Introduction 20th October 2016-No the day did not remark the birthday or death anniversary of someone special, neither it was a 'so-called' day of immense importance. It was somewhat important to a mother, a homemaker, a lady who had been leading a life which could be as much painstaking as we may imagine and her daily chores of married life has caged her, from where death is the only solace.
Just like any day of her 22 years of married life, Indrani woke up before any other member of her family, for she being the typical 'barir bou' she has no right to sleep after 6 a.m. As she opened her eyes and sat up on the bed, the thought of thousands of household work came pouring into her mind. Soon she stepped down and went to get fresh. Preparing some tea for her family she went to her daughter's room to clean her bedding and wake her up as she needs to go to school.
Reflections As she entered the room and went close to her bed, a shock made her shiver her like anything. With utter pain she remembered that one month has elapsed since her daughter went to Bangalore.
There she is pursuing Engineering from a reputed college. Suddenly her daughter's childhood days,the day when she first uttered "maa", the day when she went to school - all this flashed into Indira's mind.Tears trickled down her eyes and she realised her daughter, her toddler, has become a beautiful, charming young lady of 18, named Srijani. But she couldn't exceed her mother's beauty for Srijani's mother always wore the tag of being the 'Most Beautiful Woman in the world she had ever seen.
Indrani sat down on the bed. Clutching Srijani's favourite pink pillow into her chest, she cried uncontrollably. As her daughter entered into her teens, she somewhat understood her mother, felt her agony, her pain and held her hands tightly anytime she was in need of it. Her daughter became the Oasis in the barren desert. A month has passed within a blink of an eye to others, but to her it seemed to be a decade without her daughter beside her.
New city, new college, new friends, new lifestyle. Busy was her schedule. Within that, Srijani could manage only a few minutes to talk to her. But Indrani was imprisoned,she was unable to talk according to her will as she was always under the strict vigilance of her husband and in laws. Badly she needs to speak to her, to make her aware of what is good, what is bad, the pains and pleasures of being a teenager. Calling her wouldn't be a good option. So she decided to pen down everything and send her a letter.
After lunch, when all were sleeping, she managed to write to Srijani and the letter was somewhat like this.
The letter Dear Munai,
Beta, how are you dear? Are you having your food in a timely manner? Don't forget the medicines. And what about your studies? This is for the first time I am writing you a letter as I felt probably this is the best medium of our secret communication.
Today I thought to tell you something that I have never told you before as I waited for the day to arrive when I will tell you everything face to face. But it merely happened. Beta, as you know I got married to your papa when I was 19 only. Trust me at that time I didn't have any clear idea about marriage. As that was the time when people see everything through coloured spects! Luckily I got my looks. As a result of which there were a few boys after me. Though I was aware of that and ignored the rest, but your papa was an exception. He was well established that time and directly approached my father with the proposal of marrying me. You know beta that our family was financially not sound at that time. If one member leaves the family then also some expenses will get reduced. Thinking that, your grandpa also accepted his proposal. I and my maa though opposed it but it was not strong enough to stand against his verdict.
On 17th of January, 1994 we got married and that day marked my imprisonment. Your father was very protective of me and feared that someday I might leave him because I was good looking. Your aunts were jealous of my beauty. I being a teenager that time didn't know the abc of cooking and they used to laugh at every mistake I made. The worst thing that happened was I couldn't study further and class 12 pass was my limit. Previously I used to listen to every order he made-'Don't go there, don't talk to that person,don't do this'. Whenever I wore a colourful saree he said "For what reason you dress so well? You have been been married for 9 long years and a mother as well. Whom do you want to flatter by your looks?". I tried my best to come out of the house with you, but the thought that I alone will not be able to bear your school and tution fees, your food, your clothing, your career will turn into a hell, pushed me back each time. I even tried to get myself engaged in some job but your father said "Why the hell you need to go out when I am earning?My family will not run with your little income". Anywhere I go I am followed by him. I quarrelled several times asking "How many times I call you when you are outside?". He replied "I am a man, you are an woman, don't forget your limits". Each day as we sit for lunch or dinner, the biggest and best piece of fish or meat has to be served to him,then the rest of the family. If something still remains then that's for me. On all puja ceremonies I need to do the fasting as I am a woman. Each day I am the first person to open the eyelid and the last person to close it as I am an woman. I know beta that some times out of tremendous anger I quarreled with your father and hampered your studies, made you panic-stricken. But believe me dear, all these struggles I made, it's only for you, so that your life doesn't become as miserable as that of mine, so that you can understand that first and foremost you need to get established in life, do as much as possible for your parents then only think of getting married.
Try to voice your protest every time you see something abusive or insulting is happening to any woman. Remember a girl is born by birth, becomes an Woman by aging but becomes a Gentlewoman by Choice. So try to choose the best path of life. Make a strong standpoint from where you can vent your grievance, from where you can fight. Live a life your mother had always dreamt of living. Lead a peaceful and contented life, where you are your own decision maker, where you are the speaker while the remaining are the listeners, beta.
I know that my efforts will not be fruitless, my fasting, my puja-aarti will do the needful and my daughter will turn into a Woman- one who will be the idol of other girls who are in dire distress, a woman of my dreams,a beautiful, caring, loving and established woman.
