Shantamma, a mother of five children, worked as a domestic servant. Her husband Ram is a peon in a college. In his spare time, he does carpentry and supplements the family income.
They live in the servant’s quarters of the bungalow where she worked. The children, ranging in age 6 to 15 years to school and in the evenings do odd jobs for the mistress of the house.
A fairly comfortable set-up and everything was hunky-dory. One day, the husband came home to find a note from his wife – she had decided to leave him and the children. Her ‘mangalsutra’ was lying in the little alcove where Ganapati sat with a satisfied smile.
Ramu was dazed. He looked around his little room and at the children huddled in the corner. It’s over two months now and there is no trace of Shanta. The children cook and see their father off before going to school. Through whispered conversation of neighbourhood servants, it is believed that the woman eloped with a man she was friendly with and often seen chatting with under a tree.
This incident makes me wonder at the power of passion. That a woman with, young children can desert them for a sake of a thrill in the arms of a man. Surely it can’t be love! Granted it was, shouldn’t it have been sacrificed for a greater cause – commitment to her children?
Women like Shanta are to be found in all classes of society. Their flesh is weak and they succumb to its demands. When she becomes a mother a woman’s first duty is to their upbringing. Every want of hers should be secondary to their welfare – at least till they are old enough to take care of themselves. A selfish woman who thinks of her own needs has no business to bring forth a brood. She is causing harm, not only to them but to society.
Then there are woman who put up with a lot of torture from their husbands for the sake of their children. One such is Shewantibai. She is also a maid and has four children and a handicapped husband. She lives in a servant’s quarters and works in three places.
Frail and emaciated, she burns the candle at both ends to bring up her children. The husband boozes his money away and throws abuses at her, accusing her of infidelity when she comes late from work after cleaning up at her master’s house, following a party. With tremendous tolerance, she goes through all this.
This dichotomy of the Indian woman is amazing! Her resilience and tenacity on the one hand and her total disregard for her commitment on the other! Surely there is something more viable between the two extremes! I wish we educated women could help in some way – perhaps by persuading these women to have fewer children.It’s a pity that a whole new generation has to pay for the apathy of society and the indifference of women who can do much for their less fortunate counterparts – but don’t