This is dedicated to all the grandparents, whose children have forgotten their duties. The grandparents who deserve more of love than sufferings.
I was born in Lucknow, ‘Nawabo Ka Sheher’. A city with historic sanguinity. Flaring yellow lights on the remembrance of the kings and the queen, who ruled for years and years. Lucknow doesn’t need any artificial beauty; its antique and original beauty is enough.
Rumi Darwaza, located at the center of the Lucknow. An imposing gateway, delineating the Awadhi architecture. Rarely, I visited there. My favorite place was Bhool Bhulaiya. A maze of narrow tunnels with city views from its upper balcony. I loved to visit that place. I wished I could have met those intelligent people, who designed it. The maze is so baffling. It’s like if you want to go right, walk left and if you want to go left, walk right. If you want to go up on the terrace, get down the stairs and if you want to go down, climb up stairs. Lucknow was such an enormous and rich place that no description was enough for it.
It was before 1947. My father was a CID Officer. I called him, ‘pitaji’. He had a bold voice. Unless and until it wasn’t important, I never talked to him. He loved my mom a lot. He even loved me after all, I was his daughter. He never showed any of his emotions; he was a man. The chanting of his honesty and bravery was well-known in the society. One thing that I always liked about him was the respect, he had for every woman. Though he was a quiet person, he never failed to recognize the stance of his mother, wife, and daughter.
My mother, ‘maa’, more than a housewife she was ‘a dharampatni’. She was married to this man. A diligent lady, covering her perfect and pretty face under ‘purdah’, the old practice of our society. But she never let that ‘purdah’ become her weakness. She was a bold lady. A woman who encouraged other women to be strong and stand on their own. A knowledgeable woman, who knew her position very well and at the same time, her duties too. She even did wonders in her kitchen. And looking at her household, no one ever objected on her freedom. She was a lady of honors, who stood by his man’s side, every time.
Pitaji was in a good post. I had all the luxuries and my family was well known in the city. We had good relations with our neighbors. I remember how we celebrated all the festivals, doesn’t matter whether it was Diwali, Eid or Holi. We never knew about unity, but humanity.
Whatever the situation was at that time, my maa and pitaji always gave attention to my education. They always said, “Shiksha hi Jeevan ka uddeshya hai.”
Once I was on my way to the school. I remember, pitaji was posted in the jail at that time, as the in charge of Jailer. I went to give him his lunch there. The jail was just like a jail. I entered in, and directly went to the chamber of pitaji and handed him his lunch box. I came out of his chamber. I was trying to avoid everything, I was so scared, but then, my eyes followed two men in the cell. One, wearing dhoti and spectacles on his nose. The other, wearing kurta-pyjama and a boat hat on his head, with a rose pinned on his kurta. Taking the least time, I recognized them, Bapu ji and Chacha Nehru ji. I stopped and held my gaze for few seconds in awestruck. I rushed back to pitaji’s chamber, without thinking anything. Controlling my breath, I said,
“Pitaji, Bapu ji and Nehruji are here…”
My father understood that I was shell shocked. He came near me and said,
“Beta, it’s okay. I will tell you at home. Go to your school now…”
“But pitaji, they are…”
“Shshsh… It’s okay. Go to your school now.”
I got silent. With my head down, I went to the school. I was trying to forget all that, but I couldn’t. My thoughts were not letting me focus on my present.
“They are the men who are fighting for our freedom then, what are they doing inside the cell. Who is daring enough to keep them in the jail?”
Few days passed, I forgot about them. My life was going on.
I was nine when our country got independent. I don’t remember the situation that much. I didn’t go to school for few days, due to the ramshackle going on in our country. I lost my friends, that time. Nafeeza shifted to some other place with her family. I cried a lot, that day.
Years passed. Things started getting better in our country.
My father thought that I have grown enough and I should get married.
I was fifteen. My marriage was fixed with a boy, eighteen years old. Neither I knew his name nor I saw his face. I never dared to ask pitaji, any of it.
I got married to him. The first time I saw him in my marriage. He was a good-looking boy. I didn’t have that much of knowledge. I never knew where I was getting married, how far I was getting married. I remember on my vidai, everyone was crying. Even today, I don’t understand this ritual of sending one’s daughter to someone else’s home.
That time we didn’t have many sources of transportation. I went to his home in a palanquin. Four strong men walking with my palanquin on their shoulders, through hills. I remember how I started panicking when my palanquin tilted a little. I was scared because I knew no one there. Pitaji and maa, they always said that they loved me. Then, how could they just let me go with a stranger through these hills and dense forest?
