Fatigued after lulling her baby to sleep, Haseena fights a hassled moment to look outside her window – an odd, aimless glance temporarily quietening her chain of thoughts. Haseena has picked up the pieces of her life in a derelict neighborhood of Bemina (Srinagar) way after resigning herself to the fact that she had been a victim of bride trafficking, forcefully married to man in his mid 30’s when she was barely 16 many moons ago.
Today her dilapidated household shelters her 3 children while she has already become a granny to her stepson’s child from her late husband’s earlier marriage. As she puts her baby to sleep, an air of helplessness dawns upon her face and she puts forth a question to anyone who cares to listen, “Main yahan kyon aayi?”
Haseena’s is one of the heartwrenching stories that Neha Bhavini Sharma’s award winning documentary, Nybreum – The Unsettled Shade, captures in its raw, untouched
state. It won the Royal Golden Bengal Tiger trophy, the award for the Best Documentary at the recently concluded KIFF (Dec, 2022). The film is based on the trend of bride-trafficking where handpicking the underprivileged Muslim women to sell them to poor Muslim Kashmiri men (rejected by the local women owing mostly to their poverty and disability in a fraction of cases) has been a rather convenient ritual for traffickers in both W. Bengal and Kashmir for nearly 3 decades now. The practice has remained largely unchecked showing the authorities’ lack of willingness to act on the issue. As a result, today, Srinagar alone comprises a growing community of discarded, trafficked brides from Bengal, called ‘nybreum’ (derogatory word for an outsider) by the locals.
Back in this house, Haseena speaks in chaste Bengali, pauses in Kashmiri colloquials and vividly reminisces about Murshidabad where she grew up until the day a trafficker arrived. An unfortunate incident of abduction changed her life forever. A victim of racial abuse, could she have ever thought she would have to compete with the flawlessly fair complexioned local women and bear discrimination? 2 decades in the Valley later, she is still looked down upon as a ‘nybreum’ while she has struggled to build herself a ‘home’ in this alien land.
Disheartened by circumstances, there is still no end to her tribulations. It is a long road ahead watching her children grow, study well and attain decent jobs to live ‘civilized’ lives devoid of the deprivation she faces every single day.
Haseena is one of the many women who were once young, nubile and gullible, making them an easy prey to the prowling eyes of traffickers walking nonchalantly in varied cities of Bengal. Bhavini’s film rightfully captures the plight of these women puts in perspective many unanswered questions. It is indeed appalling how this practice remains largely unknown among the masses even today.
Stories of such insignificant existences are many and sadly, no one cares to check this rampant spread. One ponders over life being a maze where one wrong turn can define or defy one’s sorrows changing the course forever, creating more ‘nybreums’ in order. The documentary is currently doing the rounds in more festivals.