Sanju Bhind, 30, her face half veiled by the end of her sari, insists on sitting on the mud porch of her large village home in Dubawal, roughly 25 kilometres from the city centre of Allahabad. She has to sit on the floor because “elders”, her brother-in-law Gulab Bhind and her parents-in-law, are around.
Sanju’s husband Fulchand had left the village on the banks of the Ganga about a decade ago, to pursue a better life in Mumbai. Gulab, a rugged sun-burnt farmer, recalls how his younger brother, who began working as a taxi driver in Mumbai, insisted Gulab, 50, give up his life of toil and live on the money he was sending home.
“But he never lived to take care of us. Fulchand, the sharpest and most educated in the family, left us to our fate. Everything was over after he was killed in the bomb blast,” Gulab says.
Fulchand had given two terrorists a ride on the fateful night of November 26, 2008. A bomb they had planted in his cab went off later that night, killing Fulchand when he was dropping off two women at their home in Wadi Bunder in South Mumbai. Fulchand’s younger brother Subhash, who was working in Mumbai as a zari worker at the time, had to identify the body by what was left of it, the legs.
Sanju and her little sons Himanshu and Shivam, now 13 and 11, have tried moving on. Sanju, who chose to stay back instead of moving to Mumbai when help poured in, says she would have broken without the support of her parents-in-law.
“How could I have left? This is my home,” she says. “We had to take care of each other. I asked the Mumbai trusts to fund my sons’ education here instead. So my sons now study in an English medium school in Jhunsi town nearby,” Sanju says, unlocking the door to the concrete two-room house she built with the money she got in compensation after Fulchand’s death.
Sanju not only built her house singlehandedly, she also began to work, something she had never thought of doing when Fulchand lived because women in the family do not go to work.
“But I had to earn money. So I was on my own, with an infant and a three year old. I began working as a farm labourer on others’ fields for Rs 150 a day. Seeing me go to work, my sisters-in-law, both the elder and the younger one, also began to join me,” she says, looking at a photo of Fulchand, in a white shirt and trousers, smiling at the camera.
She still prays before the photo every morning, touching Fulchand’s feet in the picture, a practice she continued after his death, to give her strength and company she says.
Sanju has been bringing up her sons with all the care and and resources she can afford. She bought a buffalo so that she can feed them milk and milk products. “I have begun ensuring my sons do not take dry frugal food, dirty tiffin boxes or wear soiled uniforms because the English-speaking city boys at school make fun of my sons. I am paying for my sons’ tuition classes so that they do not lag behind because they are from a village school,” she says.
Himanshu, a student of class VII, says, “I do not remember my father, but my mother does everything for us. Taking us to the doctor, earning for us, working on the fields for hours on end. I want to be an IAS officer when I go grow up so that my mother does not have to work.”
Shivam, getting emotional, adds, “Our mother lights the lamp for us to study whenever there is a power cut. The electricity always goes when we sit down to study.”