Home Alone

A woman bringing up her children on her own is a tough task especially in Kashmir where woman have to face hardships and don’t have many avenues of work. Saima Bhat reports

Single mother, single parent taking the responsibility of upbringing of her child might be common in the West but in this part of world where family relations are very close, the separation of one parent usually father, leaves the family shattered, all alone and suffering.

Tasleema, 33, is living in a single room which serves as a kitchen and bedroom for her and her two children aged 8 and 6.

After the death of her husband, she returned to her father’s home but “felt a change in her parent’s attitude”. “They asked me to live separately in a room which was meant for paying guests,” she said.

Tasleema has no permanent source of income but she feels “God has put His hand on her and she manages to run her one room home”.

Her sisters have been a continuous support; her in-laws send her half the produce of their 2 kanal land, Bait-ul-mall gives her monthly fee of 1000 rupees, an orphanage is providing her some daily kitchen commodities and she has herself started tailoring to meet the expenses. “But despite of all these helps, it is still difficult to run a house and most importantly the growing children. I don’t hesitate if anybody tells me this is the organization and they can help us financially. I can do anything for my children,” says Tasleema.

Tasleema’s parents are well off, however, they don’t help her. “I have two brothers and they are ashamed of me because I wander to orphanages and other such places for help as they don’t want to spend a single rupee on my children. They have disowned my children and don’t allow them to enter their house,” she says.

She shares if during the night somebody knocks at the main door they get frightened. And if any of her children falls ill she has to call her cousins for help despite her parents and brothers living next door.

“Once my son came home and told me that he was playing with his cousin who had a fall and while crying he had called his father, and my son came and asked me everybody calls papa, hum kis ko papa bolein. These words wrench my heart”.

Tasleema is not the only mother who is taking care of her children alone, there are thousands of such cases where after the death of husband a wife refuses to go for another marriage and prefers to devote herself to her children.

According to a research conducted by sociologist Dr Bashir Ahmad Dabla of Kashmir university, in 2008, there were 32400 widows and 97200 orphans in Kashmir. However, various NGOs working in the valley say the number is much higher.

“Orphans are psychologically traumatized and those children whose father have disappeared feel more pain than those whose parent is known to have died. They have complicated grief period as they are not sure whether their father is alive or dead. There is a continuous lingering on their minds. They lose faith from everything” says Dr Muzaffar Khan, Clinic psychologist, head de-addiction centre Police Control Room.

Shahzada, 50, a divorcee is living with her daughter, 26 and son, 24 in her father’s house. After four years of her marriage she had a dispute with her husband, she was three months pregnant then so decided to returned and live with her father. Finally after ten years she got a divorcee and her husband started to give her maintenance of 300 rupees a month initially which then increased to 2500 a month and then suddenly stopped.

Shahzada feels if her father had not been a government employee then it would have never been possible to raise her children the way she brought them up. “Now-a-days my only source is my father’s pension and the husband of my younger sister who treats my son as his own, presently studying management at Bangalore; he pays for his monthly expenses and college fees”.

Shahzada says her both children were sober since childhood and they never used to demand things as other children of their age would. Still she feels boys are a bit tougher at heart compared to girls. “I can see a difference in the eyes of my daughter, on her health, how her health gets affected when she keeps on thinking of our past, of her father. She is very sensitive, she never tells me what is going on in her mind and this thing is taking a toll on her health,” says Shahzada.

Children who are brought up by single parents have higher susceptibility for problems like recurrent depression, emotional outburst, paternal deprivation syndrome, hypertension, cardiac problems, anemia, malnourishment, trauma, drug abuse, delinquency and have increased suicidal tendencies as well, says Dr Khan. He adds, “Too often, children living in single parent households have to contend with negative stereotypes and hurtful remarks made by insensitive relatives and neighbors”.

Zeba, 56, a mother of three (two daughters and a son) was 22 years old when her husband died. He worked as a mason. Zeba’s younger son was just three months old at that time. Being separated from her in-laws she didn’t had any source of income except for some land that used to give them rice for six months. She worked as a domestic help to earn a living.

“Those days I was young, so I used to work in three different houses – in morning, afternoon and in evenings – to earn enough money for my children. There was nobody except Allah to help us,” says Zeba.

Zeba says her in-laws were always jealous of her as she never asked them for any help. “They thought I would come to them begging.” She also said that, “My in-laws used to tell my daughters to leave me when I am out working. They used to tell my children that I don’t work; I beg and this used to kill my children”.

After 34 years of her husband’s death, she has married off her both daughters in a simple way and her son has started working. “He is a salesman in a textile factory and he says to me to take rest as much as I can as I have done more than what I was expected to do. Last time we visited Ajmeer Sharief from my son’s income which is not lesser than performing a Hajj for me,” says Zeba cheerfully and adds that the terrible time is over now.

Saleema, 50 having two sons was living happily with her husband, Manzoor Ahmad, manager of a private bank. Manzoor was her cousin also.  But destiny had something else stored in for them on Jan 16, 2001 Manzoor had gone to drop his nephew at airport, who was going to Delhi, there was a Fidayeen attack on airport and he was killed in the crossfire.

After a month Manzoor’s brother whose son was going to Delhi that day, got hold of his bank account and transferred all his money, says Saleema. “After taking the money he threw us out.”

Saleema who was their cousin also had her father’s share in property and managed to get her father’s property. Her sons had been in class 11th and 6th then. Saleema’s father had been a government employee, and had only two daughters. So Saleema managed to live on her fathers pension until her elder son was old enough to get the job, the bank where Manzoor used to work in had offered a job on compassionate grounds.

“People say a widow can never be cheated and no one can take the share of orphans but I was cheated and that too by my own cousin. He did not give a dime to my orphaned children. I have left this issue to God and I can never forgive him for appropriating my children’s property,” says Saleema.

She concludes, “A father is financier, guardian, custodian, counselor and above all a protector of the family. In conflict situation like here, the importance of father weighs high as relatives, caretakers have forgotten their responsibilities”.

Psychologists believes single mothers develop a severe sense of insecurity and they want their children to acknowledge their hardships besides expecting them to do anything only after consulting their mothers. Such mothers sometimes become possessive or overprotective leading to friction between them and their children.

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