“Sir jee! It is a cruel world. More so for a woman”. The tear trickled down from here eye over her cheek, finally dropping down in her lap.
We were sitting on the fourth floor of my flat from where I could feel the dusk starting to settle on the far away hills, lengthening shadows cast by the setting Sun as if piloting the evening’s arrival.
Lata, put the cup of tea down and continued her story. “I was only 5 years old when my mother also died and I was left homeless, an orphan with no place to go to. My brother who was much older was not ready to support me and in any case was a tyrant who used to often beat me up. My elder sister already married into a joint family in the hills somehow accepted me and my life started in her house. The days were the days of struggle, of poverty, of fighting for existence which, I was too young to understand at that time. I grew up without a childhood. My sister wanted me to go to school but her joint family had priorities of educating their own children and my interests were secondary. Somehow the days passed by. I helped in my own way in doing odd jobs like feeding the cows, washing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning the floors and in return was getting food, shelter and the chance to go to school which my sister somehow managed for me. At night I would find a place in some corner of the house or in the cowshed and fall off to sleep. Those were the tiring and testing times. I finished matriculate, then Intermediate and then the proposal for marriage came.
After marriage the next phase of my life commenced. The husband, who was much older than me found a toy to play with, to take out his frustrations on, and the beatings, physical abuses, cigarette butts, all these have left scars still smoldering my body and my soul. Three children were born amidst all these. I did not know how to resist and who to go to. But somehow managed to study and passed B.A. privately. His drinks were increasing and so was the physical abuse on me. One day in a fit of rage he broke the glass bottle on my head splitting it and threw me out of the house with my three children. Hurt, bleeding, homeless and penniless I was on the road at the mercy of God? I didn’t know what mercy meant or if God was merciful. Somehow, wrapped in old hessian bags at night to ward off cold and struggling to arrange for food for myself and the children in day time were my only concerns for quite some time. I managed to survive. I started working; small jobs helped me feed my children. I started an organization a very small one; collecting folk singers and arranging their shows. Some friend helped me. More initiatives came around. The weather changed, so did the times. I don’t look back nor even think of those days memories of which I have locked up in a closet somewhere at the back of my mind never to be opened. The children are doing well. The struggles of life are still on. Today, somehow I could not stop myself from sharing the past with you”. Wiping her eyes, she broke into that tingling laughter once again, her glowing radiant face looking at me. “Sir jee kahan kho gaye”?
First time I had met her in Guptkashi during the monitoring of her NGO. I was impressed with her good work and our friendship continued.
The second time, I remember she had come to the temple where I was staying. Seeing me, she rushed towards me embracing and hugging me with tears of happiness trickling down her face. “Sir jee ! I have purchased this small car”.
“Sir jee when I was married I was wary of one person only. Today when I am alone and working I am wary of the men with whom I have to work with, from whom I have take approvals for my projects get the finances released. It is a tough life. It is a cruel world”.
“Maybe, because you are very beautiful”. I picked up the cups and walked towards the kitchen to put them in the sink without waiting for her reply.
I am privileged to know her and from the core of my heart wish her happiness and success for there are very few like her.