Who will wipe her tears?

Mithu and Mou Rakshit*, two sisters, residing in different cities after their marriage, keep in touch over phone nearly every day. Mou lives in Delhi and Mithu in Kolkata. Mou is Mithu’s rock, someone she holds onto whenever she suffers a nervous breakdown.

Mou tells Metrolife, “In the beginning, I’d feel sorry for my sister, often wondering why she had to be so helpless. But somewhere deep down, I knew that even I too face a kind of violence–may be not be physical but a mental one.”

The new National Crime Records Bureau report points out that nearly 15 people
commit suicide every hour in India. Apparently, 17 per cent are housewives and only
three per cent are suicides by farmers.

Though a survey on the various reasons prompting this extreme step, is yet to be conducted, the NCRB data for 2013, the latest available year, shows that 1.3 lakh people committed suicide that year. Among suicides by women, a whopping 51.4 per cent are committed by housewives (almost 23,000), despite the fact that the “non-worker and marginal worker” female population engaged in “household duties” make up only 33 per cent of the entire female population, according to the 2011 Census.

Babita Chopra, an independent activist who works for various organisations for women’s rights tells Metrolife, “Every third house I go to, women are ready to accept there is domestic violence. If one goes to the police, the issue is handled by a designated ‘Personal Protection Officer’. But, the complainant has to go back home and continue with her life with her husband, which induces greater fear of domestic violence.”

 Living in a plush colony like Chittaranjan Park, south Delhi, Mou’s life too has not been cushy. She started facing mental and physical trauma, soon after her marriage. “Things changed drastically after my daughter grew up. She became my strength.

After my mother-in-law expired, the tension in the home too abated. I can understand now that for so many years I was depressed and, I didn’t even realise,” exclaims Mou.
An devoted fan of a popular Bangla show, Bhalo Achi Bhalo Thako, on Tara TV, she has realised that she is not the only one who faces emotional and mental violence at home.

Each episode of Bhalo Achi Bhalo Thako features psychiatrists and psychologists who answer queries of viewers calling on the hotline for help and guidance. The experts
allay the callers’ fears and offer advice on how to deal with tricky domestic
issues and overcome the emotional stress.

Recalling an episode, Mou says, “Once a woman called to say that her husband was having an affair and she did not know what to do. She said that sometimes she wanted to kill herself and is afraid that she might do so. The doctors were startled, because most people who call would not be at such an edge. They advised the woman to seek a psychiatrist’s help at the earliest. But after that I kept wondering whether the woman sought a psychiatrist’s help.”

Mou says the show has helped her to ‘connect’ with many women, including her sister. “When the husband does not respect the wife, their child also grows to disrespect her. If your only child, not even 10, swears at you and laughs when his father is scolding you, the pain becomes tenfold.”

“My sister has seen the worst,” Mou adds.

To buttress her claim that “whether one is educated or not, domestic violence is a reality most women, especially in Indian households face,” Mou cites the case of her well-to-do and highly qualified neighbour, who despite her impressive academic and professional credentials, has been reduced to an unhappy, unappreciated, unloved woman at home.

“She is an MBBS, MD and works at a renowned hospital here. Her husband is an alcoholic, but she faces her trauma stoically and continues to take care of her three kids and home. I am educated too, but look at me, even I was helpless and unable to take a stand during my traumatic phase. I’ve read Chokher Bali and devoured Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s works, but when my time came, I did not act accordingly,” Mou says. 

Dr Arti Anand, Clinical Psychologist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, says, “Suicide is the most severe form of depression. A person commits suicide when he or she has no hope for a better future. The reason why housewives are prone because in a city like Delhi, it is very easy to find yourself worthless, if one is not earning. Also, once a person enters a sort of depression, they cannot socialise anymore. One can easily socialise in an office with colleagues and vent out problems of home. But housewives are unable to do that even.”

Dr Anand explains, “in our society women find it hard to talk about their marital problems with their parents. And seeking a psychologist for resolving the issue is seen as a scary prospect.”

(* Names have been changed on request)

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