Happy Woman’s Day.
Three Stories of Love, Support and Courage.
Remembering a sister. A daughter. A wife. On Wonen’s day.
(Because I remember my Mother every day).
Story 1: Sister’s Support
One of the the most memorable pictures I have clicked is from a village in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
I have told this story before. But on women’s day I remember this story again.
This was a village I had gone with a few colleagues to investigate a case. A case of encephalitis. A mother. Bed ridden. In dire state of health. The husband. Weeping at their helplessness. There was gloom in the air. Nothing much we could do.
As I was returning, I heard a sound of laughter. Most unexpected in this gloomy air. I peeped.
And here in a corner, a child was swinging in air and laughing. A girl was holding his swing and balancing him.
A brother and a sister. Children of parents in distress.
The sister was old enough to understand the crisis. The boy too young. Innocent. Laughing in joy in his swing.
The sister supporting the boy. Giving him his moment of joy in times of duress.
This image lives with me and shall for ever.
A sister. Support. In times of distress to a brother.
Story 2: Daughter’s Love
The flight was from Delhi to Hyderabad. Early morning. Me. Mousumi. Tintin.
After some time in the flight, I fell sick. Hypoglycaemia.
I was sweating profusely. Also fainting. Tintin took care. He got sweet drinks and cookies from the flight attendant.
The flight attendant. A young lady. Stood by me. As I sat recovering sitting in my aisle seat. She brought one sweet drink after another. Wiped my forehead with a napkin.
As I recovered she asked ‘Are you feeling better?’ I said ‘Yes.’ And said. ‘Please take care. You must not neglect.’ And she held my hand and said ‘Stay very well. Please.’
As the flight was to land she came and gave me a folded napkin. I asked ‘What is this?’ She smiled ‘something for you to read and remember what I said. Do not neglect.’
I opened the napkin. It was a note from her for me. It began. ‘Keep rocking.’ And ended ‘Be happy. Always :-)’ .
I have kept that note. I take that note as a note from a daughter to her father. Caring. Reminding. To stay healthy and happy. Always.
Story 3: A wife’s courage
1992. Mousumi and I had moved to our new posting. Shortly after our marriage.
I was much handicapped. Because of my poor Hindi. And because of a huge culture change.
I was the Chief Medical Officer. We lived in a staff quarter complex. With the other two Medical Officers. Nurses. And other staff.
About two months into my job, one morning one of the Medical Officer’s Dr Chaudhury came and asked for something. I forget what. I could not because of administrative reasons. I denied. He argued. I stood my point.
He was a local. And burly.
When none of his options worked he threatened me. With dire consequences. He reminded me that he was local and I was from Bangal. He threatened that he would involve the Panchayat. By that time other staff had come. They tried to intervene. But Dr Chaudhury was ferocious. He turned a chair. Banged the table and walked out of the room abusing me loudly.
The news was spreading. I could see staff members speaking in hush times. Everyone was afraid of Dr Chaudhary. Mr Compounder came and told me ‘Do not worry. Let Manager Saab come in the evening. He will sort matters.’ And he advised ‘Why don’t you go home and rest.’
I did not. I sat in my clinic. Patients started coming. And because I was alone, the load was very high. That day.
Dr Chaudhury had disappeared.
About an hour and half later, as I was examining a patient, Dr Chaudhury came. And in a local dialect told the patients in the room to leave for a few minutes.
The patients meekly left the room. And Dr Chaudhury shut the door. After the last man had left.
I was unsure of what was happening. I watched.
Dr Chaudhury came to me. And extended his hand. ‘I am sorry.’ He said. I stood up. And embraced him. As men do. To settle issues.
He sat down. Opposite side of the table. I said ‘Dr Chaudhury, let us have some tea.’ He nodded. I said ‘Well let’s go home then. Mousumi will prepare tea.’
He immediately stood up and said ‘No.’ I asked ‘Why? What happened?’ He looked at me and said in Hindi ‘Bhabhi is angry. Very angry. Bahut gusse meiN haiN.’
I was surprised. I asked ‘What happened? Did she tell you anything?’
Dr Chaudhury said ‘No. No. She did not say anything. But she is very angry. I will not go to the campus now. You also do not go. Let us have tea here. And see patients.’
He got up and opened the door. And we saw patients for the next one hour. Together.
Lunch time. I came home. Mousumi was in the kitchen. Cooking. She smiled as usual and said ‘Have a bath. I am heating food.’
I did. Everything seemed normal.
At lunch, we both sat with rice and roti and Dal. I asked ‘Did something happen today?’ Mousumi said ‘Meaning?’ I said ‘Between Chaudhury and you?’ She smiled and said ‘ I had heard otherwise. That something had happened between you and Dr Chaudhury.’
I said ‘And? After that? What happened?’
Mousumi said. ‘ I heard it from Mr Gandhi’s wife. I was furious that he threatened you. I took a pile of vegetables and that big dagger (bhojali) that your father had. The one that we keep under our bed. And sat in the verandah. And I was cutting the vegetables with that dagger. Brinjals. Lauki s. Sitaphal. Potato. All vegetable that I had in the house. I was cutting them again and again and again. I was very angry that he had threatened you. Dr Chaudhury saw me from his window. I saw him too. I looked at him and kept on chopping the vegetables. After some time, I saw him leave the campus. Why did you ask me? Did he tell you anything?’
I laughed so much that day.
It took me at least three weeks before I could convince that my house was safe for him to have tea.
Many days later, I had asked Mousumi. ‘Why did you display your anger in public that day?’ She said ‘I was very angry. But more than that I wanted to show anyone who dared to threat you that I will be in his way. Ferociously. Protecting you.’
Mousumi, my wife. Has always been my strength. With love. Laughter. And when there was a need, with a dagger.
(I fortunately did not have a chance ever again to capture this mood of Mousumi on my phone or camera.)
I have been touched by women. Who have inspired me in many ways.
My sisters. My sister-in-laws. My batchmates from Medical school. My neighbors. My colleagues. Our extended family.
Julie Jacobson. My mentor. An inspiration. Who taught me so much at work.
The Didi s that have become my very own special ones. Krishna Di. For one. With her unending love for me.
Life has moved on. With love care and blessings of many women beginning with my Ma.
Life is beautiful because of these women. May this women’s day be a reminder of the love, strength, inspiration that many women bring to our lives.
Happy Women’s Day.