31-10-2017 12:30 PM | Lathika Saju | My Indian Dream
Farmer’s widows have turned their lives around
Have you ever thought about the fate of widows whose husbands, who were farmers, committed suicide due to their inability to pay off debts. These illiterate and dependent widows were thrown out of their homes by their in-laws and had nowhere to go. It is so heartening to know that these strong women fought back with resilience, learned various skills, worked day and night to educate their children and were even able to pay off their debts!
One such woman is Vidya More whose life went up in flames, when her husband, broken by years of crop failure and mounting debt doused their tiny hut in kerosene and set it ablaze. Vidya, who was not the one to give up threw her children out of the hut and jumped out. Like a phoenix, she rose and rebuilt her life from the ashes.
She learned farming all by herself. She also learned to stitch and worked as a seamstress. Her years of labour has paid off and she has scripted a remarkable turnaround. Her son Ganesh is in Std XI and dreams of joining the Army. Her daughter Vaishnavi, a class IX student is the topper of her class. Vidya has also managed to pay off all the loans.
Vidya is one of the thousands of widows left behind by distressed farmers in Maharashtra's Marathwada and Vidarbha regions who committed suicide when faced with huge debts due to the extreme agrarian crisis.
Dhondabai Minbule’s story is that of courage and determination. She fought to prove her family wrong. After her husband’s death in 1999, she was forced to return to her parent’s house. Everyone there was wary that she might end her life as well, but Dhondabai was determined to live for her infant daughter.
Dhondabai started working as an Anganwadi helper. She now owns a goat and does some sewing work. Her daughter is studying science in college and Dhondabai is very sure that her daughter will have a better life than she ever did.
Manisha Jadhav, another woman who met with a similar fate decided to teach her children how to live and not how to die. She toils in her half-acre farm and works in an Anganwadi as well to support her two daughters.
Vidya says that although people have sympathy towards widows, they do not like it when they see them independent and strong. They taunt her that she is behaving like a man, but Vidya believes that she is behaving like a mother who is working hard to raise her children.
The real reward comes from her daughter, Vaishnavi who calls her mother a hero. "She is the mother, father and everything to us. I am going to study hard and become a police officer," says Vaishnavi.
Maharashtra is replete with stories of such widows who were abandoned, but who arose with immeasurable strength and toiled to pay off their husband’s loans and ensure a good education for their children. Let me conclude this article with the emphatic words of activist Sunanda Kharate - "Nobody wants to acknowledge the fact that the widows have done what the men were unable to."
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