John madam was sitting in her patio sipping warm tea surrounded by her plush green, well maintained plants. Her small garden was one of her small accomplishment in the long journey of life. The iron gate of house secured her world from world outside. The name plate of her husband hanging on the entrance wall declared the owner of the house. Yet, the house was image of feminine love and simplicity.
When did you become John madam? I asked. She smiled sheepishly and said I don’t know. Maybe, because of typical government work culture, everyone use to call her like this. When an endearment became an identity, she hardly noticed. So, who is John madam? I’m a woman who’s a mother, retired government officer. She chirped back. Almost immediately in low monotone she added, a widow. She turned in a disinterested way, when I asked what her accomplishments are. What do you mean? She asked innocently. I said, in the course of your life till date, were you able to live up your dream? Or build something.
I am financially independent senior citizen. My both the kids are doing well and settled off. I’ve a house and extended family- relatives.
Does this count?
Was it so simple and easy?
John madam does not know what Feminism means. Yet, she’s an example. She never dreamt of a career. Born in a large, poor schedule caste Hindu family, getting two full meals a day was an achievement. To top that she was one of the three privileged sibling among eight, who got her education. So, guess some achievement. At 18 yrs of age she did inter religion love marriage. How did that happen? With no expression change she said, well if I didn’t married John back then I was sure once my degree is over I would be either married off to some labour or will work as house maid. That was what schedule caste people were destined. So, I married the first person who came in my life, whom I thought being English speaking would make my life easier. What about love then? Of course, I did fell in love, she replied easily. But, reason to get married was simple. I will get a better life and two time full meal. Did that happen? Blinking her eyes few times she said, well you know life is not bed of roses. When nudged to share more on the same, she said.
The inter religion marriage left the couple alone without any family support from either side. They were low on cash. She uses to wear an old shirt of her husband over petticoatduring the day and then change into the one of the two saris, which was the only clothing she had, in evening. Still, it was fun as they both spent their evenings with friends, singing, going on picnics, playing cards. At 19 she became a mother. She was clueless. With help of her kind neighbours she learnt how to take care of a baby. She was still adjusting to this when she got a job offer from government sector. They both were overjoyed. But, taking care of 45 days old baby was a big concern. They couldn’t afford a maid right away. So?? John madam smiled with twinkle in eyes. God had been always kind on us. She said. She use to feed her baby, then lock her up, go to office, come back hurriedly during lunch time to clean and feed the baby again. She would then again lock the baby and resume her office. That’s unjust! I exclaimed. How could you do that to an infant? What if something grave happen to the baby? She took a deep breath. From 11am to 1:30pm and again from 2:30 pm to 5pm, everyday for 30 days I use to think same sitting on my office desk. John madam replied. Her eyes never changed, or blinked. That stern look on face with hollow eyes, her expression said a lot more about her feelings than her words. The strength she must have gathered to think of greater future of her child rather than to surrender to an emotion which might be humane, but not well paid, is something which she Built.
Rest of her life was a roller coaster of happiness, struggle, disappointments, courage, fear and gratitude. When her husband died suddenly, leaving behind pile of loans, a forgery criminal case and responsibility of her son’s incomplete medical education, she questioned herself. She worked whole life contributing in building a house, towards educating both their daughter and son, marrying daughter off, yet what was hers? She had all the freedom to take decisions of her life, still she never took one without asking her husband. Now, this habit of her threw her in a whirlwind of confusion, doubt and trust issues. She started to self doubt herself.
So, how did you turned the situation in your favour? I was eager to know as in present she is debt free, her son is a doctor and married. With as much ease as one takes the breath, she said, everything happens with time. Of course, you need to work upon the situation to turn it into your favour; still it will happen only in its own time. It took me 10 years to fulfil all the responsibilities left by my husband. It was hard. Alone, with no one to lean on, I trusted only time and patience. I lived as a miser, mocked by my sisters and relative, to get financial strength. While my fellow work friends were enjoying their salaries, I invested it for future. I asked around, learned through people around about worldly matters.
It was hard sometimes seeing people enjoying their life, while I use to sit at home alone planning and managing expenses. Of course, I’ve missed out a portion of life in securing future of my children, looking back I don’t regret. I fulfilled myresponsibility. At least I can advice my children with experience, guide them in their difficult time and most important I can enjoy being with anyone without being burden on them. Her smile was not big, though light in her eyes was bright enough. I guess, that’s how I become an achiever. Observing and learning from John madam, who inspired me to become an accomplished woman. John madam, my Mother.
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