In a recent conversation with a commenter here, I said that statistics do not necessarily reflect the whole of an issue.
What I meant by this was that if you have a room of 100 people and asked all of them a question, their answers did not necessarily equal that they all felt this way.
Take for example:
Do you believe it’s ok to not to touch an elders feet upon meeting them for the first time?
This, I know, is a loaded question and it really depends on so many factors. These factors are called demographics. Age, race, local, education, all are influencers in the answers that you will be given. As well will a society’s beliefs or religious backgrounds. You must also equate whether the subject is answering with what they think is the ‘right’ answer or merely what they believe you want to hear.
So, my feeling on statistics, especially when I read about them in reports or hear about them from others, is that I should take them with a grain of salt.
But something did happen here in the land of Gori Rajkumari that truly brought home to both my husband and I, the problems that women face here in India. Especially those of the working and lower class.
Our beloved maid Rai is the subject of today’s discussion.
Rai has been with us almost since my first day here in India. From the moment she walked through the door, she radiated peace and happiness and the feeling of ‘family’ to me. Rai and I fast became good friends and my husband and I both considered her more family than just a day maid.
Rai speaks three languages fluently, Marathi, Hindi and Kanada. She was quick-witted, sweet, efficient and caring. She picked up English quickly and understood my clumsy attempts at Marathi/Hindi mixed with wild hand gestures far better than even my English-speaking SIL did.
Rai also spent time teaching me the ways of life here, how to clean an Indian home properly, how to cook new meals. She did her best to teach me Marathi while I gave her the English translations. She was patient with me. She would visit me when I was ill or stay with me to keep me company when I was lonely. She would hold me when I cried over missing home. We would tell each other about our families, our life and childhood or just giggle over CID antics.
Rai was not just my maid….she was my first true friend in India.
The day came when Rai would tell me about the problems that she faced with her husband’s family. The problems, to me, seemed so severe but to her…it was as if this sort of thing were natural. Just another part of Indian life.
She was too dark, should not work (even though her husband did not make enough to support them both), her cooking was substandard (HA! Better than eating out was my husband and my feeling…her cooking was THAT good!), she had not yet had any babies and this was her fault (even though the doctor found nothing wrong with her or her husband….most likely it was that they never saw each other what with their tedious work schedules or his staying out late with drinking buddies). Everything seemed to be her fault.
But it was HER that they had begged four years previously to please marry their son. They stayed with that stance for nearly a year before she finally gave in over the pressure of her mother and his family. He is her second cousin.
Throughout all of this and for the last three years, her husband stood by her. Defied his parents when they told him they wanted him to divorce Rai and marry another girl who would be ‘better’.
And then almost a year ago….her husband met a newly divorced sister of his best friend. His family knew about her and approved of her. Even though she was less educated that Rai, from a family with questionable background and her own work history is spotted with controversy. They did not seem to care in the face that THIS woman was fairer and may give their son children.
And so with his family supportive of him, he began the terrorizing of our Rai. Now he stayed out later or was gone for days. Now he berated Rai at every opportunity. Now his family would call Rai and demean her or uninvited her to family events.
Rai began coming to work sullen and quiet with bruises on her arms or back. She was stiff or had to take breaks in her cleaning. She was going to the hospital frequently.
So I began questioning her harder, trying to make her break her silence. Until one day she showed up early, crying and begging to talk to Bear and myself about a personal matter.
And talk she did. She told us everything that had happened to her. How her husband was trying to kick her out of their home. How he said he was going to marry this other girl and they would get rid of Rai. It was horrible and I was shocked. My husband was as well and asked her why she had suffered in silence…why had she not told us earlier.
And she said for the shame of it. And that she had once thought her husband had this right to sometimes beat her. And that she loved him. But that the time she had spent with us had shown her what true love and respect were between husband and wife and that we had taught her to respect herself as a PERSON. And she hugged me then.
So, we made some phone calls and found a women’s advocacy group and asked her if she would be willing to go speak with them.
At first, she was afraid. At first, she asked my husband to talk sense to her husband. At first, she wanted to go to the police.
But my husband and I explained that him talking to her husband would only make it far worse for her and no solution. That the police might or might not help her. But that the advocacy group would help her, they would know all her rights, they would stand beside her and fight for her when no one else could or would.
And she agreed.
So my husband and I took her to the advocacy group and I stayed with her and helped her while she told them her life story and all that had been done to her. We took a break and ate lunch in silence or with her sometimes reaching over to grab my hand and hold it.
And after it was done, they made phone calls and began the process of protecting our Rai. They were going to mediate with her and her husband. If he was adamant that he would leave her, then the advocacy was going to be sure that Rai was given what was her right to be given. They were going to help her go back to school, as her wish was to get a degree and maybe work in a call center.
And so Rai and I went back home. She could no longer work for us as she had to stay home to try and keep the peace at least with his family who never wanted her working in the first place.
But she promised to come or call me often so that I could be sure that she was safe.
And she did.
Until a few weeks ago.
Our new maid, Mai, is Rai’s friend. She is good and sweet and tries to help me the same as Rai did. But she is not Rai.
One morning, she came early to say that Rai and her husband had had a terrible fight and Rai, not able to get in touch with the advocacy and when the police did not come, had fled her home in fear for her life. She had saved some money and had bought a ticket to go back home to her family’s farm some 8 hours away.
She had sent word with Mai to tell me that she was safe and would contact me when she could and to say thank you, for trying to help her.
And that was that. I lost my Rai. My first friend in India.
In the India Times today, there was an article about the percentage of Women in Indian Parliament was only 10% and in comparison to other countries with percentages closer to 40 or 50%, the statistics to the welfare in these country’s with regards to Women’s rights are compared as well. It said that the higher amount of Women in the justice system equated the more rights of Women in their daily lives.
The report also said that 40% of Indian men think it is OK to beat their wives or other such atrocious acts like marital rape.
And now we are back to statistics. 40% seems awfully high to me. That’s nearly half the Indian Male population. 40% of how many queried? Was it even close to the population amount?
And then I realized that it really didn’t matter….because the fact that such a high rate of men, even if it are only 40% of 100 men queried who believed this, was 40% more than any country should have.
Especially when one of those is married to my Rai.
May God’s blessings, love and protection go with you my friend….and wherever you are, please know that I am and forever will be, your sister.