Her strength is her endurance
I dig my face deep into the shirt, trying to get even the faintest scent of my grandfather. No matter how hard I try, all I can smell is the fresh detergent smell. My grandmother must have washed it while he was sick; it was always her who did everything. Washing him, feeding, and clothing him. In the past few years, I’ve been a close observer of how my grandmother’s life revolved solely around the needs of my grandfather.
“You have a life full of sorrow to look forward to Kancha, this woman will give you nothing but sorrows”
It was one of the first things my grandfather’s mother said when my grandfather married my grandmother. Not once, not twice, but on repeat, over and over the years.
Little did she know that sorrow was the furthest from what my grandmother gave my grandfather. Be it staying awake all nights when he was sick to always putting his needs before hers, there was nothing more she could have possibly done to take better care of him.
She lost her mother when she was only two years old, my grandmother. After that, her father remarried twice, or was it thrice? I can’t exactly remember. What else could my great grandfather do? Every time he got married, he lost his wives, sometimes to childbirth, and sometimes to illness they had neither the resources nor the knowledge to combat. My grandmother had no choice to grow up under the supervision of her stepmothers. Her life was a Cinderella story, not in terms of how a price came and swept her off her feet to live happily ever after, but in terms of how unattended and uncared for she felt by her stepmothers.
Twelve, the tender age where girls just about begin to discover the shine in their eyes or the rose in their cheeks. It was the age my grandmother got married to my grandfather. Even after marriage, things didn’t go well for her. At such a tender age, she was forced with the amount of household chores she couldn’t handle- cook for the family, get fodder for the cattle, fetch water from a faraway tap, collect firewood from the forest- the tasks never stopped. Toil she did, every day and night.
However, the grandmother I have known all my life is not the woman who got lashed at the tiniest mistakes by her stepmothers. She is not the woman who was treated like a gum on a shoe by her in-laws. Instead she is a woman who with her strength and endurance, held the household together and provided for her five children. She is a woman who has an endless reservoir of love and care for everyone around her, and although her countless acts of care and selflessness go unappreciated, her reservoir never runs out. She is the woman who saves her food until those around her have eaten.
She’ll tell you, “I’m not really hungry, just eat my share too.”