‘Take care of yourself, Anjana’s husband had said. His last words. She had looked at her children, standing near her, the girl, a 10 year old, the boy, 15. She had felt like holding her deceased husband’s cold hands and crying all night through. ‘Ma, when will baba wake up’, the patient 10 year old had asked. Anjana had said ‘Sona, I am your baba and Maa from today. When you need baba, call me.’
Close relatives had visited Anjana after receiving the news of her husband’s sudden passing. But over the period of a month, the visits had dwindled until it became nil. People pray to God or shun Him when faced with such a calamity, but not Anjana. Anjana would stand in front of her husband’s life-like portrait, instead, and talk to him, about her day, ‘Sona went to school today, after one and a half months. Babai is still very disturbed. I see him walking to the verandah each night and staring up at the dark sky. I am trying to talk to him. I will do my best’.
Finances became another major concern for Anajana, since in the early 1970’s, ‘Occupation:housewife’ was still the norm for most middle class married women. Anjana needed enough to keep her home and hearth running and her children properly-fed. She started selling her gold jewelleries, as she didn’t want to take monetary help from her relatives. Her son, Babai was going through a phase of depression.To counter his emptiness, he had fallen into addiction. Anjana had break-downs in her private space, but she pulled herself together, patted herself and kept going.
It took a lot of support from his mother and doctors for Babai to recover. After his higher secondary, he went on to pursue Polytechnique. Sona declared her intentions to drop-out after higher secondary and help her mother in the small business that she had started. Anjana didn’t force her daughter to continue with higher education. She sewed dresses, created handbags and sold them through her neighbours and friends. Anjana also divided her house into two halves and rented out one half to supplement her income. In the early 1980’s , she started the first creche in her neighbourhood. Sona helped her mother out, shared her responsibilities. Later, Anjana’s became a trusted name in day care.
Anjana thakuma(grandmother) was my father’s maternal aunt. When I came to Kolkata as a college student in the late 1990’s, I got the privilege to know her closely. She was always dressed in a pristine white saree, her hair tied into a neat bun, the ever-compassionate smile, her special ornament. She had the fairest of fair skin tones and the most perfect features but that’s not why I think she was one of the most beautiful women, I have had the privilege of knowing. Rather, she defined TRUE BEAUTY with her strength, her determination, her courage to ‘be there’, her poise in adversity.
I remember how we would flock to her house- my friends, my sister and I- to have homemade food and a good weekend, the thirsty hostel-girls that we were. Anjana thakuma would welcome us with her kind smile and open arms. She would cook delicious meals to keep our taste buds happy till the next weekend, though she was almost 70 then. Anjana thakuma was so well-loved by her friends and neighbours that they would often seek shelter in her wise counsel and food-therapy, when they were low. I would never see her getting overwhelmed with a full-living room. She believed in celebrating life and relationships with an equinanimity that I have known to be solely hers.
Anjana thakuma is no more here with us but her kindness, warmth and generosity will continue to inspire me and tell me what it is to be truly beautiful. I would always be grateful to her for teaching me that my less-than-fair complexion is OK, that my less-than-perfect features are OK, that what really matters is how kind, strong, optimistic I am and whether or not I hesitate to lend another my smile, when they need one.
I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.
Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.
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