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The Undaunted Spirit Of Womanhood

She couldn't speak for a few minutes. Hurriedly, she started packing all her belongings. Her 16-year-old daughter kept on asking her about the phone call.

Richa was taken aback after attending a phone call. The phone call that she just attended made her gasp for air. She couldn’t speak for a few minutes. Hurriedly, she started packing all her belongings. Her 16-year-old daughter kept on asking her about the phone call.

With mixed emotions of deep pain, hurt, anger, frustration and insult, Richa informed her three children that their father had asked her to leave the house immediately or he would kill her.

Ansh, her eldest who was almost 22 years old, Akshay was 19 and their sister Lakshmi who had just turned 16, couldn’t believe what they just heard.

Lakshmi offered to leave the house with her mother, while both the boys chose to live with their grandmother. Richa and Lakshmi left home and reached Richa’s mama’s [maternal uncle] place, who suggested calling Richa’s mother. Initially, Richa hesitated because her mother had abandoned her for marrying a boy from a different caste.

When her mother came to know about her, she couldn’t stop herself from meeting Richa. Although, Richa feared that her mother would taunt her; thankfully, nothing of this sort was said and done. At this time of crisis, her family stood by her side.

Both of them were overwhelmed to meet each other after so long. Richa started narrating her ordeal.

She stared at the dark sky outside the window and informed her mother that her husband, Prakash, had married his own niece without divorcing her, and they also had a son! She started sobbing controllably.

“What took you so long to decide?” asked Richa’s mother in a compassionate tone.

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“Maa, you know, when we married, we had to struggle a lot to establish ourselves. You were already upset with me, and even I wanted to prove a point. For some time, things were going well, gradually, the business also grew and my in-law’s also accepted us after a few years.” said Richa.

“But, as they say, things change with time…. Soon, I got to see a different aspect of Prakash’s character. Initially, I thought that it was my misconception, but as the time passed, I realized that Prakash was a flirt. He used to flirt and tried to have an affair with any beautiful girl he came across!”

“I tried to stop him, asked him why was he doing it? Sometimes I even doubted myself. I tried everything that I could, but all in vain. On one side I had three little kids to raise and the other side my in-law’s.”

Sobbing, Richa continued, “My mother-in-law didn’t like me because Prakash had once left her home to marry me. She always tried to torture me in all possible ways that she could think of. She was always nice to my kids and me in Prakash’s presence. But as soon as he left for his work, she showed her true colours.”

Richa’s married life

I was tortured by her physically as well as mentally. I was reprimanded for committing even small mistakes. Not only that, but I wasn’t allowed to get ill or take rest. But I never complained as I knew that I had no support from you and moreover Prakash still loved me and the kids.

Sometimes he would scold his mother also for being so rude to me. Time just flew, the business was flourishing, the kids were growing and were doing well in their school.

Also, Prakash had promised that he would mend his ways and stop flirting with girls. We seemed to come to terms with each other and life went on as usual.

One day, Prakash met with an accident. The accident was so severe that the jeep that he was driving in had crashed and by God’s grace, he narrowly escaped death. After a couple of days, I came to know that he was travelling with his girlfriend in that jeep!

When he had left home, he told me that he was going for a business tour, but to my utter surprise and shock it came out to be his leisure trip with his girlfriend.

To top it all, my mother-in-law blamed me for his wrong behaviour and encouraged him by saying that, ‘He is a man and moreover if he has you as his wife, poor guy is supposed to go out!’

The first time Richa resisted

This was the first time, I decided not to tolerate any nonsense and stand up for myself. But worse was yet to come. My elder son, Ansh was now a teenager, and he was able to understand everything that was going on in the house, and he also didn’t like his father’s behaviour.

Ansh was his grandmother’s favourite. She poisoned his mind against me by saying all sorts of wrong things about me.

He had gradually started to hate me and hardly spoke to me. As the time went by, Prakash also became brash. One day he brought his niece (sister’s daughter) to our home. She lived with us for a couple of days. His niece, Kittu, was four years older to Ansh and 22 years younger to Prakash.

One night, after dinner, we all were sitting casually and something that started with light-hearted fun soon turned into a heated argument. I said something to Kittu that she didn’t like, Prakash was so upset with me that he actually hit me with a glass that he had in his hand.

He raged in anger and announced that he loved Kittu and that’s why she was there in the house. He hit me so hard that my nose started bleeding, and I straight away went to my room feeling insulted and cried a lot and fell asleep. In the morning, I had no energy to get up and experienced severe pain in my nose and head.

