen first hand how damaging the effects are, even into adulthood. But I feel that way because I know better, and if you’ve read this far, you probably already do too.
Now with two babies in tow, a father who threatens suicide if she disturbs status quo, in laws who assault her, a husband who should be in jail, and no worldly sense whatsoever, what could she do?