“Anuradha” – means creative, versatile, original, and independent. And so was she, her personality truly depicted all the shades that her name possessed.
Anuradha is the eldest of the four children of her parents who are financially not very stable, uneducated and washerman (or say laundryman) by profession. Anuradha was a very bright student at school but had to drop out after her father’s death. Being the eldest one in the family she took hold of all the family responsibilities and managed them really well. She used to work day and night to fulfill the needs of her family, put in all the efforts so that her siblings can continue their studies and do not have to leave their school as she had to. As time passed by, her brother also came as a helping hand and started to earn. As any mother, her mother too was worried and concerned about her future and consequently she was married. This was a brief about how Anuradha Dhobi spent her early childhood and adolescence.
Though, our society claims to be modern but, acts in a manner that proves it orthodox. Yes, she was married but there was no happy married life. It couldn’t be. Her husband was nearly double her age having three children and was a widower. I don’t say that he didn’t have right to remarry or his children did not deserve the love, care and affection of a mother but this was not a suitable match. Still, due to the fact that she had those values imbibed in her, she had that motherly heart, she had been through the ups and downs of life, she knew what it meant to grew up with one amongst the parents…she didn’t utter a word and again engaged herself in the household, doing every job and every chore an Indian woman is probably supposed to do. Besides the household work, she helped her husband with his work i.e. she washed clothes, ironed them and her husband just used to bring and deliver them back. In other words, he provided a to and fro service. With the passage of time, his travel time increased not because he managed to have more clients but due to his increasing bad habits and company. He started gambling, playing cards, drinking, etc. etc. Meanwhile, Anuradha gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. The kids grew up and so did the bad habits and addiction of their father. She tried a lot to make her husband leave all these vices but with no good results. Anuradha took a harsh step. She started going to the client’s place herself to collect and return the clothes and so now she was the one who handled finances. She stopped giving him any money. There were times when he promised he would leave everything and work hard for their future and he fulfilled the same till the time he had earned enough money to buy himself another peg and once alcohol was in his body, the promise was all out of his brains. With the increasing responsibilities (& inflation too) Anuradha needed more money and so she decided to work in different houses as a maid doing cleaning and sweeping jobs. Hard Luck, she couldn’t study. This was the time she realized the importance of education. She worked really hard and performed the role of home maker really well, both at her own place and that of her owner where she used to work. She never gave anyone a chance to complain. It is worth mentioning here that she gave tough competition to the modern woman who handles the household chores alongwith the official deadlines. She was playing similar roles but in different kind of work environment.
Years passed by, the three elder children were married off amidst the difficulties of Life. Situations had turned worst. Her husband broke up with his in-laws and this bold and big-hearted lady did not want to trouble her maternal family. He banned her going to meet her mother and didn’t even allow anyone from her family to come up and meet her. She faced the world with all the courage and facing the people she considered her own family required even more courage. She daily fought the battle of survival. After marriage, her so-called sons shifted to a new place with their wives leaving their mother (who though wasn’t their own mother but in real sense was no less) alone, still fighting. She was always in the role of a single mother and that was the reason she was afraid to raise a voice. A fear haunted her mind that what if she’ll be asked to leave the house, where will she go with her children (she meant all five). Nonetheless, her so-called children on becoming independent and having their own families left her. Now, it was high time and she realized she had to raise her voice. She had to take a stand and make people realize that her sensitivity and silence should not be mistaken for her weakness. And, for the very first time in life she did something for herself. She raised voice. She asked her husband to contribute to the finances of the house else he had no right to be in the house. She stopped cooking for him..she stopped doing any of his works for that matter. She strongly denied following his order of not meeting her mother. She said she will and she did. And when he saw his so-called fear vanishing, he tried to physically harass her. He slapped, she stopped. She just let hold of his hand, threw it back and spoke at the top of her voice “Dare touch me again & I’ll put you behind the bars”. You are no good to take the responsibility of the household, atleast take your own, she said antagonistically. The driving force behind this action wasn’t money but a thought that when he will do something for a living he will find less time for gambling and all and moreover he had to contribute to the family funds so he won’t be left with money to spend on alcohol. She expected a change after such harsh behavior. She gave her silence a voice. She worked harder day and night to give her children a happy present and a brighter future. She gave the all the basic necessities of life and tried her level best to fulfill their demands too.
Alongwith the formal education, she made sure she teaches her children the basic morals and ethics that make them a good human being. She understood the bitter fact of life that she needs to make her children independent. Yes, not just the son but the daughter also. She stood up against the society and its norms in order to let her daughter stand on her own so that she doesn’t have to face what her mother did. I might not sound that big to the people like us who live in an ultra-modern world where in many concerns the gap between a boy and a girl has reduced, they are considered to be at par. But this indeed was a very big achievement for the lady who spent her life in a society where women aren’t considered anything better than animals, forget about the equality between the two genders. She also convinced the ladies in the nearby locality to make their daughters independent and save them from this plight as she knew the scenario in the surrounding households was similar, Moreover, she understood the fact that even if the situations aren’t such for their daughters, (obviously every mother wants to see her daughter happy and well settled never having to struggle as she did) they should be independent that if need be they can support themselves. Her efforts paid off well. She was able to convince her female counterparts and consequently she helped many to be independent. Today, she is an inspiration, not only for her own daughter but for many others. She taught them to stand for their own but that never implied to lose patience or being indifferent to the needs of the family or be ignorant of their responsibilities or forego the basic characteristics of being human. She taught them to raise a voice against the evil but that never meant to hurt the self-respect or sentiments of anyone.
She was a woman of her words. She stood by what she said. She followed what she preached. Even in louder tone and with harsh words she managed to politely show the person his true self. And yes, this attitude of hers brought a significant change in her life through a drastic change in his husband’s habits. She won. Her war and victory was not in the battleground but in her own home. She made the battle she fought a lesson for others too and helped them improve their lives. She is an inspiration to the people who know her. She was just perfect in all the roles she played…a lovable daughter, an adorable sister, a patient wife, an affectionate mother and above all a responsible, broad-minded and empathetic woman.
Bravery lies not just in fighting wars with weapons, it lies more in the battle of life where you have to be patient, bear the atrocities of the unkind, take a stand and give them a chance to change. Your win is not in their defeat but in their change. A change of that person, a change of his heart will surely make this world a better place to live in. It’s easy to make the relations, easier to break them. It takes a stronger person to mend and maintain them. She did it and that too alongwith maintaining her self-respect, dignity and in the process making others realize the value of such attributes, so indeed she is a “MARDAANI”..!!