Like many girls her age in Mukkam, a remote village in Calicut, Kerala, Jasmine M Moosa had a fairly uncomplicated childhood. She belonged to a close-knit community, studied in a convent school and recalls that sipping on ice-candies on the way back home was the best part of the day.
But at the age of 17, Jasmine’s life changed forever.
“I had just returned from school and saw a few visitors at home. My mother asked me to serve them tea. Only after they left did I realise that they had come to ask my hand in marriage,” begins Jasmine.
It was a confusing day, and she repeatedly informed her family that she wasn’t ready to get married, but things moved fast. Within a week, she was engaged, and just three days after she turned 18, she was married to a man, who she met on their wedding day for the first time.
“The night after the wedding, when he walked into the bedroom, I realised that something about his behaviour seemed off. Soon, he tried to pin me down forcefully, and I screamed with all my might. However, in my area, this was considered common. Since many girls were married off at a young age, they assumed it was okay for them to scream on the first night of marriage,” she narrates.
This behaviour continued, and it took a few months for her to uncover the truth: her husband was autistic.
“One year later, I told both families that I wanted a divorce because this was not the relationship I longed for. Eventually, the marriage was called off, but this was hardly the end of my troubles. As soon as I returned home, people started tagging me as the ‘divorced girl.’ My family also informed me that I was a burden and that they wanted to get me remarried again as soon as possible,” she explains.
This time, Jasmine made her stand clear and told her father that she wanted to speak with the guy before proceeding with the marriage.
“To my surprise, the next alliance that came was exactly the kind of guy that I wanted. I openly told him that I was a divorcee, and he assured me that he was ready to accept me for who I was. I was honestly so happy to hear that. I felt like all the dark clouds in my life were moving away and this could be a brand new chapter in my life,” Jasmine says.
Jasmine—and her family—were thrilled.
“I couldn’t believe that everything was finally working out for me. But on the night of the wedding, he came into the room and slapped me right across my face. I froze; nothing made any sense. He then tied both my hands and feet and raped me,” she mentions with a quiet sigh.
The next few months went by in a blur for Jasmine. Her husband, a cocaine addict, would rape her every single day and warn her about the consequences of speaking to anyone, even her mother, about this.
So, she kept quiet.
“One day, I found out that I was pregnant. It was like a ray of hope for me. I felt like there was a sense of purpose again, a will to live,” she says.
But when Jasmine informed her husband about the baby, he flew into a rage and kicked her in the stomach. She started bleeding profusely and rushed to seek medical help. She also informed her parents about the incident.
“The doctors said that the tube of the uterus had been ruptured and that I would have to undergo surgery to avoid blood loss and to keep the baby alive. I got the surgery, but at five weeks, I lost my baby and soon after, my husband called me to file for a divorce. I was completely dead inside to process any of it. But I had decided that I wouldn’t let him get away with what he had done,” she adds.
Jasmine filed a case of domestic violence, and for a while, the police kept trying to settle things between the couple. However, she had voice recordings of the abuse, and they eventually had to arrest him.
“After all of this trauma, I wanted to leave the country, but my family was completely against it. They burnt my passport and all my documents so that I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere,” Jasmine says.
This didn’t stop her. She fled to Kochi and found a job as a receptionist at a prestigious fitness centre.
“I started building myself up both mentally and physically. The people at the fitness centre gave me all the strength and motivation that I had lacked my entire life. I made a transformation video which went viral, and the encouragement that I received from people who watched it further encouraged me to keep going down this path,” she explains.
Jasmine would eventually make her way to Bengaluru. “I wanted to become a professional fitness trainer, so I came to Bengaluru to do a certification course. At the same time, I worked part-time at restaurants and cafes to sustain myself,” she adds.
Today, Jasmine is a level-three fitness trainer at a reputed centre in Bengaluru.
While Jasmine had a very different idea of what her life would be like, instead of lying down and letting adversity take control, she decided to fight the odds and emerged triumphant. Today, she is a source of inspiration to many young women who are going through similar struggles and is secure in the knowledge that her inner strength and spirit will help her ride out any storm that life throws her way.
“I have a job, an identity and people who love and support me every day. If I had waited for things to get fixed on their own, I might not have been alive. But my decision to live my life for myself changed everything,” she concludes with an unmistakable hint of pride.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)