What would you do?

A simple soul from a village in interior Maharashtra. Migrated to Mumbai after marriage. A housewife, literate but not highly educated. The early years of marriage were probably a struggle – to bring up the kids on her husband’s modest income, manage with the mother-in-law who lived with them, as well as play host to sundry other relatives who came to the city for education or work and stayed with the family for extended periods of time. And all this in a small one bedroom flat typical of Mumbai.

The woman is now sixty plus. Life is anything but a struggle now. The flat is larger and far more comfortable, a swanky car and driver await her instructions downstairs.  But the woman’s life seems strangely empty. The husband has done very well in his career and still keeps himself busy with work – his energy and interest is admirable for his age. The children are all married with kids, busy careers and homes of their own. Ditto the relatives who lived with them from time to time. The mother-in-law is no more. What should the woman do all day?

The children and their families visit as often as they can, and are genuinely loving and interested in her happiness. But they have their own interests and commitments now. What more can they do? Ditto the husband. Of course he would like to see her happier, but is it fair to expect him to be home all day when he still has the drive to carry on with his work?

Who has gone wrong and where? Here’s what I think. The woman has lived for her family all her life. For lack of time, or more likely inclination, she was never able to cultivate a hobby, an interest or a social circle of her own. Perhaps that was par for the course in her times, but society has changed a lot since then. Joint families have made way for nuclear ones. And the woman, like many of her generation, has been caught in the midst of this social change.

The past cannot be changed, nor can the external circumstances. But I don’t see why should it be too late to start building a small life of her own? The time and the resources are in place. She could start small. Explore different activities to see what suits her the best. Join a yoga class. Befriend someone. Volunteer time, keeping in mind health constraints of course. Join a library. Learn to sing or paint or even cook a different cuisine. Or simply make it a point to plan a visit somewhere once a week – a movie, a drama, a shopping mall, a relative’s house. The possibilities are immense. But the drive has to come from within.

I see the woman struggle with loneliness and wish she would try making these small changes.  Others can help only up to a point. I know it’s far easier to write about change than implement it, but in the past few years as I’ve struggled to overcome some of my shortcomings, I’ve realized this one truth above all. Most goals can be achieved, difficulties can be overcome and habits can be changed – if you make the effort. No one can help you if you don’t help yourself.

That’s how I see the situation friends. What do you think? Put yourself in the woman’s shoes and tell me – what would you do?

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4 responses to “What would you do?

  1. She can take up gardening , in any small place, terrace or balcony. This gives immense outlet for the mind and body. It did to me.

    Being in Mumbai, natueco city farming, gives lot of training and ideas.
    link http://www.urbanleavesinindia.com/

    Me: That’s an excellent suggestion! Thanks so much for it. I will try to pass it on.

    I took a look at your blog and must say it was very inspiring. I have tried my hand at container gardening in the US, and hope to take it up again once we set up home in India. I could use a lot of these tips myself too. 🙂 Thanks again!

  2. True. I know of one couple in a similar situation. One of her daughters realised her mom’s helplessness or something that’s missing. The same daughter when visiting her mom from US, dragged her mom to a yoga class and some glass painting classes. That was it. Later her telephone conversations circled around the same and nothing regarding boredom or those kinds. She is really enjoying.

    Me: That’s such a wonderful story Sumana! Kudos to the daughter and more to the mom who was willing to try something new at that age.

    • Like you said, the drive has to come from within. I’m sure if the family is loving and considerate, she can think back on the things she wanted to do and never had time for, and do them now!

      Me: True Lakshmi! But sometimes, one gets stuck in a way of thinking so much, that it gets difficult to break out of it. Having said that, I do hope she finds the inner desire and drive soon and I am trying to do my bit in nudging her on that path!

  3. My nani (maternal grandmother) was a very active working lady before she suffered a stroke.
    She took a very long time to recover from it, but I see her living a much more fulfilling life now thanks to the strict schedule she follows – Yoga from 6-7 AM, teaching in a local slum from 9-10, breakfast at so and so time etc etc etc !

    It helps to have a life where your day is structured around activities – keeps people active in their old age.

    Me: Exactly my point! My salaams to your nani – if only everyone’s old age could be as fulfilling!

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