After the sad demise of my husband a few months ago, I have often been compelled to think of the true meaning of being single again, especially in our part of the world where young widows are expected to behave like mere widows, and nothing more.
Starting with the unending sympathy from former in-laws and consolation from her siblings, everyone around her seems to act in a way that makes the poor woman feel that she is not a normal human being but a dead body wrapped in a white shroud with no right to smile, laugh and be her own self again.
The way a young widow is treated reveals the societal beliefs that this ill-fated woman is left with nothing but to ceaselessly mourn her life partner and portray herself as a devoted wife.
These ‘socially compliant’ women are not supposed to say anything and are treated like brainless, and even soulless creatures. They are supposed to be dependent on others for everything they may need, be it a needle to stitch the child’s school uniform, or a broomstick to clean the floor. They are not the givers but receivers, and not believed to be capable of taking decisions.
They are supposed to accept whatever is offered to them without saying a word or giving their opinion. The litany of do’s and don’ts for a widow are too many to count. From my personal experience I can say that people now want me to be more of an introvert. But I have decided that this is not to be the case.
People usually ask me about my plans. I think it is a very silly question. What plans can a widow have except trying to lead a normal life on her own, without being a burden to anybody else? Some ask me how I will be able to stand on my feet. Why can’t I do it? I will make the best of my abilities to achieve the best for my little kid and myself.
Many well-wishers also question me on how I am going to manage all of these single-handedly. I would say it’s again a silly question. Being single again doesn’t mean that I am alone or hopeless; it refers to self discovery, an opportunity to re-explore oneself, and it is the moment when self-companionship offers you more than the meaningless crowd of hundreds of people frequently making you realise that you are nothing but a mere widow.
I take widowhood as a challenge; to me it’s like a re-entry into the world. I can walk in the world outside my home with all the grace and self-respect that not only saves me from others’ taunts but also protects my children from the sense of being fatherless. I have the capability to take decisions and I have resolved that I will make my home a blessed shelter, a real paradise for the family, instead of waiting for others for even our bread and butter.
Stepping out into the world after a long time with new roles and functions is not an easy task, especially for a woman. There is a huge difference between looking at the world from the sanctuary of your home and actively participating in the routine activities of the outside world.
If we keep our attitude positive we can take widowhood as a means to self-actualisation rather than submitting ourselves to unending sorrow and grief. A widow should know how to change a great loss into something positive, as widowhood is neither a matter of deprivation nor God’s injustice. It is not the countdown of one’s remaining days but the start of a new life.
Shakespeare has perfectly summarised man’s life in ‘the seven ages of man’, but for a woman, there are more than seven ages. I have journeyed from being a mere daughter to a submissive wife, and then being a fulltime mother to a widow, and I have yet to measure how many stages are left for women like me. Women who have been unfortunate to lose their husbands should take their life normally, complete their education if it was left incomplete, and polish up skills to pursue a career with more confidence and self esteem. People should also judge a woman through her educational qualifications and professional expertise, rather than needlessly asking for her marital status.
For a widow, it is a completely new world, wherein she has to come forward from being a housewife to a 9-to-5 bread winner and from being a homemaker to a true professional woman. It’s not that easy to play the dual role of a mother and a father all at once, but a woman can do it, and when a woman steps forward, she really makes a difference.