To Quill the Mocking World
(7 min read)
Mrs. Saha: I have left that house Baba and Ma. I had no other option left.
Father: What? But why beta? This is a very big decision. You can’t just take it like that. You should think about the consequences that would follow. What about your children’s future?
Mrs. Saha: That is the reason I have stepped out of that mess Baba. My kids deserve a much better life and the best education within our limits though. Had it been only me I would have still adjusted, oops, compromised further. But I can’t let these little beings suffer out of no fault of theirs.
Mother: Oh no no..Are you saying that you are going to get a divorce? No no..What will our relatives say? And our neighbors? Your father has a good reputation over here. People look up to him as the most generous doctor and you want to ruin that? How could you even think of taking such a big step without even discussing with us? We have given you the freedom to marry the person of your choice. Now it’s your responsibility to keep that going! Girls need to make sacrifices and adjustments. Pull yourself together and again go back to your regular life with him.
Mrs. Saha: (appalled by her parents’ reactions) You know everything that have been going wrong in my marriage so far and I can’t believe my ears when you say these things Ma! You have never tried to get me out of the mess I have been. And now when I have been courageous enough to take this step, instead of supporting me you are telling me to go back to that hell again? Is that all that you have to offer?
Father: (silent mode).
Mother: It was your choice Mitu. Now look every marriage has its own baggage of problems. At least he is not beating you up. May be he doesn’t want you to go out in the world and work. But that’s good na! Look he is so concerned about you. And I know may be he is not as ambitious as you are regarding your children’s education but is there a rule that every child has to be convent educated? That should not come in the way of your marriage Mitu.
Father: (silent mode)
Mrs. Saha: Wow Ma! I refuse to take all your wrong justifications. Yes he was my choice and I agree that this marriage is a blunder. But was there any guarantee that had it been you and Baba choosing my groom it wouldn’t have gone wrong? Don’t I deserve your support for the right things and at this most difficult juncture of my life? I refuse to buy your argument of me not allowed to work in order to give my children a better education. He is nothing but a male chauvinist, a typical man with a huge male ego not wanting her more competent wife to have her own money and financial independence. I trusted him Ma. But more than him you and Baba have wronged me. If I have to walk on this path alone, so it be.
Landlord: So how many people are going to stay here?
Mrs. Saha: Three of us.
Landlord: Okay! That’s fine. So it’s you, your husband and your child I guess!
Mrs. Saha: No. It’s me and my two kids. (She pointed to her 13 year old daughter with her toddler son barely sitting on her sister’s lap and busy showing his adorable antics).
Landlord: (with raised eyebrows and curiosity overflowing from his facial expressions) and your husband? Oh he might be out stationed due to work I suppose.
Mrs. Saha: No Mr. Roy Chowdhury. I am divorced. So it would be me and my kids residing here only. Any further questions you have? If not, then can I have a look at the bathroom please?
Landlord: (being obviously hesitant; obvious because of societal policies so far) actually there are other parties who want to take this on rent too. And they are offering a bit more also as rent. So…I mean you can have a look but…
Mrs. Saha: But you don’t want to finalize this with me today or rather not at all right? That’s fine! I understand your problem and I know it’s not money that is stopping you. Anyways I hope you get the right tenants.
They got a house finally, after several similar encounters with varieties of landlords, as they found her landlady in an old lady disowned by their children. It was a symbiotic agreement with Mrs. Saha, as the landlady found her family in them, apart from finding the tenants.
Mr. Rajat Sen: Maithili the proposal you have written is really good and it clearly shows your hard work. Well done!
Mrs. Saha: Thank you Rajat. I am glad that you finally liked my work.
Mr. Rajat Sen: Oh no! You are embarrassing me now. I have always liked your work. Bas I have been pushing you a bit as I am well aware of your expertise.
She was just about to leave flashing her soothing smile when he spoke again.
Mr. Rajat Sen: So..hmmm…I was just wondering whether you would be free today evening. Just for a cup of coffee you know..
