This is a story about a Muslim woman who remembers what happened with her when her husband divorced her.
I am celebrating today, after the Supreme Court’s decision of yesterday. Finally, there is someone who is listening to us out there. Finally, we have a voice. But some years ago, all I didn’t have a voice. All I was, was a veiled woman who could be used like a thing. Here is my story:
I belong to small Muslim family from Mumbai. I was born in a small town near Hyderabad and Mumbai was always a city of my dreams – a city I got to step in only after I was married at the age of 15. I barely understood the concept of marriage but the thought of moving to Mumbai with a handsome man to have a house of my own was incredibly exciting.
My abba educated me till I was 8 years old. After that he thought that I must learn how to be a good wife. There was no arguing with abba, so I simply obeyed. Ammi, was my best friend. Her pain, was mine. Her joy, was mine. We shared everything. I ran complaining to her when my brothers annoyed me by pulling my braids and later by following me everywhere I went in the name of security. She would take me in her arms and console me, helplessly. She knew that she could do nothing to help my woes and that I was with her only for the next few years.
When Ammi died while giving birth to my youngest sister, I was 13. Suddenly I was in charge of the household. Looking at how matured I had become, Abba decided to marry me off to a rich handsome man who would have me. Soon, a nikah was arranged and I said ‘Kabool hai’, ‘Kabool hai’, ‘Kabool hai’ without looking at his face even once or knowing anything about him. Abba said he had found a good match for me and my husband would pay a good mehr. On my wedding night, I was horrified of having my clothes taken off by a man who was atleast 15 years elder to me. I didn’t protest. I bowed into submission and later, whimpered in pain.
Soon, the pain became my reality. At the age of 16, I was pregnant. But he beat me even when I was carrying his baby. Only a few months into my marriage, I realised that he was a drunkard. I don’t need to tell you what he did to me – you know. It was the story of most of us. My first born was a beautiful girl. I named her Mariam. But my husband Akram could never see her beauty. All she was to him was a liability that had to be married off in due time. My second born was another girl. This time his wrath doubled – the intensity of his blows on me doubled. He told me that if I didn’t give birth to a boy the third time, he would get another wife because I was useless. My third time, was a miscarriage. Doctors said that I could never give birth again. The news did not bring grief to my household, it brought relief. He was happy that now he had a strong reason to take another wife and to fulfil his beastly needs. I was only 21 when he married again. From then on, my life was nothing but a synonym for hell…
I couldn’t stand it. My being was tired of being a slave with two daughters with no where else to turn to. I hated his second wife – I would swear at her and never think she deserved any respect. But one day, he came home drunken and barged into their room (I was made to sleep outside). In his drunken gibberish, he accused of having relationship with another man and began beating her, punching her and kicking her mercilessly! I stood there motionless as if I was watching my story unfold in front of me.
Clenching my fists with anger, while tears streamed down my face…I looked at the face of my eldest daughter standing beside me. When I looked at her face, something got into me. I ran towards my husband and pushed him away from the woman who had taken my place. He looked at me in shock at the newfound courage that I had displayed.
“How dare you!” He screamed and got up. Just as he was about to punch my face, a thought crossed his mind. He paused for a second and then blurted it out. He said, “Talaq, Talaq, Talaq” and my life ended.
I had no one to go back to in Hyderabad. He had kicked me out with my two daughters. I was on the street, with no money, no food and no shelter. I spent one night on the road. The city of dreams that excited me, now disgusted me. I had already waived off my mehr in the first week of my marriage thinking it was cruel to think that I would ever be away from my husband. Helpless and broken, I went back, begging him to take me inside the house, screaming and shouting for hours but he never listened. After that incident, I had made up my mind to kill my daughters first and then myself. What else would I do? I thought.
But, the next day, one of my neighbours took pity on me and gave me the address of an NGO that supported women in distress. That was the first step of my new life. I got to know about my rights. About my right to maintenance and to move to court against the cruelty. But I didn’t claim any. I wanted to be away from that beast and live only for my daughters and decided to start fresh. So I learnt craft and since I knew sewing, that gradually got me a job as a tailor at a small shop. I moved to live in a slum near my workplace and took up odd jobs.
The only thing I had on my mind was that I had to make sure that my daughters do not go through the same thing – I had to educate them. I couldn’t stop thinking about getting them married into respectable families because of my upbringing so I started saving up for their marriage. It took me a while before I realised that there was a lot to a woman’s life other than marriage. I grew. I learnt about the world I didn’t know existed. It took me 20 years to get back on my feet. And that is when I began helping those who were like me – alone and helpless. I didn’t want ‘Talaq, talaq, talaq’ to end their lives too.
I am 65 now. Both my daughters got through college, one married for love and the other decided not to get married. I think the scars of my marriage are still fresh on her skin. Today, I not only stand with the women to abolish the system of triple talaq but also to make sure, that there isn’t another Shabana ever in this world again.
Disclaimer : This is purely a work of fiction, based on some true events, written in support of the movement to abolish triple talaq.