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     Volume 5 Issue 80 | January 27, 2006 |

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The Woes of Widowhood

"...And may this bond of holy matrimony continue to last till death do us part."

Our conjugal life starts with this solemn oath and prayer. From the day the nuptial knot is tied around two persons it is their yearning that this bondage is never broken. The husband wife relation is one that mutually lends and owes their essence to one another. They mix and work themselves into one piece, with so universal a mixture, that there is no more sign of the seam by which they were first conjoined. It is perhaps the (secret?) wish of both the husband and the wife that his or her spouse may not be left alone in this world by his or her earlier departure from it. But death is not bound by human dictates. Perhaps forty or even sixty years of happy married life might bless the pair but ultimately one day one member is left alone to mourn the death of another. The cruel axe of death does indeed come down one day to sever the pair. The survivor is either a widow or a widower!

Paradoxically, the world abounds predominantly with widows than widowers. This has resulted from a policy selfishly adopted by the male dominated society. In the customary arranged marriages of ours, the bride is made to wed a groom much older than her in age. A big age difference between the husband and wife is deliberately maintained in order that the husband may enjoy the company and service of the wife till the end of his life.

The woman thus gets an unequal deal right from the start. For her, the life of matrimony that she was made to accept with such a handicap ends with the earlier death of her husband following simple demographic rule. The storms and tempests of life now begin for her. With the umbrella of protection once provided by the husband suddenly removed, the widow now finds herself utterly helpless. Coming to grapple with the various problems of life in her already advanced age, the widow finds herself totally untutored to meet this new challenge. This forces her to seek help or shelter of her children. With exceptions accepted, this new and strange situation for the widow, is more often than not, very unpalatable. Very seldom a widowed mother is welcomed and taken cordially in her son or daughter's family. If her late husband had been prudent enough to make for her financial provisions, her life will be easier. But otherwise it is wretched. Be it the family of her daughter or that of her son with which the widow finds a haven, her status in that family is that of a refugee. In these days of economic hardships and accommodation problem, a 'third' person in the house is considered too many. The widowed mother is therefore accepted grudgingly in her son's family.

Often these days children are even not available in the country to look after their ageing parents or a widowed mother. The situation is grimmer in such cases. The story of the dowager widow, however, is entirely different. She is in great demand. All her progenies pay her homage to seek her favour. Sometimes she even attracts suitors younger than her. Except for the sad (but faded) memory of the late husband the dowager widow's life is more or less secured.

Let us now turn our eyes at the widower. He is at a greater disadvantage than his female counterpart. Unlike the widow, who being female it was much easier for her to melt with her children and their family, the widower, as a male is in default. He is a lonely man as such. Being nursed and cared for by mother in infancy, childhood and adolescence and then by wife in youth, mid-life and old age, the widower is a spoon-fed case, totally unequipped and incapable of looking after himself. To a man, a wife is a lover in youth, a companion in mid-age and a nurse in old age. So, with the passing away of his wife, the widower's life is in total disarray and utter misery. First of all he is destitute of a companion. Without it, his life now is barren. He misses painfully the motherly care of his wife. Care for everything, food, medicine, nursing and all the personal attentions. His children are unable to meet these full time vital needs of the widower.

The widower is thus obliged to look for a wife again to take care of him. To some, this conduct of his might appear ambivalent. But with time, the sores and sadness of losing the first wife is healed. Memories fade away. Being a man as he is, his physical chemistry too prods him to seek the hands of a lady. They say a man is as old as he feels and a woman as old as she looks. Withered and dropping as he is the widower feels yet some remains of past ardour. His desires increasingly grow young again: he is always "re-beginning" to live. With a foot in the grave, still his appetites and pursuits spring every day anew within him. It is the privilege of the mind to rescue itself from old age. Let the mind of the widower be green, and flourish if it can, like mistletoe upon a dead tree.





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