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What do you do when the world shuns you, calls you ‘inauspicious’? Do you slink away, or do you stand up for yourself and reshape your destiny?
Savitri stared in disbelief at the invitation card for a long time. She could not believe her eyes. Her erstwhile sister-in-law Janaki had invited her for her daughter-in-law’s baby shower! This was the first time Janaki had contacted her in 20-odd years. ‘But why now?’, wondered Savitri.
Savitri had got married into a traditional conservative family at the age of 16. Those were the days when girls were married off no sooner did they turn 15 or 16. The maternal side’s duty was over.
They didn’t care what the girl’s destiny would be post marriage. Savitri, like all the other “good” girls, toed the line, did what was taught and expected of her.
She slipped into the role of a subservient, obedient, dutiful daughter-in-law and wife. Her husband Deepak was 24 years old then. He had just started working. Very soon after the wedding, Savitri realised that Deepak was not interested in domestic life. He wanted to explore the world and be independent, not take on responsibilities. Being the eldest son, he could not utter anything in front of his parents, and got married as per their wishes. Deepak never consummated their marriage and tried to avoid Savitri all the time. A broken-hearted Savitri could not say anything to anyone.
As the years went by, family and society started asking Savitri about the “good news”. Savitri couldn’t tell them the truth and was labeled infertile by the society. Why do family and society always judge a woman for being childless?
Savitri’s brother-in-law Shravan got married and soon, his wife Janaki was pregnant. As expected, Janaki was given more respect and preference. Savitri was not invited for Janaki’s baby shower ceremony as she was deemed ‘infertile’ and ‘inauspicious’. How she cried for days! Deepak, as usual, had no feelings towards her. He was a coward and his ego never let him admit that he, not Savitri, was the reason behind Savitri’s childlessness.
Ten years went by. Savitri was alienated and shunned by the family, and society. She was never invited to any functions, wasn’t allowed to hold anyone’s baby. Pregnant women were advised to stay away from her. She remained a mere servant for the family, slogging day and night. Though she wanted to run away, she had nowhere to go.
One fine night however, Deepak disappeared from home! He left a letter for his father, stating he wanted more from life and was going away, and no one should try to search for him. This was the last nail in the coffin for Savitri. The family cursed her for bringing bad luck on them and threw her out. She begged and pleaded that they let her stay in a corner of the house and not drive her out, but no one cared.
Savitri had a fleeting thought of ending her life, but shook herself. “I am only 27 years old! I can utilise my life for the benefit of other women who are ostracised like me.”
She decided to stand up for herself. She started working as a house-help. Fortunately, she was hired as full-time house-help by a good family and so she had a place to live as well. Her employers were kind people. The lady of the house, Rekha, realised that Savitri had a lot of potential and she helped Savitri complete her studies. After her graduation, Savitri expressed her desire to work in an NGO, to help women like her. But she still continued to work in Rekha’s house, despite Rekha’s insistence.
20 years went by and Savitri became a vital member of the NGO. She helped many women like her, women who have been ostracised, marginalised, tortured by the family and society, to stand up for themselves, and be independent. She instilled confidence in those women. She also started working towards getting rid of superstitions, which were deeply ingrained in the society. Soon, she became well-known and her work started getting recognition.
The invitation had Janaki’s phone number.
Savitri called her up and said, “Janaki, why did you send this invitation to me, an inauspicious, infertile woman? You very well know the society will ask you to stay away from a woman like me, don’t you?”
Janaki was embarrassed and in a very apologetic tone replied, “Didi, I know it’s difficult, but can you please forgive me? Years of conditioning made me believe in all these superstitions. Had you been inauspicious you wouldn’t have been able to bring good changes in the lives of so many women out there. Had you been inauspicious, you wouldn’t have brought so much happiness in the life of others. Deepak bhaiya had once called up and he was extremely repentant. He admitted that he was responsible for all your miseries. The society is ever ready to blame the woman, including we women ourselves. Please come and bless my daughter-in-law with your positive energy. It’s a humble request.”
Savitri smirked and thought, “Nothing can bring back my lost youth, rectify my miserable days or the humiliation that I had faced. Yet, the invitation from Janaki reiterates the fact that if a woman stands up for herself and her dignity, she can change the thought process of one Janaki – and maybe, many more like her!”
Savitri decided to attend the baby shower with her head held high. After all, she was blessed, and auspicious, as she was!
Image credits Diganta Talukdar, via Wikimedia Commons, used under a CC BY 4.0 license
First published here.
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