Rumanas, and Why they Stay

July 6, 2011

Rumana Monzur Hema, Photo credit: UBC

Hana Shams Ahmed

[This article was published in the July 2011 issue of The Forum magazine, The Daily Star]

When Zobaida Nasreen called me up to tell me what had happened to Rumana, I was on a busy street in Dhanmondi and I thought I had heard her wrong. I kept asking her to repeat. She must be talking about someone else, I thought.
But she wasn’t.

It was Rumana Monzur Hema, one of my childhood friends with whom I had intermittent interactions after we grew up and finally reunited last year when her daughter was admitted to the same school as my son.

When I heard about what her husband did to her I was in disbelief and shock.

We had looked up to her as the girl who always came out either first or second in her class. She had come out First in her Masters finals from the International Relations department of Dhaka University and had started teaching right away. Last year she was elated when she won a scholarship to the University of British Columbia. She had been unsure whether to take her four-year-old daughter Anushe with her. In the end she decided to leave her daughter with her mother.

She never discussed what was going on between Sumon and her. He was a graduate engineer who was involved in some business, that’s all we knew.

And that’s why the brutality of the story along with the identity of the victim seemed overwhelmingly unbelievable.

Eyes gouged out. Nose bitten off. Lip bitten off. Dragged by the hair and attempted to be strangled. Saved by maids with an extra key to the room. Of course we presume that if a so-called ’emancipated’ woman is threatened with abuse, she would have the support mechanism to walk out of that marriage, that she would not care what her family and relatives or those meddlesome people in our society say, that if she is financially independent she did not have to worry about her and her children’s future.

All those assumptions and presumptions fell apart when we heard the sadistic brutality of what happened in Rumana’s room on June 5, 2011. Read the rest of this entry »