“Aunty ko dekho zara,” (Look at the Aunty) I hear a spiky headed teenager say to his equally spiky headed friends.
“Chor yara, she isn’t even hot,” says his friend, looking at a woman across the road.
Having let go of her fluttering dupatta, the woman, hardly in her late thirties, was bent down, trying to retrieve the oranges that had fallen from her plastic bag.
I see her almost every day on my way to work. Sometimes, holding student notebooks, sometimes files or books, she seems to be hurrying back home from her day at some school.
Watching her cast a disdainful look at the people walking past her, unwilling to help, I wonder how difficult it must be to juggle physical and mental burdens.
Today, she was carrying them all.
Her deeply lined face was just like any other I see pass by every day; a faceless being in an uncaring world, struggling to get through just another day.
What does she dream of: palaces and servants or food on the table and a good night’s sleep?
If I could, for a few moments, follow her into her life, what would I see? The worn out home of a middle class family, you say, as you turn away bored with the life of this uninspiring woman.
Amidst the harshness of her life, the abuse of her in laws, the indifference of her husband, there is much to inspire.
The joy in the eyes of her children as they are treated to lovely oranges, something they don’t get to taste every day, makes her happy.
Their excited chattering as they wait for her to wash the dirt off them and serve them.
The youngest, sucking on an orange slice with her toothless gums, crawls to her and hugs her.
Is she inspiring because of her courage in the face of all this? Perhaps. But could she not change her life, you ask.
She smiles as she watches her children and tries not to mentally calculate how many hours of work went into paying for these oranges.
She mustn’t calculate because that would equal being a bad mother. She must not think about her dreams of a beautiful life.
No, that would make her ungrateful and bring down more misery upon her, so says her mother.
But she must have moments of weakness when she wishes to run away from it all; she must or she would not be human but an angel.
What does she do in those moments? Shout at her children, scream at her mother in law and…That is all she can do.
She cannot stand up to her employers for underpaying her because there are no jobs in the market. She can’t communicate with her husband because he isn’t interested. She can’t even refuse his demand for a daily marital coupling because it is her ‘duty’.
Every day, she works from morning to night making things easy for her ‘family’. She works at home, she works at school, and she works in bed; all of which is part of her duties.
If we follow her for a few years down the road, we would come across a bitter old woman, bent upon making life hell for her daughters in law and sons.
Image courtesy of: http://meow-artgallery.blogspot.com/2011/03/grandam.html