Sunday, April 18, 2004

Protection without intrusion
Taru Bahl

VEENA'S husband Dhruv was in the IPS. It was only after marriage that she first stepped out of her hometown, a small town in Assam. While he was a man of the world, she was content to be in his shadow and moulded herself to the needs of her family. However, they had a gentle companionship, He taught her ways of life with a patience not associated with a police officer fighting terrorism and encouraged her to complete her postgraduation.

The first few years of marriage flew past in adapting to the volatile political developments in the state. Dhruv prepared her for any eventuality that might arise and since she did not have an independent income of her own, he had, over the years, invested in real estate. His death when it came at a particularly turbulent political period, devastated her but she derived strength from the fact that he had given her the best years of her life. He would have liked her to stoically pick herself up and continue the task of bringing up the children without letting the tragedy impact their future.

Since her side of the family was in Delhi, she took the biggest decision of her life to relocate herself to a part of the world she knew nothing about. She ensured that the transition was smooth for the children. She was not confident of pandering to demands of a working environment she did not comprehend.

Fortunately, the children knew they had to be capable of standing on their own feet and supporting her through old age. The vacuum in her life after Dhruv's death was filled by music, especially the piano. As word spread about her musical abilities, she started getting requests for tuitions. This allowed her to carve out a small income for herself.

Veena had imbibed from her husband the ability to be caring and protective about her children, to the extent that she did mollycoddle them even when they were grown up. She did this without interfering overtly. She trusted their judgment and did not keep tabs on their movements. Children sought her advice and both were comfortable in knowing that they were understood and accepted.

When her son chose to marry a girl from a different community, their conservative relatives raised questions about adjustment and conflict of cultures but Veena knew that he had made the right choice. He had a steady head on his shoulders and was different from the whimsical flighty young boys of his age. He had set up a successful IT company after working for four years and she had even then not argued with him about the risks involved in running an entrepreneurial venture without having any financial backing.

Her daughter-in-law was her son's colleague and they had a long courtship. Her only condition was that she be allowed to complete her Masters in London School of Economics, where she had secured admission. It was after marriage that she left for her studies and when she did exceptionally well and the University offered her a special opportunity with scholarship to teach and stay back to do her Ph.D thesis. Veena abided by her son's decision to let the young girl actualise her potential and dream. The young couple was separated for five years but this did not drive her into a tizzy.

because she knew that they were a couple very much in love and would be able to brave the period with mutual support.

Relatives were quick to press panic button on the issue of her daughter's marriage. She was 30 and had no plans of settling down. All Veena needed was the reassurance that the girl was not entangled in a messy relationship. If she was not marrying, it was because she hadn't met anyone with whom she could feel comfortable spending the rest of her life with, besides she was concentrating on a demanding career. It was their life and these decisions were theirs to take and live with.

Whenever the children got around to talking of Veena, they placed on record the gentleness with which she had brought them up. She had made sacrifices without making demands or expecting returns. She had given them wings and allowed them to fly. She still pandered to their little interests, expressing concern every time they travelled outstation, worried if they were eating meals on time, not spending too many hours on the computer and not smoking/drinking beyond acceptable limits. They respected her concern and reassured her. They knew that the last thing their mother would do was to embarrass them by being unreasonable. Her lack of interference kept the family united.

This feature was published on March 14, 2004