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Strength to Enjoy Life...

What is strength measured in, I wonder, as I ponder over 'Mardaani'.

Mardaani... (Image Source)

Somehow, the word reminds me of Rekha in a Sari, hair open, on a horse, wielding a sword - akin Rani Laxmibai, I guess.

What is outwardly apparent is the physical strength. But is it enough, if not supported by emotional toughness?

I can't think of a female I know who has wielded a sword or even a stick, for that matter. Never had to (fingers crossed!), but strength some of them have had in bounds.

One such person is my aunt, Preet. And this is Preet's story.

Preet's a good girl - that's how her mother always talked about her.
Born in 1950s India to Punjabi parents, who were 'refugees' in 1947 when they came to India from Pakistan. (Preet's father would, once in a while, rant about having been called a refugee in his own country - but that story is for another time, another blog-post)

When she was born, the family was still struggling to make a living in post-independence India's capital New Delhi. The struggle didn't last long. Soon they were part of the blooming middle class.

With three brothers - two elder and one younger - Preet was the only daughter in the family.

Fond of studies, but just as interested in domestic chores, and religious beliefs and rituals. As I said before, a good girl...

Fast forward to today, decades later, she can still rattle off definitions and answers she had learnt in her school and college, verbatim. People say she's got a photographic memory.

Back to the days of her youth - she usually topped her class in school and college, cooked well (though not always), stitched clothes, learnt religious scriptures.

Preet - the first girl of the family to go to college. As good a student as she was, her elder brothers' support certainly helped. The three siblings were even able to convince their conservative father to allow her to go to a three-day college trip to Simla. Reminiscing about this trip is something she enjoys doing till date, and she does remember so many small details, it is surprising.

Preet had fun, with her friends, when possible. She would find happiness in the small things - go out with friends for an ice-cream, watch a movie with them (this was extremely rare though). The Simla trip was certainly the high point.

She never rebelled. According to her, she never wanted to. Life was good.

Graduation degree in hand, she did what was expected next. She got married.
A few 'spicy' (her description, not mine) encounters with in-laws followed, which a couple of years later resulted the expected progression of moving out of the joint family.

Their apartment was always maintained to perfection - well, she said it was always perfect, and her husband did too.
The ideal family with two sons, both pampered a little. No tuition for her kids - she loved helping them do their homework - and was always vocal about her pride in doing so.
And a loving, but a little over-possessive husband.
Preet had it all - and since she believed she had it all, who is anyone else to judge her.

Why did Preet start working?
Well, the practical answer is that both her children were teenagers now. She had lots of free time.
Her husband, who had always appreciated and complimented her 'intelligence' (again, his choice of word, not mine), encouraged her to start a boutique - a small shop where she sold dress material, employed tailors to get dresses stitched to order.
That is the practical answer. I have always believed that it was God's way of helping Preet prepare for the times ahead.

Within a year of the boutique opening, Preet's husband died. He had been unwell for a couple of years. Confusing diagnosis and deteriorating health made way for a painful death.

In her 40s, Preet lost her husband.
One child was in college, the other still in school. Considering the sheltered life she'd always had, most people expected her to be shattered.
In her 40s, Preet came into her own.

Over a decade later, she manages her business with an elan that defies her earlier ambition-less choices of life. The fact that she had dabbled with stitching long back gives her an edge over her competitors.

Her confidence is such, that one's first instinct is to accept whatever she comments, as truth and nothing but the truth.

No grudges against God (she is as religious as ever), no 'what ifs' cloud her peace.

Preet - a lady with the strength to face and enjoy whatever life surprised her with and the ability to be perfect at whatever role time expected her to play.

No sword wielding, I know. Strength, certainly!


  1. You've given a wonderful portrait of a real warrior. The real warrior is one who faces life's struggles with nonchalance. With confidence. Certainty. No grouses - neither against God nor people...

    1. Thanks. That's exactly what I was trying to portray.


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