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It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. I was feeling sleepy only to be disturbed by a mobile phone’s ring. It was for Sudha. She must have got a call from her home.
“Hello, I am good. How is everyone at home?…..Oh! That’s a great news. Congratulations brother!” I heard Sudha saying and she was elated. Listening to this, I dozed off again.
In the evening, while Sudha made me a cup of tea, I could see that her enthusiasm had faded. She was the same Sudha who takes care of my kids while I am at work, helps me in cooking and most importantly my shopping.
“I heard you were congratulating your brother. What’s the good news?”
“My brother is getting married, madam.”
“Oh! Indeed a great news. You must go home and enjoy. When will you go home?”
“I won’t madam. I will just buy some gift and send by courier with your help.”
“What! He is your only brother, right? And your parents were looking for a match for quite some time.”
“Yes, madam. You are right.” Sudha left the conversation in between by making some excuse. Her eyes were moist and she was choked. I was curious and surprised to see this side of Sudha.
Sudha, a good-natured nanny for my kids is always cheerful and busy with her work. A woman who looked in her late 30s had hardly seen 30 springs. Yes, she was not even 30 but still a mother of a 12 year old girl.
Sudha came to my home in Lucknow two months ago through a placement agency based out of Kolkata. Her home was in a remote village in West Bengal. Before she boarded the train for my city, I received a call from her husband. He wanted to know our whereabouts. She has become an integral part of our family now.
I was chopping vegetables but couldn’t resist myself thinking about Sudha. I thought it is better to ask than to chop my own fingers.
“If you don’t mind , can I ask you the reason of not attending your brother’s wedding ceremony?”
“How can I? I am the reason for the delayed wedding of my brother.”
“It’s a long story, madam. I got married at the age of sixteen, just four days after my tenth exams got over.My husband was a boozer and a gambler. Eventually, these habits made him a thief. He fled away as he was afraid of the police; leaving me and my two year old daughter. My in-laws blamed me. They thought I was the one who failed to bring him on the right track. ”
“Where did you two go, then?”
“We stayed at my parents’ home initially. My parents and my husband’s family live in the same village. But, soon I felt like a burden over there. So, I had to come to Kolkata to work because if I work in my village as a maid, it will tarnish my family’s reputation.”
“What about your daughter?”
“I left her initially with my parents, but now she is in a hostel in Kolkata.”
“Poor girl. But, why in the hostel?”
“ People in our village feel that my daughter and I were a big liability and burden for my brother. Nobody wants to marry his/ her daughter to a man who has to bear an extra responsibility of two. I did not want my little daughter to feel unwanted in that home.”
“Oh my God! Which era do they live in?”
“So, now as I live away from them and my daughter is also not there; his marriage got fixed. And we two are not supposed to go there. It may spoil the events.”
“It is heart-wrenching to know that you will not be a part of this celebration.”
“ I am a part of this function. I have been supporting my parents financially in whatever little manner, I can. It was after all my parents who gave us shelter in our bad days. I will send some money for this occasion as well.”
“What does your brother do?”
“He owns a small grocery shop near our home.”
“If your husband abandoned you and your village, then who called me before you came here?” I was still puzzled.
“He was Arabind, my neighbor in the village and the person who helped me in getting jobs in Kolkata. He works as a driver over there. After moving to Kolkata, I experienced someone’s affection and care for the first time in my life. He made me feel wanted. ”
“Oh, nice! Does this relationship has any future? You deserve a second chance in your life. Give it a serious thought.”
“To procure a second chance for myself, I can’t snatch the first one from my daughter. I had to carry the guilt of my brother’s delayed marriage but can’t take the sin of ruining my little daughter’s future. The poor girl already had enough.”
“But why do you blame yourself for everything, Sudha?”
“I’m unable to forget the wounds and bruises of my first marriage up to the present. My husband has remarried and lives in another village. He is still the same abuser. Arabind cares for me and loves me. The feeling is mutual. But I don’t wish that this relationship should be based on someone’s sympathy. I see my future with myself rather than anyone else.”
I was dumbfounded.
“But, what if you need any monetary assistance? Especially for your daughter’s studies and all.”
“That’s why I have come this far, so that I can earn more and save for her.And there is no guarantee that my second husband will help me financially. I was a so-called obedient and loyal housewife but nobody valued me. I was left to beg but I chose to work. I’ve been helping my parents and my brother. I hated the very idea of burdening them. They are asking me to send some money for his wedding, too”, said Sudha.
She continued. “I was dependent and vulnerable when I followed the society’s norms. I felt free when I defied them, something that I could have done earlier. I don’t want to stay in a place where people believe that working as a maid will bring a bad name to the family while boozing and gambling of men bring laurels.
I feel blessed to have given birth to a girl and wish her to have the right to choose everything in her life. Life becomes worse when things are imposed.I was held responsible for everyone else’s miseries. Things became better only when I realized I am answerable to none but me. I am my own responsibility now.”
“That sounds enlightening, Sudha. But why do you want to spend your life alone? You should also think about yourself, too. And Arabind cares for you, doesn’t he?”
A long sigh followed.
“You, too, think that women must have a man in her life to feel complete.”
I was left speechless.
She continued, “I can’t deny that Arabind helped me in my difficult times. I don’t know whether it is love or a man’s pity for a helpless woman. Only time shall tell. If he accepts the confident and independent Sudha, then surely I will give it a thought.”
I was impressed mightily with this woman, Sudha.
“My story didn’t let you cook, madam.”
“No worries, Sudha. I will order something from outside. You deserve a treat for liberating yourself and illuminating me with your wisdom.”
She smiled and I ordered our food.
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A pathologist by qualification, a budding blogger, a learner and a mother of a toddler
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