In fond memory of my uncle who succumbed to blood cancer in Jan'12 while my aunt played the perfect wife and remained dedicated to him till the end.
I have, since long admired the Indian custom of ‘saat pheras’ and the marvel that is known as the Indian wife. As a teenager I was obsessed with the idea of love but what it actually means is something that I experienced only recently. Had he been alive today, they would have been married for twenty years now. Commendably a long time, considering todays’ fickle relationships. His work required him to travel to and settle in different parts of the country. She accompanied him everywhere, equally enthusiastic each time, setting up a home, making new friends and never forgetting to invite everyone to their new home in the new place. She adapted according to him. It was only natural they made wonderful parents to two wonderful children. Never had she lived without him, ever since the day they got married. Her world came crashing down when he was diagnosed with a deadly disease exactly a year ago. But her faith didn’t. Her belief that he would emerge victorious gave him the much needed strength to fight it. She accompanied him on each of his umpteen hospital visits, stayed by his side every minute that he spent on the hospital bed, was available at his every whimper, every beck and call. She was literally running around fetching his reports, having discussions with doctors, cooking what he liked, attending to the children, and also visiting temples, all the while praying for his recovery, and mind you managing everything on an empty stomach-the Indian tradition of fasting for the husband. He gradually started losing appetite, she too began fasting for him. This Indian tradition has been taught to us girls from our grandmothers who learnt it from theirs’ that it is auspicious to fast for the husband to bring him good health. He would not be able to sleep what with several pipes injected through every inch of his skin. She too would not blink and read the thoughts in his helpless eyes. He suffered physically, she was drained emotionally as well. There were times he wanted to give up but she was not ready to budge. On those countless nights they spent in the hospital, when he would tell her he wanted it to end soon, she would simply cry at his words. Feeding him, bathing him…she did it all. Never once she appeared tired or frustrated, always the golden-hearted. But God had other plans. All her efforts went in vain. God did not hear the loud cries of her heart or the sorrow of her children, nor did he see the worship and love she had for her husband. After fighting for nine months, he got what he had never wished for-death on hospital bed. He spent the last week of his life in silence, what with the oxygen mask preventing him from talking to her. His last wish- to speak to her, to return home, none had been fulfilled. As I watch her today struggling to cope with the unfairness she has been subjected to and to live for her children, I cannot help but salute her. She is the Indian wife personified. The marriage vows aren’t meant for nothing.