Field Note #84: Meeting Bishnu Maya Pariyar: A Powerful Conversation
Bishnu Maya Pariyar looked at me with a gentle smile on her face, but she was clueless about who I was. After I introduced myself, she realized that I belonged to the organization that constructed a tube-well in her community after years and years of crisis. After a moment of silence, she asked, “Babu, sanchai hununcha?” Son, how are you? I replied, “Sanchai chu Ama.” I am fine, mother. I wanted to know more about her, but I had to consider cultural sensitivity. So, I started raising the topic very calmly. I wanted to make sure that she didn’t feel uncomfortable sharing her story to a strange person. I started asking questions about her family members and the way she responded made me feel like she didn’t have any kind of hesitation. It was a positive sign and a lucky day for me.
Currently, Bishnu Maya Pariyar is living with her granddaughter in a small hut. She gets a monthly old-age allowance, and this is the only source she depends upon. The money that she had saved from her allowances helped her to buy straw and bamboo for the construction of the hut. “It’s a small hut but at least it keeps me safe from the wild animals and blistering heat, something is better than nothing,” she said.
As she was feeling comfortable with me, she started sharing about her family. She had two sons, the elder one passed away a few years back in a tragic accident, and the younger son left home 17 years ago. According to her, he is living somewhere in India. The days since her younger son left her have turned into months and months into years, but she hasn't heard from him yet. As she spoke, I observed the pain in her eyes.
Suddenly, I was wordless but I had to let her know what I was thinking. “Do you hope that he will be back someday?” I asked. She took deep breath and said, “I don't know, 17 years is a long period of time, but I hope I could see him before I lay in my deathbed.” This answer really moved me. She raised him and sacrificed for him all of her life. Now, she is old, gets depressed and cries because she loves him more than anything else. Love, time and respect are the three things she couldn't get from her son when she needed it most. She said she can manage with the heat and hunger, but it is really hard to manage the emotional pain that she has faced for the past 17 years.
After our conversation, her parting words left me speechless, “I try to figure out why my son doesn’t include me in his life. When exactly did this happen, over time or all of a sudden? Wasn't I a good mother? Haven't I not always been there when he always needed me? How can this be? I didn't know I was carrying all this pain in my heart.”
I can’t imagine the pain she has born for the past 17 years, with the loss of her elder son and her younger one missing. This is just a one side of the story, and I wonder how would it look from the perspective of her younger son. Is he even alive? Or may be he’s in some kind of trouble. God knows. Though she had to face all these sorrows, I am glad that she has access to clean water. Now, she doesn’t have to bother walking a mile or two just to fill a bucket of water. Just a couple of steps from her house there is clean water. She expresses her gratefulness to Wine To Water for taking such a huge step toward re-development in her community.