Mrs. Saha: Oh I am afraid Rajat that my evenings are only for my kids. They are understanding enough to manage a lot on their own especially my daughter. Poor her, she has to take care of her super naughty brother also. Sorry Rajat.
Mr. Rajat Sen: Oh! That’s okay. Then I can drop you home today and on the way we can have coffee. It will not eat up your evening also. Is that fine?
Mrs. Saha: Hmm. Actually it’s not that I can’t come with you. It’s just “I don’t want to come with you”. Just because I am single it doesn’t mean that I am available and that too easily. You have asked me several times before also and my answer is still the same. I am very content with my life and my kids. Having coffee with you, that way you want it, will not give me any joy. Having a cup of coffee with you, just we have usually, at our cafeteria while discussing our work and life is far more cherishable to me. Nothing more than that. I am sorry Rajat if it hurt you but I needed to make myself clear and loud.
Mr. Rajat Sen couldn’t speak anything else. Mrs. Saha was not sure whether he was surprised, awestruck by her confident revelation or angry at her, that day. But things were again back to normal between them from the next day at her office. And yes, this episode was indeed the last one with respect to Mr. Sen but similar encounters still happened in her life.
Mrs. Saha: May I come in Mrs. Chakroborty?
Principal: Yes please.
Mrs. Saha: Good morning Ma’am. I would not waste your time as I see how busy you are. I just had a small request to make.
Principal: Oh yes! This admission time every year make me go ballistic. Ya tell me!
Mrs. Saha: I want to incorporate my name as my son’s guardian in the admission form for her class XI admission here.
Principal: Well Mrs. Saha, since your son is a continuing student in our school we have just passed on the same information that we had previously. And as a matter of fact there is only “Father’s name” option in the form. That can’t be changed.
Mrs. Saha: But why an uncaring father who has forsaken all his responsibilities towards his children would be tagged as my son’s guardian when he is not actually? There should be some way that my name can be fitted in. I am his guardian and thus by all fare means all his certificated should carry my name and not his unconcerned father. I am sure you can do something. After all you are the principal of this school Mrs. Chakroborty.
Principle: Cool down Mrs. Saha. I completely understand your turmoil and your logic is absolutely justified. I agree with you. We had a case like this before also. I had taken it to the higher authorities of the school. But they were unmoved. They don’t want to fall out of the norms of the patriarchal society. You would be even more surprised to know that their counter argument was that these cases are very few and exceptions and thus the basic rules need not to be changed for them. The legacy should continue.
Mrs. Saha: But that’s wrong. Even my children don’t want to have their father’s name anywhere in their certificates. Even if cases like this are few but still they exist. They need to be treated differently and sensitively. How can they behave like this?
Principal: I know Mrs. Saha. But this is it and we have no choice other than accepting this. Sometimes the time is just not right for a change to occur. Changing a “Father’s name” to “Guardian’s name” is just not a change of format of the admission form or certificate but it also requires a huge change of people’s mentality and the way this society works. May be people are not ready for this change right now. But I just can hope, not sure though, that you are the last person in a situation like this I am saying no to.
She came out of the principal’s office that day with a heavy heart and a potpourri of complaints to god and the society that she was forced to live in. But at least she tried before finally being forced to give in. She tried for her son and, few years back, also for her daughter but only to see her attempts dying ruthlessly and the extremely unfair norms and rules surviving gloriously.
Potential Groom’s father: Am I talking to Mrs. Saha?
Mrs. Saha: Yes speaking.
The father: I just came across your advertisement in Anandabazar Patrika (Bengal’s leading newspaper) in the matrimonial section. You are looking for a suitable boy for your daughter is it?
Mrs. Saha: Oh yes. That’s right. So you are..
The father: I am the potential boy’s father, Mr. Sinha. I am a retired professor of history and my wife is a homemaker. My son is in USA and is on the verge of completing his PhD in the University of Maryland (his tone gave a clear indication that he was boasting about his son). He would be heading for a post-doc soon after defending his thesis. We are looking for an equally competent life-partner for him and your daughter fits in very well as of now.
