She opened the door to the restroom of the plush hotel.
She opened the faucet and threw some water on her face, dabbing at the bruises on her face very gently.
It was too much to take. The family was happily eating in the restaurant. She would get some scraps from the leftovers, much later, if the family thought it necessary. Her body ached from all the hard labour and the beating. It didn’t help anything that she had to carry the youngest wife’s third baby all day – the baby who used her as a punch-bag. The little boy would ball his fists and pound her head. This boy will be just like all the men in this part of the world, beating women all the time. She grimaced at the thought.
She was a maid servant, a nanny, an odd jobs help and a governess. Anything that the house needed doing, she would be made to do it. Every day, she would endure a round of beatings by her master. He was an Arab businessman. He had a fleet of cars and a host of assistants – the house would rouse in an atmosphere of chaotic cacophony when they knew he was at the end of the road. The approaching car meant one thing: one of the wives from the harem would get his undivided attention. The other women in the entire house – each of the remaining wives, and the maids, would suffer anything from beatings and lashings, to being forced to give him sexual favours. His whimsical ways would determine their fate. On some days she was shouted at. On some other days, she was raped. She was raped either by the businessman himself, or by one of his older sons. On every remaining day, she was beaten. She would cry all night from the pain. The next day, no one was to be seen complaining of any pain – if they did so much as whimper, there would be more to contend with – in worse ways at that.
She looked at her face in the mirror. The bruise under her eye was fast turning purple, from the shade of angry red. The businessman had thrown a plate under her eye – which knocked her flat in the face – simply because she had not done his bidding.
She would wish so many times that she could go back home. She needed an exit permit to leave – which he wouldn’t give so easily. She could not go back unless he sent her. She regretted having gone to that shoddy agent who duped her. The agent had come to her house one afternoon, telling her mother that he had very high aspirations for me. Which mother would want to pass up an opportunity like that? He told her that she would earn enough to send home a thumping salary – and he himself would see that she did that. At first, she was excited. She could go to a foreign country and earn for her family! Her family agreed. The agent then asked for her photographs, saying it was all for protocol. They didn’t sniff anything amiss when they agreed.
It was only when she came to the Gulf that she understood what had happened. He had placed her photograph in an album, to show a prospective master. The Arab businessman found her to be perfect for his family. He paid her 270$ a month. The visa process began. The businessman sponsored her visa, and she was taken to the Gulf. When she got there, she was made to work under his terms. She was not allowed a phone. She was not allowed to go out. She was given no holidays. She could not escape either: the businessman would easily revoke her visa, leaving her an illegal immigrant, vulnerable to imprisonment if she was caught. She could not work for another person – the revocation of a visa could come down heavily on her. It was modern day slavery. The only way she had was to end her life.
She was too tired. It hurt her to continue like this. She lightly fingered the knife she had nicked a while ago, from the table. One slash, and it would be all. A quick flick of her wrist, blood flowed. She struggled in pain for a few moments. And it was finally over.
By Elsie Reed and Kirthi Jayakumar