A first child among the six of her mother and second among eleven of her father, Janaki got married at the age of 15 with a man she never saw before the wedding day itself, and bore six children herself. Unfortunately for her, the first four children were girls and before the fifth one she and her husband were forced to leave the joint family and forego their share of ancestral property. While her brother-in-laws family enjoyed immense wealth, she struggled with her husband to meet ends. Her husband resorted to drinking in a hope to drain away his sorrows and injustice perpetrated to him by his parents and siblings. On top of catering to the constant needs of six children, thinking about ways to keep afloat the household, Janaki now had to manage an almost alcoholic husband who was slowly turning into abusive as well. There were so many times in the years that followed when she was protecting her children not only from the world at large, but also inside the four walls of the home from their own father. It was only her immense courage, her perseverance for the want of a better future of her children that kept her going. Many a times, she was suggested, some out of sympathy others with outright glee at her predicament, to divorce a husband who have now become a source of sorrow and pain. But she was never the one to sway from her responsibilities, neither towards a husband who depended largely on her for moral support nor for the children to have to grow up in a fragmented family. Always humiliated by her in-laws, treated lowly at every possible occasions by immediate and extended families, she never once allowed the hope of a wonderful future for her children to even flicker.
Her courage and determination seep through her to her children who not only turned out to be good scholars but humble human beings. Today she takes immense pride in being mother of those who works for the rights of children, women, a nurse, an HR specialist and tourism entrepreneur. After nourishing her husband who was suffering from cancer for three long years – she conducted the final rites of her husband despite vehement protest from the senior male members of the society, a right exclusively for male only in our Hindu patriarchal society.
She is the miracle that changed the course of our lives, which could easily have been just a continued legacy of the women handed down to her. Today she takes pride in nourishing a grandson who sketches a woman driving him to school on her way to work when asked to draw a mother, a far cry from my sketch showing my mother in a kitchen with her kids lying about and other chores waiting for her.