For the second time this trip, I escaped New Delhi and traveled up to Haryana with Scott for my second story. This time, only Anna Reed came with us to shoot photos and video for both my story and hers.
We interviewed a woman named Murti mid-afternoon on Tuesday. With no air-conditioning and no fan, Anna and I heard her story with help of Kumar Mukesh.
Her story is one of abuse.
Murti married at age 16, but eight to nine months later, her husband committed suicide. Her husband had two younger brothers and per Indian tradition, Murti married the second brother.
Between her marriages and during, she suffered much abuse from her in-laws. Her father-in-law delivered much of the abuse, going as far as trying to sexually abuse her. She did her best to fight back.
After some time, her second husband wanted a different wife. Murti then married the third brother, who was married to her younger sister Roshni. Both sisters suffered similar abuse.
During her third marriage, Murti had a son. But her in-laws did not believe her son, Manjeet, was her husband’s child – they tried to kill him when he was only a few months old.
Her in-laws made a powder out of an electric bulb and mixed it into the milk while Murti was working in the fields. When she returned, Manjeet was crying and passing stools frequently but because of the season, she assumed it was a fever that many children got.
But after a few days, Manjeet was not improving. Roshni insisted Manjeet be taken to a doctor immediately. It was at the doctor’s that they found out Manjeet had been fed something poisonous, the electric bulb.
After constant abuse, the community stepped in. Murti and Roshni were able to move away from their in-laws into a small, one-room house and given one cow. The sisters had to still work in the fields, which is brutal work.
The sisters still live there with their sons, Manjeet and Amarjeet. Their house has expanded to three rooms, a barn area and five cows. In October 2011, the sisters gained the right to their land after their husband sold the land to get money for liquor. The community stepped in to get the land back for Murti and Roshni.
Anna and I were able to interview Roshni and Manjeet on Thursday, which provided another view into Murti’s struggles.
Once we were done interviewing Roshni, we asked her if she had any questions for us. It was probably one of the best conversations I’ve had in India. Anna was declared the favorite because she’ll eat any food prepared for her, even the spicy food, and I was consistently called a sparrow. We promised to visit if we ever returned to India; Anna gave Murti her purple sunglasses and Amarjeet an American dollar as a parting gift.