It is a a man’s world and even we women sometimes start believing this biased sexist view of life. Utpal’s mom is still in the psychiatric ward of a hospital and though she is better and fit to go home – read women’s centre – we have been dilly dallying about the date of her return. The reason: a medley of misconceptions, half baked truths, misguided rumblings that occurred after her departure. A typical reaction of male oriented society that revels in demeaning any woman who has slipped or just behaved in an atypical manner.
Utpal’s mom was deeply disturbed and ill. She needed compassion and understanding. But everyone decided otherwise walking what they thought was the high moral ground. And even I for an instant found myself nodding at what was being said.
Later that night, when I sat with myself as I normally do reviewing the day gone by,I realised what I had done and must confess that I was not proud of what I saw. How could I have sat silently and not reacted. But then it is a man’s world…
When I set out to create the women centre, it was to enable women who had a past to rebuild their lives. It was to reunite a mother and a child, it was to defend women who had been wronged. I knew that I had to fight tooth and nail and see that she returns home as I more than anyone else knew who she truly was.
The next morning my stand was vindicated when a mail from a volunteer – a male – vindicated what I felt. It said: The latter ( Jhunnu) is a petite lady who has never-ending energy, but who has to suppress her regular mood swings due to alcoholism in the past with medicine. It has always been my wish that Utpal returns to his mother’s side as soon as possible, and this desire simply grew when I witnessed the exemplification of life’s vigor in her. I knew truly that this was not sympathy, but exhilaration at the strength demonstrated against the heartlessness of fate. May we all live to experience the joyous celebration of reunion between mother and child.
How could I even for an instant forget that reunion. It all began almost 2 years ago when J was admitted into a rehab centre. it is true that the journey has not been a bed of roses, and that there have many ups and downs, many challenges, many dark moments but there have also been many glorious moments when for brief instants the Utpal found the arms of his mom and each one made us believe that we would reach our final destination.
Utpal has not broken a single rule and I more than anyone else owe it to him to meet every challenge that comes my way head on and with determination. I beat myself for having slipped for that tiny moment and wonder what made me do do. Was it the fear of social acceptance. Or was it the fright of seeing my work undone. Or was it old age catching up. Where was the woman who had written a passionate post entitled she stood alone in march 2004 and that read:
An incident occured today. Strange or prophetic that it should concern a woman. We had been wanting to shift Utpal’s family from the area they lived for a long time. Both parents drink and the surroundings were conducive to their weakness. I have never sat in judgement as I believe that each one of us has something we are not always proud of It is also true that circumstances play a large part in such matters. But anyway I felt that the family would have better chances close to us.
We found them a little room near my office and I thought that matters were settled.
However society is far more cruel than I could have imagined and when they reached the new place with their luggage, many women started abusing Jhunu saying that they did not want their neighborhood sullied. I was called and my heart went out to this poor woman, standing quietly next to her bags, in total silence. What is it that makes us act in such a manner?
I just stood by her, and held her and let my silence convey what I felt. Soon, someone came and told me they had found a new place in an adjacent slum we all helped them move and stayed with the little family for a long time. I remembered Mary Magdalene…
As I lay awake, late that night, I had just one thought in mind: to make Jhunu independent and have her learn a skill that would give her back a rightful place in society.
How could I have forgotten that the idea women centre actually took seed on that very day and that its very basis was to stand by any woman shunned by the rest of the world. I would rather think of this as being a sign that helps us chart our course of action for the future and makes us aware of the challenges that await us. So help me God!
This is a man’s world as the James Brown song says but how can we forget the next lines of the same song But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or …. a child.