85/100.

“It can never happen to me. I love him too much. He’s educated. I am educated. He doesn’t want to become his father. I will NEVER become his mother. He chose me, right? I chose him, didn’t I?

Can’t happen, can it? Wouldn’t happen again, would it? Didn’t happen, did it?”

She wrote these words on 20th March, 2005. And then, shared them on the Bell Bajao (Breakthrough) site on 25th November 2013, her 15th wedding anniversary. Which is also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

What better day to shrug off years of denial and acknowledge that she had been a victim of domestic violence? And, what better day to celebrate that she was now on a journey to become a survivor instead?

In the next few days that year – the official 16 Days of Activism – she wrote about the journey she was on. A journey with red flags she missed, and red flags she chose to miss. A journey with milestones she crossed.

Today, two years on, she has reached more milestones. But, there are many more challenges to face before she is home with her safety and security intact.

The fight was – no, is – not just that of a wife. It was that of the mother of a son. Who did not want him to grow up thinking that violence – physical, emotional or psychological – was ever okay. Who also had to watch him experience things no child should have to. But who is convinced that all this will ensure at least one less victim of toxic masculinity.

It’s not been easy and it won’t be for quite some more time. Reclaiming yourself never is. But, it needs to be done.

And she needed be heard. Whether you believe her or not. Whether you judge her or not. Because, she is not alone.

Domestic violence is a reality. A harsh one. One we do not want to face up to. But, till we do, it won’t stop.

Orange – the hue of hope – is the designated colour of the UN women’s initiative to end violence against women. In the past two weeks, landmark buildings and monuments all over the world have been lit up in orange, as has the Niagara Falls. The initiative is called orangetheworld and calls on governments, communities and citizens to wear orange and send out the message that violence against women needs to be acknowledged. And fought.

My orange silk gadwal with a bottle-green border was a saree my mother bought for me 14 years back – one of the sarees that was waiting for me when I came back from the U.S.A.

These photographs were taken on 25th November this year. This has been a difficult post to write, but finally, here it is.

Here’s to oranging our world!

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