This is written as a part of I am Mardaani activity exclusively at BlogAdda.com for Indian Bloggers.
The moment I read about this movie and this contest, the first name that crossed my mind was that of one of my grandmother’s relative who was, in all the ways, a true Mardaani. I would love to share her story here and extend my gratitude to this contest by Blogadda, for otherwise this story would have remained forever under folds of old memories.
She is Kumud, my granny’s first cousin and an octogenarian. Born into a reputed Brahmin family, she was married when she was around 17 or 18 years of age. Her new home in a city in Rajasthan was perfect! Unfortunately, good times did not last long and within a few days, the beautiful facade disappeared and a very painful truth emerged out. Her husband, a well to do business man, moved to another city where he had a shop and she followed him like a dedicated Indian wife. However, as soon as she reached the new city, a shock awaited her- that man was already married to a half-British-half-Sindhi woman and they even had three children together. Since the stingy memsahib hated any sort of household work and also that his family too wanted to get rid of her, he shamelessly married my granny’s cousin under that pressure.
Unfortunately in India, marriage is perceived to be a panacea for everything that goes wrong- from setting delinquent, alcoholic and abusive sons to complex relationships and even bad karma straight. The environment there was as negative as it could be. It was a huge house and she was literally confined to a single dingy room in a corner and was made to do all the household work like cooking, cleaning and laundry of the entire family. The memsahib would go hopping the markets and parties every day leaving her to take care of her three children. Whenever she tried to raise her voice, she was beaten and threatened. My granny also revealed that he also made her write happy letters to her father so as to avoid his trips to that place.
Around six or eight months passed this way. One day, on the pretext of buying some groceries, she traveled straight to his father’s place all alone (with some saved and stolen money). The father, a benevolent man, was quite ashamed of what his son had done but being frail and helpless, could not do much to stop him. However, he did one wonderful thing. He not only treated her as his own daughter but also gave her all of the jewelry of his late wife and cash that he had, much to the chagrin of his other son. She filed a police complaint and contacted her father with the help of her father-in-law. The families met and after a lot of hullabaloo and dirty fighting, she legally separated from that wretched man, who was to be later disowned by his own family too. By the standards of that time, she was quite educated and using the money, began her graduation course. She stayed with her father-in-law because of some reason may be attachment or that her college was in that city. After completing her BSc, she went ahead for MSc in Botany. She used to tutor students at home and support herself in every way that she could. One more thing that this incident teaches us is that education is finally the thing that liberates us as it did her in this case.
My granny told me that after the old man died, she shifted to a women’s hostel as the other son and his wife forced her to do all the household chores and stopped her from continuing her master’s degree. She still had enough gold and cash but was quite prudent in spending it and managed a good portion of her expenses in her tuition income. Later, she enrolled into a PhD course, a rare sight in that era when most women did not go beyond primary school. She got a job in a Government college in another city and there, our mardaani, started her life afresh and went ahead to marry a colleague from a different community- a proper love marriage! She retired as the principal of that very college and now, in her eighties, she lives in a huge bungalow they built with their own income!
I salute not only that lady but also her father who got her educated till school in those times and of course, her father in law, who supported her unconditionally!