I have seen and heard women suffer at various stages of life. Each has a story to tell. Domestic violence, betrayals, molestation, and the list goes on. But then I came across these women who suffered immensely in the hands of love; their true Love.
I vividly remember this beautiful couple from Kashmir. Fondly called as Kaul Uncle and Aunty, they were my grandparent’s friends. They were madly in love. While some couples their age tried to keep their love and affection under wraps, they enjoyed each other’s company like teenagers. Their morning and evening walks holding each other’s hand, felt like a promise for lifetime. Whenever uncle met my grandfather for evening tea, he couldn’t stop mentioning aunty. What she cooked that day or what she did that intrigued him; aunty was his favourite topic of discussion.
Even if aunty was not there in person, she was always there with him in his thoughts and conversations. While uncle couldn’t stop talking about her, Aunty too had all the reason to gush about the love and pampering she got . She would tell my grandmother how she loved to dress up for uncle and most importantly cook for him. One would never find her looking plain or dull even if she had to go down to buy vegetables from a hawker. She always looked prim and pretty. That’s how ‘Kaul Saab likes it’ she once told my grandmother. Aunty used to wear lovely cotton sarees and her petite yet kind and wrinkled face always had a pleasant smile. Her gold Dejhor(a long chain worn around the ear) which she tied along her silver bun, looked like a ray of sunshine amidst the white clouds. Her image still mesmerises me. And I can imagine why Uncle was so captivated by her.
They had 2 sons, both were married and stayed away from the parents. Uncle and aunty had no qualms about it. They had each other.
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same”~ Emily Bronte
Uncle pampered her like a child, everything was served to her on a platter. While people envied the unconditional love she got, no one could ever imagine how handicap that same love would leave her. Kaul uncle’s sudden demise changed everything for her. While he left peacefully in his sleep, she was left alone in a constant turmoil.
She stopped living. She never let herself out of uncle’s shadow while he was alive and now she had no one to fall back on. Not even her children.
So I wait for you like a lonely house, till you will see me again and live in me. Till then my windows ache. ~ Pablo Neruda
It was heart wrecking. She didn’t go out and refused to meet people. Aunty completely confined herself to the house. And when she did eventually step out, she was knocking on doors and asking for help to pay her bills or to help her with her daily chores. The neighbours readily helped. Aunty was in a terrible state. Being old she couldn’t cook much or probably with uncle gone she lost interest in doing something she loved the most. She stayed unkempt and at the mercy of everyone around her. Sometimes she used to visit our home and sit down with my grandmother. And the only thing she spoke about or rather cringed was that “Kaul Saab never let me do anything, he has left me hanging with no support or knowledge to face the world”. She complained that she had no idea where to pay her bills or what were the bank accounts and how to operate them. Not that she was not educated but she was never informed. She said “Kaul Saab’s love and pampering has left me paralysed”.
2 years later aunty also passed away and in a state which can never be described. No beautiful cottons but an old torn saree. No smile on the face but probable complain and anger to be left alone at everyone’s mercy. She definitely didn’t deserve this.
It’s not just Kaul aunty, I know many such women who have suffered at the hands of being overtly protected. And unfortunately they were left alone at the most vulnerable age.
The heart of a woman falls back with the night, and enters some alien cage in its plight, And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars. While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars. ~ Georgia Douglas Johnson
It was very hard for me to accept the fact that these women who were loved the most by their spouses, cared for and protected from every atrocity had to live so miserably. Where did they or their men go wrong?
While so many women suffer atrocities at the hands of their spouses, there are these women who were overly protected but felt betrayed at the hands of death, something which is inevitable. Outliving their husbands became their curse.
A lot of widows feel that they have betrayed their spouse by continuing to live. It’s deranged thinking. I know that, but that doesn’t stop you feeling it. ~ Joyce carol Oates
Losing a companion can be very tough for both men and women. It’s difficult to cope with the loss. The anxiety, depression sinks in and the zeal to live ends. Maybe because everything revolved around that one person. It was always Us before Me. I agree it’s the best way to have a happy relationship that way but I also feel that its equally important to have a happier you.
Women are raised with gender disparities to be the caretakers. Nurturing, adjusting and kind. They are expected to be tolerant to people and situations around them. Most women give their lives raising kids and serving their families and this they do selflessly and with all their love. They are not taught to look out for themselves. They are very happy living their lives with the man who love them. Fitting well in all the categories of a perfect wife and a home maker. They have nothing else to ask for. They’ll even tolerate humiliation, domestic violence, abuse all in the name of family and love. They are unable to take help or ask for help even when they need it the most.
I have seen the plight of such women in Vrindavan. Situated along the Yamuna river, this small city houses innumerable temples dedicated to lord Krishna and Radha. And while this city is engulfed with vibrancy and spirituality, there is also a shadow of darkness and despair. It is also known as ‘the city of widows’.
The women here are living in miserable conditions, shunned out by their families. They were forced to leave their homes after they lost their husbands. I met Geeta Das, one such widow who had to leave her house after her husband passed away. She had no-one to look after her. She came to Vrindavan looking for peace and solace. She begs for survival and sing bhajans all day to find moksha. It’s not they couldn’t fight, they just surrendered to their fate. A fate that was imposed on them by the society. Their vulnerability got the better of them. I have also seen the most cheerful and strong women embracing darkness and seclusion after getting separated from their partner. How come women who have been the pillars to strong families lose their own ground?
Women who gave their all to their families, raised their children to be independent individuals, forget to live for themselves. They make their children so independent that either it gets burdensome for the children to get back to their parents or a wall of self destruction and loneliness become so high that it gets impossible for such parents to break it and leave the life of despair and solitude.
The comfort zone of the house, the chores and complete surrender to the needs of their family are some barriers that most women can’t break. Love has to be liberating and not confining. Why do they forget about themselves and their needs altogether? We live our lives being responsible mothers, daughters, wives but fail to live up for ourselves. Why do we forget to be responsible for our own happiness?
The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much and forgetting that you are special too. ~ Ernst Hemingway
We need to understand that not everyone loves you the same way. While some love you unconditionally others have conditions. It’s only you who can do justice to yourself. By loving yourself wholeheartedly. And when you do that you live fully for yourself and for the ones you love. And that’s when you can face all odds with strength.
Families are very lucky to have such home makers. And its not easy to be one. In raising her family well, most of the time she forgets to take care of herself and we as a family forget to remind her to do so. While she takes herself for granted, it becomes our responsibility to give her that freedom and credit that she deserves. And as a society we should look out for such people to give them the warmth and support that they crave.
And when men put their women on a pedestal, they should also make them aware of their worth. When they give their women castles to live in, they should also let their partners hold swords and fight their own battles. And when you become their wall to lean on, make them strong enough to hold their grounds when you are no longer there.
Kaul uncle said till the time I’m alive, she will have to do no work. But he forgot to prepare her for the days when he’ll be gone. While he went happy and liberated, she was left alone handicapped by his love.