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Being a widow is no longer the end of life. There are so many women, who in spite of being a widow, from a very tender age are fighting against all odds and carving their own identity. Their story narrates how a man is no longer a necessity in life for earning one’s own name, fame and affluence. These women are fighters who have gone through the worst of times and have come out as achievers, standing ferociously and indomitable. Their stories are acts of courage that can empower millions of other women in the country and why shouldn’t it, anyway?
Abha: The Born Fighter
At the tender age of 30, Abha lost her husband. The cancer treatment, way back in early 90s, was expensive and hardly available. She was left with a 4-year-old son, a retired father suffering from Motor-Neuron Disease and an ageing mother. She was a chemistry teacher in one of the famous convent schools in Bihar, a job that she thoroughly enjoyed. But after the death of her husband, as the tag of ‘widow’ got attached to her identity like a parasite, she realized that she would not be the victim of her story. She started out with taking tuitions. Initially, there were only 3 students. Slowly her name and fame grew. She maintained a really hectic schedule, religiously following her school timings and then coaching schedules. She just never got tired, as she frequently says. It was as if, all the energy and inspiration to be a difference in the society was literally persuading her to go against all odds and make a name for herself. After 20 years, today, Abha is one of the most famous Chemistry teachers in Patna, with more than 1000 students attending her coaching classes. She has become an inspiration to many women. She is often interviewed and she strongly believes that inspiring children, when they are really at the nascent age of formation is a divine vocation. She never got married again and has worked ardently to endow a beautiful and comfortable life to her only son.
Vinita: The Indomitable spirit
Vinita, who is HIV positive, lost her husband to AIDS. A few years ago, when she found out that she was expecting she went to the local government hospital. The doctor in-charge recommended HIV testing. Shockingly, she tested positive. She had contracted the virus from her late husband, who was gravely ill at the time. However, they hid this reality from their families and only broke the news to a close friend. Although both of them started treatment [during which they had faced discrimination from the hospital staff], her husband died soon after. Unfortunately, her son also passed away within a year. Despite the tragedy, Vinita made up her mind to forge on, raising a foster child all by herself. And although she has had minimal emotional and financial backing from her natal or marital families, she has admirably managed to carry on with her life. Incidentally, Vinita has no savings as she hails from a lower middle income family and was not employed when her husband was around. At present, though, she is working as a school teacher who takes out time to specially counsel young girls and women to study and work and say ‘No’ to early marriage. And she does all this while on intensive anti-retroviral therapy (ART), which involves commuting to the ART centre every month to collect her medication and undergo examination.
Jyoti: The Torchbearer of emancipation
Jyoti, a proud mother of a three-year-old son came from a financially backward family and was compelled to give up her education after middle school. Subsequently, she was married off while still in her teens to a daily wager. He was an alcoholic and died of cirrhosis. Her real trials began after he passed away. Her parents-in-law, who are agricultural labourers, wanted to confine her to the house and perform religious ceremonies, which, in her opinion, are demeaning to women. So she flatly refused to give in to their demands and, in fact, tried to convince them to stop the unnecessary rituals. Later, she managed to talk them into allowing her to take up some work so that she could become independent and augment the family earning, too. These days, Jyoti is employed at a local non-profit organisation that assists women in distress and is ably supporting herself and her son.
Aparna Malikar: The Winner
Two years ago, her world collapsed when her husband of six years committed suicide. At 25, she was a widow, unable to bear the burden of loans he had accumulated as a farmer. With two children, she braced for a colourless life. But when all seemed bleak, a ray of light appeared – a television show. “Kaun Banega Crorepati” (KBC), a programme that ignites hopes in the great middle class of making it big, gave her a call. And like the character of Jamal from Oscar winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, she too found herself on the hot seat facing the baritone of mega star and show host Amitabh Bachchan. To feature on a special episode in the last week of September is Aparna Malikar, a 27-year-old woman from Vara-Kawatha in Yavatmal district, who won Rs.640,000 and a special help of Rs.50,000 from Bachchan himself. Having won close to Rs.7 lakh, Aparna says she will first pay off her debt of Rs.60,000. A mother of two daughters Rohini, 7, and Samruddhi, 3, Aparna wishes to put away some amount for their education and upbringing. “I also want to get a concrete built house for myself as the one we stay in is weak and may collapse any time,” she said. She still keeps her ‘mangalsutra’ on her neck because she fears harassment from other men, who trouble her with threats and envious motives. But she is resolved. She does not want to give up. She will fight her way through, she says, bring up her children, earn her living through the hard work on the fields.