Work hard,study harder dear. Your mother's best wishes are always with you. Muuhhhaaaa. Love you dear.
Your beloved maa
The author has touched the core point by giving a message to the girls in the society in the form of a letter to the daughter. Basically the mother is the first teacher to her child and a child learns the very basics of life from her parents. Both father and mother are responsible for a disciplined growth of their children. We very often blame the society and the companionship of the children but parents can't absolve from the responsibility of checking them periodically what they are doing and how they are moving outside the world. For a daughter, she may be a lovely one to her dear father. But she can tell her problems and share her thoughts with her mother only as she can't share certain things with her father. So, mother plays a predominant role than a father in a girl's life and this letter to the daughter has been in its true spirit as an ordinary mother would do for her child. Really it was very touching and it was quite natural in daily terms of a woman's life.
Thanks a lot. This is my first article here. The article is not a story but it is the life of my mother and I am her little daughter who tries her best to be with her creator, her idol.
Truly an inspirational story,not only for all women out there but also for those egotistical men who think themselves as the dominant force without knowing that a true,selfless and dedicated woman is a force to be reckoned with.
Thank you Srijita Dey for sharing your story.
Sreejita, this letter is an excellent effort to put forward the thoughts of your mother. I hope you become a leading lady in whatever field you are qualifying yourself in. I have one suggestion here. Since you have mentioned that your mother could not leave the family as she did not have the financial backup to support herself and you, you can pay her back beautifully if you can move out of the house. Get a job and work hard for 2-3 years. I am sure you will save enough money to stay in a rented flat. It will be just the two of you, your mother and you in that flat. Nobody will be able to mentally agonize your mother or you.
Secondly, If you can earn enough to support yourself and your mother then ask your mother to take a legal separation from your father. It is quite evident that your mother is not happy with your father and there are no chances of leading a peaceful family life in future. So why not become independent? Ask your mother to complete her education now. Nothing is impossible in today's era. Ask her to get enrolled in distance education institutes and complete her education. She will feel more independent and empowered. She can even try for some jobs at NGOs and help out other women like her.
Wonderfully said Joyshree. I have a similar planning to be very honest. The articles that I write are the reflections of my own life. The true scenario basically, which is too hard to accept and too tough to bear at times. Love you for your valuable advice. Thanks a lot.
I read this letter as a mother, as a woman and as a human. I am honestly shocked at the contents. Even if I had a life as miserable as that of the woman in this letter I would still not act in the manner illustrated here.
The mother wants her daughter to be strong-willed and speak up against injustices, but this is not the way to send the message across. Is it right on the mother’s part to berate the father? To show the man in poor light and cast herself as a self-sacrificing martyr!
I am all for women’s rights and social justices, but will not support such attitude by any woman.
1. Not once does the letter mention of how good a father the man is
2. The woman had colourful saris to wear but fails to realize the husband was a good provider
3. The circumstances that led to conflicts could have been addressed with maturity
4. I think the woman is too absorbed with her physical beauty
Impart values in daughters, but not this way. A mother shouldn’t attempt to create a rift between the father and the child, which is what this letter does. It portrays the father as evil – which is wrong. Women and mothers must lead by example. The letter should have highlighted strong, positive qualities of the mother, instead of ranting about the deeds (misdeeds) of the father and his sisters.
A strong woman should set an example, stand up for herself, so her children watch and learn. Walking out of a bad marriage is an option open to every person. Divorce provides alimony and child-support. Getting a job is another way of supporting oneself.
After reading the letter I was little nostalgic. I know a female who got married at 19 and she could not even complete her education. But she is a perfect example of patience and rebel. One should definitely be a rebel but a disciplined and upright rebel.
She got married to a boy who was well set in a business family, a typical male dominated Indian family. She had a very different upbringing and she failed to understand their thought process. Even her husband changed with the passage of time. First he left home. He possibly had all the addictions one could think of like alcohol, sex, gambling, hitting ones wife etc. She suffered immensely. She had a son and after 6 years had a daughter too. He hit her badly even during pregnancy. He hit her because she was a woman of ethics. He was a sex maniac and wanted to swap his wife and the wife was not ready and they had frequent fights over this issue. He did not even give her financial security and when she wanted to earn, he created problems for her. There was a time when they had nothing in the house and even the education of children had stopped but the man was a shameless creature. The lady told about it to his family but they did not show any positive sign. She left him and came to her parent's house and started working and got her children admitted in school and tried to fix things and she is still doing the same.
It is better to walk out of an abusive relationship where you are nothing but a thing which is used by the keeper. A relationship can never work without trust and respect and you earn both and always remember you owe to next generation. What are we teaching to our sons? They should know that they cannot take any female for granted.
The difference between the woman I mentioned and the woman in the above article is that one showed patience till she could and when she could not took the step, acted and moved on with her set of priorities whereas the above lady who cribbed and cried and blamed her husband by words is advising her daughter. Had she taken a bold step she need not to have written such a big letter. She could have looked into the eyes of her daughter and very confidently talked about why she wanted to talk.
