It was a quite pleasant and breezy evening, and I was sitting in my balcony. This is one of the most blissful time of the day, when I sit in the balcony, enjoy sipping on my evening tea and enjoying the serenading view of the city and it’s city light.
As I was entirely into this blissful feeling, suddenly I was interrupted by a call. The phone flashed an unknown number on the screen.
“Hello Tapaswini!” exclaimed a female voice. The voice was quite similar, and I wasn’t able to recall who it is.
“Yeah? Who is this?”
“This is Rithulekha!” Came the response from the other end. And suddenly I identified the voice.
First let me take some time to introduce Rithulekha.
Me and Rithulekha first knew each other back in school during our 10th grade. We were not best friend sort of a thing. We were just good friends. We shared the same friend group, which was quite large, and hence she was one of those friends with whom I caught up usually when we met in the large group. Hence, over the years we had lost contact. But recently we found each other on social media platform, and had exchanged our Phone number.
After exchanging pleasantries, the conversation went to family and friends. She told me that her husband is a retired Air force officer, and they together have a 10-year-old daughter. They stay in their in law’s place in Bhubaneswar. But one thing struck me was that during the entire telephonic conversation, she was sounding a bit dull, especially when she was talking about her life and her family. But I didn’t ask her, since we were talking to each other after a very long time.
Since then, we started calling quite often, although not on a daily basis. Still through all the convo we had, I somewhere felt she was unhappy. Then one day while we were talking, she was telling me how since the day her husband has retired, she has had a very hectic schedule. When they settled in their in law’s place, they had no maid, and hence the entire daily chores was on her to do. I asked her “Don’t you feel like spending some quality time with your family?” to which she replies “I really want to, but I don’t get the time to. I feel terribly lonely at the end of the day. What can I do? My husband isn’t working anywhere else, and the retirement pension goes half on our daughter’s education and the rest he spends on alcohol”. This really shocked me and a gush of sadness filled my mind for her. I was actually right, she was sad. She then continues “He has never even bought me a hair rubber band”. I could only console her, and really didn’t know what to say. I, however, did tell her to stay strong and that this time or phase will end soon.
Our next call happened almost 4 months later. Within these 4 months I had been quite busy, since we were moving into a new home. I hadn’t stayed in contact with most of my friends due to hectic schedule. Over the phone, this time, she sounded very very low. She was speaking very low, and I instantly asked her if she was fine. She said “No dear, my health is not in a good condition. I am terribly ill. A month back I just got operated for gal bladder stone. The stone was quite big, and has affected my liver very badly”. Hearing this I sprang up from my sofa. I was shell shocked hearing this. She told me that the doctors have prescribed her to eat only boiled food for the rest of her life. It was quite saddening to hear this. I told her to keep the call and take some rest. But she insisted me not to hang up as she wanted to talk something important. She said she was facing a terribly low point in her life. Firstly, what made her feel more saddened was that during the time when she was in the hospital, her husband would get drunk. Also, none of her in law’s side came to even visit her. She really was at an all time low in her life.
Then one day her parents came to visit her and they requested her to stay with them. But then she couldn’t go agree to it since her daughter had exams coming up, and she had to stay in her in law’s to make sure she does well in the exam.
The next day she was discharged, and she went to her in law’s home. While discharging, the doctors had strictly prescribed her to take as much rest as possible and not to physically stress the body. She had to eat her medicines and food on time, and no compromise on that too. But the situation in her home was opposite. She was made to do the daily chores again. She had to cook for everyone at home and also separate boiled food for herself. She had to help her daughter get ready for school, and look after her homework etc. Nobody helped her and her husband was staying ignorant of everything, and meanwhile his drinking habit had increased exponentially. The entire day he would stay drunk and sleep. He had started to fight with her for small and petty things. For 20 days since she was discharged, she wasn’t able to sleep properly as she wasn’t receiving proper care and rest. Every night her husband would come and fight with her and her daughter after getting drunk. This was affecting her daughter. She had suddenly become very quiet.
Then one day her daughter came to her and told her “Mama I don’t feel like going to school anymore. Everyone teases me that I have a drunkard father who sits idle and doesn’t do anything”, and started tearing up badly while saying this. This hit her badly, and made her go into a deep thought. She started thinking whether this atmosphere is safe for her and especially for her daughter. But then she somehow managed to convince her to go to school. The next day, entirely she was thinking about this after her daughter left for school.
The following week there was Parents Teacher Meeting at her daughter’s school. Obviously her husband wouldn’t come for such events, hence she had to go alone. But when she met her class teacher, she was shocked. The teacher told her that her daughter has failed in all of her subjects. She doesn’t answer in class, remains sad and dull and doesn’t interact often with anyone in the class. Her teachers asked whether things where fine back at home. They indicated that she might be suffering from depression. Hearing this, she had no response for the teacher. She couldn’t speak at that moment. At that moment she felt as if she has fallen in the deepest pit in the world and she is unable to come out or scream out. She wanted to just take her daughter with herself and run away from this place and these people. She left for home then and there, packed her bags and told her daughter to get ready that they are leaving this place. She told her in-laws that she’s leaving for her parent’s home and doesn’t know when she will be back.
When she reached her parents home, she narrated the entire story to them and they were shocked too. They told her to stay here forever. So In her parents home, her brother and her brother’s wife also stay. A week into the stay and her daughter started to feel better. But then she felt that her brother was a little bit unwelcoming in terms of conversation with her. She also started thinking that since how long will she stay depended on her parents and also her own brother is uncomfortable with her staying with them. Hence she decided to move out from her parent’s home. She then called her sister, who stays in Delhi. She told her the entire story too. Her elder sister is very close to her and very fond of her. She told her to go and stay in one of her flats. She didn’t want to as she didn’t want to be dependent on anyone. But her sister insisted her to stay at least for the time being.
By now I wasn’t able to focus on anything. I couldn’t believe that so much has happened in one’s life within a span of just 4 months. Its just inhumane for a person to face so much. I felt so sad and terrible.
I asked her then “So what are you going to do next?” to which she replies “I will work from now on. I cant stay idle. I need to fight and fight for my daughter. My daughter is my biggest motivator!”. Hearing this I almost started to tear up. I couldn’t believe I was talking to someone on the phone who has just had a gal bladder surgery and is prescribed to boiled vegetables for the rest of her life, who’s in laws treated her inhumanely, who’s husband never supported, cared and loved her, who’s brother was uncomfortable of her staying with their parents and his family and who’s daughter almost went into a depression. Despite all this, she wants to fight. Fight for the injustice she has faced and fight for her daughter’s future and happiness. This story of her life so far is truly remarkable and motivating.
After the phone call, I was contemplating the entire thing. Her story, her life etc. I realized that being a strong person isn’t easy. One can't just become a strong person suddenly out of the blues. It takes some time, some effort and some hammering in life to become one.
Sweat, blood and tear, that’s what it takes to become a strong person. But all these isn’t in a recipe fashion, where we can list the criteria required, and follow them and become one. It mainly depends upon the situation we are facing, and how we deal with it. That’s when the effort of dealing with the situation gives us strength. The strength that helps us live, the strength that helps us to stand on our feet and fight the entire world and the strength that allows us to live for one more day.