The misty glass windows of the cab made every sight outside mushy.
She wished to wipe those with her hand, but she hesitated. It was a hired cab.
She looked again through the foggy glasses with a hope that it might get clear after sometime. But it didn’t.
They remained as blurred as her mind.
Forty years of togetherness with her husband, through ebbs and flows of life seemed a history. With unquestionable respect, admiration and obedience, she had followed him. But, what now?
‘A chaste woman should not raise her voice against her husband, no matter how badly he behaves’ had told her elders before going to the new home.
A joint family it was, where all members were old and had different tastes for everything. She was the only one to take care of them. She had to moil.
A midst all, she had kept alive the desire to study. She had won in pursuing her dreams and became a teacher. She didn’t hear appreciating words, but felt happy that she was allowed to work.
The family had seen her as an income source. The complete earnings went to the family, without leaving a penny. In effect she had been a working woman and a toiling housewife, who was left with empty pockets for her own personal needs. But she didn’t complain!
Life gifted her with three children, an elder boy and two younger girls. As the members of the joint family had given in to the unavoidable command of life, the end, she and her husband moved to the newly bought house in the town. It cost them everything they had earned. They had to start from the scratch, but it was easy for the children’s study and their job.
Springs passed, she lived for the family. But the husband , who had earned the title of a gentleman among others, barely noticed her, her efforts, her devotion or her care. Everything was taken for granted. It was like she was supposed to do all those things, because she was a wife. None saw the individual, but everyone saw only the wife.
When the children were on their own, she had thought she would be relieved. Wrong she was. Even her retired life remained the same, fully packed up. The married daughters who had settled abroad came one after the other for their delivery. Years passed by.
Her son got married and she felt happy for the new member in the family. But her happiness was in vain. It was like a curse that none came into her life to love her . Everyone wanted her, like a servant, like a caretaker who did free service throughout life. The arrogant and rich daughter-in-law never noticed her.
Unable to digest the way she was treated, she had told her son and her husband.
“You live and think like a hundred year old. My wife is a capable woman. Don’t expect her to do all those things which you had done for your in-laws!” Told her son.
She never expected anything extra ordinary from her daughter-in-law, she only wished to be treated like a family member, like a mother.
“Why can’t you just adjust? Isn’t our daughter-in-law rich, employed and smart? She takes care of everything! Can you do that? So blame not when you see someone who does things you can’t do!” Her husband muttered.
Dejected, she fell silent. She cried. She had none to talk to. None cared about her, not even her daughters.
There is a limit for everything. And that day that limit was exceeded.
She was searching for her marriage photograph. She knew it was kept safe somewhere, but she had forgotten where. The extensive search in the whole house revealed the photograph along with it another thing too.
A deed written by her husband!
It said that the house and every other possession will be handed over to the son after his death. No where the wife’s name was mentioned!
The earth under her feet collapsed. Darkness clouded her eyes. She sat on the bed for a while.
She has lived a life which she was taught. She lived for others, she got tired for others. But at last every one for whom she had lived for, has forgotten her. Her husband didn’t think about her plight after his death. She knew her son and daughter-in-law would get worse if she was left alone during the evening of life. The deed metaphorically threw her away from the house she had bought because it was in her husband’s name.
All suppressed feelings of agony, hatred and disgust sprang suddenly. Her husband could forget her ; his love, care and concern for his wife were evident in that valid deed.
She boiled with rage. The hidden volcano of emotions started erupting.
She shouted at her husband for the first time in her life.
“Shame on me for living with you for all these years, you never showed a loving face, a word of concern or appreciation. I had toiled all my life more than you in bringing up this family. Did you forget that this house was bought with my earnings? And what have you done? You have registered a deed that gave no right to me to be in this house after your death! You can’t be crueller! You want your son and smart daughter-in-law to dumb me in some old age home after you die, or you want them to lock me up in a room without food and water? You had made this document one year back and you kept this as a secret!”
She stretched the deed and tore it into pieces as her husband stared her in shock, in disbelief.
She looked at her son.
“Some people say the enemies of past birth are born as children in this birth. I ought to believe it. Your wife is smart, coming from a rich family, with a degree that gives her lakhs as income; she has all the qualities of an arrogant woman, but not a family woman. I come from a different age, a different time. And I was not born with silver spoon in my mouth. I toiled, I studied, I looked after each member of the joint family, gave priority for their likes and interests, I worked, and I did nothing for myself but lived for you all. And now I got the reward. I feel sorry for delivering a son like you, a hen-pecked husband! And my daughters are no different. They come and call when they need me, otherwise they are just busy. I was discarded like a trash….”
Tears were flowing down her face.
“Here after, you can live here without the service of this unpaid servant and caretaker!”
She turned to her husband who was then standing with a lowered head, and told in sarcasm.
“You can enjoy your life with your son and smart daughter-in-law, and a new servant!”
Seeing the son standing like a statue, her mind told. “He is thinking about hiring another cook, servant and caretaker for his baby!”
She took all necessary things in three suitcases and left the house.
She knew her pension will support her, as long as she lives. Though she felt emotionally drained, she was not in a serious financial bind for the rest of her life.
While heading to ‘HOPE’, the house of poor, old and orphan, she remembered one thing; the lesson she has learned.
“Living for others is good, but while doing that one should not forget oneself. All have to do some justice to their own self. Don’t let anyone damage our self-esteem. Nobody has that right!”
If she hadn’t studied, if she hadn’t worked, she would not be able to make such a daring step. She would have remained as the same rag doll that gets tattered each time it was played with. The society hasn’t changed much. It still houses many, who find wives and daughters as a burden, who are purposely excluded in the transfer of possessions. It is not about money, or material things; but it is about inequality, injustice and neglect against women. She hated the society which raised her, which made her believe a woman is good only if he accepts slavery and suppression as blessings.
She felt happy for the decision she had taken years back; the decision to study and to work.
The pain in her heart ? She has left it all with her past.
She extended her hand and wiped the misty glass.
Everything was crystal clear.
She smiled, she felt free.