Mrs. Saha: That’s a very impressive profile Mr. Sinha! Well you already know from the Ad that my daughter is working in a reputed R&D organization as a scientist after completing her post-graduation from IIT Kharagpur. I have raised her and her brother single-handedly and this is something that you should know beforehand. I am a single mother and if you have any issue with it then let’s not talk further.
The father: (paused) Oh no no. Absolutely not! So sorry. It must have been very difficult for you (in a very irritatingly sympathetic tone).
Well, we are only interested in your daughter and her compatibility with my son. That’s it. That you are a single mother is just a piece of information to me and nothing more than that. That’s fine with us.
Mrs. Saha: Okay. Good to hear that Mr. Sinha. I beg your pardon but there is nothing to be sympathetic about. I will text you my email id and please share yours too. Send in your son’s photograph and details by email and I will reply to you with the details of my daughter. Things will follow their own course then. Is that okay?
The father: Oh sure. I will just text you right away. Talk to you soon Mrs. Saha.
He hung up the phone and most importantly the email id was not texted back to her, let alone the mail. Not that she was eagerly waiting for it as this was not the first time this happened. With every passing telephonic conversations like these her feelings changed from sadness to anger to finally reducing to amusement. She started having pity for these people and the double standards they maintained effortlessly.
These were very few of the events that happened in my Mom, Mrs. Saha’s life. These are just a handful of situations that she had to face for only one reason; her marriage had gone bad and she was divorced. But isn’t it better to have a divorce and have a fresh start rather than dealing with a bad marriage on a daily basis? Isn’t it completely an individualistic choice to choose one’s own path of life and deal with it independently, and not just unwillingly go the conventional way? Why being a single mother, getting divorced, is such a big taboo? My Mom being a single mother left no stone unturned to give us a life that she always wanted us to have: a very good education and not just literacy, a non-judgmental, free and ethical environment to grow up and a strongly infused belief that if we want to achieve something then sky is the limit. She dug in her heels in order to be a successful mother and an entrepreneur herself. And no, she is not a mother and father folded into the same person. She is my mother only period. To me, my father just lend his sperms to my mother and not an iota more than that. Throughout her life so far she has fought in every arena to let others know her opinions clearly – be it convincing her parents, handling a filthy landlord, politely but sternly refusing an ogling male office colleague, requesting a strict principal to have the right of guardianship or confronting a conventional hypocritical father of a potential groom. On my journey with my Mom we have mostly encountered people who either had derogatory or sympathetic feelings for us. But we also had met people who hold my Mom in high esteem just the way I do. We discarded the former and kept the latter close to our hearts. It is the latter kind of people who made us feel that we are no exceptions but just like you. Indeed there is nothing to feel awkward about this. It was just a bad chapter in her life that she elegantly teared off and moved ahead to carve a niche for herself and us. And as far as people’s perception is concerned, the problem lies in them. My Mom is not a social reformist and it’s not her job to go around and change their views for the better. Their perception carries the signature of their poor mentality and let it be. Not everyone has the power to cut somebody some slack you know. I don’t know what role education plays if educated people make “single motherhood” a taboo. 18 years have passed and mentality wise nothing has changed. We are ready to give these people time, but given that, are they ready to change? It’s high time they should go for a mentality makeover otherwise these kind of people will in no time would find themselves standing beside the dinosaurs on the other side of life.
Since she is not a star her story is confined to me, my brother and few close ones. But to me she is no less than a celebrity and I feel this needed to be told. Today whatever little I have achieved it is because of her one right decision which was wrong, perhaps, to the entire world. I am proud of her for who she is and what she has made me. I am proud to be her daughter, a “single mother’s daughter”.
Her academic profession provides her with a living but her passion for writing feeds her soul. An experimentalist in both the worlds – engineering research and writing articles – she is a fanatic for love but proud to be emotionally intelligent as well. She is a coffee-addict, sapio-sexual, movie buff, and a true Bong who specializes in night-outs. Shopping and Sayantani are first cousins. Philosophical discussions drive her forward and the emotional outbursts let the ink flow.