Is it ‘none of your business’ if you hear a man beating up his wife?

I am about to finish my Masters from a University in Chicago and currently am in the job- hunting phase. My family is in New Delhi, India. Once a year I visit them on Diwali. I moved to Chicago two years back. Last year when I visited them I had a life changing experience. It was one of the most challenging yet eye- opening things I ever had to face.

I reached home a couple of days before Diwali and was looking forward to eating home food and sleeping in the comfort of my home. The first day after getting some sleep, I spent all my afternoon with my family and decided to meet my friends in the evening. My body was still jet- lagged so I was lazying around everywhere. It must be around 2 pm when I heard some loud aggressive noises coming from outside my house. It sounded like a fight between a man and a woman. It sounded really loud so I looked at my mom and she said, “This newly married young couple moved a couple of months back. This is their everyday thing.”  A few minutes later the voices died and I forgot about it.

That very night the arguing voices were back and to my shock, I could hear the woman screaming. I realised that she was getting hurt. It was not hard to guess that she was getting beaten up by the husband, so hard that there were periodic ‘thumping’ sounds. Again my mom told me its an everyday thing and nobody wants to interfere in their private business. I was shocked. The adults were doing nothing? If we could hear all this, then so could my neighbours. My mom shushed me down and after half hour the violent noises ceased. The next day and the next night the voices were back. And again the day after that, and the day after that. This continued for a few days until I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to do SOMETHING.

I had spoken about this to my friends who stayed nearby. Most of them didn’t care while two of them were as concerned as I was. Even their parents wanted to out of this whole situation.

We three decided to find a solution to this atrocious problem. We researched online and tried to ask others. I remembered the Boman Irani ad on tv about this. It had a message to ‘Ring the Bell’ if you hear domestic violence happening. A little scared yet one day while the beating was happening, we decided to go for it. The man opened the inside door and I caught a glimpse of him. He was a good looking young man, didn’t look like a wife beater at all. But then, who are we to judge based on looks? He asked us what did we want and my friend said, “Just making sure everything is okay.” He paused for a few seconds, didn’t answer and went back inside, closing the door behind him. Surprisingly, there were no beating or fighting sounds for the next two days and on the third day I saw the wife just outside her house. She was returning from somewhere, unlocking her house. She was really pretty. Her beauty was hidden under layers of make- up which to my guess, were to hide her bruises and marks. She looked at me, frightened and hurried inside her house.

The fourth day since our bell ringing, the beatings resumed. We had had enough. I quickly called my friends and they came back early from their college. We decided to call the police. My friend made the cal and she explained the whole situation calmly but fast to avoid wasting any time. They asked her for a few details and the location of the situation. Within an hour cops were swarming in our colony. People came out to see what was happening. We were waiting outside for them and led them to the abuser’s house. They rang the bell and the husband opened it. They asked him to come out and took him with them while the female cops went inside for the wife. All the neighbours were crowding outside now and I felt angry because none of them wanted to do anything earlier and now all they wanted was to see the drama.  A few moments later the cops brought the wife out and to everyone’s horror, she was FULL of bruises. She was limping slightly and seemed numb. She didn’t look up and walked away with the cops. People started talking and gossiping, pointing out the sad situation. I felt angrier.

A few days later I got a call from the woman we saved. She had called my other two friends too. She couldn’t stop thanking us. She was safe with her parents now. She told me that she couldn’t inform her parents about what was happening as she was devoid of using a phone and her husband had ‘strictly’ told her not to talk to anyone else. She didn’t give me any more details nor did I ask, I didn’t need them. I felt heart broken that she didn’t receive any help earlier but I was happy to know that she was okay now.

I expressed my anger to my parents on several occasions that what is the point of education and having a job when one is ignorant of another human being’s suffering? We as a society don’t want to interfere in anyone else’s life when an interference is needed. In this situation, god forbid, if we wouldn’t have done something, the husband might have killed his wife. My parents though ashamed of themselves, were proud of me. I felt that I had finally done something meaningful for someone. It was a feeling I can never describe in words.

Trying to ignore a situation does not mean the situation disappears or ends. Sometimes, one has to do difficult things for someone, be it for a stranger. Things one has never done before and which are not for one’s own benefit. But these things are what makes us humane. I am relieved that she is free and safe now. I am proud of myself that I didn’t let hesitation, fear and the feeling that ‘it is not my business’ stop me from saving an innocent’s pride and life.

Rohan Jain

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