I reached there after two days. I was so tired. As I got down of it, people were standing waiting for us. A lady came wearing a saree, covering her face. She opened my ghunghat. She said, “Bahu toh badi sundar hai.”
I was tired. I wanted to sleep. But I had to perform all the rituals. I went in the house. Everyone was standing there, looking at me. I started doing whatever they asked me because I knew as soon as I would be able to finish it, I would be able to sleep.
As soon as I got a bed, I slept, without caring about anyone. Someone knocked at my door, I wasn’t fully awake. Somehow, I managed to get up and see. Few ladies were standing there, wearing saree. They came in and started checking my jewellery. One of them said,
“Sasural me aagayi ho, niyam kayde hai yaha ke. Jitni jldi seekh jao utna behtar hai.”
That strict voice frightened me. I didn’t know who she was.
I never knew that, instead of lifting up another woman, a woman will choose to tell her the rules that she went through.
Some other lady came in from outside and asked everyone to leave and let me take some rest. I was happy.
I slept again. I was so exhausted that I forgot about day and night. After few hours, someone knocked again. I got up. I was feeling good then. I opened the door, it was him. I nodded him to come in. For the first time, I saw him properly. I greeted him. I asked him his name. He gave me a genuine smile and told me his name. I told him mine. He asked me to remove the saree from my head and said it’s okay.
He asked, “You had your dinner?”
“No, not yet”, I said, realizing that I was too hungry.
“Everyone is asleep now.”
“I was so tired, I forgot about everything.”
“Okay! Wait let me check if something is there or not. You stay here, I will bring it for you.”
“Yeah okay!”, I said.
I was happy that he is a good person.
He came in with the food. I had it. Then, I realized that it wasn’t my home. And he was my husband, who wasn’t supposed to do such things for me. The things that my mom taught me started coming to my mind.
I said, “Thank you for this.”
“It’s okay. You are my friend.”
I never knew, when I became his friend.
I smiled and I also got happy that I have got I friend.
Next day, I got up. He was already awoken. He was reading some book. I got ready I went out. There was a lady who came near me and told me that she is my mother-in-law. She was a nice lady with a beautiful heart, suppressed under the traditions. She taught me many new things.
As the time passed, I realized that things weren’t same anymore. The home from where I have come was different where I am right now, my new home. I was bounded with some responsibilities.
I got to know more about my man. He loved reading books and asked me to do so. He used to wake me up early morning to read books. He was a kind-hearted person. We used to talk for hours and hours and I learned many new things from him. We became each other’s best friend. He always told me whatever new things he got to know. Some days, it happened that I felt bad about something, he used to encourage me. I was happy that the stranger turned into my best friend.
After some time, we started having a better understanding between us. I got pregnant when I was nineteen. I got many responsibilities on my shoulder, but he was always on my side.
We shifted to a new house. I had ten children. Five daughters and five sons. I took care of them as my very soul. I always kept the words of maa and pitaji in my mind,
“Shiksha hi Jeevan ka uddeshya hai.”
So, I always did whatever I could to give good education to my children.
My children grew up. My daughters went to their new home. I was left with my husband and my five sons.
Things started changing. My elder son wanted to join the defense. My husband refused to give him permission. After few years, my elder son died because of a heart-attack at home.
From that day, I got to know that “you can’t control someone’s death. It will come whenever it wants.”
As the dilemma of his farewell passed, my other sons got married.
My husband had acres of property, that he earned all by himself. He depicted my father’s image, clearly. A man of honesty and bravery. He started getting sick, frequently. I got him treated, everywhere. I did what all I could have done, but after few months, he passed away.
I was left with my four sons and their wives.
After few days, my health started declining.
My children, the four brothers, they started fighting for the property, that was mere pieces of land. We had a big hall in our home. They divided it into parts and made a wall.
I was not able to walk on my own. Due to this, I started gaining more weight.
They even divided the kitchen. I had four kitchens in my home, but I starved for food. Everyone started ignoring me. I used to feel sick. Not because of my health, but also because of the condition of my home. I used to call them for help, but they never listened to me. I didn’t understand that whether I became invisible or they became deaf.
I sacrificed my whole life in the name of this family, but these people never considered me as a part of their own family. I was happy for one thing that my grandchildren never knew about unity, but humanity.
“Everything teaches you some or the other lesson. I never want anyone else to suffer the way I am suffering. Don’t go out in temples and masjid to search for God; serve your parents when they need you. Be a shoulder to the one who held your fingers to teach you to walk.”