A man from Vizag, Mr. Ameen Shareeff is concluding his cross-country bike ride for a cause. The Male Factor was fortunate to get his precious time for an interview to understand more about his ride and mission. Here is his interview –
Q. Hi Ameen, thanks for agreeing to this interview. First, I would like to know your story behind the cross-country bike ride?
A. We were a very close-knit family of three brothers and one sister. We lost our parents two years ago. My sister is a divorcee with two children so I always had a soft corner towards divorcee women. So, even though it was my first marriage, I decided to marry a divorcee.
When my friends and family heard about my decision, they cautioned me and asked me to enquire well before marriage. I didn’t do that because I thought she was not responsible for her divorce as I would not like anyone casting doubt on my sister. So I trusted her blindly.
Within three months of our marriage, she started showing her true colors. First, she created a bunch of rules for me, forced me to snap my ties with my friends, family, and relatives and took control over my finances. She took control of my all cards, pin numbers and also forced me to configure bank OTP to her mobile number. With every passing day, she was becoming a demon. I didn’t know what was to be done. She started spending 40K for grocery and 20K for her own expenses in a month, while I used to get only Rs. 100 for my daily fuel and food expenses. Every time I tried to raise my voice, she threatened to file criminal cases against my family. I didn’t know where to go for help.
In September 2016, she took my 3-year-old daughter and took all property papers and other household articles I had bought for my family. In a matter of a day, I was left homeless and bankrupt. I went into intense depression and trauma and wanted to commit suicide.
But memories of my three-year-old daughter prevented me from taking the extreme step. I wanted to live for her, so I decided to SPEAK OUT for help. My family and friends who I had blocked for three years came to my rescue.
I found that speaking out against the atrocities committed against me helped me regain strength. My wife forced me to stop solo bike rides and after the separation, I decided to go on a cross-country trip on my bike to raise awareness for ‘Speak Out Mard’. This journey is for all those men who silently suffer domestic violence in the hands of their wife, to tell them that they need to stand up for your rights.
Q. How serious is the issue of Domestic Violence against Men? What have been your findings during your journey?
A. Domestic Violence against men is an alarming situation in India today. Many families are silently suffering mental, emotional, physical and financial abuse in fear of false DV and dowry cases. Most men do not share their sufferings because they do not have any support or help from Law, Government, and Society. It is believed that Men are always at fault in such situations. That is why the male victims of Domestic Violence accept this bitter fact and tolerate daily torture, abuse, and ill-treatment in the hands of our wives and in-laws.
During my cross-country bike ride, I found 80% married men had suffered domestic violence from their wives. But they don’t speak out because they think others will make fun of them. Domestic violence against men is no fun today, it is a reality.
Q. Why do you think this problem is ignored by Indian society?
A. We believe ‘मर्द को दर्द नहीं होता’ (men do not get pain). Men are not allowed to cry. We think the man is the stronger sex. Anyone who tries to show otherwise is considered as ‘weak’ and is subjected to extreme ridicule. So men do not speak out.
Q. How people from different cities have responded to you?
A. I have received an overwhelming response from all over India and neighboring countries like Nepal and Bhutan. Bhutan is a very peaceful country but Nepali men are also suffering from Domestic Violence a lot.
Q. Have you met any lawmakers / MPs / MLAs and apprised them of this Issue?
A. I tried my local contacts but failed. I needed to stay in one place for 2/3 days which was not possible. I am on a very long journey and it is not possible for me to stay in one place for 2/3 days.
Q. When did you start, how many places have you covered so far and what’s the journey ahead?
A. I have started my journey on 24th January 2017, so far covered Nepal, Bhutan and all Indian states except Kerala and MP. I will complete my journey by May first week. After that, I will take up my own case and fight for my daughter’s custody. Also, I would like to participate and contribute to anything involving betterment of Men and their rights.
Q. What are the difficulties you have faced in this journey?
A. Difficulties of a cross-country bike ride are many. Every day I experienced something or the other. These are like health issues, bad weather conditions, food, bike maintenance, breakdowns, accidents or slips or crashes, tough road conditions, financial hardship, local bullies, and more. As I have started this ride on my own, I had to compromise on many things. I tried to avoid hotel stay whenever possible but in extreme weather condition when I couldn’t go camping, I booked hotels. I eat as minimum as possible mostly on roadside stalls.
I’m riding a 2006 Cast Iron Royal Enfield Electra Bullet, which is not meant for such long rides. So, I frequently get breakdown and engine problems which are very expensive. Few areas I traveled were prone to militants, wild animals, off roads, heavy vehicles traffic etc.
Q. How vulnerable are men traveling to unknown places?
A. Men are very much vulnerable and what makes it worse is no one comes to their rescue when they are in trouble. When we see a woman unable to start her bike, people rush for help but when a man struggles to repair his car or bike in a highway or tough hilly terrains only one in 50 comes for help.
Men mostly travel alone. A Man can be easily bullied and can be robbed. A male victim can only file a theft case but women can file theft, molestation, rape, attempt to murder and what not. So mainly men are targeted.
Q. What do you want to achieve through this journey?
A. My objective is to tell all Indian male DV victims to speak out without any fear. They are the victims and they need support and help from the society and government. I believe unless one speaks out about the atrocities on them one cannot come out of depression which leads to suicide. Also, I appeal to the lawmakers to make our laws gender neutral.
Q. Any anecdotes of your journey that you want to share with all?
A. I had wonderful experience and moments which will last forever. I made many good friends and brothers all across India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Our country, its people, culture, everything is very beautiful.
I remember one instance when I ran out of fuel while going towards Dharan from Kathmandu and due to some political strike all the fuel stations were closed. One local guy saw my struggle and offered me 4 liters of petrol from his pulsar bike, which helped me to reach the destination.
In another instance, I was traveling from Aizwal to Agartala, somewhere in Assam border I stopped to have food at a small eatery. It was raining heavily and it was completely off-road ride. Before that, I fell down nearly 12 times in the slush and my bullet was in bad state. I was very tired and very hungry. I couldn’t speak a word.
I sat on a bench an ordered to serve something to eat. I had a double egg omelet and a local boat (Rice with dal) 2 plates. He asked details of my ride and I explained him. Then when I asked him for the bill, he said: “One plate bhat and 1 omellete is free from my side, you just pay me 20 rupees”. He added, “You are out for a good cause”. Also, he was apologizing me for charging Rs. 20. He said in Hindi, “सर जी हम गरीब हैं, बरना एक पैसा भी नहीं लेते” (Sir, I am a poor man, else I would not have taken a pie from you). I thought of paying him Rs. 100 but I didn’t want to hurt his self-respect. Similarly, I have many more experiences which I cannot even imagine. This Ride has made me a more responsible citizen towards my lovely country and society.
Q. Now the last question. If you ever get married once again, will you trust a divorced woman?
A. With my bitter experience, I will never get married again. There is no point in trusting a divorced woman.