I inquired about the new Bhamini Classes at Makdumpur Slum. It had been a week then and I had been wondering about Sharmila’s experience with the women. The Bhamini School at Makdumpur had to be closed down a year back owing to the evacuation then. Sharmila spoke about Meera. It wasn’t a strange story to me: perhaps I have grown callous to the plight of the women. But she spoke with an unparalleled conviction. I could see fresh pain on her face. This is what she told me:
“Meera was suspiciously missing that day. I did not think it was uncanny. However in a while I saw Meera at the door. I beckoned her to enter the room. She looked gloomy and lost in some thoughts. I smiled and asked her if she is okay. She looked at me as if woken up from a dream. She squatted on the mat. She looked as if she has been holding some worries. She blurted:
“I wished I did not send her away so soon.”
I looked at her and my instincts told me that this class is going to be different.
“What did I do? How could I be so blind? My daughter is young and beautiful.”
Meera’s daughter was just 14 when she was ‘given away’ in marriage. The man lived at the same slum. He looked so promising. They were well earning among the lot. Meera had seen them working and knew that they had enough work to keep themselves. It would be worth having such a son-in-law. Meera set her attention to bring the alliance to fruition. Soon the rumour had spread that Meera’s daughter had found her man. So did us.
The memory brought fresh tears to Meera. While she narrated the well known story, she burst into tears. She leaned towards Sharmila. Sharmila hugged her, as Meera sobbed her heart out. She lifted her head and looked piteously at Sharmila. She still had both her palms clutching Sharmila. She was quaking and frailty overtook the woman. Meera took her sari, and wiped her eyes. Meera has a fair complexion, to the envy of most women. However, she is now old. The creases along her mouth now prolonged to the lower chin. Her brown eyes were filled with regret.
“I did not give her the opportunity to study.”
Meera would be wondering about the irony, where she could sit there and learn, her daughter was denied the chance of a bright future.
Her husband mistreats and forces her to work beyond what she can bear.”
The man’s work was the very blessing she craved for; but now it has become her curse. Meera is a proud woman. But this has broken her self-respect. She continued voicing her broodings.
“She lives on bare necessities now.”
She recalled the time when the Bhamini team had visited her home to dissuade her from the untimely marriage. How much she had detested what they had told her! Like her there are so many who have got their daughters married at a very early age. But unlike Meera, they never confess and though their daughters fall into troubles after marriage, they never care or acknowledge that it was because of their action that their daughters have to suffer.
“Will I find forgiveness?”
Meera looked painfully at me. She then stared outside in the direction of her daughter’s home. With expectation still brooding in her, her regrets will live long with her.
What we have is our yesterdays. We live with that. We may pretend to divorce it from our present life. But our past is very much part of our existence. The only thing we can do is ‘make sense of our yesterdays’*; Perhaps consoling ourselves that it will all result in some good somehow.
An incident in Sharmila's life, narrated in beautiful words by Nithin E. Sam