It was the Summer of 2007, when Lilawati, decided to marry her daughter Sheema to a well-read man. She didn’t send Sheema to school after 2nd grade because she had felt there was no need to get a girl education since girls had to take care of the kitchen after marriage. All they should do after marriage is to make the husband and his family happy! Lilawati taught cooking to her daughter and didn’t let her pursue the sewing course, which other girls of Sheema’s age learnt with great interest.
Then came the day of marriage, and the girl was happy, more importantly since her mother had a smile on her face throughout the rituals.
Two months of marriage had passed, and the couple had great compatibility. Sheema’s husband, Ratan had started giving her language lessons, since he followed different regional languages and most importantly the “angrezi bhasha”. He was so pleasantly surprised when he got to know his wife’s wish of learning things she never got a chance to know about. For all the good we think or imagine, sometimes life brings us to the path full of challenges and struggle, but doesn’t that help us see a different side of life altogether? So it happened.
She expresses in her right of understanding between the right and wrong. For her, the world exists amidst the four walls of the kitchen, when the only vacation is on the Wednesday’s when she visits the “budh bazar” to buy fresh vegetables and fruits for the rest of the week.
Her husband stays in the village, while she works in the city, always wondering the day she would get to meet him. A farmer by birth, a sales manager in a private company and dreamer by choice, Ratan, had imagined a beautiful family, with wife and parents. But the storm took their lives very harshly, when Ratan was diagnosed with an ailment and could not work until he was perfectly alright. It had been almost one year, and everyone in the family was working odd and even hours of the day and night to earn well.
Sheema, who migrated to the city for work sent back some Rs. 8,000 out of which Rs. 6,000 would go on her husband’s medicines. Rest of the money was used to buy groceries and the daily essentials, no wonder, that was a minimal amount. The old parents filled for the rest of the essentials. The old man, Ratan’s father worked on the farm of a wealthy landlord in the village and Ratan’s mother cleaned utensils in the same landlord’s place. But, they still kept a smile on their faces; the only belief which kept them going was that their son would be in the best of health one day. So, he could no longer make his parents and wife work.
Ratan would wipe away his tears when he saw his parents return home after a hard day at work. He would remember how in childhood they took good care of him and continued even to that day when he was married. But somewhere, the health wasn’t getting better! The duration of the course of medicines being taken was increasing, and some complications as the doctors observed were occurring in his case. Sheema would call home once in every two days to know how everyone back in the village was, and she motivated her husband to stay positive and not worry about her. “I will be back soon, don’t worry about me. I have all the facilities here,” saying this, Sheema would try holding on to her emotions, because she missed the village, the humility of the people there and their unconditional love. In the city, there wasn’t anyone to ask her well-being. If at all anything was asked, then it was regarding her work, whether she was doing it properly or not.
“Stars have an heavenly abode,
they look at you, with a spark.
And do you realise who are you,
a powerful, a radiant star too.”
Ratan would hear these words from Sheema on the telephone. She always made sure to uplift him mentally, so he could concentrate on positivity. “Ratan, do you know, money is not everything in this world? Yes, for sure, it gives us the access to do whatever we like – but when we have the greatest treasure already with us, then what are we searching for? You know, we have the power to be optimist and hopeful, regardless of whatsoever our position or condition in life is. Even in pain, we can remember the good times, when we were in the best state of mind and energy. This hard time we are facing is only to give us an understanding of the real joys in life. The real joy of togetherness. So, this time we will be meeting, we would have grown another chapter in life – seen an evolved meaning of the sunrise and sunset, when days are spent longing for each other’s company.”
Sheema stood for her husband and her family, in the difficult times. Her mother could see in those days how women can support their families financially too, beyond just managing the kitchen.
Ratan’s health got better in the passage of time. Having started with his sales work, he called his wife back to the village, with a promise of never sending her far from him again. The parents stayed at home and his dream of a happy family was on the right path. They shared their past grief sitting together, and cherished the love they had in each other’s heart. The dinner that night was the most peaceful one when the four of them sat together discussing their experiences with different people including the ones who gave them work. Sheema recited a poetic composition that evening, the one she heard her Malkin’s daughter sing in the city,
“That little girl had the wings, she had not known about them all her childhood. All her strength occurred in her belief, hope and trust. Walking the empty roads, she knew no one else would pave the way to her success than her. When she grew up, she saw that the troubles got many, there was less respite and no penny! No bucks to board an auto-rickshaw, her journey had to be on her foot. It’s in those walks she found her strength, that walk which got her the wings to fly.”
Ratan was glad to see his wife keeping the passion to learn alive! While Sheema couldn’t read properly, she had memorized the poem by heart just by listening to the little girl reading it aloud in her room back in the city.
It’s a journey we take up with the strength that matters because challenges shall always be there to test us. And the real joy is when we keep walking, regardless of wondering over what the destiny has in store for us. The bottom line is, keep smiling, just like that little girl in Sheema, who found her wings along her journey.
They were a beautiful family.
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