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Mother by Choice, Singled by Society

Why are single mothers perceived in a bad light? I'm a single mother who left no stone unturned to give my children everything they wanted.

2000:

Ms Roy: I have left that house Baba and Ma. I had no other option.

Father: What? But why Beta? This is a very big decision. You can’t just take it like that. You should think about the consequences that would follow. What about your children’s future?

Ms Roy: That is the reason I have stepped out of that mess Baba. My kids deserve a much better life and the best education within our limits though. Had it been only me I would have still adjusted, oops, compromised further. But I can’t let these little beings suffer out of no fault of theirs.

Mother: Oh no no…you are saying that you are going to get a divorce? No no…what will our relatives say? And our neighbours? Your father has a good reputation over here. People look up to him as the most generous doctor and you want to ruin that? How could you even think of taking such a big step without even discussing it with us?  We had given you the freedom to marry the person of your choice. Now it’s your responsibility to keep that going. Girls need to make sacrifices and adjustments. Pull yourself together and again start living your mundane life.

Ms Roy: (appalled by her parents’ reaction) you know everything that had been going wrong in my marriage so far and I can’t believe when you say these things, ma! You have never tried to get me out of the mess I have been in. And now when I have been courageous enough to take this step, instead of supporting me you are telling me to go back to that hell again? Is that all that you have to offer?

Father: (silent mode)

Mother: It was your choice, Dia. Now look, every marriage has its baggage of problems. At least he is not beating you up. Maybe he doesn’t want you to go out in the world and work. But, that’s good na! Look he is so concerned about you. And I know maybe he is not as ambitious as you are regarding your children’s education but is there a rule that every child has to be convent educated? That should not come in the way of your marriage Dia.

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Father: (silent mode)

Ms Roy: Wow ma! I refuse to take all your wrong justification. Yes, he was my choice and I agree that marriage is a blunder. But, was there any guarantee that had it been you and Baba choosing my groom it wouldn’t have gone wrong? Don’t I deserve your support for the right things at this most difficult juncture of my life? I refuse to buy your argument about me not being allowed to work to give my children a better education. He is nothing, but a male chauvinist, a typical man with a huge male ego not wanting her more competent wife to have her own money and financial independence. I trusted him, ma. But more than him, you and Baba have wronged me. If I have to walk on this path alone, so it be.

2001:

Landlord: So how many people are going to stay here?

Ms Roy: Three of us.

Landlord: Okay! That’s fine. So, it’s you, your husband and your child, I guess!

Ms Roy: No, it’s me and my two kids. (She pointed to her 13-year-old daughter and her toddler son barely sitting on her sister’s lap, but, busy showing his adorable antics).

Landlord: (with raised eyebrows and curiosity overflowing from his facial expressions) and your husband? Oh, he might be out stationed owing to work I suppose.

Ms Roy: No Mr Roy Chowdhury, I am divorced. So, it would be me and my two kids only. Any further questions you have? If not, then may I have a look at the bathroom, please?

Landlord: (being hesitant because of societal policies so far) other parties want to take this on rent too. And they are offering a bit more also on rent. So, I mean…u can have a look but…

Ms Roy: But you don’t want to finalize with me today or rather not at all right? That fine! I understand your problem and I know it’s not money that is stopping you.

They got a house on rent finally, after several similar encounters with various landlords, as they found their landlady in an old lady disowned by her children. It was a symbiotic agreement with Ms Roy, as she found her family in them, apart from finding tenants.

2005:

Mr Rajat Sen: Kamalika the proposal you have written is really good and it clearly shows your hard work. Well done!

Ms Roy: Thank you Rajat. I am glad that you finally appreciated my work.

Mr Rajat Sen: Oh no! You are embarrassing me now. I have always liked your work. It’s only that I have been pushing you a bit as I am well aware of your expertise.

She was just about to leave flashing her soothing smile when he spoke again.

Mr Rajat Sen: So…hmm…I was just wondering whether you would be free today evening. Just for a cup of coffee, you know.

Ms Roy: Oh, I am afraid, Rajat that my evenings are only for my kids. They are quite understanding and manage a lot on their own, especially my daughter. Poor her, she has to take care of her naughty brother also. Sorry, Rajat.

Mr Rajat Sen: Oh! That’s Ok. Then I can drop you home today and, on the way, we can have coffee. It will not eat up you’re evening also. Is that fine?

Ms Roy: Hmm… it’s not that I can’t come with you. It’s just that I don’t want to come with you. Just because being single doesn’t mean I am available and that is too easy. You have asked me several times before also and my answer is still the same. I am very content with my life and my kids. Having coffee with you the way you want it, shall not give any joy to me. Instead of having a coffee with you, the way we usually have, at our cafeteria while discussing our work and life is far more cherishable to me. Nothing more than that. I am sorry Rajat if it hurts you but I needed to make myself clear and loud.