So it is better to act than to speak.
I read with horror the tale of a woman who has been through hell, posted in Rashmi's response. Such morbid tales of self-sacrificing women are a curse. They become the epitome of virtue and are seen as an example of how women should behave within a marriage. Patience is a virtue – but to remain ‘patient’ in the wake of physical and emotional abuse displays a lack of courage.
It is a shame that society remained a mute witness. Her parents should have come to her aid. The woman might have lacked the fortitude to stand in her own defence, but shame on the parents and society in general, which remained spineless.
Children, who witness abuse within the family, remain scarred for life. Things don’t flip over and become hunky-dory overnight, just because one parent finally decides to take charge, and walk out. Such children carry the pain all their life, and at times their childhood experiences manifest into serious problems, in their adult lives.
Women do not need to be taught such lessons of patience and rebellion. There is no patience in getting beaten up or in being expected to act as a sex toy to fulfill a fantasy. Marriage is sacred only as long as its sanctity is maintained. If a partner crosses the line and does/expects the unacceptable, it is time to protect yourself. Women often lose self-respect in the name of marriage.
Walking out of a bad marriage cannot be termed as rebellion – it is doing the right thing. It is protecting you and your dignity. The irony is that ‘rebellion’ is often interpreted as a wrong action.
Women should be taught to stand up the first time abuse happens. Staying quiet just emboldens the man, and he begins to get more vicious. Teach daughters that they are important – teach them that they have to respect themselves and only then will they command respect. Women who take beatings and abuse should not be eulogized – they should be shown as a bad example. Such depiction (as mentioned in the above post) brainwashes impressionable minds into believing that such self-sacrificing attitude is a woman’s destiny. Let’s do the right thing and send out a positive message.
I wholeheartedly agree what Juana said. The time has come that we need to understand the meaning of few words like patience, sacrifice, rebel. A girl really needs to understand when and how to hold the hands of the man standing in front of you. Actually since childhood the girls are the carriers of respect of the family and they are asked to maintain silence because of the dignity of the family. Once married, their in-laws' house is theirs and they have no say in the house where they were born. These things make them weak and especially females who are not financially independent are forced to undergo all the pain. I guess everybody should be taught that every individual should be respected. Disagreement over an issue is normal but abusing and hitting one's wife for that is abnormal. So, many things need to be worked on to fix these problems. Things should be changing - hope we see a better tomorrow.
Expecting women to be sacrificing, tolerant and patient gives room for men to do what they want. This is the ugly truth about patriarchal societies.
We have not learned to empower our daughters because we fear change. We want our daughters to be timid and always 'belong' to someone – be a wife, a mother, a sister or a daughter. She is not allowed to be herself. She must continue to be someone’s responsibility. It is pathetic the way we treat women and the way women lump it. Everyone is so unapologetic about this whole farce, of how women should be. If women are not taught to be timid they will learn to stand up and protect themselves. Most women keep the battering they receive a secret, as though it is something they have to be ashamed of.
We live in a society where parents do not want to bring home a married daughter – no matter if she’s been battered black and blue, she must bear it.
Yes, it’s the lack of financial independence that women stay in a bad marriage. But if she has a support system in her birth family she can decide to walk out. The trouble is we are more bothered about what people will say if a daughter separates from her husband.
We also tutor our daughters that their husband’s home is now their own. The thing is life and relationships cannot be equated to a ‘home’. What keep relationships going are respect, love and trust. A home is but a manmade structure, it can be destroyed in a jiffy. Women must realise that there is no ‘home’ when the relationship is on shaky grounds. It is best to walk out with dignity. There are laws that protect a woman’s rights.
The author has very clearly depicted the plight of a humble and meek woman in a family. Yes, we are expecting a lot from housewives. They are supposed to look after everything without complaining and accept everything as told.
Through one such house lady the author has very beautifully shown a letter to her daughter to become bold and rise against any exploitation in the life. The mother has clearly mentioned what sort of a lady she wanted her daughter to be.
The narration has been on emotional grounds but has given a firm message in the end.
Thanks a lot Umesh. Thing is that, it is very easy to say things from behind. But the poor soul, who faces the situation is the one who actually struggles. At times the pain becomes tremendous because every person have some limit of tolerance. Once it is reached, it becomes too tough to cope. Such agony, such pain comes from within in the form of writing. And it is an obvious outcome!
A poignant letter that would have been true in many homes. A sad but true-sounding narration of what a daughter in law has to go through at a time when women were meant to cook and do only household work, their dreams and ambitions to be closeted within themselves. This portrays the father almost as a tyrant who is insecure with the mother's beauty. Some men feel it's OK to stare at other women but vice-versa it is unacceptable to them. I think times have changed. Women now have a better chance to get educated and to voice their concerns and views via social platforms and forums.
One movie we liked is a Tamil movie from 2015, '36 years', wherein a mother is left home alone (not ill-treated) while her husband and child go and settle abroad. She rediscovers herself, pursues her dreams, and becomes an entrepreneur. It's a beautiful story of a reluctant mother who sets out to achieve something at the age of 36 with the support of her old friend who is also a successful woman.