When a mother asks her son to rape his own wife to prove his masculinity, you question your faith in God and the kind of world you are living in. She accepted the verbal and physical abuse as a part of her life believing that this is how a marriage works.
LifeBeyondNumbers spoke to the brave and beautiful Geeta Tandon whose life is more intriguing than the stories you have come across in Bollywood movies. Her pain was real, the obstacles were real and her fight is real. Running away from an abusive marriage to become a leading stuntwoman with hardly any training, life has always been a rough ride for Geeta.
The 33-year old says, “I was hopeless and homeless, but I didn’t stop fighting. I am so much more than my troubles; I live life on my own terms.” Ask her about what is the secret behind staying strong and fighting all odds? She says, “Main apni favorite hoon (I am my own favorite)”.
“I lost my mother at a young age and soon after due to societal pressure, I had to leave my education to get married.” Geeta was only 15 years old and trying to figure out things on her own but people started questioning her character because she had a very liberal upbringing.
“I was never into relationships before and therefore I was not very comfortable with my husband in the starting. I thought my mother-in-law will treat me like her own daughter but instead, she told her son to rape me and prove his masculinity when she got to know that we didn’t consummate our marriage on the first night of our wedding.”
It is very difficult to accept abuse as a part of your life and when you have 2 children to look after, it doesn’t seem very easy to leave everything behind and move on. For a woman who has minimal education, and no job, living an independent life can look difficult as hell.
“Through the abusive years of my marriage, I have seen, men control you because they feel a sense of superiority over you. When you don’t have anywhere or anyone else to go to, life becomes worse. You lose your dignity eventually and there is always someone to dictate the terms and conditions of how I should live my life.”
It took a lot of courage and determination to move forward without any support. Geeta recalls how people showed her sympathy but didn’t come forward to help. “After leaving my husband’s home, I went to a Gurudwara and took my kids along with me but I decided that I will not live my life at mercy of others.”
“Afsos karne se jyaada kuch karna chahti thi main, isiliye himmat kiya aur aagey badh gayi (I wanted to do so much more than sitting back and wallowing in self-pity, so I gathered courage and moved on in life)”. When she was 20, Geeta moved to her sister’s place for a while and started looking for a job. From making rotis to working in a massage parlor, she has done it all before becoming a stuntwoman.
“I had to make 250 rotis every morning and night for Rs 1,200 a month, but I never said no because I had to feed my children.” Geeta then came across a group of women who told her that they work for a massage parlor, later she found out that it provided sexual favors to men who used to visit the parlor as a client. “When you are in desperate need of money and you come across such situations, you feel broken from inside. But, I was determined to work in a better place where my dignity will not be compromised.”
In 2008, Geeta met a woman in a bhangra company who asked her if she would like to perform stunts. This changed her life forever. “Sending my children to schools looked like a distant dream back then but after much effort, I could continue their education and now they are in college.”
Even working as a stuntwoman and creating a niche for herself was not easy. She couldn’t afford to say no to a paying job and said yes to a stunt for a TV series called ‘Shakira: The End of Evil’ where she had to jump from the edge of a building. “When you are in desperate need of money, you have to hide your fear and pain. So, I did it without much thinking.”
Later, while doing a stunt in Ladakh for Bingo, she had to set herself on fire; she ended up with burns on her face. In another stunt, she broke her back and was bedridden for some time, but she never gave up on herself and she tried harder to perform better as a stuntwoman.
“Life doesn’t stop when you become a mother, it is necessary to love yourself first, otherwise you won’t be able to take care of your loved ones with your full potential. Due to the patriarchal mindset, a woman’s capacity is always underestimated and you always have to prove your worth wherever you go, else you lose respect in society.”
Society always tries to fit a woman in a particular frame and if a woman tries to come out of that frame and try to live life on her own terms, it creates so much trouble. In the worst circumstances, she has to also leave her family or relationships behind.
“I believe a woman should stop apologizing for speaking the truth. Like everyone, a woman also has every right to live a dignified life. Being a single parent is not very easy in Mumbai. While looking of mess or renting a house to stay with my children, I have seen people calling for meetings to decide whether or not to allow a divorcee to live with her children. There were financial problems always and I had a limited budget of 5000 rs to look for a place to stay. Most of the time, I had to lie that my husband works in a different city. It is so shameful that people still have this kind of mindset.”
When she decided to fight this mindset, she started openly talking about her divorce and the kind of profession she is into. To her surprise, some people appreciated her honesty and choices and offered her rooms on rent.
Geeta has also seen women in her profession going through harassment and gender biases, but luckily she has not faced one. “When men shout on you, you have to understand that it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right and you are wrong. Women should stop behaving like a victim whenever they come across any obstacle, rather they should fight and cross that hurdle.”
“I have always been accused of things I haven’t done. Today women have become women’s worst enemies. Whenever you try to do something good, there is always someone or the other to pull you back.”
“At times I feel what change will it bring, talking about my life to everyone? Giving numerous interviews, and repeating to people, what happened to me year after year? But, one thing I have realized that we all have endless potential and we should explore that. I want my story to be a learning experience for those women who are going through similar circumstances. Love yourself first and that is the key to a happy life. I am glad that I have become a voice that women can identify when they are in crisis.”
Geeta earns about 7-8 lakhs on an average per year and that doesn’t count her special projects. She stays with her children in Malad and she has worked as a stunt double for big names such as Parineeti Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, and Deepika Padukone.
It doesn’t matter where you come from but what you decide to do with your life matters the most. Lift the mask of fear and shame, step forward; Life is always beautiful when you taste it the right way!
It is high time we should all ask ourselves what is the idea of living a beautiful life and we are certain you will always find your way out of difficult situations.