A Single Mother In The 1950s Who Stood Up For Herself

Published on 19 Feb 2018 . 1 min read

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It was during the pre-independence time, somewhere in Bangladesh, when at the tender age of four, her mother died. Her father was equally devastated and did not marry again but neither could he raise her and her siblings single-handedly. Hence he handed them over to his sister, who was exceptionally rich.

His sister did total justice of taking care and left no stone unturned to keep the children happy. The little girl was raised like a princess.

Nevertheless, when she saw her cousins playing with their mother and father, the absence of her real parents was always felt.

Her days were spent in the lovely ‘bagaan’ (garden) of Bangladesh, basking under the sun, eating fruits beneath the tree and playing around like nothing else mattered to her. She was bright, intelligent and kind-hearted. Days passed by and she grew to be one of the most beautiful girls in the village.

Her beauty was far reached and marriage proposals started to pour in, from several renowned ‘zamindars’ (landowners) around the state and eventually, she got married at the age of fourteen, to one.

Her husband was the owner of a hundred villages and was profoundly rich. Getting into a royal family was not a big deal for her, as she had been raised up equally well. She only craved for the love and companionship. But luck had a different story for her in store.

Barely a couple of years after marriage in 1947, the war broke out and the division of East Bengal and West Bengal happened.

The Royals were safely shifted to West Bengal overnight with the least resources, and the underprivileged were exposed to the unbearable torture.

Her husband and she managed to settle in the City of Joy, Kolkata. They did heave a sigh of relief on coming to Kolkata but missed their princely lifestyle.

Tensions existed outside as well as inside their house.

Her husband, who had never earned by himself and always ordered like a king, now found it very demeaning to listen to the command of others. References got him a job in the Indian army, but that was beyond his capability. After serving the army for a few days, he gave up, frustrated.

The couple had five children to feed and raise.

The wife realized that her husband had to give up his pride and royalty and come down to reality. After her persuasion, her husband reluctantly agreed to start looking for another job. Meanwhile, her father aided them with funds and gifted his son-in-law a grand shop, exhausting all his savings.

Sadly, this too couldn't be handled well by her husband.

She had sensed the grave danger of running out of money. She couldn't sleep at nights when she started to think of the future of her five children. She managed to convince her husband to join her in UP, as one of her brothers had a better offer for them. Her husband, who was still facing a hard time overcoming the harsh reality, agreed to join her in this venture.

After working for a few years, he succumbed to the office pressure. He declared that he will never work as he cannot bear other people ordering him around.

She was totally weary by this time and had tried all the possible ways to make her husband understand. Ultimately, she had to take a bold step, “I will work and earn for my children.”

She confronted her husband about her decision. He showed bitter dissatisfaction on her thoughts and threatened that if she worked, he would abandon her.

And so, they separated. Her husband left for Kolkata, she stayed back in UP. She took her five children along and shifted to small, one room plot in Ghaziabad.

In the mid-1960s, when the society, as well as the technology, was far less evolved than today, there she was, a single mother of five children who started to work on her own. The numerous challenges that a single mother faces today are huge, but those faced two generations back were massive.

Every day she used to wake up at four in the morning, cook for the children and herself on the traditional ‘chulha’ with bare minimum crockery and ingredients that she could afford. By six she had to get ready for work and make her children ready for school. She used to be worried about her children, as when they would return from school, she couldn't be there for them. Nevertheless, she tried her best to manage things.

She used to walk kilometers to her work so that she could save more money. After reaching home from work, she used to start preparing for dinner.

There were times when after feeding the children, she had no food left for her.

It did not bother her, but the fact that raising the kids with solely her salary did turn her nights sleepless. And she started to work even harder. She started taking tuitions after work. A girl who was raised like a princess, married to be like a queen, was now working two jobs to make ends meet.

One day while she was at work, her children were playing at the park outside and had forgotten to lock the door. When they returned home, they found the house in a mess and the prepared food was all eaten up. After a long day, she returned home and found her children sobbing in hunger.

Several other mishaps like these made her realize that it was practically impossible for her to handle everything all by herself. She had to train her children to take care of the house as well as themselves, while she was away.

She started distributing the workload amongst her children equally. She taught them to cook, clean the house, to keep it safe and also to do their studies on their own.

The financial crunch and the physical exertion were not the only issues she faced but the society contributed much to her despair.

At any social function or school meeting, she was subjected to a series of questions about her husband and after she had patiently answered and explained them, she was judged.

Deep down in her heart, she used to miss her husband, but during those times, making a long distance phone call would have cost her lunch for five days. She would see other ladies, walking hand in hand with their better halves, wearing beautiful jewellery but never showed the sorrow on her face.

She dumped her fancy desires, paid no heed to her health and ignored her bodily pains, just to make the lives of her children good. Her only aim in life was to raise her children to be self-sufficient.

She had accepted her fate with a positive outlook and was determined to achieve her goal.

With due course of time, she learned to handle the finances so well that she raised all the five kids to be independent and well educated. She did not compromise even a bit on the children’s upbringing. She earned little but also made a point to donate to the poor. Her management skills, intelligence and empathy helped her to excel in her work as well as get accepted in the society.

She played the roles of a loving mother and a supportive father, in the best way. Today, her children are happily married. They are earning well and have their own kids.

But she is no more to see this day. All the years of unbroken hardship and ignorance to her health had made her very weak. Her children and her grandchildren stood by her side till the end and still miss her.

Her name is Deepali Ghosh and my heart fills with pride to be called as the granddaughter-in-law of such a courageous yet modest lady. She lead a beautiful example of an affectionate woman who has immense strength to conquer the world with dignity.


Do you have a similar story that broke all stereotypes? Tell us in the comments below.

Sainy Banerjee Pal
An engineer by profession but an ardent writer by heart, Sainy has been writing from the age of 12. She has a huge collection of her handwritten diaries. Her friends call her a therapist for broken hearts and can connect instantly with anyone. She lives with her doting husband who is also her critic for her write ups. Imaginative, spirited and filled with compassion, she always has a lot to say, to those who care to listen.

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