One day, I received a friend request on Facebook from Shomi Pandey. Shomi Pandey was a classmate of my elder sister. We attended the same school. It so happened that one of our mutual friends had tagged some old pictures of a school picnic. The picture included my sister and Shomi among many other young girls, not more than 15-16 years old. It was fun commenting on the album, reminiscing on those carefree days. That is how I reconnected with Shomi Didi after maybe some 20 odd years.
Shomi Didi soon started topping my news feed on Facebook. She would post regularly. Most of her posts were positive, inspiring quotes. Sometime she would post pictures of herself and her lovely daughter. A few times she would be live, singing an old Bollywood song. Her chirpiness is hard to miss. She smiles in every picture. She is just one of those people who are always happy, I thought. Happy, lucky and blessed.
This is what we all think about people who post happy pictures on Facebook right? That their life is so perfect. We then take a moment of silence to mourn for our own not so smooth life, and how God has chosen us for all hardships.
I was blissfully living with my misconceptions until one day, I came across a post of hers. It was about wishing a happy birthday to a certain Sandeep, followed by ‘Hope you are happy wherever you are’.
What? I thought. It could not possibly be for husband! She is too young to lose him!
I reread the post. There were comments that confirmed my fear. Condolences. Sympathies. It seemed she had lost her husband three years ago. She must have been only 33 then, with a 10-year-old child.
It seemed so unfair! But what struck me was her positive outlook, and her determination to share strength with others.
Over the next days, I was intrigued by some more posts of her:
“You see, life can be very harsh. It tests your patience till you reach your breaking point. My husband was drowned in an ocean of depression and job insecurity during those days. He was undergoing treatment for the same. He lost control of his own will power. He had created a wall of sadness and negativity around him. I never wanted to work until it became a necessity for me. That was the moment that I decided to step up. I had to earn bread and better for my family. I started teaching in a school nearby. I used to take tuitions in the evenings, along with taking care of my daughter’s studies. I tried everything in my capacity to be the best nurse to my husband, a patient listener, an understanding friend and a doting wife. But it did not matter how much I tried. God had something else stored for him.
That day still haunts me. I get goosebumps recalling that disastrous day.
It started out being a usual day. I was busy with the daily chores of early morning. Brushing, freshening up, getting ready for work, helping my daughter to get ready for school, preparing breakfast for my husband, packing two tiffins. The most important part was feeding my ailing husband, and making him feel comfortable. But there was something eerie about that morning. Even the gushing wind, and the sun seemed to be different. I could not identify what exactly made me feel that way. It was just a feeling. I was in no mood to go to school. But went ahead anyway. My colleagues asked me if everything was okay. I had no answer. I was unusually quiet. The silence was interrupted as there was an announcement on the public announcement system.
Shomi Pandey, there is a call for you at the reception.
It was my mother- in- law. Words fumbled out of her mouth. She asked me to come home immediately. There was an urgency in her voice. I could not process much, and did not know what to do. I informed the Principal, took my bag and left.
When I reached home, I could not believe what I saw. The houseflies, the thin white sheet covering his ice-cold body, the incense sticks waving off the germs. His body was blue. But there was a certain serenity on his face. The peace that life had cruelly deprived him.
This could not be happening. It better be a nightmare..
I felt so insecure and helpless at that moment. I wanted to be hugged. But who was left to protect me? What about my 10-year-old daughter? How will I explain to her what I could barely accept? The fleet of people visiting our home only made the nightmare more real. I was lost. I had unanswered questions.
Why? How? Now what?”
Shomi had met her husband at a consultant’s office in Patna. She had got married early, despite the initial hesitation from both families. With her partner of nearly a decade gone at such an early age, life had become a big question mark.
In the past three years, Shomi has picked herself up and emerged strong. She is now teaching in one of the best schools in Varanasi. I asked her what kept her going. I knew the answer.
“It was my daughter. She reminds me everyday that I should not waste my tears in thinking about my past. She hates it when I cry. She wants be to vibrant always, with a smile.
Financial independence is very important in today’s world if one has to survive. I am not the kind of person who would think of ending my life. There was no option but to keep moving forward. I think one has to be focused towards one’s own future. We should be first emotionally and then physically strong enough to raise our kids.
Empathy and sympathy will last for just few days and then no one will bother so why to be so weak. Can’t we raise our kids normally when we are educated enough to get a job? I had the support of my parents and my brother, and they were my pillars of strength.”
Life rarely turns out the way we expect it to be. Some tragedies are visible – losing a loved one, an illness, a divorce, financial problems. Then there are people who seem to be living a good enough life from a distance. The pain is not so visible. I asked Shomi what she would like to say to so many people out there who are on the verge of losing hope.
“Life has taught me many things in quite an early stage. Life is full of surprises. It may be good or bad but this is what is life all about. Don’t fear of losing or hardships. I can just say that believe in yourself and God is there to do the rest. And please remember, we have no right to take back our life. Time does make things better. Life is very short and we should always live to the fullest. Start loving yourself. Take baby steps towards life. You will soon be in the path of triumph. All the best! ”
This article has been published with Shomi Pandey’ permission. When I approached her for sharing her story she readily agreed. It must have been painful for her to revisit parts of her life, that she would have locked up somewhere in the corner of her mind to avoid triggers of pain. But she said if she can inspire even one person, it would be worth it.
Thank you Shomi Didi. Stay strong and blessed. Much love to you and your daughter.