Feb 17, 2011
I got married in the year 1970 soon after I passed pre-university, when I was just 18! My husband had a good job in the LIC of India and we were living a reasonably comfortable life. We even managed to have our own house after my husband took a loan at the LIC.
Within a span of three years I became the mother of two male issues: Luis and Henry.
When my elder son Luis reached six I admitted both the sons into school and as there was hardly a year’s difference in their age, I got them into the same class in St Michael’s Higher Secondary school in Cascia. Years rolled on and soon my two boys reached sixth standard when the inevitable that often lurks in life began to surface - our existence took a sudden downward turn.
Complaints from the school began to pour in regarding the poor grade at school and the biggest shock that awaited me was when I realized that my husband had turned alcoholic.
Financial problems that have been a scourge of many a happy family began to pester us, as most of my husband’s salary would go to clear his housing loan and an equal amount went for his daily drinks. Soon things came to such a pass that my husband took to drinking during the day as well and in the weekends it became impossible to talk to him without either being reprimanded or even physically abused.
My prayers, novenas, complaints to the parish priest, and even pleadings from my little children with their father fell on deaf ears. Matters began to take a downward slide, my husband stopped going to office and as expected warning letters from his office began to spill into our letter box, but my husband hardly ever took notice of them.
In the evenings I made it a point to pay a visit to church every day and pray for hours. But as time passed on, even God appeared to me to be a mute spectator to my terrible state.
The inevitable had to happen very soon, rather sooner. One fine morning, in 1983, my husband failed to wake up, he was dead. The doctor proclaimed that his vital organs had been damaged and that brought about his demise. I was just 31 years and a widow!
Gradually, as I tried to pull up myself to reconcile to my lot, I had to confront another rude shock. Never did I in my wildest dream imagine that the world would ever be so cruel to a woman who was rendered widow at such a young age!
My sisters-in-law who were fairly better off gave me white churidars and black sarees which they thought to be the symbol of widowhood. There was even this false rumour that I had either tortured or poisoned my husband. They did not even have the least inkling of the hell that I had gone through and only God and I knew the gravity of the suffering that I had endured all this time.
Some more bad news was in the offing for me. Not so long after, I attended the wedding of my niece and to my utter surprise not only the bride’s mother but even my own sisters-in-law tried to evade me and prevented me from taking part in dressing the bride with “Sado”, I was not even allowed to bless the bride whom I loved so much – it is supposed to be a bad omen! A blessing from an aunt to her loving niece a bad omen?? Furious at this double standard I got rid of that white churidar and the black saree and just burnt them down. I then went on dressing in red and coloured costumes.
My entire married life had gone on pleading, crying, begging, praying, and now I must live differently from others, as an outcast!! Why should I? What sort of custom is this? If a widow attends a good function, it is bad omen, and if a man drinks, tortures, and ultimately if his wife succumbs to all these tortures, he, a widower not a bad omen? If a widower gets married the very next month, no problem, but a widow is a widow for life, she is not human. I even had to put up with my own people when they shirked my company.
Soon, more trouble was waiting to strike. The LIC sent me a notice that if the money borrowed for the house is not paid within the given time, they would seize the house with all the moveables. Add to this, some strange people started visiting me asking for the money that my husband had allegedly borrowed from them to meet both the house expenses and also for his drinks.
That apart, I had thought that at least now after the death of my husband, my boys would learn a lesson and would do well in their studies but on the contrary one day a class teacher of theirs came on a house visit and complained about my sons’ miserable marks.
My sons were in their own world and in their self-insulating ignorance of kids, they were only dimly aware of the difficulties their mother had in keeping things together.
When I noticed that hardly any of my people ever cared to find out how I managed to run the house, I decided that I would take up the job of a domestic servant and that is exactly what I did. I took as many as three jobs in rich households and strangely enough all the ladies in these households were sympathetically disposed towards me.
I worked very hard and managed not only to run the house, pay the school fees, but also began to pay the loan against LIC.
All the three ladies where I worked had understood my predicament and one among them, Mrs. Rego, went out of her way to do what best she could for me, not that the rest did any less. She visited my house regularly and did her best to ease my burden. She even supplemented my grocery stock and even paid my children’s fees.
But the same thorny problem continued to persist. My sons were not doing well at all in their studies and they were the only staff of my old age, so I was determined to bring about a change in them.
During the course of my work at these three households, my sons, Luis and Henry, would return from school, play cricket till late in the evening, and then roll over our bed and watch that small black and white TV till I returned home late in the evening.
One day, on my return after my three jobs, I noticed that my sons hardly cared to take notice of me as they were glued to the TV. I just turned off the television and sat them down and explained that my sons were going to make something of themselves. I told them, "You are going to read two books every week and then write a report on what you read."
I enrolled them in the Central Library and Mrs Rego took all three of us in her Amby there and from then on things began to fall in place.
My sons would go to the library every day and read as many books as they could. They once even told me that they both could absorb information more quickly through the printed word than they ever did from sounds or images that they used to hear and perceive on TV. They regretted the countless hours they had spent like two idiots in front of that idiot box!!!
Soon after school, my sons would cut across the two bridges in front of the Cascia church, take a short cut to the library through the railway lines leading to the Central Railway Station and reach the library in no time, but not before bolting down some delicacy at a restaurant at Hampankatta. Both the boys would virtually devour every book that they could lay their hands on that interested them and this continued for a long time.
Soon, the class teacher perceived a perceptible change that had come upon my two sons. They started doing very well in their studies. My elder son Luis got interested in medicine while Henry wanted to be an engineer. They had read countless books on both these topics and soon passed high school, entered college, and thanks to Mrs. Rego, money started coming when it was needed and once the boys finished their university education with distinction, they got scholarships and entered into their chosen fields of medicine and engineering.
One day Mrs. Rego suggested, now that both my sons were soon going to be on their own as they were already on the verge of emerging out of medical and engineering colleges with degrees, I had better think of my future as well. I was totally confused but I never wanted to be a burden to my children and as luck would have it, both my sons were with me on vacation.
Mrs. Rego conveyed her thoughts to my sons and they turned ecstatic, and immediately gave their approval which I assumed must have emanated from their progressive thinking that came out of reading those books in the library and from further studies at the universities.
The man in question was one Mr. Jerry Pinto, just about a year older than I, a widower, with a daughter already married and well settled. He had his own bakery that gave him enough income to live comfortably.
We got married and my sons were present for the wedding and Mrs. Rego was all smiles that day and even met some of my expenses. My husband and I decided that he should gift his house to his daughter as per his wish and now we continue to live in my house.
Today, after almost fifteen years of our marriage we both live a comfortable retired life, my two sons too have been married and are well settled, and my elder son is a prominent doctor and Henry is working as a successful engineer in a multinational.
Every time they visit us with their family, they remind me that they would never have been what they are today if I had not disconnected that small black and white TV set and took them to the library with Mrs. Rego in her white Amby.