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Grim Predicament

Some lives can be utterly depressing. Take the case of Poonam. A village simpleton married to an army man. I met her in a sea of strangers. Found out she came from the same village as some of my relatives and our friendship grew after she became my neighbour for a while. She took care of my yen for indigenous food. Her stock of fermented fish and bamboo shoots never seem to dry up. Now that she has shifted into another locality, I seldom meet her. The dinners too are few and far between now.

I met Poonam after eight months today. We had last met when she came to meet me after she learnt my mom (who also quite fond of her) had passed away. I got a call from her yesterday saying she was just back in town after a five-month stay in the village. Meanwhile, her husband, too, has been transfered to Ganganagar, Rajasthan. But she is not going there with him. Instead, she will stay on in Delhi with her two younger brothers who work in Delhi. I called her for dinner today -- I always wanted to return her hospitality, you see.

Poonam is a remarkable woman. Her zest for life is enviable. She cooks well, stiches well and keeps her home tidy. All the traits of a good housewife, but it ends there. And she is sad. "I wish I had some education," she told me today. I asked her why the sudden realisation and her reasons were valid enough. Having stayed out of the village for so many years (thanks to her husband in the army, she has seen more than half of India), she finds it tough to adjust to life in the village. Your family, roots are there alright, but the quality of life and lack of basic facilities can be quite frustrating. So, she wishes she had some education to get a job, be occupied and stay on in the city.

Years back, when in Kashmir, Poonam had given birth to a baby boy but after a month, it was the sheer negligence of the doctors that she lost her little one. The grief is insurmountable as she has never been able to conceive again. "Everyday it's the same room, same TV, same routine that my life feels suffocating at times," she said. She wishes to adopt a baby but doesn't have her husband's support on this one. A baby, she says, can change the monotony in her life and she can use her energy positively.

But the grief doesn't end there. Her mother-in-law is busy trying to find a new wife for her husband so that she gets a grandchild. She says her mother-in-law is performing puja after puja back in the village so that her son leaves her. Clearly, there is no love lost between the two. I told her not to worry as the pujas are not going to have any consequences and that no one has the power to break a relationship on the basis of a puja or what not. I tried my best to convince her but more than the pujas, I think the mental torment of somebody with such evil designs on her marriage is eating into her.

Now you know why I said some lives can be depressing. Depressing because someone like her is so ill-equipped to make her own decisions about her life. Because of her financial and emotional dependence on her husband, she does whatever is told to do -- live in the village or stay put in the house. I was thinking Poonam's life is symbolic of so many women. They do not have a choice, they do not have a say and they are helpless. It's such a scary scenario. I cannot imagine such a life. When I think about how much my parents have invested in our education, I think I have done nothing for them in return. And when I look up in the sky, it still comes to the crunch each time...


Unknown said…
Very touching Indie. I know this is true of many women across the globe not just in India. I am saying this because, my friend (an Indian) is getting married to a firang. And his mum is refusing to attend the wedding as she has to pay the airfare to get there... she is against the very idea of her son getting married coz it would cut down her expenses. Yes, education makes all the difference. If Poonam knows how to stitch, maybe she can do something with it. Even a simple alteration fetches about Rs 50 or more.

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