Life began very early for Zaaria Patni and beautifully so. A handsome boy along with his family lived in the same building as hers. One day he came to her college, waited for her classes to finish and asked her out for a coffee. She agreed and they spent a wonderful evening by the sea in Mumbai. She thought she had met the man of her dreams. She was only 19 and the guy was seven years elder to him. It was decided that they should get married as early as possible and so it was done.
She was innocent and did not know what was in store for her. A series of cruel incidents came her way and tried to completely crush her spirits to live a happy life. The man she thought was the love of her life turned out to be a devil. It started at the honeymoon, where she wasn’t allowed to look anywhere but towards him, wasn’t allowed to enter shops which he didn’t like and was supposed to wear only what he wanted her to.
They were to visit some relatives in London, so he asked her to wear a salwaar but no jacket…and it was freezing. When they went back to Dubai, he didn’t allow her to turn on the AC and if she did in the middle of the night because it was so hot – he would smash her perfumes, candles and upturn her entire wardrobe. He would drive his convertible car at the maximum speed and threaten to throw Zaaria out if she ever disobeyed him.
Way To Coffin
Once, in between abusing and screaming at Zaaria, her husband pinned her down, forced himself upon her and just six months into the wedding she was pregnant. He hid her medicines saying she doesn’t need them despite seeing that she was throwing up 30 times a day and all the minerals in her body had drained to the point that she couldn’t stand and that’s when he agreed to take her to the hospital. The nurse looked at her and said, “Had you come a day later you would return to Bombay in a coffin”.
After spending three days in the emergency room she was back home. Her devil husband didn’t wait for long and pushed her and she started bleeding. He did nothing for 24 hours and took her to the hospital only the next day. On the hospital slip it said “bled yesterday and brought to the hospital today.”
She returned to India and continued receiving threat messages from him. “If you return to Dubai, I will rip your ass apart’ in Hindi.” he texted. That’s when she decided she had enough and filed for divorce. Her husband wanted the custody of their child and Zaaria had to move to courts just a month after her delivery when her stitches hadn’t completely healed. For the next six years she went from one courtroom to other with her little son while her husband bribed people and prolonged the case. It was an absolutely hell for her till 2012 when she won the custody of her son and decided to completely block this man out from her life.
Twisting The System
She began working in her family business of logistics and also started taking her passion for photography seriously. She was getting extremely good with camera and projects started pouring in for her. She was shooting for brands like Vero Moda, ONLY, Gap, Gaurav Gupta and Madison Prerto and now work was calling her abroad for projects. It was very difficult for a young mother to leave her son behind so she applied for visa for her son Muhammad only to realize that this is going to be another battle where she would have to take on the entire system.
For three years, this mother and son did rounds of passport and other government offices where they were harassed for paperwork. The officials rejected her application saying that the papers required signatures for Muhammad’s father as well – a person with whom Zaaria had cut all ties and never intended to get in touch. After visiting the passport office for more than a 100 times she decided to tweet about her state to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Not just this, she also approached Change.org where her litigation drew support from more than 96,000 people which made the government realize the problem in the existing system. Till now the laws were insensitive and completely ignored the case of single parents.
She went through the ordeal in spite of Supreme Court guidelines stating that a single mother can be the legal guardian of her child, and that no authority can forcefully seek the child’s father’s information. Thanks to the persistent efforts of Zaaria and backing from the netizens the online passport application form now requires the applicant to provide the name of father/ mother / legal guardian, i.e. only one parent and not both.
This would enable single parents to apply for passports for their children and to also issue passports where the name of either the father or the mother is not required to be printed.
Life has been far from kind to Zaaria but she stood up to every atrocity and fought for justice. Her indomitable spirit not only got her the rightful custody for her son but her second innings of fight forced the entire system change for good.
Her story is brimming with inspiration for anyone who wants to take life heads on. Share it now!