She lived in my neighbourhood and I always avoided her because I knew that she was a woman of immoral character. She was not beautiful by any standards and was a plain woman but her welcoming smile was most pleasant.
One day, she called me and said to me, "You hate me so much because I am a woman of loose morals but do not avoid me like that. I know that you are not the kind who would fall for me nor I want to fall for you because you do not have enough money which I need from my clients. I only want to tell you my story."
Then she told me that she was born in a Sikh agriculturist family and her parents were very poor. So, they could not educate her nor could they afford to pay the dowry required for her marriage. In fact, her father told her that only her virginity is the dowry which could be paid to the prospective bridegroom. She was, therefore, brought up in great sex segregation, was never allowed to play with boys and was allowed to go to field with her mother as her chaperon.
She was, however, always asked to cover herself and maintain purdah. Her father married her off when she was just sixteen to a man of nearly sixty years of age who was a widower as he could not afford the dowry asked for by younger persons and also because he wanted to get her off his back as early as possible. In quick succession, she bore two daughters and a son to her husband who was a transporter. He died from heart attack when one of his truck fell into Narmada. Meanwhile her parents too had died.
So, he took herself and her family to her native village and demanded her share of the land from her uncles but they spurned her and turned her out. She had nowhere to go. So, she came to Delhi and tried to run the transport business of her husband in which there was also the share of her step daughter. She could not manage the business and was again a pauper.
However, to survive, she became the concubine of a Supreme Court Lawyer and laid bare her everything before him. However, the Lawyer only gave her a meager money and she could not educate her children. So, she started seeking various other rich friends of the Lawyer and persons in her neighbourhood as her clients.
She hired a very good flat in a decent locality and continued to bare all for her children. She made her elder daughter a graduate, her younger daughter a nurse and her son an inter pass. With the help of the Lawyer, she was able to get her younger daughter recruited in a Government hospital and the son recruited in the coast guards while her elder daughter started became a tutor.
She, however, continued to act as a society girl entertaining her clients but never allowed her daughters to enter her trade. After she related her story to me, I concluded that Purdah was of no use to a woman but education definitely was. Shortly afterwards, she died from heart attack at a young age of thirtynine.