Being confronted by blindness

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By rahnuma ahmed

Rumana's daughter, visiting her mother in hospital. Photographer unknown.
Rumana's daughter, visiting her mother in hospital. Photographer unknown.

Soft hands, gentle hands. I bent, I kissed.
Rumana was lying in her hospital bed. We have never met before, I said, as I held and caressed her hand, but your ex-teacher Meghna Guhathakurta, is a close friend of mine. You probably know that.
I wish we didn’t have to meet under these terrible circumstances but please know Rumana, that we are with you. All of us.
She inclined her head graciously. Even under these circumstances.
Stray thoughts entered my head. When visiting foreign lands where I didn’t know the language, my senses were invariably heightened. I could always sense when people were talking of me.
Rumana’s senses must have altered. Could she sense from my kiss, my touch, my caress, that I was a friend?
Blinded by jealousy, rage and pettiness at not being able to hold a candle to her warmth and beauty, at not being able to match her intelligence and competence, Hasan Sayeed Shumon, Rumana’s husband, gouged out her eyes on June 5.
Not his own. Her’s.
Behind this brutal act?which occurred soon after she came home from Canada this May, to visit her husband and daughter?lay years of abuse and violence which began soon after marriage.
Marriage, for Bengalis, is sacred. It needn’t be, at least, not for those who are Muslims, because under Muslim laws, marriage is a civil contract. It is not a tie made in Heaven. Couples do not have to remain wedded till death do them apart. But social norms, ideologies and practices decree otherwise.
Women are brought up to revere marriage. To remain steadfast. Even if they are abused, even if they are battered, even if it occurs continually. Even women who come from better-off backgrounds, are highly-educated, professionally accomplished and have independent means of earning. As is, Rumana. This is why, feminists insist, there is no neat fit between class and gender inequalities. They are complexly inter-related. Simplistic equations are unable to explain, or to provide us with the intellectual and political resources needed to combat wife-battering. To resist domestic violence.
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