When you listen to her litany of ordeals, which she recounts in a calm voice sans any emotion, you cannot believe your ears. Even if this was shown in a Bollywood ‘masala movie’ we would have said : “jara jyada hee bataya! Itna bhi kisike ke saath nahi ho sakta.” (This is unbelievable and too exaggerated; no one can be made to suffer so much.)
But Rubina Patel’s story is real, not reel and backed by the many FIRs and Court cases that SHE faced! Yes, she the victim, not her husband or father in law – the tormentors. Her husband remains unscathed, he did not even lose his Govt. job. Ironically, he is a school teachers!
Failed by everybody, every step of the way
” I grew up with an alcoholic, abusive and violent father who not just beat my mother but was very vicious with me too. Still in my teens and not even a graduate yet, I was married off to another man who soon outdid my father in violence. Only difference is my father drank ‘desi’ this man drank whisky and rum…My face, my body clearly showed signs of the ruthless beatings I suffered and still no one – not society, nor police,nor judiciary ever came to my rescue… what to speak of so called ‘religious heads’ the Moulanas? They live in a time wrap of a thousand years ago!” (Sadly, even the newspapers that she turned to in despair, turned a deaf ear.)
“In fact everyone ganged up against me, yet I refused to play the meek victim and give up.”
The early years of marriage
Since Rubina was married to an educationist, she was confident he would allow her to continue her education and become a graduate at least. He refused. She was not to step out of the house either for studies or for work.
“Am I your property? an inanimate thing you can keep dumped at home?” Asked Rubina in frustration one day.
“Yes”, he replied – “a wife always is a man’s property, to do with as he wants!”
Even after she gave birth to the most cherished ‘object’ an heir, a male child, the beatings continued. They actually became worse, because now Rubina was not just his wife, she was mother of his son! It was more crucial that she be kept ‘in line’.
“Once, when my son was just 11 months old, my husband slapped me so hard and repeatedly across my face that my eyes were swollen shut and my skin puckered up in rashes and boils. After I was a little recovered, I decided enough was enough. I would not live with him anymore! I could not return to my parents and I would not go to any relative or friend and put them into trouble too. I had heard of Baba Amte and his wife Sadhana tai – in fact had attended a camp run by them once – and so I decided to seek refuge in their ashram at Anandwan.”
Rubina succeeded in reaching the Ashram with her son and recounted her ordeal to Sadhanatai. For a week almost she continued living with them, eating with them as if she was family. She hopefully envisaged spending her whole life at this ashram, doing whatever chores she was asked to do. But a helper at the ashram filled Sadhana tai’s ears about how much Rubina’s husband loved her and how rashly she had behaved “over just a little tiff.” He reported that the heart broken man was looking for his wife and child everywhere.
Hearing this, unknown to Rubina, the Amtes wrote a letter to her husband ‘Masterji’ ( as he was called) and invited him to take his family home.
“I was shocked when I saw the brute at the ashram! I did not want to go with him but Sadhana tai, a gentle and kind soul, counselled me that ‘ a wife’s place was always with her husband, at his home’ and she persuaded me to go back. She told ME to be more patient and co operative!”
After that Rubina reconciled to her fate and tried her best to become a ‘submissive’ wife that everyone wanted her to be. After a few years, her second child, her daughter Adiva was born.
Hit suddenly by a fatwa!
Despite all this, when Adiva was still a little girl, Masterji one day suddenly took his son and threw Rubina and the girl out! (He, soon after, went to a Kazi and got a fatwa divorcing Rubina with a triple talak. Forget being a party to the ‘divorce’ proceedings, Rubina did not even know about it. Neither did she receive the ‘Meher’ amount as provided for in Muslim law nor any child support.) This was in 2004.
Destitute, with no money, Rubina came to Nagpur and looked for the cheapest room she could find to live in. Her mother had moved away to Hyderabad with her brother then, away from her own abusive husband.
Despite the penury and the hardships that followed, the young mother of two grabbed the opportunity of her ‘ independence’ to get back to studies. She joined college to complete her B.A. and also simultaneously started ‘Social Work’ studies at Matru Seva Sangh. But she had to earn also, so she took up a teaching job and also began doing translation and writing work. “I did anything that came my way, my handwriting was good, so I was even given ‘rewriting’ work.”
She remembers a day when she had not eaten a proper meal for 2 days, had just Rs. 5/ on her and was asked to pay MSW fees of Rs. 3000/ soon so she could sit for the exams.
“I was shattered… where do I go ; how to continue looking after a growing child, her schooling and my own education with such little money?”
After that Rubina did the unthinkable. She splurged her ‘total estate’ of Rs. 5/ on getting something ‘nutritious’ to eat, which was some garam chana!
“I realized I had a long journey ahead, my daughter depended on me, I had to get my son back and I had to make a life for all three of us. I could not be weak – the least I had to do was keep myself alive…”
(She paid her fees by getting an ‘advance’ from one of her employers and the rest of the expenses were covered by the salary she soon began getting from the school.)
