A great lady

Amal Chatterjee
11 min readSep 15, 2023

Source: Photo of a great lady as a child and at the age of 90

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A few years ago, I took up the idea that I could write about some social issues about which I felt strongly enough and let the world know how I felt about them. So, I became a sort of armchair activist to bring a focus on the ills that people face in any society so that they could become more aware and take some actions to face these issues squarely to find a solution. Sometimes I tried to make people aware about the danger of drugs, alcohol addiction, gambling or child trafficking. At other times I wrote about the menace of prostitution or the poaching of precious animals to sell their skins. I also wrote about how to save the river dolphins or the peacocks that are being decimated by feral cats and dogs in India.

I wrote on numerous topics including travel to exotic countries, arts and crafts of many countries and presented power points on them, or heavenly foods in India and other topics that I cared about and wrote extensively since I started writing in 2016 and published them all as blogs using many free platforms available to me.

I did not stop there. I also wrote extensively about the great people who brought fundamental changes in their country through their struggle and sacrifices. I received thousands of comments from my readers in more than 140 countries, so I know that you my readers like to read what I write so I am grateful to you and thank you. Please read my complete list of blogs I have published so far in the link given here. (https://aumolc.wordpress.com/2023/05/13/a-list-of-all-of-my-blogs-2/ )

But now that I am reaching the end of my writing career after having published more than 440 blogs and my biography in 14 chapters that will tell you about all the countries where I lived and worked for many years and of my experience there as only, I could write about, I felt that I was missing something.

The story of a great lady

So today I thought of writing about a great lady who had tremendous influence on me as I was growing up in India. So read this blog and send me your comments. I will look forward to reading them and publish them.

A beautiful child was born in a respectable Brahmin family in India long ago after her mother fasted and prayed in a Shiva temple to have a baby girl, so Lord Shiva granted her wish, and a beautiful child was born to the great joy and ecstasy of her parents. She was considered God’s gift to the couple so she could not be denied anything she wanted. She was the apple of their eyes and was pampered but she was not the only child. She was born in a family of three brothers and two more children came after her making it a large family but that was quite normal in those days meaning a hundred years ago.

It was the period of the British Raaj in India when some missionaries tried to bring education to the girls by opening schools for them and going house to house to convince the parents to send their children to the mission schools. But in those days one hundred years ago, female education was not popular because the parents did not see the need for a formal education for the girls.

It was not known if the pretty child attended a missionary school, but her mother and father taught her the Bengali alphabets, so she learned to write beautifully and took avid interest in reading Bengali classics.

Her loving mother taught her many skills in crochet, embroidery and cross stitch that she developed at a very early stage. A child in those days was taught all the skills she needed to become a successful home maker like cooking, knitting and making numerous types of pickles. She watched her elders to learn how to raise a baby and how to care for him or her.

As a child she perhaps had all the aspirations all children had like getting some dolls to play with or other toys or making friends with other children of her age, but she was born at a time when child marriage was practiced so at a very tender age of 13, she was told to get ready to get married. She was still a child who did not know what it meant to be married. She was sad that her wonderful childhood was to end so soon, and she would leave the comfortable home where she was the pampered child. She was scared of going away from her parents with a stranger toward an unknown future.

She worried about the groom and most of all who could he be because in the arranged marriage, the bride did not get to meet the groom before marriage. Her parents chose a gentleman for her and started to prepare for her marriage in earnest. It meant getting her gold jewelries and fine silk saris ready. They made all the preparations like the gifts for the groom and his family and what food to serve the guests. It meant a lot of expense on their part that perhaps included a dowry, but the child was unaware of the details. Even the invitation letters were printed, and a date had been fixed after consulting a priest and the Hindu almanac for an auspicious day and time but soon came a twist that no one had even thought of.

The would-be groom made a big mistake by demanding to see the very young bride-to-be before marriage that her father took as an offense because it was against the practice in those days, so he abruptly canceled the wedding that shocked everybody including the child. She was devastated and knew that canceling the wedding at the last minute meant a loss of face for her parents and a stain on her family. She could not understand why the demand to see her before marriage was such a big deal for her parents and why her father took offense. She was a beautiful child and wore no veil.

At this time her elder brother came to her rescue and brought the news that he knew of a young man of a good Brahmin family who could be persuaded to marry his sister. He was only 22 who worked as an accountant for the British somewhere, so her father agreed to meet him and convince him that the girl was a gem, so the marriage was arranged, and her mother shed a tear of joy. She had prayed hard to find a suitable match for her daughter at this late hour which was a very difficult thing to do but it all ended well when her prayers were answered.

But after the marriage, the groom who was only 22 years old said that he was not ready to bring his young wife to his station because there was no facility for her there like a decent house among other things. It would have been very difficult for a young bride to live with him in primitive conditions because she was from a city who had never seen a village.

So, the new husband made arrangement for her to go and live in his native village among his relatives until he was ready to bring her to his station sometime later. It was shocking to the girl who dreaded living in a village among strangers without light and running water, but she had no choice so one day few men arrived to bring her to the village in faraway Bengal first by train which was a novelty for her because she had never been on a train.

It was a very long and stressful journey for her because she did not know anything about the geography and where the village was, so she was worried. She took a leap of faith to take such a long journey with strangers because somehow, she believed her husband who had promised to rescue her, but she did not know when.

