Taboos and Privilege

Maya used to work at home as Mom’s help. She was in her early 20s and was a real workhorse. She had a long commute from her village outside her city but loved the whole idea of working in the city with a friendly boss. All was well.

A couple of years in, her family forced her into marriage. Her husband turned out to be an abusive alcoholic. There’s a fine line between sanity and insanity and a year into her marriage, Maya became depressed and began losing her sanity. Her condition only worsened over time as her family didn’t know how to deal with an occasionally insane person. So, they beat her and tied her up as the usually docile girl could now be violent. She used to still come home once a year to meet Mom and seemed to be on the mend but the stories we heard through people who knew her only got worse. Mom was hoping to put her in a mental home in the city the next time she came..

We came to know Maya passed away a few days ago. She is thought to have committed suicide. Foul play might have been involved but since it involves a mentally handicapped person, the matter has not gone to the police. There’s too much taboo involved. In a way, Mom and I are glad it happened – life as a mentally challenged woman in an Indian village is hellish thanks to taboos and ignorance. Mom is upset as we both knew her as a healthy, happy 20 year old.

I have 2 reactions when I hear a story like this. First, woman and mentally challenged folk have it very hard in rural areas of most developing cultures and we have a duty to make life better for them.

The second reaction is a reminder of the sort of privilege I was born into. You and I may not be the richest people around but we were born into families that gave us everything we needed. Most importantly, we were given opportunities to make something of this life. There’s barely any difference between Maya and us.. we just got lucky and were born into households where a good life was a possibility.

Let’s live, laugh, learn, and give back. Most importantly, let us not forget the likes of Maya who would have loved to have the sort of circumstances we have been blessed with. Let us not forget the responsibility we have to make this world a better place..

Let us not forget..