Get Lost Woman: A story that will shake you to the core
Author: Sumaiya Fathima For Inksplore
Ananya took out her typewriter and stared at it for a moment. She had been asked to write a critique on the modern definition of feminism and empowerment by the magazine she worked for. She painfully recounted her past and began typing:
Her eyes fluttered open. There was complete suffocating darkness surrounding her. Am I dead? she wondered. Somewhere, someone opened the curtains, and light flooded the area. Her heart gave a disappointed sigh Why am I still alive?
Who was this woman wishing for death?
What was her story?
22 years ago:
She held the brand new red kurti in her hands, and admired its perfection. She had always wanted to own ‘rich’ clothes and today she had it. In fact, the past few weeks seemed like a blur to sixteen-year-old Tanvi. Her parents seemed to be doting on her with gifts, jewels, clothes and fattening food, something which she had been deprived of for as long as her memory would permit.
Tanvi’s family was in the farming profession. They owned a tiny piece of land in Rozibet village, which they cultivated and sold the harvest to feed themselves. At times, they went for days without food. Some neighbor would then take pity on their condition, and would offer them rice.
She had spent the last few weeks pestering her parents trying to look for an answer to their sudden expression of generosity , but they remained mum. It was only a week later, when her mom had forced her to sit on a rugged stool and invited a few relatives to smear turmeric on her arms and face, that she realized what was going on.
She was getting married!
“Mom?”, she whispered.
“What?”, she snapped back .
Tanvi broke down, “ Mom no please! I want to study! I don’t want to get married. I hate you mom!”
She slapped Tanvi hard across her face.
“Hate me? You ungrateful scum! We clothed you and fed you and this is how you repay us? You will do as I say. That’s it!”
Tanvi quivered, her tears gushing out silently as she obeyed her mother. I don’t have a choice. Do I?
Two years had passed since she had got married to Suraj, the son of a landlord, who was twice her age and a drunkard. Her once youthful blooming face, now looked like it hid away too much pain beneath the folds of her skin. She was four months pregnant with their first child.
There was a knock on the door. Tanvi got up with great difficulty, clutching her sides, and answered it.
“What took you so long?”, he growled at her
“I was just-“
Without waiting for an answer, he hit her forcefully across her head. She said nothing. She had become so hard-wired to bear his abuse that it no longer seemed to affect her.
“Here”, he said throwing a ticket on the table.
“Your’re going to Jamnagar. Considering how you are useless to me now, whining around in pain all day I decided to send you off to my parents there”
“The child in my womb is yours!”, she whispered.
“Maybe! May be not! I don’t care. Pack your bags and GET LOST woman”
She slaved all day at her in-laws house until the seventh month of her pregnancy. It was only then that their ruthless hearts decided that she needed a little rest.
She gave birth to a baby boy two months later. His dad wasn’t there with her to witness the birth nor did he visit her after he was born. She suffered incessantly at her in-laws house. Her only reason to live now was for her son Aryan. It was only when Aryan was an year old , that her husband decided to pay her a visit.
He stayed there for a week, and then disappeared again. Tanvi, discovered a few months later that she was pregnant again.
It had been two years since the birth of her daughter Ananya. She hadn’t heard from Suraj all these years. He disconnected her calls, and left her letters unanswered. Her in- laws had finally become tired of the constant whining of her kids and the burden of feeding the extra mouths. They decided it was time for her to go.
“Where will I go? I have two little kids!”
“We don’t care! Go back to your husband! Stupid woman! You couldn’t even a please a man enough! It’s your fault he left you. Now, get lost woman!”
Under the scorching sun, she knocked on every door and pleaded people to offer her a job. They shut the door on her face. She was reduced to begging outside temples and mosques in order to feed herself and her kids. Two months later, she had managed to save money and went to Rozibet.
When she knocked at her parent’s door, they shut it in her face saying: “You are not our responsibility anymore. Get lost Tanvi”.
She then tired seeking help from a few relatives, but none of them seemed eager to help her. She then went in search of her husband to the nearby village, but he was nowhere to be found.
That night, she lay cold and hungry, shielding her two scrawny children from the dust. She sat in front of a medical dispensary and remained hidden amongst the bushes. She was tired, and was slipping away into nothingness. Maybe tomorrow she told herself maybe tomorrow will be a better day.
Someone sprinkled cold water on her face. She woke up suddenly, shocked and looked around. A fat woman was stooped over her with a concerned look on her face. “Are you okay girl?”
She continued, “You and your children look hungry. Want some food?”
Tanvi nodded, overwhelmed at this kindness meted out to her.
She hastily fed her kids and then gobbled up the food that was before her. The lady observed her silently and then asked, “Where’s your husband girl?”
Tanvi did not answer her.
“I understand! I lost my daughter 3 years back. She committed suicide when her husband left her for another”, she said and gave her a painful smile.
“I-I am s-so sorry!”, Tanvi stammered.
“It’s okay! From today, you will work here at the dispensary with me! We were in need of a helper actually.”
Tanvi’s mouth fell open. Can this be? Is this the moment she had lived for? Her eyes grew wet with joy, and she thanked the woman profusely.
6 years later…
Tanvi led a comfortable life now. Her two children were studying in a local government school and were doing well. Tanvi couldn’t hope for anything better. She had long forgotten Suraj and had moved on with her life. It was only when she met her uncle one day, who conveyed dismaying news to her that she decided to pay him a visit.
