MUMBAI: The story of Haritha, an Indian living in Amsterdam could be the story of anybody who has survived a failed marriage. She was married for the wrong reasons, had an overanxious father and was pressured to not get divorced. Although Haritha is today a happy, successful and independent woman living in Amsterdam, her road to freedom was a tough one. She shared her story on Humans of Amsterdam, which has been shared 4,000 times on Facebook. It all began when her parents wanted her to get married against her wishes. “I have always been a very ambitious student and after I graduated l wanted to focus on my career as an engineer,” she said.
Soon the atmosphere at home began changing and she gave in ultimately, marrying a man she barely knew or loved.
Failed from the start
From the start of the marriage, both Haritha and her husband realised that they shared no connection. After moving back to India, she began living with her in-laws, who forced her to give her entire salary to them. “My husband too was equally controlling and would check my phone regularly and accuse me multiple times of cheating,” she said.
It’s not as if she didn’t try. She would buy plane tickets for both of them and take him on holidays. “I hoped that if he would see other cultures he would become a more compassionate person. Unfortunately, nothing changed,” she said.
The final straw for Haritha was a huge fight with her husband. She asked her manager if she could get a transfer to another country and moved to Amsterdam. “When I arrived at the airport it felt as if I could finally breathe again,” she said.
During her stay, Haritha attended a storytelling event with women from the world over. The idea was for women to talk about their experiences of physical and emotional abuse. “These women came out of situations worse than mine, which made me feel strong. I went home, dialled my husband and asked for a divorce. Never in my life had I been so certain.”
When her father found out, he asked her to return to India and sort things out. Haritha had to return anyway for the divorce proceedings. Back home, her family was angry and coaxed her to change her mind. “We then travelled to my in-laws to sort the issue. I was surrounded by people trying to convince me for hours and by the end of it, I wanted to sleep,” she said.
When she woke up the next morning, Haritha found that her bag with her passport, phone and credit cards was missing. She confronted her in-laws, who said that they had nothing to do with it. “My leave was almost over and I emailed my boss asking for two more weeks. He agreed,” Haritha said.
The last lap
With the help of her sister, Haritha approached a government employee and told that she had lost her bag in the mall and had to return to Amsterdam. The employee then called a friend in the passport office and fixed an appointment for her the next day. “I sat at the passport office for 10 hours; when it was my turn they told me that in order to get a new passport I would need a signature of my father or husband. I lied and convinced her to approve the passport,” said Haritha.
Haritha still needed a residency card. Haritha then called the Embassy of Netherlands in Amsterdam, who told her to fly to New Delhi to get the card. “Fortunately at the time, there was a sale and I managed to get an affordable ticket. I got my residency card the next day and immediately booked a flight to Amsterdam.”
Haritha recalls how she was able to breathe again after the plane took off. She had been gone for 45 days and Nike had terminated her employment. Luckily, she managed to find another job and is now a software engineer at a leading firm. However, after this story was published by Humans of Amsterdam, a petition has been moved asking Nike to rehire her.
Although she’s still not divorced, Haritha knows that she’ll never go back to India. “I do talk to my parents but I find it really hard to trust them,” she said.