Four walls, two traumatised and clueless kids and a smiling photograph was all that I was left with… “Jaa Simran jaa, jee le apni zindagi”, I was told. Jolted, amused, equally clueless, I had thought that my biggest challenge would be financially managing a family alone, single-handedly. But what I discovered was that I could somehow manage my finances well – bit by bit – with a lot of support and advice pouring in from my friends. What I didn’t see coming was the severely traumatic emotional side of it. The next two months saw me battling everything from anxiety to panic attacks and severe depression.At times I would be too sick enough to even stand up- leave alone walking two steps. My kids would be equally puzzled. I remember one day my daughter begging, “No mummy, no…don’t go away like Papa”. With her little fingers she clutched on to my hands.I hardly had the power to speak…tears just flowed down my cheeks.
I wore whites and blues and just a small dot of black on my forehead. I was ready to embrace a life of solitude and simplicity but I never realized how I did all those at the cost of killing myself. The songs that I loved so much – I could hardly hear beyond a line….It would shake me up and break me. I stopped listening to music.
Then I came across Jonakidi. She is one blast of a woman- an entrepreneur running a business abroiad. I interacted with her over whatsapp and mostly through voice messages. “Srichandra, it is your husband who has died, not you. Do you understand?”, she told me sternly. “Get up and shake off that sad image of yours.Whom are you trying to impress? Your grief is your personal thing. Don’t show the world you are sad. Get up, groom yourself, face the world. Change your looks, your attitude”. To add on to what she said I had this friend of mine who told me, “ Look, that was past…the more you look back, the more hurt you would be…Look forward and always, be happy. Make that your goal”.
I crept back to life gradually…After ten years I went to a parlour for the first time to cut my hair. I began to take care of myself, my dressing. As I giggled and informed Jonakidi as to how I wore a pair of jeans after twelve long years, she said,”Look, there would be many around you who wouldn’t accept this change very easily. To them, give just one answer: Fuck Off! Learn to say it!”.
So, as I changed my attitude, my outlook and as I began interacting more, I came across this group of women who had equally lost their husbands young and had kids.We began messaging and talking – many times a day. It was as if a big relief for me because ONLY and ONLY they could gauge exactly what I was going through. Surprisingly, they all had extremely loving husbands, all faced sudden death of their loved one and all of them somehow had managed their financial side quite well enough – atleast for survival. But what really took toll was the severe emotional void. We first began by ranting hours together about how good our husbands were and then gradually began to be more expressive about our current situation. We realized that there was more to life beyond memories. We began to look at life beyond grief – with a much more practical approach. For those who stayed in a joint family, the situation was more bearable, but for those who stayed alone it was a constant struggle to cope up with the reality. It was then that gradually, bit by bit this topic came up….Finding Love…..
Society- Skewed mentality : There is a strange gender biased treatment of the society towards men who have lost their better halves and women who have done so. I had written about this earlier too. As soon as men lose their wives there is a sudden urgency of all the seniors around to resettle him – especially if he has a child. And mostly before he can even form an opinion about it, the rest of the world get down to search a potential bride for him. The treatment is just the other way for women. If she doesn’t have a child, there is an effort to resettle her. But if she has a child, she is bestowed a halo on her head. She then becomes the holy mother of the child/children whose then onwards life is to ‘live on for her children’. So, first she was the wife of Mr.X and then she becomes the mother of Kid A and Kid B. The society loves to hail such ‘holy mommies’ and at the end of her lifetime she dies with badge of ‘The most sacrificing mommy’ pinned tightly to her. No one asks her, ‘Did the pin of the badge hurt you?”
But funnily enough there is no shortage of friendly advises on ‘moving on in life’. Moving on with what? A lifetime of loneliness, responsibilities and the trauma of not having anyone to share your joys or sorrows with…
Like one of the girls who is planning to resettle asked me hesitantly, “Yaar, at times I feel very ashamed. What would people say? They would think I have forgotten my husband so soon.” We are so conditioned to think that women must adjust to their respective situations that to even think of their happiness is near to blasphemy. “Yaar, who among these so called ‘people’ come to see how much tears you shed alone or when you struggle alone with your daughter?”, I tried to reason.
“Log kya kahenge” is perhaps the biggest contagious social disease. From bruised bodies to bruised souls, we tried to hide all with the mere reason of what others would think.
Predator or Available: I deal with girls as young as in their early thirties. They are educated,beautiful and have wonderful personalities. And they are widows. That is a deadly combination.
Once you lose your partner, the equation subtly changes. Not openly but you do feel the vibes changing – You are either Available or are a Potential Threat to the men around. You either find over friendly strangers closer to you or your close friends distancing (or made to distance) from you. In a changing world where women interact and work with men on a regular basis,this sudden change creeps in – bit by bit. The more normal you try to behave – laugh out loud, share jokes, be friendly, the more you are tagged.
