Education helps her face odds with resilience
Mahalakshmi (name changed) was just seventeen when she got married immediately after completing her Intermediate education.
Mahalakshmi (name changed) was just seventeen when she got married immediately after completing her Intermediate education. She got married to Rajaiah, a small farmer who owned four acres of land. However, even after marriage she continued her studies and completed her post-graduation with no support from either her husband, or her mother-in-law.
Braving all odds, she broke the age-old practice of a farmer’s wife confining herself to the four walls of the house. She was working as a private teacher with a meagre salary which could only offer some support to run the house. In the meanwhile, the couple’s had a girl and a boy.
Life was not easy all along. As her in-laws’ family was very conservative, none of the members had interest either in encouraging her in professional endeavours or valuing her personal freedom. Petty disagreements with her mother-in-law spiralled into a cold war between the two, sometimes taking ugly turns. Like all mamas’ boys, her husband too, obliged to his mother.
It had become difficult to run the family entirely on the income generated out of agriculture during a period of successive years of drought. Survival was difficult for the family. So, she kept convincing Rajaiah that they could move to a nearby town, where she could continue with her work and he could also use his talent to find a job of his choice and continue farming as well.
Her husband did not want to leave his mother or his land. He continued to suffer the agonising losses in agriculture year after year, while his three brothers had migrated to nearby towns and had prospered, establishing themselves in other businesses.
And then came the harsh summer which changed Mahalakshmi’s life forever. Like a final nail on the coffin, the drought hit the farmers in Telangana very hard, driving many of them over the edge. And in a star-crossed night, Rajaiah, depressed over the drought, committed suicide by hanging.
An inferiority complex arising out of dependence on his wife and a feeling of failure in his life as he compared himself with his prosperous brothers had fuelled him to take the extreme step, putting the fate of his little ones in darkness.
As if Mahalakshmi’s daily ‘saas-bahu soap’ was not enough to make her life hell, the sudden loss of her husband made her look more like a culprit than a victim. People also went to the extent of assassinating her character. Her in-laws stopped supporting her financially, but she is still with them - not because she loves living there with all the painful memories, but because she has to abide by the social norms.
For an independent working woman, who broke-free from the age-old beliefs; being condemned every single day of her life for not doing enough to prevent her husband from dying has not been easy. A victim has now become an accused who is being tried in the open courts of a merciless society. Not a single revenue official has visited the family after Rajaiah died.
Their superficial enquiry probably revealed how ruptured the family was before he died, giving them an excuse for not looking at the case like a farmer’s suicide due to losses in agriculture. It has been 14 months since Rajaiah died. No help came from any direction for Mahalakshmi and her children by either the authorities or her relatives.
In short, she has been isolated by everyone. Despite the entire social stigma attached to widows like her, she still stands strong, knowing that she has to deal with it for the rest of her life which she has to live raising her children to grow up to become good citizens. Compensation or no compensation, Mahalakshmi sees a better future because there is one thing she never compromised upon and that is ‘education.’ But how many confident widows like her do we see in rural Telangana today?
“The problem is with the preconceived viewpoint society has towards women as a weaker section of the society, whether they are educated or not. Even in Mahalakshmi’s case, though she probably has been strong throughout her life, she was viewed as weak when she was in her Intermediate and was married off. This continued even after her marriage while she was pursuing her higher education and has been stalking her even after the death of her husband,” said Padma, a representative of Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV).
“Just think, if her husband had considered her as a strong supporter in his life, why would he commit suicide? Keeping the blame-game aside, if Mahalakshmi’s children are left to stay with their grandparents, wouldn’t they develop the same perceptions of their grandparents about their mother?” she asked.
“Even government officials need to come out of the preconceptions and start accepting the reality in the society. Whether a suicide happens due to a family problem or anything else, one can easily figure out that financial troubles lead to all other problems. If they continue to live in a denial mode, how can the issue be addressed from its foundations?” she wondered.
By Vivek Bhoomi