Sabrina F Ahmad
Pay attention to a bullfight, and you'll see how, when the wounded animal is backed into a corner, it rears up and attacks its assailant. What does it get in return for merely trying to get that pesky matador off its back is either a painful death, or the dubious satisfaction of dispatching its aggressor to the hospital or the grave long enough to be allowed to live till the next bullfight. Reading Provoked, one can't help but compare the situation of Kiranjit Ahluwalia to that of the bull. The sheltered young woman is given in marriage to a handsome, charming man, and no sooner is the wedding over than the façade comes off, and the monster within is revealed. What follows is a decade of violence; brutal beatings, emotional and sexual abuse, and further humiliation, when, having beaten her to the lowest point of her confidence and self-esteem, Deepak Ahluwalia starts having affairs with other women.
One particularly violent incident breaks the straw on the proverbial camel's back, and Kiranjit decides to retaliate, and in an attempt to maim Deepak, accidentally sets the house, and her husband, on fire. The law that turned a blind eye to the ten years of violence that Kiranjit suffered, suddenly woke up, declares her a criminal, and tosses her behind bars.
Ironically, it is within the prison walls that Kiranjit rediscovers freedom, regains her self-confidence, and even makes friends. Fortune suddenly smiles on her when the Southall Black Sisters, a women's rights group, takes interest in her case and begins to campaign for her release. To know whether or not they succeed, you have to read the book.
Domestic violence has always been pretty much the dirty laundry you don't air in public in just about every society. The concept of izzat in South Asian society magnifies this problem for women there, as was evident with the case of Mukhtar Mai, as is the case of Kiranjit herself. The fact that she endured ten years of pain, humiliation and shame simply because she was afraid of bringing dishonour upon her family should speak for the impact of izzat on women like her.
The narrative, dominated by Kiranjit herself, with inserts by her co-author Rahila Gupta, a member of the Southall Black Sisters, shows how a pampered young woman was thrown into a situation she was not prepared for, and how it almost destroyed her. It is an honest portrait, one that doesn't attempt to make a bigger heroine out of Kiranjit than she already is, and instead, focuses on the horrors of the domestic violence itself (without being overly graphic) and the legal wrangles that follow, and thus makes for a thought-provoking read.
The book is available at Words n Pages
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