Friday, December 14, 2012

Woman Of Substance

She was from a joint family, got married in to a simple, conservative family of an extremely small town in UP.  Being the only bahu (daughter-in-law) of the family she obviously had a lot of responsibilities on her. At an age of 15, taking care of all the elders, husband & sisters in law was in never an easy job. But she never complained, she never found it difficult, she cooked, cleaned, prayed, tended to the sick, looked after the Kothi(house), she was young, but all this came really naturally to her. For initial few years of marriage she was too busy with household chores, never got a chance to go to school or read. Her husband looked after family business along with his chacha (uncle). He was too simple a man, extremely honest & silent a person. Would never raise his voice, & was full of compassion for anyone & everyone. 6 years passed & the couple didn’t have any kids, it was then her husband decided to leave the family business, go to Varanasi as it is a religious city & start his own business. The couple thought that maybe the holiness of the city will bless them with a kid. Finally after 12 years of being in Varanasi, she gave birth to a son & the family was complete. The couple wanted to raise the kid well, but husband’s business was in doldrums. There were days when they had no money to even buy food; she had some jewellery with her, which she would rent out for survival.  The son was barely 4 months old, when monsoons hit & flood took away everything from the couple, even their roof. It was then she put her foot down, she knew she wanted her son to have a good life & the only way out was to go back to the family business. She told her husband the same, but he was reluctant to go back as he knew chacha wouldn’t take him back in business. And then the news came that chacha broke his leg & needs someone to take care of him. The couple immediately went back. They looked after him; he was too glad to meet his grandson & finally after struggling for 5 months his soul departed leaving the family business & kothi to his nephew & grandson

But just having a business isn’t enough, u need acumen to run it. The business was not doing well, and then she discussed with her husband & came to decision of renting out parts of the kothi. They took in some tenants & the main fa├žade of the house was given to a bank on rent. The first bank of the town was inaugurated in the house. Being a house wife she had no means to get herself educated but her thirst for knowledge made her learn by just observing. She would observe the bank as much as she could & learnt a few things.

The bank moved out in a few years, their son had started his school & still the business was not in a good shape. As mentioned her husband was extremely simple & would give away the merchandise for free to people. She could not take it anymore, finally in early 1960 she decided to look after the business with her husband. She took the reins in her hands, despite of living in such a small town & not being educated enough, she started looking after the business. She dealt with every stakeholder & the staff, her administration was stupendous & her customer dealing skills can put MBA gurus to shame. She knew her strengths really well & capitalised them well, but the best was she knew her weaknesses better & covered up for them.  She learnt things on-the-go, from experience she mastered herself in maths, and she also picked up reading just by experience. She left no space for failure & at the end all she got was success.

Looking after the business never meant that she would forget about her responsibilities towards family, religion, society. An extremely religious a soul who believed in God & holy spirits, every morning she would fulfill her duties towards her God. Looked after the family really well, cooked, cleaned, every household activity was carried out as before. She made sure her son gets all the family values & learns their culture. She kept society at priority & made sure that her work doesn’t hurt the society. The way she maintained her respect in such a small town despite of looking after a business is phenomenal.

The couple educated the son really well, by the time the son was done with his education, father’s health had started giving issues, it was then decided that the son would start looking after the business. Son had acquired all the acumen from mother & plus he has an edge of education with him, but still she stood like the backbone of the business behind him, providing him an extremely sound a support. Son got married to a very simple girl from a very small town. She was pretty, elegant, belonged to a well-to-do family, but had never worked in her life; she was always a princess at her father’s place.

She taught her daughter-in-law to cook, to look after the family, to be adept at all household chores, which the daughter-in-law mastered in a few years. The Daughter-in-law gave birth to three kids, 2 girls & a boy, she dearly loved her grandkids, she had an extra responsibility now, to be a grand-mom & she squeezed in the role really well in her life.

Her husband’s health was not getting any better & the son wanted to expand the business. He needed some extra support; she took another decision that shook the town. She asked her daughter-in-law to join the business. It was a very conservative town for women to work but she knew she would groom her daughter-in-law into a respectable business woman & so she did.

Her husband passed away; son & daughter-in-law were looking after the business really well & she could have easily retired, but she decided not to. She wanted her grandkids to get the best of education. She supported her son’s decision to send them to hostel for education. All 3 kids went to hostel & the rest 3 members of the family toiled day & night to look after the family business.

Age was never an issue for her, she would run the flight of stairs 8-9 times a day which I dread to do even today. She would get up early in the morning & finally when she retired to bed at night, she never slept, she always thought it was her responsibility to guard the house & family. Her day was packed even at an age of 90. She would ask her son, daughter-in-law & grandson to get up late, have breakfast n finish their morning chores while she would go, have the showroom unlocked & looked after it all by herself for couple of hours in the morning.

She was tough of course, she was tough to her son, her daughter-in-law, to her staff, but had she not been tough, it would have been impossible to get things done. But once she had moulded them all well, she revealed the softer side of her. To world she was a tough mother-in-law, but in last few years of her life, all she ever wanted was the security of having her daughter-in-law near her. The love that she had developed for her, she was never able to express but it reflected. When she fell sick, the first person she would name would be her daughter-in-law. Her grandkids were always her lifeline, she always adored them. She witnessed the wedding of her eldest grand-daughter & grandson. She has 4 great grand kids. And she dearly loves her grand son-in-law & grand daughter-in-law.

11th December 2012, 12:42, my mom called me to tell that ‘she’ passed away, I closed my eyes & in 2 minutes I saw what all ‘she’ had been all her life. The balance that she had in her life in that era is impossible to achieve now. They all say, I resemble my grand-mom a lot, but if I can achieve even 1/100th of what ‘she’ has achieved in her life, I will be glad enough. Such a balance, such panache for business, such technique for administration, such beauty of customer handling & yet such a complete woman she was. She excelled in all circles of life, a wonderful mother, daughter, wife, sister, grandmother. Society& religion were always her priority. I wonder how a woman can be so complete in just one life time, just one. Today one can either have a perfect career, or be a perfect family person. Society & religion are long forgotten. I closed my eyes & I for a moment I realised my loss. We lost her at 93, she was suffering a lot, she lived her life completely, she departed as a complete soul but her absence sends shivers through me. I can never have another ‘you’ dadda & I owe my life completely to you. If not for you I don’t think I would have ever had the means to be able to write this. Your absence will be felt; but this is not an obituary, this is a salute, a salute to a woman of substance, salute to your

courage & salute to your foresightedness. RIP