Dhavan Jatinder | Empowering Goa
My father married again within six months of my mother’s death. She was a widow and had a 9 year daughter from her first husband. Being a teenager, I hated to see my mother being replaced by another woman . And I hated my father for ‘forgetting’ my mother so easily. Needless to say, me and my stepmother could never see eye to eye.
I got commissioned in the Indian Army as an officer, got married to the woman I fell in love and started my own family. In the meantime, my stepsister was also married off in a well to do family.Subsequently, we were blessed with a daughter but it so happened that during most of my daughter’s growing years, I was posted in non family stations and as a result, my wife and daughter stayed at my parental house with my father and the stepmother. My stepmother and my wife got along famously( luckily my wife can ‘ adjust’ in any environment as she has a very amicable demeanour). As the bond between my wife and my stepmother grew, my stepmother took total responsibility of my daughter. She would teach her poems, tell her stories and inculcated in her all the good values like my own mother would have done . All this resulted in development of a bond between me and my stepmother to an extent that she became more close to me than my own father. Whenever my father and mother( she was no longer step) had a fight, me and my wife would be found siding with her rather than my father.
Wherever I got posted, she would come visiting often alone and stay with us months on end(more often than not,my father would stay back looking after parental property). My daughter was never told that she was not her ‘ real daadi’. We would often take her to religious places where ever she wished to go every year . Frankly, we, as a family, preferred her company more than my father’s and would drive down to religious places for couple of weeks every year( minus my father).
Two years back, she had a brain hemorrhage/paralytic attack and was admitted in icu. She was operated upon but developed post operative complications thereafter. She stayed in icu for about six months and although we left no stone unturned in her treatment, she expired due to multiple organ failure.
During her hospital stay, she hardly recognised anybody and would generally be delirious under the effect of medicines. However, couple of days before her death, all her side of the family which included her brothers, their wives, her sisters, their husbands, my stepsister , her husband and her children came visiting . Surprisingly, she could recognise everybody by name and seemed very aware of things around. And in the presence of everybody, she said ‘ When I die and meet God,I will only ask him one wish’. That in my next birth,Vicky( my pet name) should be born from my womb. The fact that she said this for me even when her own daughter was standing there stunned everybody.
That was probably the last legible sentence she uttered before she passed away couple of days later.
The fact that my stepmother, on her death bed, wished me to be born as her own son in her next birth is the biggest compliment I have or will ever receive in my lifetime.