Desert Teacher

A collection of short stories .

My widowed aunt

here is one of story from my book...This is the story of my aunt, widowed after 18 years of marriage. And the even sadder story of why, in some parts of India, widows are ostracised by their society who believe they are bad luck. “Are you son of Mr. Laxman Singh?” the doctor asked me. “No, he has no children, I am his wife’s nephew,” I replied. “Then call someone who is a close relation,” the doctor said. I told the doctor all his relatives lived in Jaisalmer, but my aunt is here [in Jodhpur] if he wants to talk to her. The Doctor thought for a while and said: “I am sorry to say both the kidneys of Mr. Laxman Singh have failed and it is better if you take him back to home because there is no more chance.” I was shocked but with great courage asked the doctor again, what he meant by “no more chance.’ He said Mr. Singh was in his last stage of life and had maybe four or five days more. I came out of the doctor’s chamber very sad and worried. I went to the general ward where my aunt was sitting near my uncle’s bed. She had not slept for couple of nights and was very tired. She asked me what the doctor told me. I had no words, so I said everything was fine. When I came out of the hospital I called my father and told him what the doctor told me. He said nothing for a while and then said, “Boy, take care of them till I reach Jodhpur.” My father arrived the next morning and met with the doctor, who told him there was nothing more to be done. But we told my aunt her husband was doing quite well and that we were going back to Jaisalmer. Tears rolled down her face, she understood this meant she was going to lose her beloved soon. I still feel guilty about leaving my aunt there alone with my sick uncle. Despite many attempts, they had not been able to have children of their own, and so had treated my sister and I as their own. A week later we received the news of my uncle’s death. I met my aunt a few days later, she embraced me and wept bitterly. For the next six months she did not leave her house. When she did emerge, clad in black, as dictated by the customs of our society, we took her into our home. What is the condition of the widows in our society? Widows suffer a very miserable life here in India. She is not allowed to remarry. She is not allowed to wear colourful clothes or jewelry. She is not allowed to attend weddings or festivals. She is not supposed to participate in certain ceremonies like tying the thread during Raksha Bandhan. She is not even allowed to listen to music. If she steps in the way of someone it is a bad omen. Why? The answer from our social system is she must be punished. Had the person not married this lady, he would have not died. It is believed the widow’s bad luck takes a son from his parents, and a father from his children. Like a compass needle that points north, man’s accusing finger always finds a woman guilty in this male-dominated society. My aunt suffered the life of a widow for a year. My family and I were very sad for her. Then we all took a challenging decision. We convinced her to find work somewhere. Finally after many social objections she joined a school as an attendant. She is very busy there with the children and has been ordered to wear colourful clothes by the school’s administration. She passes her time well with the students and staff. She is happy now. It took a lot for our family to go against the traditions of our society. And I think we were able to make that decision because we have been lucky enough to receive a good education. Truly an education can make change: it can change better than anything else.

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