Thrown in the well
Though Rubina was finding her footing in Nagpur, the forced separation from her son was driving her crazy. Friends and neighbors persuaded her to go to Bhandara and meet him.
“It is your home, your husband” ( she did not know about the ‘talak’ yet) “and your son. How can anyone keep a mother away from her son?”
So Rubina was foolhardy enough to make the journey, thankfully alone… When she entered the house, that was full of her stuff that she had got as ‘dowry’…her (ex) husband was enraged to see her. He pulled her out, and began dragging her to a well in the vicinity, thrashing her all the way. “You deserve to die! If you have any shame, you will jump right now and end your sorry life!” He yelled.
“The well was very deep and had no walls around it. I had no intention of jumping in, but on the brink, I lost my balance and really fell in. Injured badly from the beatings and the fall, I still did not drown. My hijab and my burqua saved me, by bringing me to the surface and kept me floating. I found, and held on to a pipe…”
But the husband, the father in law and other men thought she was drowned and dead. They marched jubilantly to the police station to report that his ” ex wife had committed suicide by jumping into the well.” He had many eye witnesses to hold up his accusation.
Meanwhile at the well, when the many women gathered there – since there had been quite a tamasha! – saw Rubina was still alive and breathing, forced the men folk to get her out. A cousin had also reached the spot by then and when Rubina was rescued they too, carried her to the police station to lodge a complaint.
To her shock and dismay, Rubina learnt that an FIR had already been lodged – against her. Under article 309 – an attempt to commit suicide! The police refused to entertain their plea, though Rubina looked convincingly battered and had a fractured foot as well.
The long string of court cases
Article 309 was just the beginning. Rubina soon learnt that there were 4 other cases registered against her – in different places. Two in Pauni, two in Bhandara and one in Nagpur. She also had filed a case of custody of her son in Nagpur.
“Wherever I went, I found the entire system pitted against me. The Govt. pleader who was supposed to fight on my behalf – since I could not afford a lawyer – would berate me and speak down to me rudely in public. If I broke down and began crying, pleading that I just wanted my son back, the judge would ask the police to ‘take her away till she could behave’!
I realized then that crying and becoming emotional, specially in our judicial setting, was not the way to be.”
A calm Rubina turns counselor / lawyer fighting her own cases
This decision was another turning point in the brave woman’s life. Though by then she knew that the triple talaq fatwa was also totally rigged against her – as it is against any woman! -and police and law fraternity also saw her as a ‘home breaking culprit’ rather than a victim, she used her own sorry experiences to turn a Counselor for other Muslim women. She had finished her MSW by then and was qualified to be a counselor.
She never became a lawyer, but she studied enough law to begin pleading at her own cases.
Gone was the hysterical, out of control woman – a calm and collected Rubina emerged who began arguing the many cases against her on points of merit and within the legal framework.
“With my new ‘avataar’ I saw a dramatic change in people’s attitude towards me. The judge who earlier would shun me and ask me to stand quietly in the ‘katghara’ for criminals, began paying attention and even listening to my arguments respectfully. The police also began looking at me with regard. When I spoke in Bhandara or Pauni courts, people would gather to listen and whisper to each other ‘ koi Nagpur ki badi vakil lagti ha’!” ( Is this a big lawyer from Nagpur?)
To cut a long story short – one could really write a book on this courageous woman’s unbelievable life story! – today Rubina’s is a success story that is talked about and celebrated all over the electronic media and among her social circles.
The ‘Counselling centre’ she started over 10 years ago is thriving and helping many. She has a staff of over 15 working for her!
And today, the 42 years old Rubina, a resident of Tajbagh area, near the Tajuddin Baba Dargah, has become an inspiration for all. She counsels divorced Muslim women and helps out needy young girls and even elder women by training them to earn a living.
Her NGO Rubi Social Welfare Society is doing such great service for others who have suffered like her, that she gets grants not only from govt. but foreigners too. (Not Muslim nations though!!)
She was awarded the Baburao Samant Sangharsh Puraskar 2014 on October 18th.
Many other laurels are coming her way, but the greatest joy of her life is that she is re united with her son! Her Danish… who, by the way has changed his name legally to Danish Rubina Humanity!
Two years ago, the son ran away from his abusive father and declared he ‘chose to be with his mother!’
“I still have many questions!”
Rubina doesn’t believe her fight is over though.
“I still have many questions that are unanswered. In a free and democratic country how can my sisters and me still be treated like this?? This was not the triple talaq as laid by the Shariyat! That prescribes a long process of 9 months with 3 months gap between each utterance of ‘talaq’. The couple is advised to make every effort in the interim to make their marriage work.
Now Muslim women are getting ‘triple talaq’ on Whats app, facebook messenger – even by sms!! Is divorce a joke??
What about a woman’s constitutional rights – what about equality?
Anyone has any replies?
.. As told to Sunita Mudliyar ( Associate Editor )