I would love to say the jet lag is wearing off but the truth is it’s not. I’m very tired and just starting to figure it out. Lucky my hotel, yes the Vikram was close to the lawyers collective offices or at least that’s what everyone kept telling me. So I wake up to get to the offices at what I think is around 9am (can’t remember, still jet lagged) This is my first daylight ride in Delhi in a car, not counting the night ride to the hotel from the airport when there was next to know traffic. I know I touched on the traffic but it’s not only traffic it’s also the streets and their names or lack of them.
Maybe they are there but I can’t see them. The next 20 min was a a crazy ride while my cab driver assured me over and over again that he knew where we were going. Yet he kept asking to see the address on the Iphone. He would take it and then say something in Hindi. Drive for a bit then ask for it again. Eventually he stopped at what looked like a place for homeless people to sleep on the street and asked a guy if he knew the directions. The guy pointed across what appeared to be as wide as a highway. Next thing you know we just start to play frogger with the car and my life. Inching across the 8 lane road. With his arm out the window stopping traffic the whole way. I’m in the blood seat is all I can think. We cross the road ask a few more times the way and next thing you know we arrive at our destination. I’m introduced to the women I will be spending the next day with and then we jump in another car for a ride to the outskirts of Delhi. It’s morning so it’s slow going with all the traffic, our car lurches forward and back as the driver accelerates and then brakes, it’s some odd dance through the congested and crazy streets. Eventually we get to our destination. We can’t actually drive the car down the road so we walk a few yards where kids and adults alike stare at me, what you’ve never seen a white guy? Turning the corner of an alley I see a bamboo ladder that leads up to a very small balcony and a room with a door or I should say a half door since it’s been broken by the in-laws downstairs.
I am introduced to a woman who has been kicked out of her home because her husband decided to get a new wife and did not want to take care of her anymore. He would beat her to within inches of her life. When the law said she is allowed to stay in the marital home he claimed the home was his brothers so she would not be able to stay. The Lawyers collective was able to stand up for her and prove him wrong. Now she stays above the family home in a 10×10 room without light. She lives their with her disabled son and younger daughter. The husband is no where to be seen and his second wife constantly harasses her. Yet this is a victory since she has her own place and cannot be kicked out. The police are often called to stop the fights between her and the husbands family. In fact while we were there the sister in law was up yelling at her and trying to stop me from photographing the room. The woman is a slight looking lady that probably does not weigh more than 85 pounds. She is 35 or so but looks like she is 50 and that’s a well worn 50. Still I’m told that today she is proud and stands tall compared to when she showed up with bruises and scared as a mouse.
Our next visit of the day was to a woman who was married off to a man. Apparently it all started off fine until the husbands family decided they wanted more of a dowery but the girls family simply did not have any more to give them. I guess they wanted money for a motorcycle. So since they were not getting what they wanted even though they had originally agreed on an acceptable dowry they decided to not feed her anymore and made her stay outside and not let her in the house at night. If she needed water she had to go back to her parents house! This is totally crazy to western culture but it’s not that odd here. They would verbally abuse and harass her. Lucky for her that her parents were understanding and supportive and allowed her to move back with them. Often the parents give up on the kids saying that they are now with the man and it’s down to the man to deal with it or for them to work it out. Thanks to the Lawyers Collective she is able to have support in court. Often the lawyers these women find if they find them at all are not really working too hard for them and just find ways to delay the process and essentially take money from the women. I must say that these woman although a bit shy have been so nice and welcoming of me and what the UN Trust Fund is doing. This family insisted on feeding us cake and tea. I’m super worried about getting a bit of a tummy ache so I have been declining most offerings but I had a bit here.
Our bellies and bladders full we headed back to the Lawyers collective head office to meet one more young woman who would be coming with her two year old son. I’m not sure if this one bothered me the most because she was so pretty and somewhat helpless or what but I wanted to go and find her “husband and kick his ass” After lunch I met this next woman who told me that again she was married to a man that expected more from her family in the form of a dowery but since her family was very poor they could not afford to give any more. So the husband beat her very badly and would lock her outside at night. They would make her stand under the sun in summer and in winter made to stay outside without warm clothes. When she got pregnant the man did not support her and has not even seen the child. I can tell you this is a cute little guy! The interview was actually difficult because we shot it on the roof and the little boy kept running all over the place and close to the edge so we had to keep stopping the shoot.
So that was my two days in Delhi with the Lawyers Collective, if you have time to check out their website you really should, they do amazing work!
Here is a photo of Indira Jaising she is the founder of Lawyers collective and an amazing woman. Read it you will be impressed! of course what would a trip across the word be without a shot of a “celebrity” I was at a final event of the day and I see Deeta Von Teese walk by. You just can’t get away from this stuff, as she walks slowly touching items for sale with her publicist running around her making sure all is good for the cameras. absurd!!