Someone I know closely once said to me,”A girl either struggles before her marriage or after her marriage. I think I am struggling now.” She was unmarried then. And her struggles, you ask? Well, she didn’t get along with her brother’s wife who always accused her of things she didn’t do; and the brother often gave her a earful on his wife’s behest. She lived with four other family members though who sided with her. Now, listening to her, many worthy life struggle stories crossed my mind, several being of her own friends and family. I wanted to remind her of those. But I didn’t. Most people don’t like patronizing responses and they take it as rebuke or even insult. So, I didn’t say anything and simply smiled.
I meet and interact with all kinds of people in my personal and professional life. I have interviewed many candidates for hiring and worked with colleagues who had educated themselves through correspondence or part-time courses because their parents couldn’t afford to educate them or they had to take on the responsibilities of their families at a young age. Some are the sole earning members of their families and are always short of money, let alone save a penny. I know bright people who couldn’t pursue higher studies or complete their education at all due to financial constraints and familial duties. I know of siblings who skip school in turns so that they can take care of their bed-ridden mother. I know families where kids are always falling sick due to malnutrition. I know fathers who stay thousands of miles away from their families to earn so that their children may have better futures. I know families who are dependent on the generosity of relatives and friends to survive. Knowing such stories makes me grateful for what I have.
Then there are others who grew up or live in disturbed homes with abusive or alcoholic parents or spouses, orphans who are forced to fend for themselves from a tender age . Girls who haven’t been allowed to study or follow her aspirations because of her gender, young women attacked, molested or killed because they dared to move forward. Their struggle stories makes one tremble with emotion.
While commuting across the city I encounter so many autorickshaw drivers and cab drivers. Some drive two days straight while some work only at night as they make more money that way. They share that they remind their children to study hard and become capable of leading better lives than themselves. Some brim with pride as they share how intelligent their daughters and sons are. Most of them have migrated from other States. All of them work hard so that their families can have good lives and their children better futures.
Everyday we come across motivational stories of children of economically backward families rising up against all adversities and cracking civil services, becoming pilots, professors, doctors, engineers, scientists, athletes and other successful professionals. Many of these children didn’t have the luxury of even the basic amenities like a proper roof over their heads, electricity, two square meals, decent pair of clothes, new books or even notebooks. We also hear inspirational stories of survivors of abuse, attacks and ill-health who fought back and achieved heights while giving hope to others. Such stories remind me that I have been among the privileged.
The current economic situation due to the COVID19 pandemic has brought all kinds of struggles to the forefront. People are losing jobs and going out of business. With households to run and EMIs to pay, imagine the plight of the breadearners and their families. Migrant workers, rendered jobless, walking hundreds of kilometres to their native place with young children in tow are redefining struggle itself. With educational institutions closed, classes are happening online for which one needs to have smartphones or laptops with access to internet. Underprivileged students are killing themselves because they don’t have access to technology and are being left behind by the system itself. Students who go to private educational institutions, with their pocket money allowing them to shop and to go out with their friends frequently, who consider a latest wardrobe, outings, smartphones, laptops and internet as basic needs; will they ever understand such deprivations. What does struggle mean to someone who has always led a protected life, someone who hasn’t known hunger, poverty, deprivation, discrimination or fear, to someone who sleeps in an air-conditioned room in summer and has running hot water in winter?
That unmarried girl is today married. And I hope she never has to experience struggles worthy of being called struggles. But I wish she will be emphatic and considerate towards those with struggles far greater than hers and be humbled.
Yes, we all go through different kinds of struggle in our lives irrespective of our social standing. Our stories may differ, but inherently they all are same. We continuously struggle towards living in ideal conditions, be it financially, socially, personally, professionally, physically or mentally. So who am I really to judge anybody on the basis of what struggle means to them. On our own rating scale, some struggles seem minuscule while others are extraordinary. Degrees vary, but all are struggles of life nonetheless.