Thursday, 2 October 2014

My Mother Shivani

Vijaya Dashami, today, is her birthday . Her parents lovingly called this daughter born on the day that marks the end of Durga's nine day annual sojourn at her father's, Gaura, one of the goddess's  names . She grew up to be fair, strong willed, a somewhat awe inspiring and talented woman after her namesake. She was tall, well built and totally fearless among a bevy of female relatives constantly quaking at male commands and playing the doormat when their Master willed it. Not Gaura. She stood straight and did what she considered fair and just, whether it was spending her summer vacations away from Shantiniketan, working among lepers in the leper asylum in her home town Almora , or heading the college hockey team wearing a short divided skirt.
This woman became my mother at 21 and a few years later took the pen name of 'Shivani, 'after she was a mother of four . Several well wishers who frowned on her desire not only to write but get published as well, told her that should they wish to publish their work, women from good families must not reveal their true identity to the world . She did that and despite various put downers rose to be one of the best Hindi writers of her generation . She lusted after neither money nor earthly possessions, but wished only that she should be read even after she was dead. Had she lived to be 91, she would not have been too happy turning 91 today, because as she told me repeatedly life past 80 is sheer drudgery, and I will not stand it well. She passed away at 79 at peace with the world she had written about so graphically and well and which in turn, had been both touchingly kind and horrifically unkind to her.


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