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She was worried all the time. She is used to fear. She does not want to let it go. It makes her feel safe. What difference does it make if the things she is scared of, are not real?
She has made up her mind. She is all set, ready to go. It has been sixteen years, she never thought it would take so long. Every day of the last decade she got up with a sense of wonder- perhaps it would be today, but it never was. Now she was getting impatient.
Every knock prepared her to spring into action. Hundred and four- Oh, oh perhaps the time had come. She started on her favourite exercise of mixing the familiar with the unfamiliar.
Aruna, her younger sister, died in March last year and today she was having this high fever on her own birthday in February. Suppose, suppose and she earnestly prayed it was so, she too died, then their tithies (dates) according to Hindu calendar will be the same. They were born as sisters so there must have been a Karmic connection between them.
Her husband had left for his heavenly abode seventeen years ago. Even in his twenties, he had been plagued with ill health. Otherwise, a good man, a good provider. However, the hanging sword of ‘if-he-dies’ had never let her feel secure, enjoy, play happily the cards that fate had dealt her.
She was worried all the time, stressed if something happened to him how would she manage kids’ education, and marriages? What should have been happy anticipation instead only added to her anxiety!
Meanwhile, she earned accolades in her family as well as in-laws. She was looked up to, counted a good role model for the women of the clan. It was her serene demeanour, slow smile, even tone of her voice, and the readiness to serve, to do household chores without grumbling that was to be copied.
Half the things she feared were going to happen, never actually happened. He lived long enough to settle their children in jobs and marriages. Her fear had made her life more complicated than it really was. She never realised that the only thing that she had to fear was the fear itself.
The day he died, in her grief, there was a tinge of relief also. Now the worst had happened. She reached the bottom. The clamour of so many scenarios that her imagination had conjured during the last four decades could finally be silenced.
It had really happened on the day in the manner it was meant to be. So, what is greater the fear of grief or the grief you fear? She still hesitates to acknowledge that her fear of grief was far worse than the grief she feared.
This would perhaps make her feel disloyal, shallow, less loving, less dedicated to him. She is a traditional Indian woman who has nothing to do with psychology and is afraid of using words, clarifying her feelings by putting them into words. Dutifully, she had kept all the Karvachowths and performed the Mritunjai pooja for his long life.
She is not the only wife who lives in this situation. If other wives were to be honest, you won’t find a single wife who has not thought of this catastrophe, this worst-case scenario and what she would do then. Maybe the subconscious prepares one for life’s eventualities. Or maybe this is healthy in its own way.
Old habits die hard. She never dreamed of being self-supporting. She is used to fear. She does not want to let it go. It makes her feel safe. She wants to think only of what she does not want to happen and prepares accordingly.
But she had to get used to living without him, his domineering presence, always telling her to do this or not that. Instead of enjoying her newly acquired power, taking the reins of her life in her own capable hands she chose new entities to be afraid of. Her DIL, her son?
If you won’t push back you will be pushed back, she never realised this. Or, her victim mode was her shell that made her feel protected. It is as if she owes others a lot, others don’t owe her anything. Talk about the opposite of entitlement syndrome!
Planning, executing desired changes was too much of an effort, what if? What if it does not work out? Sitting and suffering passively and silently blaming others was her respectable way out of taking the needed initiatives. You know log-kya-kahenge! Faced with an opportunity to learn new things she chose to stay in her comfort zone. She rationalised it by calling herself sanskari and family-oriented. She began devoting more time to her poojapaat.
What difference does it make if the things she is scared of, are not real? She already suffers because she fears. If worry is a down payment on a property/problem you may never have, she is the owner of a lot of imaginary real estate.
The feeling of being unwanted, not needed in the nuclear family concept of next-gen persists despite her efforts to convince herself otherwise. Had she told her children and their spouses that she wanted to live on her own, had she enforced her decision they might have toed the line among protests of log-kya-kahenge.
But she feared what if she fell sick, she would need care, so it is better to listen to them. If she lived alone who would buy veggies, bring gas cylinder, do banking, etc. – she had never done these things in her life. Instead of learning to do all these things, she is now musing two years later to that birthday, “At seventy-eight do you think I still matter?”
This is the train of thought that always made her feel she is being mature – thinking of others and not of herself. She has spent a life of sabotaging herself by worrying too much. She never explored the creative side of her personality. She loves colours, has an eye for designs whether in clothes or gardens. She is an innovative cook. She could have learned new skills. She could have traveled. But she did no such thing because she did not believe in herself, in her own capability.
She was too docile, had been taught that only being a good wife, good mother was the ultimate aim of a woman. And she was not in the habit of framing questions. Once the above-mentioned roles were discharged what to do with the remaining years – she had never planned. She simply thought that she would walk into the fluffy fuzzy cloud of death. But here she was at eighty-one in good health and with plenty of time at her disposal, despite earnestly imploring her God to call her back
Reigning patriarchy gives her son privileges, not to her daughter. When it came to her property, she has given a lion’s share to her son because she wants to please him as she has to live with them. If the daughter is at a disadvantage in this notional equal distribution, well, daughters belong to their families and anyway it is not as if she hasn’t given ‘nothing’ to her. The daughter shouldn’t protest.
It’s nice to think you’re living your most authentic life, but that’s not always true. Most of us live a fake life and miss out on the fullness of existence. Flourishing crops swaying in the breeze are beautiful to look at but hide many a wriggling vermin.
Picture credits: Pexels
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