I am the youngest among three sisters and two brothers. My father was an advocate and we led a comfortable life. My eldest sister got married but it didn’t work. My father couldn’t bear his daughter’s broken marriage and at the age of 49, he died due to a cardiac arrest. The rest of us were still in school. Losing a steady income began to affect us and it became imperative to earn for our education. Since I was good at stitching and embroidery, I did a fashion designing course at the age of 18. I took orders to stitch children’s clothes and it helped me complete my graduation. My elder brother joined my father’s friend at his chamber. My mother was knitting sweaters for other families. Somehow, all of us managed to assist each other in keeping things on track. Our elder sister got married again, then the other found her partner and now, I was next. Many proposals came and though they liked me, our financial status drifted them away.
I got another proposal from Mumbai through one of our relatives. We knew the family and their history. Ajay’s father was ACP, Mumbai. They were people of reputation, wealth and power. But sometimes, power invites trouble. Ajay’s name appeared in a drug peddling case while he was in London with his friends, due to which he was detained by the police for 7 years. This also became an opportunity for those who envied Ajay’s father, an upright and honest Police Commissioner. They maligned his image by suspecting that he was also involved along with his son. It became a sensational news in Mumbai and he was asked to confront a press conference. This ashamed him so much that he suffered a heart attack. He had died in the same year as my father; in 1985. Ajay was his only son, the eldest among four siblings, and I was destined to become his wife.
When Ajay returned from London after all the charges were removed against him, we tied the knot in June 1993. Though we were not ready for it, we agreed for our families’ sake.
He was an intelligent man, well read and worldly wise. He had studied in Germany, had an MBA degree from an esteemed college but he rejected every lucrative offer because he didn’t want to work under anyone else. He liked the world of share markets. In June 1994, we had our first son. Life was smooth but Ajay still didn’t want a profession that provided stability. With multiple properties in Mumbai, he knew that he could make money overnight. He sold off the first property and brought a studio apartment to open his office but it ran into a loss. He frequented the race course and his activities suggested that he was getting inclined to betting and gambling. Whenever I wanted to speak to him about work, he turned the conversation around. And then after sometime, another property was sold. I tried talking to his mother but she wasn’t willing to hear anything against him.
In 1996, we had our second child. I was now a mother of two beautiful boys and wanted to give them a secure childhood but life turned upside down for all of us.
My younger son was just three months old when due to some financial irregularity at the bank, Ajay was arrested by the police. Two days had passed since he hadn’t come home and I tried to reach out to all his friends I knew. The third day, another friend came and told me about him. I wanted to know why wasn’t I informed about the arrest. My appeal was heard and the case against him was withdrawn. He was acquitted but our problems had just begun. With his name entering the system again, his past was unearthed, the impact of which we were going to face soon. In 2001, there came another police case and an arrest warrant was issued against Ajay. He had a fractured leg so the police first took him to the hospital for a surgery, after which he was to be taken into custody. Until he was under medical treatment, I represented him in the court. My day started at 4 am, preparing tiffin, dropping kids to school, rushing to the hospital and then to the court. To save money, I walked a few stations before catching a local train. The police empathized with our condition and sometimes they tutored my kids out of affection for them.
I reached a point where I had exhausted everything. I had sold all my jewelry and silverware to meet the legal expenses. I was tired and without money. It used to break my heart to see that my children who had such rich lineage, were deprived of a beautiful childhood they deserved. They had only seen humiliation and shame. We lived in a society of Police officers and bureaucrats. My father-in-law had purchased it with his savings but it had become difficult for us to pay the outstanding maintenance bills. In 2003, Ajay was acquitted and in 2005, my mother-in-law decided to sell off this home and use the money to move to Haridwar away from everything. She gave us a little amount to shift to a rented flat. While we were vacating the house, Maharashtra witnessed record breaking rainfall and floods that paralyzed Mumbai. Most of our belongings were washed away or damaged and now we barely had anything to call our own.
Within a year, we had nothing to pay and had to leave. I returned to my hometown with my sons. My brothers were married by then and I was given one room in the house to set up a home. A small corner near the stairs became my kitchen and a tap on the terrace is where I washed the utensils. I saw fear and insecurity in the eyes of my children. The trauma of losing everything one after the other had a deep impact on their tender minds. I was willing to work but I couldn’t leave them alone. I wanted them to see me around all the time and know that irrespective of what happens, I am there. Through an old friend, they got admission in a school that considerably reduced the fee after seeing their past records. With whatever money I had or received as help, I managed everything. The struggle didn't end for my kids but together, we emerged strong. Today, both of them have completed their studies and have a job.
In my journey so far, if there is one thing I didn’t lose even after losing everything, it was faith. I have faced indignity and disgrace without any fault of mine but I always believed that all things ugly come to an end if we hold on to the beauty in our thoughts and actions. I knew that I haven’t done any wrong and somewhere, someplace, the trials will come to an end. Ajay and I may not have been together but no bitterness ensued between us. We were just away, not apart. Now after all these years, he has started to send us some money and says, “Very soon, I will call all of you back to Mumbai. I am doing my best to have a home again. Our home.”