© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Bruises everywhere, black, blue, purple, red and swollen. Especially groins, buttocks, thighs, breasts, back, neck and face. One cut on the forehead. Dried blood on lips.
She was sobbing, speaking in a muffled voice: “Can you imagine they beat up a woman like this?”
Single postgraduate woman, staying alone in a metropolis, in a building near the police station. Operated for a brain tumor, on medicines, occasionally gets spells of abnormal behavior and symptoms like staring, imbalance, speech arrest, slurring or passing out. Disowned by family because she had fallen in love outside their caste. The guy later abandoned her, married in his own tribe.
She is jumping jobs, never accepted for long at one place when they realize she gets such spells. Being young, tall, beautiful and fluent in English, she usually gets too much attention from men. She quit some jobs because her bosses made advances.
She often faced lewd comments and received “offers” from men in and around her society, whenever they found her alone on the stairs , elevator etc. Her angry responses and retorts offended many. Her “seizures” or blank spells were thought to be ‘witchcraft’. Her window panes were broken down, the landlord refused to help, asking her to leave. She could see faces in her windows at all times, especially at night.
Once when a local lady politician’s husband tried to hold her hand, she slapped him, unable to control anger. Within a few minutes, the politician, along with some other women and men, mobbed her flat. She ran out.
There in the open area outside society building, they all beat her up : grown up men and women together, alleging her of witchcraft, of theft, of ‘stealing their men’, of ‘luring men and children’ etc. This continued for about twenty minutes.
She limped to the police station. She was arrested as someone had just registered a complaint against her. The mob reached the police station with the politico, who alleged her of theft, violence and use of foul language. She was taken to the government hospital, After dressing her wounds and splinting her hand, she was locked up. Released next morning with a warning.
She had come to the our hospital next morning, asking for a new prescription as she was scared to go to her own apartment.
After the nurse offered her water and a tissues, I examined her. The wound mark of the brain tumor surgery was not affected, but there were bruises around it.
“Did you have vomiting? Did you become unconscious?” I asked.
“No, but my body is aching everywhere. I don’t have any money left, you had told me not to miss any doses of antiepileptics. So I am here”.
I offered her free admission in the hospital (My boss usually helps). She refused. She also refused to do any tests or to let me call her brother living in a nearby town.
“If he didn’t understand my love, he won’t understand my pain” she said, “ I will leave this city in a short while, that politico lady has threatened me with more thrashing if I am seen around again”.
As we arranged for the medicines for her, she sat there, hands around her legs, intense anger in eyes, chin resting upon the knees, her sobs shaking our faith in humanity.
On the day prior to her major brain surgery, she had said “Doc I am not afraid of death at all, it is people who scare me.” I understood it now.
We all are grown up with almost similar training: that civilized men never hit women. Our parents, teachers all always taught us the same thing. Where does it all vanish? How is it possible to kick the delicate parts of a woman, knowing that it will inflict agonies worse than death? The men and women who beat her up were almost all from a middleclass society, at least half must have been educated. In a country that worships so many goddesses, how can women be treated like this by mobs? Every single woman, whether normal or suffering from mental or physical illness, risks lust and violence even among the most educated and civilized. Where do we start to stop the mob cultures? Women’s Empowerment has remained caged in the umpteen videos and messages that circulate all over, while women are abused by the “Manly Men” and mobs alike.
The nurse and receptionist packed her some food, a month’s dose of medicines, and we offered to arrange a taxi to drop her home. With single depressed patients, the doctor must always think of a possibility of a suicide. I urged that she please call her brother or mother.
“No thanks Doctor”, she said with the most bitter smile I have seen: “I will not kill myself because people are bad. I want to live and enjoy life. I will go where people will understand and accept my illness… and respect me as a woman”.
She limped away accompanied by her own sobs.
I wondered for many a restless nights: where can she go?
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande