Women Have To Stop Self-Pity: Geeta Tandon (Marital Rape Survivor & Bollywood Stunt-Woman)
She was married off as a burden at the age of 15 to a man who was 24. She left home at the age of nineteen with her two babies. Since then, from living on streets, working at roadside restaurants, feeding her children warm sweetened water faking milk....to finally making her mark as Hindi film Industry's celebrated stuntwoman - Geeta Tandon has come a long way. She has worked as a stunt body double for Kareena Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, etc.
So what's her story? The story that inspires so many women to break the shell of physical and mental torture and reach for the skies. Over to Geeta herself for a direct talk.
Geeta first of all Congratulations for your Ted Talk...this time in English! You have really come a long way. But how did this all began? Can you share the dark side with us?
Geeta Tandon: Why not? There is no dark side. There is only the "let's move on" side. There is only "let's break barriers" side. I broke one at the age of 19. I was born in Kota Rajasthan, to a Jagran singer father and a housewife mother - the second among the three siblings. My father soon moved the family to Mumbai in search of better work.
I was in class 4 when my mother passed away. And that was the beginning of a dreadful life. My father's sisters refused to take care of me after a certain point of time and asked my father to marry me off. Being a Tomboy, I was more friendly with boys. My aunts told my father that Geeta might elope with one of the boys. And out of fear, against my wishes, my father married me off to a 24-year-old man.
I thought "Apna Ghar" will make my life better, but it was the beginning of horror come alive. My husband would not only rape me but also abuse me mentally and physically through the years I spent there. My father was not ready to take me back. In these tragic times, my mother-in-law was my only saviour. She would tolerate being beaten-up by her son when trying to save me, but in vain.
(I had goosebumps and my eyes were moist when I asked her the next question) You never thought of filing a case against this man?
Geeta Tandon: I was not literate enough to take such a stand. Moreover, I had become a mother of two by the time I was 18! I didn't know how will I fend for my children. But when my mother-in-law passed away and the marital rape increased with every passing day, I decided to leave the house. I had understood that being a silent bearer of torture meant a dark future for my children. I was 19 and had nowhere to go...all I knew was "this too shall pass on."
But you had nowhere to go? You had no one to return to!
Geeta Tandon: So what? I had my courage - the courage to fend for the survival of two children. I somehow managed to take shelter at a place, but my husband arrived making allegations that I am a prostitute and thus he had thrown me off his house. He would drag me on the streets and beat me up, with people watching as mute spectators. I had no option but to leave that place.
I have spent days at Gurudwaras. I have worked as Maalishwali for a mere Rs 20 per day; I have cleaned utensils at roadside Dhabas to buy two biscuits for my children, but I am not ashamed. I am rather proud of myself, as my conscience is clean.
It takes a lot of courage to take such a stand. Being the daughter of a single mother, I can relate to your pain...or may not exactly.
Geeta Tandon: I don't need sympathy from people, they need to be empathetic to marital-rape survivors like me. They need to accept that it is a heinous crime. But they shy away from taking a stand. So I also shunned shame and did everything right possible to raise my children. Women must take pride in what they are and especially if they have been a SHERO in their life
So what was the turning point in your life?
Geeta Tandon: You know Mahima there were several turning points, not just one. For instance, there were people who would advise me to sleep with men to make easy money. And I would retort saying - "Can't these filthy-mind men support me as a brother? Is humanity dead?"
I knew taking a wrong path would mean a dark future for my children, especially my daughter Twinkle. She was growing up and watching my actions closely. So I decided that even if I have to clean gutters, I will do, but provide a life of dignity to my children. And such incidents would propel me to do something better each time for my children.
So how did the life take you ahead to become a daring stunt-woman?
Geeta Tandon: I had never planned or thought of being one. I used to do all kinds of odd jobs that would help me feed my children with dignity. Dancing with troupes was one such work. And one day I got an offer to do my first stunt for one thousand rupees.
My heart beat with joy, since it meant a good meal for my kids for the next fortnight. I jumped at the offer. it was 2008 - Ladakh. The big turning point in my life. I felt thrilled after the stunt’s success and decided to make it my career. Since then I have never looked back.
Jumping into the fire, riding bikes jumping off the hills, etc. Aren't you scared what next if something happens to you? who will fend for your children?
Geeta Tandon: I know what I am doing may be termed as a Gamble of Life. But then do I have an option? So I reassure myself before each stunt - 'Geeta just TWO MINUTES, and everything will be brighter after these two minutes. A brighter life will come with the next dawn….’ (And Geeta sings over the phone) Yeh Hausla Kaise Jhuke, Yeh Aarzoo Kaise Ruke – meaning “Never Give up Courage, Never Stop Dreaming."