My younger son Akshay came to wake me up in the morning and informed that Kittu and Prakash had left for the day. One of my friends in the neighbourhood knew what I was going through. She came to check if I was alright. She made me a cup of tea and took me to the doctor. This incident taught me to be strong.

After this incident, I decided to stand on my feet. Still, I had no guts to leave the house. I feared what will the society say? I feared what would come of my kids and if their future was ruined because of me walking out of marriage.

Likewise, I never had the courage to live alone as I was not educated enough, I was financially dependent on Prakash, kids were small, and I had no support system.

Despite all odds, there was one positive thing that worked in my favour. Prakash’s business and house were in my name, so he could not officially divorce me easily. This thought gave me the courage to stand for myself and fight back.

I stopped reacting to Prakash’s wrong behaviour, Kittu’s presence, harassment caused by my mother-in-law. Instead, I started working on honing my skills and making myself financially independent.

I started stitching designer frocks for my friends’ and neighbours’ daughters. My work was liked by people. Soon I started earning decent money. My financial independence didn’t go well with my mother-in-law.

One day, she sold off my sewing machine in my absence. But this also could not stop me from becoming independent.

While I was thinking of a way to buy another sewing machine or start a new business, Prakash came home and announced that he had opened a branch of his shop in another city, and he had married Kittu. He would shift to the new city to set up the new branch there along with Kittu.

By the next day morning, he left home, and I was left with my three kids. I talked to my father-in-law, he asked me to stay in the house, and he felt sorry for me and was ashamed of his wife and son. But due to old age and illness, he was helpless. After Prakash left home, even my mother-in-law realized her mistake.

But her big EGO didn’t allow her to patch up with me. After a couple of days I started cooking classes as I had no money to invest for any new business or buy another sewing machine.

My cooking classes were a hit. People requested me to start tiffin service that also helped me to become financially independent. While I was growing financially, Prakash’s business was declining. His earnings started reducing, forget about the profits.

This made him even more resentful. And his anger was fuelled by occasional conversations with his mother. Whenever my mother-in-law felt that I was not listening to her or if I argued with her, she used to call Prakash and instigate quarrel between us.

Yesterday, she made one more phone call to Prakash and as a result, I am here with you.

 Richa ended her story with a deep sigh.

Tears rolled out of her mother’s eyes on knowing about the struggle her daughter had been through. She promised Richa that she would be on her side and make sure things are sorted. Richa’s mother was the Principal of a school and had powerful contacts. She asked Richa to keep her head in her lap to sleep.

Richa gradually fell asleep in her mother’s lap, her mother had no sleep in her eyes. She repented for not being able to support her daughter and to be angry with her for so many years. At the age of 42, Richa had to leave her marriage of 25 years, she had gone through so much in her life.

Next day morning, Richa was sent to one of her cousin’s place along with Lakshmi. Her mother had anticipated that Prakash would come looking for his daughter. Prakash started talking to neighbours and contacted Richa’s relatives, friends and everyone Richa had a contact with to find out about his daughter.

He also took the help of police to locate his daughter. He even threatened Richa’s mother for hiding Richa.

After a couple of months, when things slowly tried to settle down, Richa filed a divorce case against her husband and also applied for the custody of her daughter. Her mother had arranged for the best lawyer that they could afford. The lawyer was a family friend and had known Richa since her childhood. He proved to be a great help at this hour of need.

During the court hearings also, several attempts to persecute her were made.  One such attempt was to kill Richa so that it was proved in the court of law that her character was flawed, and no alimony would be given. It took 4-5 long years to get a divorce.

Meanwhile, Richa had learnt to be strong and protect herself. With the strong support from her mother and cousins, she started leading a normal life. With no previous experience of a job and no educational qualification, she started looking for a job to support herself.

She finally got a job as a sales girl in a company, she used to go door to door to sell the product while Lakshmi went on to continue her studies in the school. Seeing a good performance from Richa, her salary was increased. After some time, she got a job in a telly-calling company.

Slowly, her life came to the track. While she was trying to settle down in this new life, Lakshmi fell in love with one of her neighbours. Both of them wanted to get married, and they visited a temple for the same.

The news of Lakshmi’s marriage came as a big blow for Richa as she had never expected this from her daughter. She advised Lakshmi to continue her education, get a graduation degree and then go for a registered marriage. After little persuasion, Lakshmi followed her mother’s advice.

