Thursday, June 02, 2016

To 'Bhaloma', My Grandmother

Hiran Moyee Sen



It was October, 1990
Standing on the rooftop of the hospital building,
I saw her traipsing on a rainbow path
A pair of feet pattered wearily
      One by one, into the dark latticed night
Unshed tears rolled down my cheeks.

Grandmothers are icons for grandchildren
       And for us, she was not only a great cook
But a warm and caring, loving and welcoming
mother figure-the matriarch of our home;

When grandfather died, she was just twenty-four
    with four small children and carrying one in her womb.
       The heavy hands of patriarchy those days
             was a great fear for a widow.
   
 Inevitably, this widow was shown no mercy, and
     quickly bundled up in a widow’s colourless white fabric.
Without reason, without a why…she tucked herself
  amongst heaps of unwanted man-made laws;

Repeating rituals weaved a deadlier web within her brain
At the age of 87 years, she developed Alzheimer’s; 
Her past and present merged and lost their way..
…her disease talked more through her eyes....and in silence
We just looked on...
      at the mute and incandescent face
Thank god…the final years
        wiped out all her past memories.

She lives with us, in a dignity that has only humbled….

 -----

My grandmother passed away at the age of 97.
Widowhood was a curse in many parts of India. Widows were expected  to shun all worldly pleasures. They were not allowed to wear colours, couldn't eat/touch non-vegetarian and certain other foods. Basically they were expected to mourn their husbands for the rest of their lives.  As a woman it saddens me to think of vibrant women, some in the peak of their lives, having to live a life like this –  being dictated to and no longer being able to enjoy the pleasures life has to offer.



29 comments:

  1. That was a very touching poem,Panchali. My granny passed away when she was 72 and I still remember that day. I miss her very much and your poem just brought back all the memories.

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    1. Glad you liked it... thanks for the visit, Ramya... :)))

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  2. A most exquisite tribute to your grandmother, Panchali.

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  3. I wondered as I read your tribute, how she maintained a personality that could nurture given the oppression you describe. But she did, or a child would not drop tears, would not see her on the rainbow path!

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    1. Oh, she was an iron-lady, Susan. I am sure, she flew back to the land of mist with the conviction of another journey... which is how it should BE I am sure... :))))
      Thanks for your visit and comments!

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  4. So moving, those tired footsteps on the rainbow path, and the difficulty of her life. But what I see in her face, and feel in your poem, is how much love and joy she bestowed and likely received in return from grandchildren. I'll bet those were the happiest years of her old age. She sounds wonderful, Panchali. My grandma was, front and centre, the most important figure in my childhood. She saved my life, I think.

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    1. Tradition and respect for our heritage and value system are essential for they can provide a framework for our thought process. She was absolutely loveable... a woman with gifts of confidence, decisiveness and strength.
      I wish I had words to convey my pleasure at seeing you here. Your comment is most cherished, Sherry... :))Thank you!

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  5. Thank you for bringing our attention to the horrible plight of women still happening in certain parts of the world.Women like your grandmother are the important strong foundations of life. Cultures should revere them and bestow privilege praise and respect on them.

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    1. Thank you, Rall for that beautiful comment. As I said earlier, tradition and respect for our heritage and value system are essential..to abandon one and use only one would always create a disbalance... :))

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  6. heartfelt words Panchali di expressed with beautiful reverence...

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    1. Thanks a bunch...Sumana! :)))

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  7. I believe and pray that the love of her grandchildren brightened her life.

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    1. I am so sure, Rosemary! Thanks for the visit... :))

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    1. Thank you, Geetashree!! Lovely to see you here....:)))

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  9. What a wonderful tribute and also description of a culture that is so different to one i am familiar with for sure - 24 is so very young and that she lived for so long with dignity is indeed both testament to her wonderful character and a great legacy for her family to treasure

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    1. Certainly, Jae.. it must have been really tough for her! But, she never never complained, despite all of the hardships she faced in her life ... such a stoic and independent persona she had...Incredible!
      Thanks for coming by... :))

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  10. Very sad that widows were expected not to have any enjoyment in life after their husbands died. Horrors if the widow was very, very young & if she was expected to live a life of mourning for 30 or 50 years. Your grandmother was a prime example. I really for sad for all she had to give up. And, yes, in her case perhaps Alzheimers was a blessing. Are things a bit different now for young widows? Or do the same customs prevail? (I will check back.)

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    1. Thankfully....that social stigma on widows is no more in practice in India at present. This is a welcoming and good sign for sure. Widows are permitted to take up jobs, attend functions and ceremonies these days. The level of suppression of widow in the name of widowhood is gradually vanishing.
      Lovely to see you here... thanks, Mary.. :))

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  11. You say it well..the patriarchal, misogynistic society lives on in several sections unfortunately. From female infanticide to trafficking, there are battles to be fought at every level. Every voice against it counts!

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    1. Bengal had been the incubator of a significant number of social reforms in the 20th century. Bengali activists were the moving force that led the Raj to ban Sati and legalize Hindu widow remarriage. Bengal has one of the healthier gender ratios in India. Bengal was one of the first states (after Kerala) in independent India to end feudalism by instituting overarching land reforms. The state has one of the highest female literacy rates in India.
      Time for a second coming of a Vivekananda or a Ram Mohan Roy, perhaps.:))
      Thanks so much for your visit and comment!

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  12. Thanks for your response, Panchali. I am glad that things have changed & that widows now can also have a rewarding life.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Mary! I truly appreciate :)

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  13. It is unfortunate that widows were treated in this shameful manner. This is a touching and loving tribute to your grandmother.

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    1. Many thanks, Sara for your kind words! Good to see you always :))

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  14. Things have not changed much except there are not much restrictions on the dress,their mobility and taking up a profession.How many young men are willing and have the guts to over rule their objecting parents in marrying young widows even with a child or two?Many widowed young women and their parents even in these modern times are afraid of a vague society and do not try for or delay remarriage.
    Young unmarried men should resolve not to discriminate against widows if they are suitable otherwise.They should in fact be preferred.Women are generally enemies of women and they have a great role in removing this malady by changing their mindset.Let kundlies be kept aside along with the cruel practices followed hitherto.

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    1. You are so right I have a crick in my neck with nodding vigorously.Smiles
      Well, to re-evaluate traditional rules, we must question the motives behind them. The motive might have been relevant in the era the rule was formulated in, but may not be relevant at all today. India has two faces. The enlightened, modern and advancing middle class and the poor, deprived and illiterate masses exploited by the Godmen and men!! Today, when I look around, I find quite a few youngsters willingly marrying young widows ( even with KIDS)! Not every family in Bengal believes in Kundlies, Parthsarthi! Like my family and my in-laws fam never gave any weightage to Kundlies etc...I just wish there were more like us!
      The predicament of women issues definitely needs a sea change in attitudes to put it aptly.
      Lovely to see you here... thanks.. :))



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  15. Being a widow....those times....definitely a curse. Maybe even now in some parts of the country.

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