When I was 15, my parents found a suitable match for me. I didn’t want to get married at all. But my family said, “Mulgi zaat aahe. Lagna karayla lagelach”. (You are a woman. You have no choice but to get married.) He and his family came to “see me”, and the second time we met, I was married to him.
I moved into his house immediately after the wedding. For three days, I didn’t eat at all. I was so scared, I fell ill. I didn’t speak to him for nearly fifteen days after we were married. How could I speak to him when he was a stranger to me?
At 16, I gave birth to my daughter. At 17, I had my son. From the day we got married, my husband and I never lived away from each other. We never even ate from separate plates. Everyone would laugh at us and ask, “What is with you two?”. But we continued eating in that one shared plate.
One day, he started complaining of a headache. So, the doctor prescribed medication for a migraine. We went out for dinner that evening and he continued to complain about his headache. When we got back home, he suddenly began getting breathless. I was about to step out to get some help when he held my hand and begged me not to go. Just as I stepped out of the house, he passed away.
For nearly three years after his death, I struggled to survive. Initially, I even contemplated ending my life. But not without my children. Wherever I would have gone, I would have taken my children with me. I wasn’t scared of killing myself, but how could I end my children’s lives? How does any mother kill her children? That is when survival kicked in. I could fend for myself, I could feed myself and my children, and watch them grow into responsible members of society. I didn’t want to give up without a fight.
Scarcely 15 days after my husband’s death, I decided I had to pick up the pieces of my life and find work, for the sake of my children. My first job involved sweeping. They paid me Rs 800 every month. One of my neighbours used to do latkan (tassel) work. I asked her if I could do her surplus work and slowly started earning Rs 4,000 from that. I would work through the day at the office, and after that, till almost midnight, do the latkan jobs. As my children got older, even they started helping me with the latkan work.
Someone I knew referred me to Deepa Madam at Queen of Hearts and I started doing odd jobs here. With time, I learned more skills and I now head the blouse division. I still work at the same place where I did my first sweeping job. I don’t do the sweeping anymore, I just supervise.
My children are now in college. My daughter is studying fashion designing and my son is in class 11. Everyone used to think that I was too young to take care of my children, or that I would abandon them. I was under so much pressure to give my children a decent upbringing that I never really had the chance to think about myself or remarriage. Whenever anyone asked me about marrying again, I’d tell them, ” I don’t want to get remarried. I want to secure my children’s future.”
My daughter sometimes asks me why I didn’t marry after their father’s death. At that time, my priority was to raise my children to the best of my ability, but now, I myself don’t feel like getting married. I see so many married, but unhappy people. Why should I take the chance? I’d rather be alone and happy, than miserable with someone else. I earn my own money, so I’m self-sufficient and satisfied.
My only wish now is to buy my own house. Actually, it isn’t a wish, it’s more like a feeling of vindication. I’ve always been told that I won’t be able to buy my own house. But I have! Within this month, I expect the paperwork for my home loan to be completed. I will soon have my own house. On the 12th floor, with a balcony.
Deepa Madam inspires me. Whenever I have second thoughts about taking a loan and buying my house, I see everything that she is doing, all by herself, and I push myself to do more.