Mr Rajat Sen couldn’t speak anything else. Ms Roy was not sure whether he was surprised, shocked by her confident revelation or angry at her, that day. But things were back again to normal between them from the next day at her office. And of course, this episode was indeed the last one concerning Mr Sen, but similar encounters still happen in her life.

2012:

Ms Roy: May I come in Ms Chakraborty?

Principal: Yes, please.

Ms Roy: Good morning, Madam. I would not waste your time as I see how busy you are. I just had a small request to make.

Principal: Oh yes! This admission time every year makes me go ballistic. Yeah, tell me…

Ms Roy: I want to incorporate my name as my son’s guardian in the admission form for his Class XI admission here.

Principal: Well, Ms Roy, since your son is already an existing student of this school, we have just passed on the same data we had earlier.  And as a matter of fact, there is only a father’s name option in the form. That can’t be changed.

Ms Roy: But why an uncaring father who has forsaken all his responsibilities towards his children would be tagged as my son’s guardian? There should be some way by which my name can be fitted into the form. I am his guardian and thus by all fair means, all his credentials should carry my name and not his unconcerned father. I am sure you being the principal of this school may be able to do something.

Principal: Calm down, Ms Roy. I completely understand your turmoil and your logic is justified. I agree with you. We had a situation like this before also. I had taken it to the higher authorities of the school. But they were unmoved. They don’t want to fall out of the norms of the patriarchal society. You would be even more surprised to know that their counter-argument was that these cases are very few and exceptions and thus the basic rules need not be changed. The legacy should continue.

Ms Roy: But, that’s wrong. Even my children don’t want to have their father’s name anywhere on their certificates. As pointed out by them, though these cases are few they still exist. They needed to be treated differently and sensitively. How can they behave like this?

Principal: I know Ms Roy. But this is it and we have no other choice except to accept this. Sometimes the time is just not right for a change to occur. Changing a father’s name to a guardian’s name is just not a change in the format of the admission form or certificate but it also requires a huge change in people’s mentality and the way this society works. Maybe people are not yet ready for this change now. But I just hope, not sure though, that you are the last person in a situation like this I am saying no to till am here as the principal.

She came out of the principal’s office that day with a heavy heart and full of complaints to God and the society that she was forced to live in. But at least she tried before finally being forced to give up. She even tried for her daughter a few years back, but only to see her attempts dying ruthlessly every time and the extremely unfair norms and rules surviving gloriously.

2014

Potential Groom’s Father: Am I talking to Ms Roy?

Ms Roy: Yes speaking.

The Father: I just came across your advertisement in Anandabazar Patrika (Bengal’s leading newspaper) in the matrimonial section. You are looking for a suitable boy for your daughter, is it?

Ms Roy: Oh yes. That’s right. So, you are…

The Father: I am the potential boy’s father, Mr Ghosh. I am a retired professor and my wife is a homemaker. My son is in the USA and is on the verge of completing his PhD at the University of Maryland (his tone gave a clear indication that he was boasting about his son). He would be heading for a post-doc soon completing his thesis. We are looking for an equally competent life partner for him and your daughter fits in very well as of now.

Ms Roy: That’s a very impressive profile, Mr Ghosh! Well, you already know from the Ad that my daughter is working in a reputed engineering firm after completing her post-graduation from IIT Kharagpur. I have raised her and her brother single-handedly and there is something that you should know beforehand. I am a single mother and if you have any issues with it then let’s not take it further.

The Father: (paused) Oh no-no. Absolutely not. So sorry. It must have been very difficult for you (in a very irritatingly sympathetic tone).

Well, we are only interested in your daughter and her compatibility with my son. That’s it. That you are a single mother is just a piece of information to us and nothing more than that. That’s fine with us.

Ms Roy: Ok. Good to hear that Mr Ghosh. I beg your pardon but there is nothing sympathetic about it. I shall text you my email id and please share yours too. Please send in your son’s photograph and details by email and I shall reply to you with detail of my daughter. Things may follow their course then. Is that okay?

The Father: Oh sure. I will text you right away. Talk to you soon Ms Roy.

He hung up the phone and most importantly there was no text from his side thereafter. Not that she was eagerly waiting for it as this was not the first time this happened to us. With every passing telephonic conversation like these, her feelings changed from sadness to anger to finally reducing to amusement. She started having pity for these people and the double standards they maintained effortlessly.

These were very few of the events that happened in Ms Roy’s life. These are just a handful of situations that she had to face for only one reason: her marriage has gone bad and she was divorced. She is a single mother who left no stone unturned to give her children a life that she always wanted them to have: quality education, a non-judgmental and ethical environment to grow up and a strongly infused belief that if they want to achieve something then the sky is the limit. She dug in her heels to be a successful mother and an entrepreneur herself. Throughout her life, she has fought in every arena to let others know her opinions. In her journey in life, she mostly encountered people who either had derogatory or sympathetic feelings for them. However, few people she met had held her in high esteem just the way her children do. They discarded the former and embraced the latter close to their hearts.

Image Credits: Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash 

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