Today, alone She stood, with the crowd, on the streets. Searching for a job, any job, since she had been kicked out of that Dream Job.
It had not been easy to accept that, after ten years of marriage, her husband was divorcing her for another woman. But her sadness turned to alarm when her lawyer shed light on the legal angles. She had been earning during the first five years of marriage. But she had used her salary for household expenditure and buying consumer durables (billed in her husband's name) for her 'home'; and her husband had saved his income and used it for buying the house in his name. She had quit her job, to help him in his business and had worked hard on that too till a year back.
Since it had flourished he had expanded and even though it had been through her help, there was nothing on paper. She had assumed that the law would recognise her efforts towards raising the family and business. But today, with a shock, she realised that the law recognises only papers which showed proof of ownership, and even if assets were purchased from her income, what mattered was only what the invoices stated, and those were in his name. She was not sure if he had intended this, but now it didn't matter. It wouldn't be easy getting a new job. No employer wanted a woman who was coming to work after 5 years and was emotionally distracted and financially unstable. She had assumed that she would get alimony and maintenance and a few assets.
But now, it seemed no hard assets and no portion of his investments, provident fund or pension would come to her. Even alimony, she realised today, was now at the judge's discretion and based on her husband's income. The law says the husband should take care of the woman's 'reasonable' needs through alimony and/or maintenance after divorce. The problem lies in defining 'reasonable'. The most she could hope for, would be one-fifth of the husband's pre-tax (roughly a third of his post-tax) income as alimony. Even though he was successful, she didn't now know how she could prove his income. All his statements went to his office and parts of his income had been turned to 'black'. Now he was even showing a loss on paper. Hindu law also provides for a reverse payment from an earning wife to the non-earning husband. Wonderful! Just what her husband needed to harass her further.
Even to claim the items she had bought from her parents on marriage, she had to prove that they were part of the 'stridhan', and she was not sure if she had sufficient proof towards it.
Even her child, she realised with a shock, was not hers. The law grants many a privilege to the father. For her husband, their daughter was just another pawn to be used against her. She had been about to make a settlement when he had promised that he would buy a land in their daughter's name for her future. Thankfully she had consulted a lawyer on second thought. The husband, as the natural guardian of the child, would have continued to have final say on the property. So, he was actually giving her nothing at all. It wouldn't have mattered if he had bought a land for their daughter. Tears flowed from her eyes as she remembered her daughter. Today she was confused, yet clinging to her father, since he had showered her with expensive gifts.
And she thought of her own mother. The same mother who in her childhood, was the symbol of security, now seemed a helpless ragged doll with sad eyes.After visiting the lawyer she had met her parents, but what could they do now? They were dependent on her brother, and her brother could express only sympathy not support. He had his own family to look after. And similarly with her friends.
She had swallowed her pride, gone back to the husband and refused the divorce. He simply raped her, and laughed at her, on his way out. Marital rape wasn't a crime according to her lawyer. And one pending divorce, had a punishment lesser than the other rapes.
Suddenly the crowd gathered around a journalist, who was asking the women if they felt outraged, with housewives being grouped with Commercial Sex Workers, Prisoners and Beggars, in the 2001 Census. The crowd grew shrill. Everyone lamented, then they moved on.
I feel worse than a commercial sex worker, she thought, with none existing to question my rape. And atleast the prisoners have a cell, I or my mother, don't have even a corner in our houses, to call our own. I am just like a beggar she thought bitterly, begging for mercy from family and friends. Just better dressed, at this moment.
She wanted to go after the journalist, grab the mike and shout at the camera. "Stop this hypocrisy. Just by putting us in a different group in the Census, doesn't mean a thing. Why did you wake up to this only now? If you care, change the laws, change the system. And fight till the end."
But she didn't. The pangs of hunger were louder than the pains of soul.
Taking a deep breath, she moved on, in her quest for a new job. Any job which paid, would be a dream job.
Later she came across a wedding party. She volunteered to work, if they would atleast give a meal.
Finally she was stepping out of her nightmare,
Silently she blessed, the married pair.
The bride was laughing, with dreams in her eyes
For none had told her, Dreams were Lies.
A Submission for Blogadda's Dream Job Contest. Wanted to write about Research Psychologist but when equated with Prostitutes Prisoners and Beggars, in the Census 2001, felt compelled, to write this story.
This post has been choosen as one of the winning entries. Thank you Blogadda! Needless to say winning is beautiful, but nothing would be more beautiful than to have laws which are fair and which reflect our values.