How to come out of a violent marriage

Rashmi Anand, author & counsellor, recounts how she came out of a violent marriage...

Preetha Nair Preetha Nair
सितंबर 22, 2010

Rashmi Anand's cheerful face doesn't betray the grief she suffered in a violent marriage of 10 years. The only hint, if any, of the impact is positive in nature - as Anand talks about her books and life, she apologetically attends to phone calls from distressed women at the Nanakpura crime cell for women.

Behind Anand's sunny demeanour is a moving story of pain, struggle, grittiness, hope and success. When Anand married and moved into her lawyer husband's Delhi home from Kolkata 18 years ago, she was like any other radiant bride, dreaming of a blissful life ahead. But her sordid tale began from day one and continued for 10 long years until she walked out of it with her two children eight years back.

Born into a well- to- do family and pampered by her parents, Anand couldn't believe what was happening to her. She was made to resign from her job with an advertising firm. She was called ugly and fat by her husband, who constantly made dowry demands on her.

Her mother- in law was the second villain of the piece, supporting her son in torturing Anand. "Initially, he would apologise and promise me that he wouldn't be violent again, but soon it became a habit for him to beat me up and violence became the order of the day," says the 44- year old.

Yet, Anand hoped against hope and even prayed it would all come to an end. She wore Chinese collars and full sleeves even at the peak of Delhi's summers to hide the bruises on her body. She was subjected to all kinds of humiliation and abuse, but the thought of her children and societal pressures kept her silent.

"For years, I'd forgotten who I was - I was so suppressed, harassed and violated in every way, physically, mentally and emotionally," she says.

She had her daughter after a year of marriage, but even during pregnancy there was no respite from violence. Her husband threw her down the stairs when she was four months pregnant.

"I almost lost my child," says Anand. But why didn't she revolt? "The shame - that's what stopped me from speaking out. I was scared and I didn't want anyone to know about it, especially my parents. I was meek and he made me feel it was my fault," says Anand. During the second pregnancy, it just got worse. "I was hospitalised twice and once my face was smashed," says Anand. Though she stopped working, all those years, she used to freelance. "Most of my earning was spent on the house as he never gave me any money," she says.

But one fine day after 10 years, she decided to put an end to her suffering. "At some point, the awakening has to come - one says enough, no more. I walked out of a miserable, constricting, violent world - into my own," she says. The turning point came when her children started getting affected. Her five- year- old son had stopped talking completely and had developed learning disabilities.

Her nine- year- old daughter was withdrawn, subdued. Anand returned to her parents, who were living in Delhi at that time, and filed a case with the crime (women) cell of Nanakpura police station.

With the help of the police and a few NGOs, Anand got divorce and the custody of her children - that was the beginning of her journey of self discovery. At 35, her first book was born. Woman of Elements, a collection of poem, had foreword written by educationist Abha Adams, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, retired cop Kiran Bedi and environmentalist Vandana Shiva and was released by All India Women's Conference (AIWC).

Anand's life was showcased as one of empowerment.

She also became the face of Delhi Police's calendar this year - the calendar is based on her book and her life.

"By writing the book, she had made a big effort to stand on her feet after being totally shattered when she came out of her marriage.

We launched the book because we felt it could inspire women," says Manorama Bawa, former president of AIWC. "I believe that to hold your own in the face of adversity and to go on with faith and courage is the only way to live in this world.

The book reflects my own beliefs, it touched me, for I, as every woman, can identify with it," says Kiran Bedi.

Anand is now a full time writer, having written four books. "I died many times. Now I want to live and I'm enjoying every moment of it," says Anand, whose children's book is slated for release next month.

She also collaborates with the Delhi Police and NGOs to counsel women in distress. "Violence has no class - I sometimes counsel women even from areas such as Golf Links, Vasanth Kunj, Punjabi Bag and Rohini. I tell them one has to stop violence at the first instance. Speak out, don't keep it to yourself," she advises.

Do memories of violence still haunt her? "I don't want to forget anything - not even for a moment. Only then will I feel the pain of the woman in front of me," says Anand.

And that's how her heart reaches out to women in similar situations.


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