For most of her life, Haritha Khandabattu has felt controlled. First, by her parents growing up and then later by her in-laws and her husband. Humiliated but determined, she decided to get out.
“I ended up marrying a man that I barely knew and didn’t love,” Khandabattu shared in an Instagram post on Humans of Amsterdam.
“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.”
Khandabattu describes how she tried to work on the relationship for a year and a half, encouraging her husband to travel and witness other cultures, hoping to ignite some compassion in him. But her efforts were fruitless.
“One day, after a huge fight I could no longer take it. I talked to my manager at work and I asked him if I could get transferred to another country. He told me I could work in Amsterdam. I didn’t need to think about it and I accepted his offer.”
“When I arrived at the Amsterdam airport it felt as if I could finally breath again.”
Being in Amsterdam exposed Khandabattu to other women who had overcome major struggles and made her realize that her life could be so much more. In that moment, she decided to divorce her husband and move to Amsterdam permanently. But doing that would be no easy feat.
“When my father found out I wanted to divorce my husband he was really upset. He suggested I would travel to India so we could talk things through. I wasn’t planning on changing my mind but in order to get my divorce settled I would have to go to India. My manager at Nike gave me two weeks off and I flew back home. When I arrived, my family was mostly emotional and angry with me for making the decision to get a divorce. Later that week we traveled to the other side of the country to my husband’s house to discuss the situation. I remember sitting in a circle in his living room and everyone was looking at me. For hours my family and his family were trying to convince me to not go through with the divorce. This went on for hours and hours and at some point I was so exhausted I had to go to sleep. That night I slept in his house. Just being there reminded me of all those terrible months. I woke up the next day and I noticed that my bag with my passport, phone and credit cards was missing. I panicked and confronted my in-laws. They said that they had nothing to do with my missing bag and that someone must have broken in and stole it. Slowly I started to realize how serious the situation was. My two weeks off were almost finished and I had to get to my job in Amsterdam. To get a new passport in India it takes at least 3 months and a signature of your father or husband. I have never felt so hopeless in my entire life but I wasn’t about to give up. I emailed my boss and I told him I was in a serious emergency and that I needed 2 more weeks to fix it, luckily he agreed. The image of my life back in Amsterdam was what kept me going. (Part 3 of 5) Photo and story by @debrabarraud #amsterdam #humansofamsterdam
A photo posted by Humans of Amsterdam (@humansofamsterdam) on Oct 9, 2016 at 11:19am PDT
“When my father found out I wanted to divorce my husband he was really upset. He suggested I would travel to India so we could talk things through. I wasn’t planning on changing my mind but in order to get my divorce settled I would have to go to India.”
Returning to India she quickly realized that making this life change wouldn’t be as easy as she had hoped. Now that she was getting a divorce, she need to get a new passport, which in India required the signature of either a father or husband.
Through a series of schemes, lies and luck, Khandabattu managed to get a new passport and with a little more luck, a residency card for the Netherlands.
“If I had been honest I would have never gotten it,” she says.
When the airplane took off I could finally breath again. When I landed in Amsterdam I took the train from the airport to my house. I didn’t cry, I couldn’t believe all that had really happened. I felt as if I finally had woken up from a bad dream. I had been gone for 45 days in total. The next day I found out that I had lost my job at Nike. I could have hired a lawyer and fight it but I needed peace. They didn’t know what I had gone through so couldn’t be mad at them. I said goodbye to my colleagues and I now had 3 months left to find a new job. 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. All of this happened in the beginning of this year. 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. I work as a software engineer at a highly reputed company and I’m happy. Amsterdam is magical, this is where I want to be. This is my home and my friends are my family.” (Part 5 of 5) Photo and story by @debrabarraud #amsterdam #humansofamsterdam #nike #nikeamsterdam
A photo posted by Humans of Amsterdam (@humansofamsterdam) on Oct 9, 2016 at 11:28am PDT
Khandabattu eventually made it back to Amsterdam ready to start her new life.
“When I landed in Amsterdam I took the train from the airport to my house. I didn’t cry, I couldn’t believe all that had really happened. I felt as if I finally had woken up from a bad dream. I had been gone for 45 days in total.”
While Khandabattu still isn’t officially divorced and conversations with her parents are strained, she doesn’t regret her actions.
“Amsterdam is magical, this is where I want to be. This is my home and my friends are my family.”