By Priya Arunkumar
And a husband who walked away…
The only thing she knew was to cook, she said.
It will do, her mind said.
It has to do, sighed her heart.
You cook for your family, every single day, she told herself.
Your mom did. Your grandmother too.
There is nothing wrong to cook for a living.
Or to cook and sell for a living.
Well, you cannot rush into a school overnight and get a degree, can you? And if you manage that somehow, will it be able to feed five mouths? How and when will you get a job? And, even if you get a job, will it pay the rent for a home and will it finally give you the right to live with dignity, the security of a home?People have to eat, right? And if it is tasty enough, they will come back for more.
While your mind frantically tries to figure out the enormity of the helplessness, the dead ends, the not-happening-situations, the could-have-beens, the ifs and the if-nots, the only thought that kept me alive, moving forward, were my children. They need food to eat, a roof over their heads and money for everything else, she said.
As a million thoughts flooded my dazed mind, I felt a firm hand on my shoulder. It was that of an elderly woman, who without any sympathy advised, “Go do what you have to,” adding that at her age, she could still “babysit”.
That was my cue to string a new punch line for my life.
Do what I have to survive.
Do what I have to live.
Do what I have to keep my children safe.
Do what I have to live with security.
Do what I have to live with dignity.
Three decades have gone by, and I did what I have to, she reminisced happily. You know, life taught me how to cook a mean meal, I should cook for you one day, she softly murmured.
Overwhelmed by emotions, anger at what life threw at her, relief that she survived, proud that I know her, I could only mutely nod in agreement.
Yes, I need to taste that meal she cooked to survive, to live and succeed, something they don’t teach in universities.
Some people without being overbearing, without wallowing in self pity, or bragging about accomplishments, shine around us, oblivious to the rays of hope they reflect, never taking credit for their courage or lives they built on the sheer strength of their survival instinct.
I think it is time to keep away from all the set paths, steer away from all traditional wisdoms to chart out your own way forward.
And live one day at a time.
And, however weird it might look to others around you.
Just go and do your own thing.