Humans of Amsterdam recently interviewed a woman named Haritha Khandabattu, who left an abusive and loveless arranged marriage to live and pursue her dreams in Amsterdam.
Khandabattu said in her post that from the start the relationship had no emotional connection, and that her husband and in-laws were very controlling.
I ended up marrying a man that I barely knew and didn’t love. Honestly I can’t remember my wedding day. From the start we had no connection. I kept telling myself that everything would be okay and that it all would work out. When we got back I moved in with his family on the other side of India. My in-laws were very controlling and I was forced to give my salary to them. They demanded I would contact my father and ask him for a dowry. My husband turned out just to be as controlling as his parents. He would check my phone regularly and accused me multiple times of cheating on him. Every day the situation was getting worse. At the time I was working as a software engineer for Nike and my job became my ultimate passion. Whenever I would have to work late my husband would ask me who I was having sex with this time. It was humiliating.
For one and a half years, she tried to make the relationship work, but, she said in her post, nothing changed. So after one fight too many, Khandabattu got on a plane and left for Amsterdam.
When I arrived at the Amsterdam airport it felt as if I could finally breath again. Everything about this place made me feel relaxed. I felt at the right place at the right time. I started my new job and I made a lot of friends. One day I visited a storytelling event with women from all over the world who talked about their experiences with physical and emotional abuse. All these women came out of situations way worse than mine and it made me feel strong. When I got home I picked up the phone and called my husband and said: 'There is nothing you can do to change my mind, I want to get a divorce.' Never in my life had I been so certain of myself.
Khandabattu said she didn't want to come back to India, but because she had to settle the divorce she asked for a two-week leave. Her family was angry and demanded an explanation about why she left, and had filed for divorce.
Khandabattu said that when she awoke, her passport and credit cards were missing. They were taken by her in-laws. She also realised that to get a new passport requires the signatures of her father or husband. So Khandabattu took matters into her own hands.
"I have never felt so hopeless in my entire life but I wasn’t about to give up," she said in the post – the image of her life back in Amsterdam was what kept her going. With the help of her sister, she managed to plead with passport officials, and they helped her figure out a way to get her passport without a signature from her father or husband. Next, the Embassy of Netherlands in Amsterdam helped her get her residency card, and she left to go back home to Amsterdam.
"During this entire time I was scared," she said. "Scared that someone would recognise me and that I would get sent back to my husband’s house."
Khandabattu said she could only breathe once she was on the plane headed back to Amsterdam.
''I didn’t cry, I couldn’t believe all that had really happened," she said. "I felt as if I finally had woken up from a bad dream. I wasn’t scared or sad, I had never felt so strong in my entire life. After all I had been through I knew I could handle any kind of situation. I took a deep breath and I started to apply for jobs. It took me 17 days to find work. Unfortunately, I am still not divorced but I’m never going back to India. I do talk to my parents but I find it really hard to trust them. Amsterdam is magical, this is where I want to be. This is my home and my friends are my family.''
Khandabattu's story has resonated with thousands of women around the world.
You can read Khandabattu's full story here.
Debra Barraud, the admin of the Humans of Amsterdam page, told BuzzFeed Khandabattu was happy her story was being shared, but declined to add anything further.
Andre Borges is a social news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Mumbai.
Contact Andre Borges at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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