Suraj had gotten drunk and been in an accident six months back, which had rendered him paralyzed below his waist. Tanvi rushed to his side. She was a woman after all! She melted at the sight of him, lying helplessly alone, in his shabby room. Tanvi forgot the pain of the past, moved him to her house and tended to him lovingly. Her family was whole again, her kids finally had a father and Tanvi was content with her life. As for Suraj, when he saw Tanvi caring for him selflessly, a huge guilt weighed on his heart. Despite the comfort of having someone to look after him, his condition grew worse every day.
On his death bed, he held Tanvi’s hand and said remorsefully, “I am sorry ! For everything I did with you! Please forgive me!”
The last words he ever spoke were, “Forgive me Tanvi”
With Suraj gone, Tanvi felt lost again. She was a widow now and her children were fatherless. But nothing deterred Tanvi, who went on with her life and was determined to give her children the life and education that she never had.
It was when her two kids were in college that the real tragedy struck Tanvi. The woman who had hired her at the dispensary died of a heart attack. The new Manager who was appointed in her place was a man in his mid 40’s. When Tanvi reported to work one morning, he stared and said shortly, “You’re fired!”
“But what? I’ve been working here for years. You can’t fire me!”
“You are not in a position to tell me what I can and can’t do. I run this place now! It is my decision! GET LOST woman!”
“No! No please! You can’t. I need the money to pay my kids’ fees. My son wants to become a lawyer and my daughter a journalist. I cannot crush their dreams.”
She fell on his feet and clutched his leg, crying, “Please?”
Her other colleagues looked on, none of them saying a word in her support.
Once they were alone, he asked her, “You are a widow I heard?”
“Y-y-yes ! I am ! Please, I need this job.”
He held up a hand to silence her.
“You are a beautiful woman Tanvi”, he said running his had across her face.
She slapped his hand away, her heart thundering, as she scurried away from him. He laughed, “ If you don’t comply, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to replace you”
Tanvi whimpered and said defiantly, “ No! please!”
“That’s my girl!”, he said laughing wickedly. From that day on, Tanvi was his mistress. She got back her job at the expense of her virtue. All her colleagues knew what was going on but decided to turn a blind eye to the injustice served out to her. Soon, word spread out in the town and people started doling out ugly nick names to her. Her children boiled in hatred against her. They were now being called “The prostitute’s children’. One year later, Aryan left the house, tired and ashamed of living in the same house with the woman whom he had now grown to despise and soon after Ananya left as well, having found a job as a journalist for a leading magazine in the city.
Every month, she wrote letters to her children, asking them about their life. Her letters were never answered.
When the letters suddenly stopped, did it make a difference to Aryan and Ananya? No! The mother that had slaved away all her life to protect them was now cooped up in a dingy Government Hospital fighting cervical cancer
She spewed blood, she weighed 20 pounds lighter and was in excruciating pain. No one visited her. Not even the Manager, who was partly responsible for inflicting her with the disease. She lay on the cold bed counting the days. She closed her eyes, silently praying and hoping that her eyes never open again.
Her eyes fluttered open. There was complete suffocating darkness surrounding her. Am I dead? she wondered. Somewhere, someone opened the curtains and light flooded the area. Her heart gave a disappointed sigh Why am I still alive? she thought not realizing that she had spoke out loud.
The nurse, replied irritably, “ If it was in my hands honey, you would be long gone. Atleast then, I won’t have to clean up this darned mess of yours”
Tears stung her eyes, her heart screaming out to the heavens for a way out. And as her tears wetted the stained pillows, she wished for death more than she ever had in her life. I give up ! I want it to end!
She called out to the nurse weakly who snapped back, “What?”
“If someone comes looking for me, give this to them”, she said feebly handing over a package, along with a letter.
“Fine”, she said taking it from her.
Tanvi was found dead the next morning. The hospital called up her children to inform them. Aryan and Ananya , rushed to the village to see her.
The nurse lifted the veil off from Tanvi’s face so that Aryan and Ananya could look at her one last time.Aryan stared coldly at the woman for whom hatred had stirred up in his heart.
“Oh yes! And I think she wanted you to have this”, the nurse said handing over the package to them.
The letter read:
I hope you are reading this after my death. I have never wanted to live the life I lived. I was pushed into a world of darkness by my parents, and then by my husband. I had dreams, I had hopes, and all were crushed when I got married to your dad, years ago. No one seemed to have the heart to help me.All they said was, “GET LOST WOMAN!” . I’m not proud of some of the things I may have done but know this, that I only did it so that you two can have a better life. I never had a choice. I know you are ashamed of me and hope you forgive me for all the things you had to endure.
I love you,
Inside the package they found, a tattered diary, along with a note : So that my pain, my story in not buried with me!
Ananya broke down crying so hard that she fell to the floor. Aryan’s expression softened, his eyes turned wet as the truth of his mothers words sank in : ‘ I never had a choice’
Is it too late to tell you that we love you too mom?
YES! Yes it was!
Modern society provides a very narrow definition of feminism. What makes a woman empowered? Having the right to be with whoever, look pretty, dress up in whatever and return home whenever ? Is this something that the less- privileged women require or even think of?
Shouldn’t empowerment include choices like education, financial independence and the power to support our families instead of this?
True freedom is deserved by those women who slog away their life in villages, who have no such thing as a choice, who are forced to get married early, bear abuse, and suffer at the hands of a hypocritical society. I , Ananya Singh , was one among the many hypocrites who once had a different vision of what empowerment was. I now realize that like my mother Tanvi, a vast number of women do not have their own life choices.
“Choosing to live life by your own choice is the greatest freedom one will ever have”.
Sadly, such freedom is yet to be granted. It is high time for the society understand what real empowerment is!
Inspired by real life events
A tribute to a real woman with real beauty!