I died ten days ago. My name was Flower. I don’t know how I died. I was in my early seventies but I looked at least a decade older. I did not dye my white hair. My eyesight was weak and I looked frail, with a slight hunch. Not long ago, I was full of life but life had severely worn me down. Life was not fair; it never did justice. I deserved much better. I was disadvantaged. My misfortune after all!
As the middle daughter, I was the third of the four children born to my parents. I was born with lots of intelligence and a big heart, however, with a little squint in one of my eyes. In my early years, I felt I was either too-much loved or not-much loved. Despite being the brightest of all children, I felt marginalised. However, I hated playing a victim or venting my frustration. To shield my sensitive mind, life taught me to develop a stiff exterior. I acquired a happy and aggressive persona, so as not to look meek, deprived or neglected, for which I was hated by those who wanted to see me in dirt; humans feed on failures and weakness of others. Sadism! As my protection, Nature had gifted me with an easy disposition. I would easily fall asleep and not give a damn to how life treated me. I had become haughty.
My lovely, worldly-wise and street-smart, eldest sibling enjoyed a dominant influence on my parents and siblings. To a considerable extent, she diminished the patriarchal benefits that my elder brother – the only son of our parents – would have enjoyed. Due to her total dominance on his psychology, he always leaned on her for her advice and direction that he needed from time to time in his life. My younger sister, the darling of my family, especially of my brother, fully exploited the advantages of being the youngest child. She could get away with anything. All her demands were met in no time. I would just witness things, silently, amazed at the world and its unfairness! I felt unwanted at times.
I was a science student and wanted to be a medical doctor. Immediately after my admission to an interstate medical college, my father brought me back after witnessing an incident of ragging on the campus. I was too passive to resist his bizarre decision. After forfeiting my medical seat, I completed my undergraduate degree in sciences with first class and later got admitted to a law college.
My father, a noted educationist, surprisingly took a number of strange decisions, perhaps out of too much care for me, which actually went against my career and well-being. For example, my squint was not treated in time because my father feared my spectacles would adversely impact my matrimonial prospects. [Thanks to my sister-in-law (brother’s wife), who saw me struggling, I received my first pair of glasses when I was about 30.]
My eldest sibling married out of the community, which devastated my family. The community demonised us. As a social outcast, we became a butt of jokes and a soft target of criticism. Even before I could complete my law degree, I was married off in a rush. I just kept tagging along with the decisions of my family.
My in-laws were quite warm, friendly and nice people, with an illustrious past. However, due to my education and modern outlook, I was a total misfit there. I was fashionable, modern and full of life. Many of my cousins from my age group were jealous of my academic excellence and fashion sense. On my face, they would make fun of my clothing sense only to be seen wearing similar clothes a fortnight later. I loved to eat and cook big meals, small or less was not in my dictionary. I loved abundance and lavishness. On any day, at least four uninvited guests could pop in at my home and be treated to a hearty meal.
After completing my law degree, I went into public service. By dint of my efficiency and hard work, I kept rising through the ranks. Due to the disparity in our education and position, my husband developed a sense of complex, which increased with time. His heightened sensitivity to the attention from my family burdened me and strained my relationship with my siblings. As a dutiful wife, I followed his every command and, when required, defended him. My children inferred my obedience and unconditional love for my husband as the sign of my meekness and weakness; they too dominated me, which massaged the ego of my husband. Despite being the main bread-earner, I did not have much say in the family matters. I just played a second fiddle and tagged along, as I had done all in my life before my marriage.
I was widowed at 54, about 31 years after my wedding, when my husband died. He was 58. Thereafter, I lived mostly on my own, alone. My children led their own lives.
I was loved and respected by my peers and colleagues. Upon my death, many people visited my home for condolences. Many people shed tears for me, most were genuine but some also crocodile. Some wept bitterly for days, perhaps for being questioned by their own conscience for how they had treated me. Unseen and unnoticed, I watched the mourners, silently, as I had done all my life.
I had been a caring public servant, a loyal daughter, an obedient wife, a dutiful sister and a loving mother. I knew all along how the world runs; after all, I had been a lawyer and could have been a doctor too. All along, I had sacrificed myself for my family. Now, after my death, I question myself why I did not:
- Demand my parents to get my eyes checked when I was a child. I urgently needed glasses.
- Talk my father out of his decision to forfeit my medical seat and bring me home.
- Resist my rushed marriage when I was still a young student. I had many aspirations and dreams, which remained unfulfilled.
- Take command of my family matters despite my education and position.
After having given my life to all those around me, I regret not taking the reins of my life in my hands when I had the time. It was my life after all. I had felt deprived of equal love and attention from my family before I was married off. I wished my married life would compensate for that but that never happened. It does not matter now. Does it? I am free at last.
Note: This story sums up the life of a real person to whom the author pays a deep homage on this day. Be peace to her soul!
… Bill K Koul (Perth, Western Australia, dated Sept 20, 2021)