Trigger warning: This video includes mention of domestic abuse and violence.
If you meet her today, she is bursting with fervour, and from her Instagram posts, one can assume she loves like she has never been hurt. Zaaria Patni, is a mother, a businesswoman, a domestic abuse survivor, and one who brought a change in long-standing government rules when it comes to single parents.
Patni was only 19 years old when she got married to this guy who she thought was amazing, except things got bad right from the first week itself. She was living in Dubai with her then-husband and when her family left for Mumbai, he started showing his true colours.
“I was barely married for seven months, but in the first week of my marriage itself, he started abusing me,” Patni revealed. She added that he stopped her from using her phone, meeting people, and even talking to her own family members. “I had thought I got married to a really nice guy. But this guy had been abusing and screaming and shouting continuously about the slightest things. It came to a point where I ended up getting pregnant and I got extremely sick because he hid my medicines,” Patni explained.
“But because I wasn't on those medicines, I ended up being in the hospital three times including due to his abuse. I almost lost my baby,” Patni added. Her doctor had told her she would have lost her life if things got any worse.
She came down to Mumbai and eventually, she decided to put an end to this abusive marriage. And the fact that she was going to have a child, even further motivated her and gave her the strength to walk out. “I had to make sure that my son is not subjected to even one per cent of that abuse in any form and that is what kept me going,” Patni expressed talking about how, as a new mother, she fought a long custody battle.
The courtroom drama weighed her down. Her ex-husband’s lawyer made snarky remarks, asked disturbing questions and all that anxiety had her health deteriorating. From having sleepless nights to bursting into tears right before the court session, Patni was subjected to a lot of anxiety. She finally got custody of her son in December 2012.
You’d think her struggle was over, and she would be able to fully dive into rebuilding her life, but another hassle began. She had to fight for three years to get her son’s passport made, all because she was a single parent. “I literally went to the passport office from 2013 to 2016. 2012 December was when I got Muhammad's full custody and 2013 was when I applied for the passport. But I didn't know that they didn't have any provision for single parents at all,” Patni informed.
Since she was a single parent, the passport office asked her to get a NOC from her ex, which wasn’t a feasible option at all. Patni, however, was as relentless as the passport office and decided to make things happen. She started a petition on Change.org for our government to make single parents enough to apply for their children’s passports.
“It reached Sushma Swaraj ji and I got a call from the passport office saying, 'Please come here and your passport will be done. You just need to fill out this form. So when I went to the passport office, he gave me the 'Annexure C', which literally had text exactly as I had written in my petition. I got Muhammad's passport in three days,” Patni said, with an expression of relief.
When did she start rebuilding her life? It wasn’t an overnight phenomenon. Patni expressed how she started rebuilding her life, one brick at a time, over the many years. She took her passion for photography and practised it professionally. Eventually, she has been taking her family business to new heights. She has a successful career, a son with an amazing upbringing, a supportive circle and lots of zest in her heart.
Patni enjoys exploring her artistic side with painting and drawing. She loves being active with basketball, table tennis, MMA, running and more. She is an inspiration to many, not just as a mother but as a woman with immense strength to be tough but also be vulnerable and love.
Rebuilding yourself can be difficult but eliminating self-doubts helped Patni. “The more I started understanding what domestic violence is and what abuse is, it became better for me because then it was like I didn't do anything wrong,” Patni expressed.