“Swish Swash”, I hear again; the noise so tingling in my ears. I wake up morning angrily and run out of the house to catch the culprit for breaking my early morning dream. I notice my next door neighbor’s house, a big girl, so slim, more filled with bones , holding a broom and eyes fixed on the cleaning session is tasked to clean the front, back and side yards of her house.
“Aah”, I sighed and quietly went inside. The girls name is Shivani , quiet natured neighbor. She is a recent addition in our neighborhood, a daughter-in-law in their family. She could fit well in any dress owing to the fact she is slim but has a very simple standard dressing style. Tall, fair looking with short hair, Shivani goes completely mismatched to her dark skinned and oversized husband.
Though the guys don’t stare at her long, she is “the apple of the eyes” for the ladies and the neighborhood women have a nickname for her, “Superwoman”. Shivani is entitled to that name since no one can compete with her for her hard work and dedication in household work. 24 x 7, you will see her cleaning in and outside the house, sometimes many a times of the day. I assume her Mother –In-Law prefers cooking because Shivani is more often seen outside her home. Shivani cleans the entire house compound , sizing an acre land, waters the trees, washes and dries the clothes under the sun .
The toughest chore her In-laws have entrusted her is to collect the Municipal waters from the Main gate in pots, buckets and fills back in the underground tank located at the backyard. This job counts a lot to do in terms of energy and time, extending to 2 hours or more. The only saving grace are a few trees planted throughout that shades her pathways. She has a towel on her shoulders to wipe the frequent sweating. After lunch, in 15 minutes time, Shivani is back again with afternoon chores, Chopping woods, arranging and separating the wastes. All know that her In-Laws manipulate Shivani to get the best of her in all difficult chores and situation. Shivani is so caring, she offers water to many but neither a single day, has anyone given her a glass of water. Surprise element is she never complains or whines like any other girl, portrays a contented look at all times.
‘Why such a treatment?’, I thought initially. Within an hour of closely learning her, traced out the answer what all talk behind her back. She is mentally weak, no doubt her face features hints her mental state. Now the answer is clear, she dresses like a boy, her in-laws cut her Beautiful long hair locks to a mere shapeless Boy Cut and she never regrets accepting all humiliations and injustice. The In-Laws cut her hair so that Shivani doesn’t spend any time in herself, hair care and must also look just an average without drawing any attention from outsiders. Shivani had no choice to refuse her present marriage, no boy was willing to marry her and her parents were utterly worried and finally married her off to the arranged proposal.
Shivani’s husband Raja is loose character , keeps staring at all girls , even in the presence of his wife. Because of some wrong doings in the past by Raja and his family, it is said that they have fallen victim of a curse and the entire family is barren without children. None of Raja’s brothers, sisters have children too. Raja and Shivani suffered the same state of not having children inspite of innumerable medicines and procedures. This was the only case where Shivani’s husband or her in-laws were not rude to her, since they knew it was their biggest problem and that’s why even Raja never got any proposal in his favor for the marriage. Finally to face the society or to come out of the embarrassment, Raja adopted a Child . And the child was always in the custody of in-laws giving very little room for Shivani to be with her baby. As we all know Shivanis job was to work nonstop.
Shivani’s evening task was to take her baby and go strolling outside and this was the only time she had to share with her baby, 2 to 3 hours. Shivani went for a stroll at random places, naming the temple, Market, grocery shopping, City limits, park . She would daily walk for 2 kms as in a Marathon, with her baby carried on her shoulder, an Umbrella hanging from her short denim Capri , an oversized T-Shirt, a hanging bag on the other shoulder with a purse and water bottle.
She was totally lost when she was walking with her baby and we were spell bound watching her. This ecstatic moment can touch any heartless man to witness the power of love as Shivani sang lullabies to her baby on the footpath while placing each fast- phased step. She pointed the baby , whom she called “ Munni , look at the trees, look at the Bus, look at ….” and giving every bit of a guide narration. She never felt shy amidst people, crowd and really didn’t bother people staring at her. Sometimes I wonder “Does she belong here?” Whatever the case , this moment was just so divine, natural, unforgettable , touching ; though her mind is weak, Shivani has a big and warm heart. I feel proud watching her, very uncommon and such an appealing nature.
Shivanis household members, our next door neighbors, fight with all and also with us constantly. Their big trees planted very close to our compound caused a daily hindrance in terms of cleaning and sure accidents when their tall tree branches fell over the passer by. And when the fight gets serious and in our favor, all they yell is “Shivani come out and sort this”. They give her a dead stare and walk inside mercilessly. The rule is Shivani cannot step inside her home until she sorts out the issues without alerting the police etc. Neighbors and ourself compromise pitting her state and knowing the unjust consequence Shivani will have to face.
However, Shivani is still an inspiration to me and many other women around. Her hard works, perseverance, sacrifice, love and care never goes unnoticed by us. In any issues or any upset moments, I just go outside my house to breathe some fresh air. Along with fresh air, my eyes witness the “Superwoman” in action closely than the rest and it becomes easy for me to settle in with my difficulties. After my tight schedule with children, a job, managing a big home and office, my tired muscles instantly go in a deep sleep and when hard to rise up in the morning, I do resist my ringing alarm but can’t resist the swish swash sound from my neighbor’s house. Yeah, my superwoman next door charges me with all hopes and energy for the day. Lessons are taught in school and practical lessons begin at home and around.
“Latha, Hi and a Million Dollar wide open smile”, I just stared at the voice direction and there she was the super power ….Shivani.