There's a girl I've come to know, who goes by the name of Shama. At 16 years,she's probably seen it all,more than you and I have.Coming from a rather humble background,her days as a child were so much different from the days that any and every child has the right over.When all her job should have been to play around in the mud,breathe in the air of insouciance, to let the rain splash over her impeccant self,to laugh so much that her stomach hurt , her days were consumed by tasks more fulfilling,something that we go to unimaginable depths looking for,so as to give meaning to our empty lives ...taking care of two differently-abled people..her parents.While there's clearly no denying the fact that she was the messiah in her parents' lives,there's also no gaze-averting from the fact that the poor soul missed out on her childhood,her 'flying up in the swings so high that the pit of her stomach churned with anxiety and trepidation' needs unattended .Performing chores like cleaning the soiled diapers,changing rags that they had for bed-sheets over four times a day making the tender skin on her hands puckered ,cooking meals,feeding her parents,cleaning around the house.It left her with no time, neither to take any lessons at school nor to go play with other children .She endured it all ,day after day,month after month,year after year until she once looked up and found a well dressed couple looking upon her with eyes of hope,affection and empathy.she didn't understand what they were there for, until her mother explained to her after they left that they wanted Shama to be a part of their family, as their daughter-in-law.
She felt nothing,having been rendered stoic ,bolstered only by the occasional zephyr of faith quietly sweeping past her.Neither did she feel saddened at the prospect of leaving her home nor did the countenance spoke of the slightest possibility of gladness at finally being able to escape a life of agony,her eyes narrating a certain sort of woebegoneness, apparent only to someone who had courage enough to look deep into her soulful eyes,as if she knew..
Shama was welcomed into her new home with the utmost sincerity,love , hope.Hope,because that is what had kept her new family going.Hope, that Shama would take care of her husband,bear beautiful kids and take care of the house.Shama's husband was 18 and needed looking after just like her parents did.He was differently-abled too and not as lucky as kids his own age to be able to pursue a career or lead a normal life(who decides what normal is,anyway?).
Shama's environment had changed,her fate hadn't.Just as she had stepped into her new home,her mother-in-law had put all the domestic helps on an indefinite furlough.She believed that since she was being generous enough to take the only daughter of the family (that never even had enough food to live on most days)in,she had every right to get the most out of the poor girl's miseries ,whose family wasn't in a position to say no to the proposition that had been made.
Shama went abt her life as though nothing had changed but, of course ,something had .
She started spending her days cooking meals for her new family with five members,scrubbing the toilets,taking care of her husband and listening to her mother in law ramble on about how she was there to bear children so they can grow up and take care of his father in the wheelchair and how she had a stature of not someone more than a domestic help and how the family had indeed done her family a favor by taking an uneducated girl off their hands.
Everything was going just how Shama's mother-in-law had hoped it would,until one day a friend of hers,Manju came to her house to meet her daughter in law and spotted some marks on Shama's forearms .Upon inquiring,Manju learnt that Shama had been cleaning the house wearing an expensive Coat that Manju's friend had gifted her and so she had let her have it.A long exchange of dialogues ensued in which the mother-in-law called Shama all sorts of names and told Manju that she had it coming.Manju saw how wrong her friend was to be beating up a child, who she brought away from her house promising her parents that she would give Shama the place of a daughter in their lives, for such a petty thing like that.Manju understood as did her friend that Shama was like a god's gift to them and their only shot at his son having a reasonable life ahead of him and yet Manju neither jumped to Shama's defense nor tried explaining to her friend that she's been abusing the child and punishing her for something that was no one's fault,the fact that her only son was going to spend all his life in a wheelchair.
Let us not even try to tell ourselves that we understand the kind of life Shama has waiting for her.
Manju came to me and told me how she'd considered it best to not interfere because she thought it wasn't her place!And I somehow failed to make her realize the importance of a bystander's intervention.
The power of our voice is underestimated by ourselves just as much as the voices inside our heads are silenced.
Not standing up for someone who has been silenced so much that he doesn't remember having a voice, makes you just as guilty as the ones committing the crime against the him.
If you've read this article and understand what has been said, then please raise your voice the next time you're presented with a situation similar to this.Remember to stand up for someone who clearly needs it or feel just as responsible as the perpetrator for the rest of your life for whatever the victim is subjected to.