Today I relate the story of Madhu, a girl from a small village in Madhya Pradesh, India. Madhu came from an extremely poor background where even managing two square meals a day was an impossible task. The family was a large one consisting of her parents and six siblings with only one earning member, the father. The mother was neck deep in looking after the children and the house and could not contribute to the family income in any way.
However the mother had one burning ambition and that was to educate her children especially her daughters to make them economically independent. So even though she could not get them to help her in the house and had to work really hard to make that happen she sent them to the local school. Therefore other than the youngest two all others attended school on a regular basis. The four school going ones included Madhu, her sister and two brothers. The school was quite far from their house but they all managed to go everyday especially the two girls. Among the girls Madhu was the brighter and the more academically inclined one. She was extremely ambitious too. She wanted to get out of the village go to a big city and be financially independent .She definitely did not want to lead the kind of life her mother had been leading.
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Now that wasn’t particularly easy especially since the father could not see any point in getting his daughters educated. Every year at the beginning of the new academic session Madhu and her sister had to struggle really hard to continue with their schooling. There would be bitter fights and arguments each time and in the process the mother would get beaten up.
It was heartbreaking for Madhu to see her mother endure this torture but at the same time it made her even more determined to equip herself in every possible way to become Independent. She knew that she had the unconditional support of her mother in this. However her sister could not take the pressure and eventually succumbed to it by agreeing to stop going to school and getting married. Their father had a vested interest i this as giving away a daughter in marriage meant that he could get a large sum of money from the boy’s family as per the custom of their community.
In the euphoria surrounding the daughter ‘s wedding the father for sometime forgot about Madhu who could happily pursue her studies. But this happiness was too good to last. After just a year the drama started all over again and the father started pressurizing Madhu to get married. Luckily by then she had finished her matriculation but their being no further option in the village she had to give in . So much against her will she had to tie the knot.
Marriage of course meant a replay of her mother’s life. Madhu’s husband was a lazy, dominating person who had only two favorite past times, drinking and beating up his wife. He didn’t want to work and expected her to not only cook, clean, look after the house but earn money as well. This was nothing new for her but Madhu was not prepared to accept this and lead such a wretched life. She wanted to get out and kept looking for opportunities to do that. She would try and talk to people who lived in cities to understand what city life was all about,read newspapers, books, anything that she could lay her hands on to get information on what she could do to get out of her wretched existence. However there came a spoke in the wheel when she discovered that she was pregnant. It was like a bolt from the blue and Madhu did not know how to deal with it. She wanted to get rid of the child because the child seemed to be like a roadblock in her life and she could not allow any such obstruction.
But eventually her maternal instincts took over and she decided to welcome her child into this world with no hard feelings at all. In this entire period of struggle her mother was always there for her, with her. Once her son was born her aspirations and ambitions took a back seat but she was never able to lose sight of her objective. In the meanwhile she discovered that it was quite simple to get a job as a maid in a city. All she had to do was get in touch with Suresh, a man in the village who was in the business of taking girls from there and getting them jobs as maids in big cities on a commission basis. Her mother fully supported her idea and the only thing was that she needed to muster up the courage to take the step.
And then what of her son!!!
Her mother gave her the assurance that she would take are of the child no matter what. She convinced her that Madhu could always send money for her son’s upbringing and education which would improve his prospects too. Encouraged by this Madhu decided to convince her husband which actually did not turn out to be too difficult. If letting Madhu go off to live in the city meant more money he was happy to let her go . Now she just needed to approach Suresh and settle the terms. Taking such a step was quite bold as women of her community generally were not meant to interact with men and definitely not alone. But she went ahead and before she knew, she was on her way to Delhi ready to begin working in a new, unfamiliar environment.
To begin with life was not easy. She was in a strange, unfamiliar world surrounded by funny devices which sprang to life at the press of a button!! Thankfully she was one of the many maids in a large household so she had plenty of time to learn and adapt to the new ways.. Since she was a quick learner it did not take her long to learn the ways of the new place and get used to them. It actually gave her a sense of achievement and majorly boosted her confidence.
But before she could get used to life in that first household it was time to leave it and move to a new one. She had not realised that Suresh made a livelihood through the commission that he got when he provided a maid to a family. So after eleven months she had to go to a new place. She was very uncomfortable with the idea but did not have much of a choice. The new family was quite different and also did not believe in treating the help very well. Very often she would be shouted at which would leave her in tears. She couldn’t share her misery with anyone. They did not allow her to step out of the house or befriend anyone. The hours were long and the treatment very shabby. Many times she wanted to pack up her bags and go back to her village. At least then she would be with familiar people. But that would defeat the very purpose of her life long struggle. So she dug in her heels and carried on.
The next place was much better where her employers were extremely considerate and caring. They gave her a lot free time and also let her step out of the house. As a result she could make friends and meet them off and on. She was able to explore the city and see new places. This brought a lot of happiness and joy.
By now she had realised that she could never stay in one house for too long. This made the change easier for her. But all the same she found it difficult to leave those families which had children. She ended up getting attached to them and when she had to leave ,it broke her heart to do that.
From then on it her journey was pretty much the same. There were ups and downs in her life. She lost her father and then one of her brothers. The husband also eventually left her for a younger girl. That was actually a relief for her because she had never been really attached to him and didn’t want to be with him when she visited her village. She did it out of a sense of duty and now she was free. City life gave her a lot of freedom, a lot of independence which she had always craved for in her life but had never got it. Of course life wasn’t always easy. It was a strange world of which she was a part now, people were strange and their ways were even stranger. But she had made the choice to be with such people and do she had to accept that, learn their ways to the best of her ability and lead her life .
With time she had enough money which was her own and she could do anything with it. In fact the day she got her first salary, her joy knew no bounds. She felt like singing, dancing, celebrating but there was no one with whom she could do that. She missed her mother the most that day and went to the temple to thank God for enabling her to achieve this independence. She decided to send some money to help her family back in the village especially her son who she wanted to get educated and move to the city . From then onwards in fact she sent some money every month.
This was her life for the next fifteen years during which time her son moved to the city , completed his education and then started working. This was the fulfilment of one of her dreams and meant a lot to her. Her matter, her biggest supporter all her life continued to be there for her as always. That actually gave her a lot of comfort.
Many times she helped her siblings financially especially when her sisters had to get married and then later when their children were to get married. It gave her an immense sense of pride to be able to do that. So life went on …..
Today, she is in her fifties and picks up part-time jobs whenever she wants to. She lives with her son who is now married with a family of his own. She likes to help her daughter in law who is a working woman with the household chores and with the children. Being with her grandchildren lets her make up for the time that she couldn’t spend with her own son.
She is happy, content and fulfilled and still financially independent. She has her savings to fall back upon and the money that she gets when she picks up a job. Whenever she thinks about her life and it’s struggles she feels that had it not been for her mother and her own courage and determination, she could have never achieved what she ended up achieving. She knows that she has lived her dream, fulfilled her dream by never letting go.
She struggled, she fought but then got it all. She is the woman who lived her dream.