Watching the movie ‘Neerja’ the other day, a few things touched me to the core. The first on my list is of course the fact that it is the heroic story of a brave young girl Neerja Bhanot who displayed extraordinary courage during extremely dangerous circumstances. It certainly is a mesmerising two-hour drama out of a real-life tale of extraordinary nerve. Secondly it makes you sit up and take note of the fact that each one of us must raise our voice against any form of injustice. Thirdly, the stark truth that we must never ever compromise on self-respect or bow down to any form of suppression.

There were moments in the movie that made me delve into the deep recesses of my mind as well…things kept closed and dug away into a forgotten past. As the movie unfolded it showed us incidents from Neerja’s past where we are taken back and forth between the present and her earlier experiences. These tugged at the heart strings and a floodgate of unhappy memories resurfaced. An abusive marriage that bordered between submission and resilience and one that forced her to make life-changing decisions were extremely poignant and so true to life as my own.

A bad marriage can either destroy you completely or you can come out of it stronger. I feel there is no middle course as that mid-path of being subjugated and living in the same manner under the same roof is as close as being in hell. A disastrous marriage: one filled with tensions and anxiety and one that is oppressive and abusive takes a toll on the health as well. The stress, the unease as well as the emotional and or physical trauma can scar you for life and that is why I say, it can either kill you or just make you a far stronger and better person.

Unfortunately in this country there is all kinds of pressure from parents, relatives, friends and society at large for a marriage to succeed. If a marriage has gone sour, it’s best to call it a day fair and square instead of prolonging the unhappiness. It is the partners and children who suffer the most. In my case, I had the most supportive family and friends and intruding relatives and those that held no importance were kept at bay. If you get this kind of unconditional support it is half the battle won.

From having been under someone’s ‘thumb’ to making a hard decision like walking out with 2 children, my dog and my self-respect intact, there was no looking back. The road ahead is never easy but it is also not unreachable. You get there…slowly but surely. I went back to studying, doing what I liked, got back to driving (Yes, I wasn’t allowed to even do that)…and then went on to work and following my passion and chasing my dreams. To be happy you have to be yourself…you also have to be independent and self-sufficient. There are no two ways about that. As a single parent, balancing the role of both mother and father and also being a friend is trying at times but the end results are priceless. Again, the support system of my parents is unmatched. There was also a joint decision for us to go back to using my family surname…the kids wanted it too and that for us for the first step to cutting away from the rot.

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser never ever plays fair. Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you. Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone. No one should have to endure this kind of pain—and your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, then you can get the help you need.

This is when it all comes down to your inner strength, your determination and your perseverance in dealing with situations that life throws at you. You have to rise and face these tough situations defiantly. Family support and understanding are the key underlying traits. Like they say: If there is a will, then there definitely is a way out! And the strength of a woman can never be taken for granted!

The movie in its own way also portrays the many faces of a woman… The many roles she juggles and the many hats she dons. With International Women’s Day fast approaching us I felt it was a good time to appreciate the remarkable contribution of women in our society. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t just a paradox to have such designated days when women all over the world are an inspiration in diverse achievements on a daily basis. But maybe it is also a way to remind those that forget about celebrating, respecting and appreciating women’s achievements, be it socially, economically or even politically.

Not a day goes by without reading or hearing about inspiring work being done by courageous women around the world. Not only are they doing a fine job in securing women’s rights but they are also ensuring that societies are more accepting and tolerant to ‘woman power’. There is more awakening in being reasonable and unbiased towards the roles women handle these days. Of course, as we take stock of the status of women and gender equality, there are still many unspoken voices, some that go unheard and some who still don’t know their full potential. There is still so much progress to be done as inequality still plagues our society. We need to work harder towards expanding possibilities for women in every domain.

In a way, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the women who have paved the way towards our progress, and at the same time it is a tribute to all the women who have fought across time and space against all forms of discrimination, exclusion, marginalization, violence and lack of equal opportunities for women. It is also an opportunity to realize that in most countries of the world the problem is still relevant. International Women’s Day sheds light on all things standing in the way of true equality for women; from the so-called glass ceiling to rape and domestic violence. Both women and men together have the obligation to once and for all make subordination of women an issue of the past.