You will be surprised to know that I have not been trained by anyone; I have learnt anything on the spot. Training would cost me a lot. And I cannot afford it, since my children are studying.
The most celebrated stunt-woman of our film industry. What is your diet chart like to stay so fit?
Geeta Tandon: Diet? (Laughs) I have recently bought a small house for my children who are studying in college. The industry is not as great-paying as it might look. I eat what comes my way. The reason for my fitness is my children's dreams whom I have to fuel with the fire of my stunts. I cannot afford a lavish diet.
So what are the next big projects on cards?
Geeta Tandon: I am doing Robot 2 with Akshay Kumar Ji. You know Mahima my daughter's name is Twinkle! (And we both burst into laughter). Robot 2 is a very major project for me. Then, I have another film coming with the charmer Ranveer Singh who recently sent me a personalized Birthday Video Wish (Her voice is pulsating with joy). Another project is Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota–Bhagyashree's son launchpad.
You have come a long way my friend and I can't express how proud of you I am. What's your children's take?
Geeta Tandon: My son Peer Pratap and daughter twinkle - both are in college now. My daughter is training to be a PR professional on her own. Their such actions to become self-reliant, while studying, speak louder than words for me. Don't you think so?
What is your message to women, especially those who fail to break barriers for the shame of the society?
Geeta Tandon: Your question itself has the answer. What will society give you beyond shaming you? So why bother about it? What did it give me? Not even milk for my children who were babies when I left home - whom I fed warm sweetened water.
I give a damn to this society and this is the reason why I give interviews to every small or big media publication that reaches out to me. because I want my courage to reach out to those few who will be the bearers of change.
Change? Lots need to change in terms of MARITAL RAPE which is not considered a crime in India. What's your take on it?
Geeta Tandon: I don't care about what law says. Because the same law gives us the right to live with a partner or not, once we are an adult. Who stops you from leaving a spouse who is abusing you mentally and physically? All it takes is the courage to do the same. If people like us join hands and raise continuous protests against marital rape, I am sure the government will have to bow down to a genuine demand. It might take time but it will happen.
Not all have courage like you Geeta...
Geeta Tandon: Then they are free to continue to rot in hell they have chosen for themselves. Now I am happy that I am uneducated. If I would have been a so-called educated woman, maybe I would have lived in that hell with my criminal-mind husband! SO WOMEN HAVE TO STOP BEING A 'BECHARI' STOP SELF-PITY. Everything else can be taken care of by God if you choose the right track in life. If I can, so can you!
Geeta's straightforward attitude stuns me, rather motivates me. I am sure it inspires you too! So don't forget to share the story of this stunner stunt-woman who personifies courage and determination.
N*****Hats off to Geeta. She is indeed an inspiration for us.
K*****Need Law to stop marital rape
S*****Wowwwwwwwww...d grt inspiring story......god bless u geeta....keep moving
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R*****Very much inspiring not only to the victim women but their parents too to support their daughter to get out of this type of hell
S*****Caring and brave mother
A*****I solute you mam.you are a couragious person.
S*****Salute is also small word for u madam...
R*****Really I salute geeta tandon ji for her great inspiring realistic attitude to her life.nd courage of facing to this crual world.i really got inspiration from her.,😥😍😍😍😍
S*****I salute geeta tandon who really hd the courage to fight for her children in this male dominated world where i feel women shuld get more heavy paypackets so that she becomes the breadearner of her children n can buy shelter for herself n her children where rogue like her husband is not allowed lets turn the table the other way round n let the ball be in their court n we get a chance to prove our ability its high time we women step out n learn to live wit no fear n dignity like geeta
L*****First of all i want to thanks Mahima to aware us with the story of such a brave n courageous woman.Hats off Geeta you are really a hero for female society 🙏
R*****No words..such an amazing and inspirational woman
N*****Hats off to you Geeta ma'am,really proud of you.
K*****More success to you Geeta... May every have courage and will like you. You are an inspiration to many
R*****A very inspiring life you have led. God has given every individual there own personal life and freedom and no one has the right on this earth to take it back. salute to your courage.
B*****Kudos to your courage Geeta. I totally agree with you..." Who stops you from leaving a spouse who abuses you physically and mentally". My life is mine first. Others are part of it only when I allow them to be part of it. 👍👍👏👏👏