The Beautiful and the Damned: Life in the New India (2011) by Siddhartha Deb enlightened me in terms of the research Breeanne and I conducted in India on female practitioners in technical communication. The book highlights the economic changes that have occurred over the last decade or so because of the technology sector and the deep divide between rich and poor.
One particular paragraph stood out to me.
“The recent globalization of the city [Delhi] had indeed created new opportunities for some women, especially those working as waitresses and sales assistants. The same globalization had also allowed the use of ultrasound technology to abort some 24,000 female foetuses [sic] every year, resulting in a skewed sex ratio of 820 to 1,000 in Delhi. It was into this contradictory realm that women from the north-east arrived in their search for work, and the media was full of stories of them being assaulted, molested and killed, of mobs encircling the rooms they rented and beating women up while the police looked on” (p. 227).
Sadly, Breeanne and I witnessed violence while staying in Pune. And Breeanne did not sit idly by. She acted when she realized what was going on.
Around 4 a.m. she was awakened by shouting. A woman and a man were fighting, but because of the thick walls of the hotel and the echoing of the voices, she could not tell where it was coming from.
I woke around 4:45 a.m. when I heard Breeanne leave our hotel room. As I slowly became aware of my surroundings, I heard the shouting and screaming as well. I was confused and a little worried. What was going on and where had Breeanne gone? I texted to see if Breeanne was okay. She responded to tell me that she was fine but that she was in the lobby reporting domestic violence.
It turned out that the shouting she had heard was in the room right next to ours, and it turned to blows after about half an hour. She could hear the woman being punched and the wind being knocked out of her. That is when Breeanne got up and ran down to the lobby. She reported the violence to the manager, who sent up staff and a security guard. Breeanne did not sit by when she witnessed trouble. She acted.
She was shaken. While the security guard stayed outside the room the rest of the morning, the hotel manager reassured Breeanne that this was “just” an incident between husband and wife and that it was “just” the way things were. They did not call the police. They did not send for medical help.
Breeanne works at a domestic hotline as part of her academic research and community involvement. She knows how difficult these situations can be and that they aren’t easily solved, but she also has a strong sense of justice and care for women. She sat in the lobby crying in front of the manager for an hour, wanting her protest to be heard. He kept offering her tea or coffee or breakfast to be brought to our room. He wanted to be rid of her, but she sat there registering her dislike of his handling of the incident and wanting them to know how upsetting and serious domestic violence is.
Later that day, as we returned from an outing, a female hotel staffer caught us in the lobby and told us that things were okay now because the couple had checked out. She explained that they were the hotel’s DJ staying for free and that they were drunk. “Now they are gone, so everything is okay.”
Breeanne spoke up and showed concern for the woman in the relationship. She asked the staff person to find out if she had received medical attention and if she was okay. She made it clear that her concern was for the woman who was beaten, not for our own comfort in the hotel.
Later that day, the staff person approached us in the lobby again and said she had checked on the woman and that she was okay. We aren’t sure if this was entirely true or what will actually continue to happen in this woman’s life, but Breeanne felt better about having been heard and having the staff follow up on her concerns.
For me, hearing the staff so flippantly say that the woman was fine brought tears. I had been mostly removed from the situation because of my heavy sleeping, but once I realized how little was done for a woman in a violent situation, I was overcome by emotion.
I’m proud of Breeanne. She is brave and outspoken and strong. I want to be more like her.