The picture above shows a resplendent and radiant mother-daughter pair. But behind the radiant smiles and crinkled eyes are ears of trauma and a long struggle. A struggle to give birth. A struggle to be born. A struggle to live.
This is the story of three persons who were told they deserved to die, or at the most live a second-rate life. Just because they were women. They were abused, abandoned, berated, belittled, disowned. Just because one was a mother who was not given the right to beget a daughter. Just because the other two were offsprings who carried a different DNA pattern than the one desired by their family. Just because Neera had the guts to bear and raise Shubhra and Pooja despite the hardships she had to endure for doing so. Just because Shubhra and Pooja were determined to live the life their mother struggled to provide for them.
Like any other Indian girl, Neera was married to a well-placed and fairly well-to-do man who she'd thought would be her 'partner' for life. The marriage was not the perfect romance or a bed of roses or a perpetual honeymoon or any other simile the word is accorded by poets and romantics. But like any other Indian wife, Neera tried her best to pull the relationship through. And then she discovered she was pregnant with her first child.
Neera's in-laws told her everything would be back to normal with her husband if she could give him what she had been brought into the family for - a son. When Shubhra was born, the marriage predictably went from bad to worse. Her husband decided to seek on the streets the son he did not get from his wife, and made no qualms about flaunting his many 'women' in his wife's face. Despite that and everything else she was subjected to in her marital home, Neera did not (read could not) walk away. Just like any other Indian daughter. She tried her best to please everyone from her malicious mother-in-law to her adulterous husband, all the while hoping and believing that she could win them over. This despite the fact that she served her cancer-stricken mother-in-law with all her heart only to hear abuses hurled at her. This despite the fact that her husband brought one of his mistresses home and announced their imminent wedding. This despite the fact that there was nobody who stood up for Neera or even felt for her.
Then Neera was pregnant a second time. This time, she fervently hoped and prayed for a son. But I wouldn't have been writing this and being inspired, had Pooja not been born to her.
Neera's worst fears came true when nobody from Pooja's paternal family ever came to see her. She had to borrow clothes for her newborn daughter from the new mother in the adjacent bed. When Pooja was 20 days old, Neera made a choice. She left her marital home with her daughters, and hasn't looked back since.
This was not the end of misery or hardship for Neera, but she could breathe again. The freedom from a shame and a guilt that were in no way hers brought the courage to live again. For herself. For her daughters. Needless to say, the little girls imbibed their mother's grit and devotion to them, returning and sharing the feelings in equal measure. They not only lived for each other, but were determined to live for themselves as well. Not surprisingly, Shubhra today is a management professional happily married and blessed with a daughter.
As for Pooja, we saw her crowned Miss india-World 2009 on a night when the stars shined down upon her. Amidst these, the brightest star is her mother, who truly and completely gave her life. More than any ordinary mother could.