Then from Kolkata, they boarded a steamboat that brought her to the main river near the village, and then to the village by a small dinghy because the large steamboat could not enter the small and shallow stream. No one talked to her during her long journey. She was very shy and could not say to her fellow travelers to let her off somewhere so that she could relieve herself, so she bit her lips and tolerated her pain silently.

You can imagine how shocked she was when finally, the dinghy arrived at the village where a few men and women stood with a kerosene lamp to receive her. All she saw was total darkness and heard the howling of jackals, but her ordeal was not over yet. The women examined her crucially from head to toe as was the custom, but she endured and finally she was able to relieve herself. Women understood her problem right away and brought her to a primitive toilet.

It was all a very new experience for her, but she steeled herself to live in the Godforsaken village among total strangers as best as she could and wait patiently for her husband who had promised to bring her to his place in the future. Later in her life she talked of her time in that village with some nostalgia and how she was able to adjust to live in mud houses without light and water. The stream was just nearby so she got used to carry water from there, learned to cook Bengali food and many other things while patiently waiting for her husband to come.

She could read and write but letters from her husband were rare. It brought her tremendous joy when she got one. Then one day he arrived in the village and told her to get ready because he had found a house where they could now live as a family. India is a big country, so the train journey took many days to reach the place where he worked that is presently called Pakistan now.

Thus started her nomadic life that brought her to all parts of India because her husband was transferred from one place to the next by the British. She was a young woman now and a mother of many children, but she raised them well in spite of frequent transfer from one city to the next.

But a time came when her children needed formal education, so they moved to her hometown where they found a rented place. She was very happy to return to her town where she was born and raised and because the kids started schooling while she became a devoted mother attending to all their needs. She prepared tasty meals for them, washed their clothes and ironed them, prepared their lunch boxes and even painted their Keds with white chalk.

She stayed up whole night to nurse when a kid had fever and sometime tended two or three who fell sick at the same time. She was fond of her youngest son and told him bedtime stories and he became very close to her and ran all errands for her. He patiently put colored threads in her needle so that she could make beautiful cross stitch work of art. He would help her grind the salt or turmeric in the heavy stone grinder. He would grate the mangoes for her to make pickles and he would run to the market to buy the things she ordered to make sweets.

She gave most of her gold jewelry to her husband when he found it difficult to find enough money to build her a new home. She brought her eldest daughter home when she became a widow, sent her to school and later college so that she could get a job and become independent. She persuaded her second daughter to undergo tubal ligation to limit the number of children because her husband did not earn much. She convinced her husband to let her third daughter to take up the government job she was offered in a nearby town so that she too could be independent. This way she helped everyone in her family until her last breath.

She was old now and a widow because her husband died of cancer a few years ago but her help during his sickness was exemplary. She brought him food every day and took bus to reach the hospital when no one offered her a seat. Such a devoted wife and her self-sacrifice is very hard to find. She was big hearted and gave money to orphans and to many temples as charity. She gave food or money to any beggar who came to her gate.

She collected rice and daal from many houses during Durga Pooja festival feast because there was not enough money to buy the things. Being a devout Hindu, she prayed every day, read the scriptures and kept a beautiful image of Lakhsmi, the Goddess of wealth in her prayer room.

When her youngest son declared that he was going to Vietnam to work there as a volunteer, she happily chose a piece of cloth to make a suit for his travel. She went by train to Kolkata to see him off at the airport and she wrote him loving letters in her beautiful writing and he in a distant land waited eagerly to receive her letters. She was happy as a child when he brought her to Agra one time to see the Taj Mahal and when he brought her to a movie she enjoyed tremendously.

She gave her blessing to him when he decided to marry in a foreign country and lovingly received the new bride when she arrived in India. She braided her hair and gave her gold bracelets. She massaged the newly born baby every day and loved her granddaughter and the baby grandson.

But now she was nearing 90 and feeble. She could not see very well and seldom went outside her home. The son always returned to India to see her, caressed her snow-white hair lovingly and secretly left money under her pillow. She shed a tear when he said that her sacrifice to raise all her children was the reason he and his siblings did well, got good education and good jobs. She took care of them when sick and stayed up whole night to fan their hot fever racked bodies. She patiently and lovingly fed them medicine and nourishing food to bring them back to health.

We know that we all get old and die someday but are we ever prepared for the day when we see our loved ones die? One day the dreaded news came by phone that she died so the son flew to India to attend to her last rites. She left a very big void in his life that brings secret tears to his eyes. She thought of her daughters and left them money.

Note: My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography. My blogs can be shared by anyone anytime in any social media.

Now you can guess who the great lady was. She was my mother. I am her youngest son. I still mourn her and remember her as a great lady who gave me birth and brought me up to be what I am today. I was blessed to have such a mother who left such a mark on me. I sometime look up to see the bright twinkling stars and wonder if she is now among them. I miss her very much.

Note: My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography. My blogs can be shared by anyone anytime in any social media.

les blogs en français.

Mis blogs en espagnol

Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

My blogs in Japanese

My blogs at Wix site

tumblr posts

Blogger.com

Medium.com

Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русскиu

Originally published at http://aumolc.wordpress.com on September 15, 2023.

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Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.