Time passed and Lakshmi settled with her husband, her brothers also got married and after seeing her children settled, Richa was relieved.

Second marriage for Richa

Richa continued to work and change jobs to support herself. She didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. During one of her job related tours, she met a retired, handsome man who was a widower and was looking for a partner to get married. Richa was also lonely and her friends and cousins suggested her to re-marry.

She was a bit sceptical initially, but finally gathered courage to marry that handsome old man. For the first six months, things were good. She was heartily welcomed by the grown up kids of the man and all seemed to be a happily ever after.

But, as luck would have it. One day, while cooking in the kitchen, a glass fell down and broke. Her new husband got so angry that he scolded her and even tried to slap her. Now this was a shock for Richa. She realized that she had again got trapped in an abusive relationship.

Still, she tried to give her second marriage, a second chance. One day, her husband got annoyed at a small mistake and pushed her out of the house. He did not allow Richa to enter the house. She had to take shelter in a neighbour’s house that night.

Richa had learnt from her experiences, she entered her house in the morning after saying sorry to her husband. After he left for his walk, Richa packed her bag, took all her ornaments and cash and left home.

She took the first bus to her hometown. She straight away landed to one of her cousin’s place and filed a police complaint against her husband and applied for a divorce. This time also, taking a divorce was not so easy. She succeeded to get a divorce in 3 long years.

Richa had gone through enough…. she was all alone in this big world in spite of having three kids. Life had taught her tough lessons. All she wanted was a peaceful life now. She started looking for a job again. She got a decent job again and started living in a small rented flat near her cousin’s place. But her struggle didn’t end here.

Every day, she had to meet and face people who always had a question in their eyes. Even at the age of 61, people tried to flirt with her or tried to take advantage of her and when they were not successful they tried to malice here image. Many people looked down upon her or used to pity her; some people used to try to question her character as a single woman who divorced twice.

Though people appeared to put a decent face in front of her, but no sooner than she turned her back, they used to start gossiping about her. All these things started taking a toll on her emotional well-being.

Even her children wanted her to live with them just to take care of her grandchildren and nothing else… But now, she wanted to live for herself, she wanted to make her own identity, she wanted to live life on her own terms.

She knew this was a bold choice to make, and she had to be mentally strong enough to deal with it, and this time she was ready for it.

A few things that worked in Richa’s favour were her good nature, honesty and hard work. She got a new job on the basis of her past record. Wherever she went, she maintained good professional relations with her colleagues and organizations.

Richa was proud of herself as she never had to ask for a recommendation for any of the jobs, not even the contacts of her mother. She got jobs and promotion on the basis of her hard work and willingness to learn and adapt to the new surroundings.

Richa’s current life.

At present Richa is taking care of a girls hostel in a reputed boarding school where she has an opportunity to learn new things every day, and she is surrounded by kids of different age groups. Moreover, she is respected and loved by her students and their parents equally.

She has been an inspiration to all those women who hesitate to go out of their houses, thinking they aren’t educationally qualified enough to get a decent job.

At the age of 64, when most women think about their retirement (be it professionally or from household responsibilities), or they feel dependent on their families, or given up on themselves and feel helpless about themselves; some of them even think of taking religious path thinking that the life is over… or sometimes women even yearn for appreciation and contentment by looking after their grandchildren, Richa started a new life.

She realized that she has to live for herself, her happiness is also important. Now she has decided to do things that make her feel happy, she has started pursuing her long-lost hobbies. She tries to empower women by making them realize their own strengths and helps them to live life for themselves, and she always encourages everyone to first love themselves.

Although Richa had to divorce from her abusive husband and relationships, she still continues to have faith in marriage. Her life has been an example to young boys and girls also who are thinking of separating from their spouses over petty issues.

Richa also gives counselling sessions to young couples and helps them overcome their minor differences. She always encourages people to count their blessings and always be self-reliant. Now she lives her life with dignity and respect that she’s rightfully earned for herself.

Her fighting spirit and the spirit to welcome new challenges with a smile make me SALUTE her and I feel she’s the epitome of the undaunted spirit of womanhood who is motherly and gentle at one hand and at the other hand she is a fearless lioness who can protect herself and her children from dangers.

Image Source: Still from Anupama, edited on CanvaPro

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About the Author

Deepa Ahuja Ramani

A person with diverse interests. Apart from being a homemaker, Deepa is a teacher turned storyteller turned podcaster. She takes classes for language teaching at home for years now. Deepa is a passionate person who read more...

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