And you begin to question,is there anything really wrong with me?
And at the cost of sounding anti-feminist I take the risk of saying that it does help if you have a steady partner instead. It saves many situations of severe heart-break and additional wet pillow-covers.
Don’t believe ? Ask me.I lost a very dear best friend to such stupid and skewed mentality….
At that moment you really wish you have a partner to show. A wishful thinking may be because the world does not change it’s ways but you are tempted to think of ways to somehow wash off that tag.
Love for Love: Death of a partner is not just the death of a living being,it is the death of a feeling of ‘love’ as well…. It becomes a sudden void. Like one of the girls tells me regularly, “All I want is that someone should lovingly hug me”. I mean you are so filled with love and suddenly you have no one to even hold your hand. So,deep within there is ofcourse a longing of being loved and cared for. And it is a very natural human reaction. I mean you are used to holding hands, used to a hug, used to getting calls and text messages and all you are now left with staring at walls, curtains, doggy poop, cartoon characters and the milkman! Trust me, it is INSANE!! For many days I slept at one corner of the cot, leaving his space and pillow in place, only to realize that it is more mentally disturbing. On days when I am very distressed I sleep with his picture but the coldness of the glass shield does not offer me the human warmth. For days I used to have just one prayer, “Send him for one day God, just one single day so that he can hug me and I can sleep peacefully for one single night atleast.”
Like I said,it becomes somehow easier if you are always surrounded by people but when you are alone,it is KILLING!! And no, trust me, children are no answer to your missing partner – NEVER! And NO, friends – bestest of best ones are no replacement.
Fixing the damaged psyche: Widowhood takes a bad toll on your mental health – it does. You become irritable, angry,hurt and anything and everything for nothing. The “Feeling Happy” and “Blessed Togetherness” Facebook posts irk you. You hate Anniversary pictures of others. You just cannot come to terms with the reality. I couldn’t. The day the Durga Pujas began, as I watched couples going out together, I gave up. I cried like a maniac for hours together. Everyone around was too busy to offer me the required solace. I called up a friend of mine just so that I could cry….cry my heart out. And it was not me alone.All the girls that I deal with have a tough time – especially during weekends, festivals, holidays. I hate the Sundays I used to look forward to. Like one of the girls said, “Weekends are such heartbreak moments when you see couples going out together – your own friends- and suddenly you feel you have no one to go around with.”
I perfectly now understand the cunning, evil, Lalita Powar styled widowed aunts portrayed in the movies. You do feel bloody angry. “Why me?”, you keep questioning yourself. Suddenly you wish to be either a recluse or an all-out badass. And love does fix a damaged soul. I am many miles away from the girls but as one of them falls in love I can almost see the glow in her cheeks,the ring in her laughter, the hint of shyness in her voice. I can sense the changing tone in her voice. Her nervous giggle signals that her broken heart is healing.
Need and Need: To be very frank, a partner is a need – when you are used to one. You have a physical need. You have an emotional need. You have a functional need. You need a person to ask, “ What would you have for dinner?” You need a person to discuss your favourite music director. You need a person to share your worries about your kid. When you are too engrossed in your office work and the kids are hungry AND you do not have anyone to tell to rustle up a dish or even order some food,it sucks!
I am used to regular bouts of severe headache and I am so used to my husband massaging my head. For many months I had got up in the middle of the night looking for those fingers to apply balm on my forehead. Now I get more headache but I tell myself, “Dude, no use…relax your mind. Think of A R Rahman and go to sleep” or I put on the music on a low volume and keep humming till I am asleep.
Everytime someone says, “Keep yourself engaged” I smile. I am tempted to tell them , “Welcome to live my life for half a day – just half a day and you would certainly not give the advice anymore”.
Your kids need someone too- especially if they are young. Two of the girls tell how their kids always try to veer towards father figures in gatherings – often resulting in uncomfortable situation for their mothers. I do notice that longing in my daughter too. A father’s death to a child is like making her stand in the storm. She longs for that protection, that shield…and she has none. And women being mothers they always prioritise their kids while making a choice of partners.
Each of the girls who have taken a step forward to think of beginning a life of togetherness have always evaluated their potential partners on a scale of compatibility with their children. So when they talk of need it is a combo deal that they are talking about. But the need is there always.
( This was end of Part -1. Like, I said in my trailer, there is nothing like Falling in Love Again, every love is a story in itself.
More coming up in Part- 2. And if you are curious to know about me, wait till Part-2. All I can say is: Mere Dil Mein Jagah Khuda ki Khali Thi. Dekha Wahan Pe Aaj Tera Chehra hai)
(Image Courtesy: Pixabay)