When I was three years old, I lost my mother - unfortunately I would never know her. However, what I heard about her from her husband, her brothers and sisters, her in laws and her friends, gave me a picture of the kind of woman she might have been. The picture was one of a kind, warm and loving person who put others' interest before her and who at times and mostly in private was temperamental, passionate and strong. This picture was not very helpful to me because people kept comparing me to her as I was growing up and I grew up listening to a continuous lament of "how could you turn out to be like this being her daughter"! For the life of me, I could not manage the confusion, rage and frustrations that I felt being compared to a person who was not even around for me to even dialogue with Being the only child, I did not even have siblings around to tell me otherwise.
The second most influential woman I had in my life was my Pishima (Father's elder sister - paternal aunt). She decided to raise this 3 year old kid when she was in her early fifties, suffering from asthma and a nearly broken marriage. To top it, she was also living with her daughter and son-in-law, who did not look very kindly upon her endeavour to help others.
As I look back today, I believe this is the single most influential factor in my life which has shaped me into whoever I am today, both positively and negatively.
My pishima was an extra ordinary woman. Let's call her K. She was born in the early 20th Century in Dhaka, Bangladesh and was the 3rd born in a large family of eleven brothers and sisters. K was very good in her studies, was a gold medalist from Dhaka University and also the apple of her fathers' eyes. However, while studying there, K fell in love with a young man who was her elder brother's friend. This young man was very good looking and to boot, was a brilliant and talented painter who studied in Shantiniketan. She fell for him, hook line and sinker, and eloped with him to Rangoon (now Yangon, capita of Burma), thus breaking her father's heart forever and never saw him alive thereafter.
K and her husband S lived in Rangoon for about 3 years before moving back to Kolkata, India. The relationship which started on a high note of passion and love, was on the wane and was giving way to bitterness and angst between the two of them. Thus, while they remained married, K was bringing up the children by herself through hardship and struggle while S went on to look at greener pastures of life. This is when their elder daughter died of Beriberi and K was left only with the younger daughter.
K brought this girl up, provided her with the best possible education within her means and the young girl, my cousin (lets call her Nilu) grew up and took the responsibility of looking after her parents. Meanwhile, she too fell in love with a young artist and got married.
I came into K's life after my mother died and when no one was willing to look after me lest I became a liability. My father was too unsure of himself to feel confident about looking after a young child.
K decided to bring me up, and I was brought to her house to stay with her, her daughter and son in law.
(Thank you for reading thus far. If you are interested, keep looking out for the next post, this is to be continued....)