Pratibha has seen it all and now she just wants to rest in peace in Vrindavan
“I am not a widow, but I was never a wife, either. It was all a lie. They said his wife was mentally ill and that he and his children needed me. It was all a lie. All they wanted was a free of cost full-time maid. I was never really wanted, just needed. It was all a lie...” and then she stopped speaking, saying there is no point discussing it now.
So goes the story of Pratibha Roy of Balarampur in West Medinipur, West Bengal who has maintained an on-again, off-again relation with Vrindavan since 2003.
Pratibha was married at the age of 15 to a man who was more than double her age (32), and this was the beginning of a series of lies, pains and hardships. This was her husband’s second-marriage; his first wife was initially portrayed as a mentally challenged woman who lives with her own parents.
She was convinced that the two children from first marriage needed a mother. She was prepared to give her all to the family. But immediately after the low-key wedding ceremony, when she reached the new home, she was shocked to know that the first wife was already living there and that she had been tricked.
She became a full-time maid from being a wife. She was told that she cannot have a child. Her dreams of a married life were shattered. She couldn’t even go back as her mother was concerned that it would be a social embarrassment for the family.
They would often beat her – both, the other wife and the so-called-husband who was a jobless sluggard.
Somehow after three years of marriage she gave birth to a girl, and in course of time had a son, too.
“When I gave birth to the daughter, they were least bothered. But when I had a son, I was brutally beaten and the child was taken away from me. My children were never provided with milk and food.”
Seeing her crying, hungry children she ached. So she went on to join a sewing school to earn a living for them. Clueless that it was all not that simple, she was happy that her children will now have the fair share. But, sadly, whatever she earned was now used to run the household.
She became a source of income. But over years, spondylitis caught hold of her. Her eyes were also getting weaker day-by-day. She couldn’t work for long. As soon as the money stopped flowing in, the brutal couple started beating, torturing her again.
She had it up till here, and so, she left for Vrindavan.
Pratibha sure ran off to Vrindavan but could not decide to settle down here. She would stay here for 1-1.5 months and then go back again to meet her own family and her son. She would try to survive back at home but after a year-or-so-stay, Pratibha can be seen en-route Vrindavan.
It was her search for a silver lining that kept her retracting back to Balarampur again and again. In Vrindavan, she survived by staying at Om Namah Shivay Ashram where in turn she’d work for the ashram – from cleaning to cooking to singing bhajans.
Some time back Pratibha’s son and daughter-in-law came to Vrindavan and convinced her to return home with her. She had her doubts but couldn’t refuse their request. She went back to Balarampur, but for one last time.
Nobody’s attitude towards her had changed. They didn’t beat her but their behaviour was rude enough to give her new scars.
“I thought what was the point of all this. They didn’t respect me then, they don’t respect me now. They never cared for me, and this is how it is going to be, always. And so I gave up on the hope of having a true, happy family.”
From that day forth, Pratibha never looked back.
Pratibha is now 68 years old. In this life, she has seen it all. She was lied to, beaten, tortured, suffered many injuries and strokes. Her life was nowhere near that of what she had imagined. But she stood strong the entire time. It was her ‘pratibha’ (talent) that lifted her beyond all harassments and paved way into a peaceful life.
“Vrindavan gives me peace. I sing bhajans. Vrindavan has healed my scars. I now live in Sulabh’s widow-ashram. I don’t have to work to earn a living. The ashram takes care of it.
I know I don’t have many days left, and I’m glad the last days are this peaceful. Vrindavan is where I’ll rest in peace.”
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