By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Not too many of us knew the actress Alefia Kapadia, who plays a role in the serial Pyar Ka Dard Hai Meetha Meetha Pyara Pyara, until this week when she was harassed on the road by a man who allegedly chased her car and allegedly heckled her.
Alefia now reveals she is no stranger to male aggression. That in fact she was in an abusive marriage for several years until she opted out.
Says the soft spoken cultured actress, “I’ve been through this long and painful journey of being the silent sufferer when I was married. I learnt my lesson.I would never again remain quiet when violated.I am now out of the marriage. I am currently in the process of a very long painful and traumatic divorce and custody battle over my son.But while it lasted I went through tremendous verbal and physical abuse.”
Because of her past experience Alefia won’t take any kind of abuse from anyone. “I know what it is like to take male aggression quietly.
I know a particular kind of male thinks it’s his birthright to demean and outrage a woman’s modesty. After a point the woman gets so used to the abuse and ill-treatment she blames herself for getting abused and violated. She begins to think she must have done something wrong to deserve this kind of treatment. I don’t want to fall into that trap again.That’s why I couldn’t let the incident on the road pass by. I had to take a stand for my sake and for the sake of all those women who are constantly harassed and abused at home and on the roads.”
Shudders Alefia, “The man kept stalking me on his car. I told him to go away. When he refused to listen I used my phone-camera. When I took pictures of the man on the road I was thinking more of my son’s safety than my own. But the minute I took his pictures the man was livid.He had to vent his anger in some way.He parked his car diagonally in front of mine and marched towards my car.During that moment when he approached me my heart skipped many beats.Was he approaching to harm me, my son and my friend who was with us? Was he going to pull me out of the car?Or was he going to snatch my camera?These thoughts ran through my head.”
Alefia admits she was petrified. “Of course when something like this happens one gets knots in one’s stomach.I have to admit I was scared because the man drove in front of my car ,blocked my vehicle, climbed out of his car and strode towards my car. At that time it was my son Armaan’s safety that was on my mind.He is only 4 years old. He was scared and bewildered. ‘Mummy , what is he doing?He’s scratched our car! Why is being bad?’ I was trying to pacify him while dealing with my own terror. ”
Strangely and sickeningly no one came forward to help Alefia. “The traffic was moving at a snail’s pace.When I was accosted the commuters behind me impatiently honked to move forward.Everyone could see the man move up to my car, he tried to open my door. Then he tried to open the back door. Then he knocked angrily on my window screaming, ‘What the hell are you doing? Dekh lunga.’ But no one came forward to inquire or assist.I guess even in a crowded place a woman’s safety is her own business.”
Says Alefia, “I had to take some action.The way he was trying to intimidate me, chasing my car so expertly and confidently in the heavy traffic, it seemed like just another day of fun and games for him.I had to lodge an FIR against this man, so that he wouldn’t try something like this again .The man who harassed me and my son on the road was arrested and let out on bail. I rang up the police station.I am keeping track of the proceedings.”
As a single mother Alefia’s life is not easy. But she’s enjoying her freedom. “I feel like a free bird. Yes, it’s difficult. My son’s father is giving me hell. He wants to take away my son. Since he’s financially sound he can pay for the best lawyers. He keeps threatening me he’d do anything to get our son.Until a year back he didn’t care anything about our child. Suddenly he wants our son. But I’ve to tell you the incident on the road this week and the support I got thereafter has given me renewed strength and courage to fight for my child’s custody.”
Alefia plays a negative character in Pyar Ka Dard Hai Meetha Meetha Pyara Pyara. “Ha ha.Yes, sadly I play a negative character. This is my first serial after marriage. I used to work before marriage. I even played the lead in a telefilm directed by Imtiaz Ali .Then after marriage I moved to Dubai. I married into a family where working women were frowned at. I was facing a lot of verbal and physical abuse. It took a lot of courage for me to separate from my husband. He had my passport.He wouldn’t let go of me or my son. I had to take the help of the Indian embassy in Dubai to get out of my husband’s home and out of the country. My father had to come to Dubai to rescue me. As a parent I realize what he must have gone through.”
She had to build her life and career from scratch. “Now it’s been two years since I came back. It took me a lot of courage to approach the television industry for work. Now I stay in South Mumbai.I am juggling my duties as a mother and a working woman. My parents have been extremely supportive through my ordeal.”
Pondering over her past pain, Alefia says, “What happened with that gentleman on the road was a rude reminder of what I’ve gone through.Maybe some women would see this incident on the road as trivial. But to me ignoring any form of abuse is not right. Men take liberties because women allow it.If a woman doesn’t take a stand on the road she would be abused at home too.”