Sangeeta Oval is a 40 year old widow, living in Yerwada with her two sons, who she almost single handedly brought up after her husband committed suicide, after seven years of marriage. She got married at the age of 13. She claims that her husband committed suicide out of drinking and that it was a frequent habit of her husbands’. Apart from that the daily drinking and hitting was a constant in Sangeeta’s life. Apparently on the day her husband committed suicide, she and the kids left the house to attend a religious ceremony happening nearby and when she returned, it was as if the world had suddenly stopped moving. She instantly went into a state of shock by looking at the dead corpse of her husband hanging from the living room ceiling. The kids were pretty young at that time and they didn’t understand what was happening and they were taken away by the neighbours for the time being. When asked the most basic question, as to who supported her at this grave hour, her immediate response was no one. Nobody from her in laws and her maternal family supported her economically; she supported herself and her kids on her own by working as a maid.
She recalls that her mother passed away when she was 9 years old. And then her struggled life began. Her brother’s wife used to make her do all the housework and used to tell her that it’s okay to not go to school. And due to her saying her brother got her married early and more troubles paved her way. Another thing to be taken into consideration is that Sangeeta got married at the age of 13, and according to the Indian Constitution this practice is illegal. When asked her of this, she says she didn’t have any say in it and it happened within the family inner circle. Moreover she resides in the remote part of her village where people didn’t have the idea of the laws written in the constitution. But changes have been forthcoming as now almost no one gets married before they turn 18.
Coming back the life after husband’s demise, her mother in law did create a lot of fuss and problems for her. All her jewellery was taken away as her mother in law felt she should remain simple and style according to her choice. She even used to put up a ‘dupatta’ on her head. She wasn’t allowed to visit her sisters. But later on she and her elder sister gathered courage and fought with her mother in law regarding these. Sangeeta was being discriminated against her other two sister in laws regarding these practices, although the reason that her mother in law gave was that she doesn’t have a husband while the others had. Her mother in law was sort of jealous of her as she was all self sufficient and was well able to provide for both the kids herself without anyone’s help. She also used to suggest her to leave the kids and get married to someone else but Sangeeta did what she had to. She gave up on her life and made it that of her children. She takes pride in telling that both her sons are graduated and one is pursuing a course in computer engineering. Her elder son is on a contractual job basis, which is not much but its not all that bas as well. She never let them feel that they had lost a father, always made sure that they never had to beg for anything.
Being a widow is not easy. She used to hear comments that it won’t be long now that she will run off with someone else. It seemed liked no one trusted her anymore and to bring up two kids on her own was something which Sangeeta would not be able to do. And now after 20 years, all the mouths have been shut for good. Even her mother in law, who used to provoke her to get married all the time so that she could handle the kids and Sangeeta would be out of the picture, stays quiet now as she has seen the sacrifice Sangeeta made for her kids. People, especially her brother, used to suggest her to get married to someone else. But Sangeeta said no. And so her brother said that since you have decided not to get married, so we don’t want to hear any bad rumours of you having any affairs or so for the matter. You should not engage in adultery or bring any shame to our name. And like a true mother and a woman of her word, she didn’t. Sangeeta sometimes feels that her life has become a joke of some sort. The father didn’t give a dam about kids and died but she couldn’t give up on the kids. If she would have done the same then what would have been the difference between him and her. Sangeeta recalls that her mother in law once threw her out of the house in the middle of the night and so she called her brother up and went home.
Also that some amount of property goes to the wife and kids after the demise of the husband. For, Sangeeta this too became a struggle as although the house became hers, sometime later her brother in law came in and permanently settled there since he had so many debts on him and had to sell his own house and apartments. In a way her brother in law captured what was Sangeeta’s legally. In this scenario, her mother in law always used to dominate one-on-one on Sangeeta and therefore she couldn’t do much to save her property. She has been living with them for a very long time now although the mother in law shifted to her other son’s place. Currently Sangeeta and her sons are looking for a flat so that they can finally get away from the disturbing everyday family-property drama.
As mentioned earlier, she took the job of a maid to support her kids and herself. In the beginning it was difficult for her to find permanent houses of income but now she has grown to be quite stable. Earlier she used to earn around 3000 per month and now she earns around 15–16000 per month. She takes pride in what she has achieved but the fact that at least someone should have come forth to help her out but they didn’t will always keep hurting her. When asked of any Government fund she used to receive after her husband’s demise, she said long ago she used to around 400 bucks from some governmental office in Yerwada, in the name of her elder son, Sanjay. And as government officials are expected to be, they always used to postpone her due and used to call out snide comments on her. After sometime she let go of that money and she stopped going to the office altogether. Parenting two kids was no easy at times. She even had to borrow from the people’s houses she used to work in and even moneylenders who used to charge high rates of interests. But all has been cleared now and she did on her own.
After the death of her husband, a major impact fell upon the kids as they lost a father figure. They kept asking as to where have their father gone? And she had no other option but to say that he has gone out for some work and will be back soon. And soon enough they realised that he wasn’t going to come back anymore. The younger son was more affected soon after the death because he used to eat and sleep with the father and so Sangeeta made him habitual of her then unmarried brother in law. Both the children would ask, looking at the photo of their father hanging up that why won’t he come down to play with us. Sangeeta’s mother in law helped her in this way by taking care of the kids as she loved them. So there is this thing that at least the kids got love from everywhere.
I would say that Sangeeta Oval is a self made hero, or rather Shero. Bringing up two kids on her own, it was like she against the world. I would really salute her guts and her courage of doing this and that her sons have grown to be good man, is the proof of her good upbringing. Nobody took her feelings into account. Everybody assumed that she was ok and happy. But she tells that she lived like a dead person for years on. She lived her life only for the kids. Nobody realised that a life was wasting away. Her brother in law also had a problem with her earning as the women of the house didn’t go out to earn. But then even he didn’t earn. So someone had to earn to provide for them. She recalls one incident that one of her sons Abhijeet, fell sick and she took him to the doctor. The doctor Saahab, suggested to take in milk to increase the strength. To this Abhijeet innocently replied, she doesn’t bring milk ever. Sangeeta felt ashamed and sad that she couldn’t provide for them enough. And she decided that no matter what it takes, she will work to provide everything for them.
I salute her And this piece is dedicated to her.
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