Haritha’s is a story that needs to be told and re-told, mainly because the first part of her life is so similar to that of scores of women across India. But it’s how she dealt with it and changed the life that was charted out for is what needs to be emulated. Well, at least taken inspiration from.
Focusing on her career as an engineer, Haritha was just like any other young Indian female professional at a “marriageable age”. And just like the others, her parents too had started pushing her towards settling down. Giving in to parental pressure, she finally married a man she barely knew, says a post on the Facebook page, Humans of Amsterdam, which shared Haritha’s story.
“I moved in with his family on the other side of India. My in-laws were very controlling and I was forced to give my salary to them. They demanded I would contact my father and ask him for a dowry. My husband turned out just to be as controlling as his parents. He would check my phone regularly and accused me multiple times of cheating on him. Every day the situation was getting worse. At the time I was working as a software engineer for Nike and my job became my ultimate passion. Whenever I would have to work late my husband would ask me who I was having sex with this time. It was humiliating,” she said.
After one and half years, Haritha realised she’d had enough of this torture and asked her manager to post her in some other country. She was posted in Amsterdam. “When I arrived at the Amsterdam airport it felt as if I could finally breath again. Everything about this place made me feel relaxed,” Haritha is quoted to have said.
The admin of the page — which is based on the Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton, which documents stories of everyday people that are each extraordinary in their own way — said Haritha wanted to share her story primarily because she wanted her story to give hope to those people in similar situations.
In Amsterdam, Haritha happened to attend a story-telling event that saw women from different walks of life sharing their stories of physical and emotional abuse. Later that day when she got home, with a newly-found certainty, Haritha called up her husband and told him that she wanted a divorce.
Her ordeal, however had only started.
“When my father found out I wanted to divorce my husband he was really upset. He suggested I would travel to India so we could talk things through. I wasn’t planning on changing my mind but in order to get my divorce settled I would have to go to India. … For hours my family and his family were trying to convince me to not go through with the divorce. This went on for hours and hours and at some point I was so exhausted I had to go to sleep. … I woke up the next day and I noticed that my bag with my passport, phone and credit cards was missing. I panicked and confronted my in-laws. They said that they had nothing to do with my missing bag and that someone must have broken in and stole it.”
With the help of her sister, Haritha managed to sneak out of the house and went to the concerned government officials for getting her new passport made. With a lot of hurdles, she managed to get her passport made and after 45 days she got back to Amsterdam — which is now home to her. But she’d lost her previous job, because she could never give them a reasonable explanation for extending her two-weeks leave. She finally got another job after two weeks of looking for work.
Though Haritha said she still is not divorced, she is not going back to India. And though she still talks to her parents, she finds it really hard to trust them.
Haritha’s post comes as a ray of hope and solace for many who are fighting their own battles. Her story tells us it is okay to be alone and it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you are weak.