Inseeya Fatema’s Story / This Is Mumbai, Meri Jaan
Inseeya Fatema’s Story
Inseeya Fatema had reached out to CAI for help with her unaffordable school fees some 7 years ago. CAI was able to help and she managed to complete her college education. She is now gainfully employed as an assistant accountant and engaged to be married later this year to a man she is madly in love. The feeling is mutual since her partner knows about the past and cares not.
I’ve debated long and hard about making Inseeya’s story public, since the subject matter is so personal, sensitive and unfortunately, oh so taboo in our culture. But I am changing my mind, meeting with her after 7 years and talking to a more mature and emotionally stable person, who strongly encourages me to go public as long as she remains incognito. So, I will briefly bring to light this ‘off-limits’ story, only because Inseeya believes, and I agree, that the subject matter should be unshrouded. Here is her story:
I was born into a lower-class family in UP, India; my father was a petty trader of cheap plastic/canvas shoes. We did not have much money, but I don’t remember ever going hungry, there was always food. My mother died of cervical cancer when I was 7 and Papa remarried in a hurry, he had to, since he could not earn bread to feed a family of 4 if he was not peddling shoes in the local market.
My new mother was not an unkind person. She was not my ‘emotional mother’, but she did take care of me and my younger brother as best she could, without the passionate tug. I went to an Urdu medium school, even though I yearned for an English one, but the fees demanded for an English school was out of the question.
My troubles began when I was 12, when Mummy send me to buy milk at Maamu’s (her brother) store, who sold us the milk at a discount. Maamu always acted kind and gave me a toothy grin, and a caress in the head. That pat spread to yet developing areas of my body and eventually to full-scale sexual molestation. I was very confused in the beginning, but thought nothing of Maamu’s constant pawing of my body. But when he once undressed and hurt me, I knew that was wrong. Yet, I did nothing and kept quiet, since I was terrified of Mummy’s reaction. Mummy was nonstop in her praise for her brother’s generosity and repeatedly reminded Papa of how much money he was saving because of her brother. When I finally refused to go to the store, Mummy was enraged and almost struck me, complaining to Papa that I was lazy and insolent. Papa looked at me with a sad, disapproving look that nearly broke my heart.
But my Papa is a smart and shrewd man; he immediately sensed trouble. He quizzed me about my unusual behavior at length later that night, but I still could not find the courage to speak up. Papa and a friend caught Maamu in the act the next day, me struggling half naked as Maamu panted and grunted over me at the back of the store. There was an ensuing riot as he nearly died with the beating he received from a heavy danda that he used as a lever to secure his shop’s door. After beating the man to a pulp, Papa and his friend dragged the half-dead man to the police station, where he was first taken to a hospital and treated for a swollen face, broken fingers and a fractured collarbone before being booked for attempted rape and thrown in jail where he still rots. Papa and the friend too were charged for aggravated assault by the police, but these were quickly and quietly dropped when Papa’s local community at the mosque threatened a protest march to the police station.
At home, Mummy also got an earful and was wise to stay absolutely quiet as Papa ranted at her like a raged animal. I am certain he would have torn her up if she would have opened her mouth. Papa was inconsolable as he repeatedly broke down, hugged, kissed me and lamented why in the world had I not opened my mouth to complain.
My ‘reputation’ in the town was ‘ruined’, there was no way I could stay put. Society (in my town) do not consider us as victims, rather perpetrators of such acts. Papa sold a piece of inherited land and sent me off to Mumbai where I stayed under the care of his maternal aunt. I later joined college, moved to an all-girls hostel and with CAI’s scholarship, graduated in accounting and commerce. I am now employed and engaged to wed a wonderful, open-minded man who knows all about my past but couldn’t care less.
I realize I was incredibly stupid and naïve for not speaking up when my troubles began. I should have screamed out loud and long to stop the grief that followed. I realize this is easy to say now, introspect, after the fact. I only wish I would have been smart and brave to end a self-inflicted wound. I pray my story will or can help bring awareness to this sad and less than acknowledged abuse that is prevalent among close family members.
Narrated to me on June 4, 2018 in Mumbai, India. Inseeya is not her real name and I’ve also kept her birth town in UP nameless.
This Is Mumbai, Meri Jaan…
The Emirates flight from Dubai wobbles and weaves through the thick monsoon clouds over Mumbai and makes another go-around, wresting another hour of my life away, as heavy rain pounds the aircraft. But modern technology still makes the landing possible and I am safe at the Leela within 40 minutes of landing, immigration, bag claim, customs and fighting the flooded streets a short distance away.
Sarfaraz, the ace driver for Najfi House, picks me up at 10 sharp the next morning. We are to drive about 6 kilometers for an important errand. I could have taken the Metro and it would be a 30-minute affair, door to door; but I have a heavy suitcase to lug. Alas, it takes a bloody150 minutes!
Our troubles begin soon enough, as we leave the Leela. A bridge collapse due to the rains, neglect, and apathy by finger pointing authorities a day earlier has blocked a major road artery between east and west, snarling the already chaotic, but usually moving traffic into a full stop. I fret and constantly pester Sarfaraz for ETA. Poor frustrated guy, he humors me with tired smile and eyes that tell me to shut the bloody up. Sarfaraz is as good a driver anybody lucky to have and can / has navigated me out of very challenging traffic snarls in the ago. But this one has stopped him cold and he does not like it.
So, I take in my surroundings and study the faces of people in the rain-washed sea of vehicles trapped with us instead; they are as exasperated and bored as me. A driver to my right stares fixedly ahead while his apparent wife repaints already bright red lips and takes an umpteenth selfie of those pouts. She tries to show these to the husband, who cares less and ignores her. Undeterred, she takes yet another one…I shudder and look away. Perhaps it is better to remain single?
The lone driver to my right has more interesting tasks; he is busy digging for treasures from his nose. The going seems laborious, for he struggles at it and comes out with no harvest; the finger goes digging again. My tummy, full of excellent Poha for breakfast at the Leela, grumbles; my bladder, full with 2 plus liters of water I drank for the 6.5-mile early morning run, also wants attention. The guy senses me looking at him, frowns, scowls and continues digging. What is making me nervous is an appointment with Inseeya Fatema later this afternoon back at the Leela; I must make it. I sigh and try to read the newspaper…all about the deluge yesterday and the bridge collapse.
I ask Sarfaraz what he does if he needs to go pee or even worse, potty when stuck in such traffic situations. He laughs and relates one such incident. He was stuck in traffic once, like today, and would have soiled his pants if he did not get instant pee relief. So, he raised the car hood, locked the car and sought succor. It took a while to find a makeshift toilet with water and by the time he returned, the jam had cleared and his car was about to be towed. An incensed hawaldaar would have none of Sarfaraz’s excuse and was hell bent in melting out punishment.
So Sarfaraz tried to give the oldest excuse in the books of Mumbai. He told the hawaldaar that he has the stomach runs and has to really go, otherwise… The hawaladar squirted red paan juice next to Sarfaraz’s feet, pocketed the 100-rupee bribe offered and asked Sarfaraz to seal his behind before he ventured to drive the next time he had the runs.
About 1 kilometer from our destination, the traffic suddenly clears and Sarfaraz pushes rubber to metal. The car lurches, nearly knocking an obese girl from her motorbike enjoying a piping hot greasy vada-pav from a street vendor she should not be eating.
This is Mumbai, meri Jaan. Phew.