Time and distance are funny concepts. Mere miles away from you, there are people living in an entirely different world. This world, in the same time-zone as yours, is somehow still stuck in another century. When people shy away from raising their voices against wrongdoings, they sink into a place of comfort where injustice isn’t injustice anymore; it is the norm. Although Mumbai isn’t too far away from Pratappur, the distance between the two places is enough to take you back in time; to a world that has tightly gripped all the wrongdoings, we have worked so hard to let go of.
I met yet another ugly side of this world, scarring Suman’s innocent face. This 14-year-old, with little sense of right or wrong, was living a life that seems like a far-fetched reality to us city people. Married as soon as puberty hit, and pregnant by the age of 14, Suman’s life was forced in a direction for which she was neither physically, nor mentally prepared. An adolescent, who in all likelihood wants to run into her mother’s arms in the face of any adversity, was carelessly and against her will being burdened with the responsibility of motherhood. If that wasn’t monstrosity enough, her husband Kamlesh Chaudhry, a man in his 50s, subjected her to marital rape while she was pregnant. Her tender age and fragile body couldn’t keep up with the ways of this world.
Facts would suggest that Suman lost her life to excessive loss of blood and a miscarriage that went unnoticed for days. But equal blame must be borne by the atrocities of child marriage and marital rape. What happened to Suman was not only illegal but also immoral. A child who had the best years of her life ahead of her was confined in a relationship too stifling for anyone her age to bear.
It becomes easy to reduce these realities to news reports and statistics when we live in a place of privilege, at a safe distance from these evils. But when you visit this world that is a stone’s throw away from yours; that is when it starts feeling real. Statistics translate into ruined lives and news reports take the shape of shackles that confine many. I entered this world as a spectator but I can’t remain on the sidelines anymore when I know I can stretch my hand and pull someone out of its deep abyss.