These three and half months have been the most interesting time of my life. Amidst the enormity of sorrow and endless nights of tears, I have grown up. Being protected by my parents first and then my husband, I have always been that one woman who refused to grow beyond her teens. But I did. Over these hundred days, I’ve experienced the death and rebirth of myself several times. Walking through fire, I’ve realised that the fire doesn’t hurt as much as does the fear of walking on it. And taking the toughest walk ever, I have come to realize many little lessons of life. Lessons that have made me still survive, amidst the odds.
* Time the Healer: The most oft-repeated line that I’ve heard since my husband’s death is – Time is a great Healer. In my personal experience, there can’t be a bigger myth than this. Time doesn’t heal, it is we who learn to walk with our wounds. Infact as time proceeds, and the crowd and sympathisers begin to thin out, it is then that the enormity of the loss strikes in. In my case for instance, I spent the first four weeks in a kind of surreal feeling where I could hardly realise what was happening. Moreover with people coming in and out – there was hardly a time to realize the loss. As time proceeded and I was almost left alone to cope with my grief, I missed him every moment. And now, after about a hundred days, the battle is not just emotional – it is practical too. I mean if I do not feel okay, I still have to get up in the morning and drag myself because I am left with no choice. I do not have the luxury of telling my husband to attend to the need of my children. I’ve had nights of headache when all I could do is to request my daughter to press my forehead with her tiny fingers or ask my tired son to go to the market the following morning. Time doesn’t bring down the enormity of sorrow, loneliness or even importance of a missing person – it only teaches us to survive in the changed conditions.
* Guess the Guests: Life is a strangely baffling game. In the past few months I’ve had the good fortune of interacting with several women who have lost their close ones very early in life – and almost all of them share a similar experience. The closest ones are the first ones to depart like a guest! The ones we expect to support and stand by us are NEVER (and I shall write it again in bold) the ones who actually do so. Rather, the hardly-met, never-seen, met-once are the ones who unexpectedly lend their greatest support. And it isn’t my experience alone. It is the story I have heard from most women with whom I have interacted. In most cases, where it involved a family with children, the closest ones retracted first for the fear of having to take the responsibility. But life is never unkind. And the support system is mightily replaced by a contingent of friends, well-wishers, cousins , office colleagues – people who hardly know you. Even till this morning I’ve had friends telling me, “Tell me what you need.” I’ve had friends who have battled a leg pain and walked up the stairs to my flat only to hand me a cheque for my child’s education. I’ve had a young brother in law ensuring that we have medical insurance for ourselves. For every snub, apathy and looking away, I’ve had someone or the other place their gentle hand on my shoulder to ask me, “Are you okay?” Like I’ve said an umpteen times, it really isn’t about money, it is about ‘being with you’ which matters the most. It brings tears to my eyes to see my mother who is hardly able to walk, my father who battles COPD every moment, walking all the way to my house just to give company to my child. And in those moments I can’t help but thank God for keeping my parents safe for me. But I have heard of women being totally left alone to fend for themselves and their children.
* Strong Women, Bechara Men : What happens when the wife of a man dies, leaving behind kids ? He is either married off again for want of a mother for the kids or the elderly relatives pitch in their support to look into the domestic chores and/or the children. Or, in extreme cases, the kids are packed off to their nearest relatives. Because how on earth can a ‘bechara’ man manage office, home and children? There are exceptions and I proudly announce that I myself know of such exceptions, but the general system remains the same.
What happens when the story is about a woman with kids losing her husband? Frankly, we take the concept of women being ten-handed Durga too seriously and suddenly the woman becomes ‘Shakti’. The society pats her back, ‘you are a strong woman’ they say as she grapples with the need to look after her children, manage the household, look into the financial need – all on her own. And rather than pitching in support, her closest ones leave her panting, withering, struggling under the weight of the stamp of the all powerful Durga. In most cases that I’ve come across, the death was inevitably also followed by a legal battle to ‘claim her due rights’ – whether it is to do with property or finances. So, with her eleventh hand, she also has to tackle legal issues – at times in the quest of a place to stay. And that is because of the Article 377ish backdated concept that once married, her father’s house is not her own and once the son of the house dies, the status of the daughter-in-law is nullified. Legal provisions be damned, THIS is how the society functions – even in 2018!!
We can push back the dreams, aspirations and needs of a widow and thrust a hundred responsibility on her in the name of being an embodiment of ‘Shakti’ but we are not ready to handover purple-golden costume to a widower to be a ‘Shaktiman’.
* God Provides: I have always been the God-loving kind of kid. Not so ritualistic but somehow I’ve always believed that the concept called ‘God’ took care of a variety of problems – from nagging pimples to maths exams; from curing the broken leg of a road-side doggy to making a crush talk to me….And He did. Not the pimples, but the more difficult problems…the one called God had a solution to everything…well, almost everything. But when that all-in-one friend of mine betrayed me at the most crucial juncture of my life, I somehow lost faith. But over the days I have somehow come to realise that inspite of my disappointment with Him, He does work from behind the scenes.
I’ve always had the privilege of working in my NGO with a very meagre honorarium just because of the fact that my husband being an IT person, had a better paying job. We have been through several ups and downs but we’ve always had the privilege of depending on him to run the family. Overnight, and all of a sudden that shade of comfort has been pulled away from us! With a hardly –there salary, two children in the midst of education and with no savings back-up we would have been left nowhere. With zero financial knowledge, things would have been tougher. But it hasn’t been. Because how much ever I may disregard Him, my husband was right in his belief afterall – God Provides. Every time I’ve gone into the brink of being a broke, a hand has reached out to pull me up.
My daughter had a piggy bank which she called the Magic Pot. Everytime she would discover her box being nearly empty (courtesy, the late night raid by her parents) , she would be upset for a while and then her father would tell her that it is the Magic Pot and would never be empty. The next morning she would discover it heavier, wealthier. I see that same magic happening in my life everyday.
There is a saying in Hindi, “Jaako raake Saiyan, Maar sake na koi” which means the one who is destined to be protected by God can never be killed.
Death gives us challenges; challenges which cannot be described in words. But we like it or not, God or whatever we choose to call that Almighty, also gives us the strength to combat it. Coming across the stories of women who have gone through such challenging times, I have realized that God bestows the power to survive as well – from running a successful boutique beginning from a scratch to managing a demanding school job, women have been there, done it. And now, as they proudly flaunt their pictures with educated children, well-established siblings, it gives hope to believe that amidst the rubble of devastation, we have the power to hold on to the tiny green sapling that peeps from between.
It is with the same hope I dream of a day when my son would come home with his first salary, place it in front of his Dad’s picture and say, “Proud to be your son, Papa”. It is the same dot of greenery that makes me believe that my daughter will one day share her meal with the poor and the needy and say with pride, “Poverty is a mind game. You are as poor as your thoughts are.” May they both learn to share and be enriched. May they return back to the society the umpteen love that they have received; inspite of and despite of the little struggles they had to face. May they rise above the challenges with pride and dignity.
(Image Courtesy: Pixabay)