JSW Foundation Fellowship


Motherhood is said to be the purest form of human existence and the essence of motherhood is not just giving birth to a child but much broader. It isn’t defined by gender or blood relations but by actions. The divine relationship between Maa Yashoda and Shri Krishna is a vibrant example of how even a foster mother is admired more than the Lord’s birth mother Devki. I got to experience this relationship during my three-day community field visit in Bendkal village in Tuljapur, Maharahstra. 
Around 5:30 pm we reached the village and our mentor he introduced us to one of the family staying at that village saying “this is where you will spend your next three days in the community” and I looked and saw there was one elderly couple with smiling faces ready to welcome us. We introduced ourselves to the couple. Then something funny happened, my others friends called her “maushi” (aunt) and I called her “aai” and they laughed at me and told me in Marathi “aai” means mother, but my instincts gave way to a profound sense of gratitude. I was not aware of the culture, language courtesy or duty but aai shared a tender moment with me, something normally reserved for those closest to me, something only we could feel. 

The couple has 2 sons, both of them are working in the city and visit them occasionally. Maushi says city life is not for her, she loves her village life and would never settle in a city. She says urban life makes one lazy, there are so many unhealthy  looking people, and a total absence of nature! She went on to say, “you are an urban girl you will get more freedom from hustle and bustle of the city,”. It made me wonder, the life of urban and rural women can be so different in so many aspects but somehow can also be similar! How a mother is devoted towards her family and children even if she is engaged in many activities. One of my favorite moments was when she cooked for all of us, without looking tired of her work! She loved to cook food for everyone and religiously prepared the dishes, considering each and every family member’s palate, four times a day, every day! It made me wonder why women are expected to be perfect? If a woman is a home-maker she is often told that she doesn’t contribute much towards her family, despite the fact that she puts all her heart and energy towards household chores all day, every day. It is a fact that the women are an epitome of strength, who is performing her household duties from dawn to dusk. However, her contribution remains unrecognized. All day she is performing her daily chores and also has to work in manual farm-work, while men use machinery.

Agriculture which is the main stream of rural livelihood in India is sustained for the most part by the female workforce. They are the invisible lifeline of the rural agrarian system. The life of a woman – from childhood she has to bear the burden of taking care of younger siblings, cooking, engaging in domestic chores, to be married off at a very early age. Many women are confined to a life of facelessness. In villages very few women have ownership over land or productive assets although they work equally in the field from dawn to dusk but their contribution is not being considered. Not enough has changed in cultural and social expectations for men and women today.  But despite all these challenges, I realized that how observant aai was – after a long day of working in field and during our team meeting, she was also sharing her her inputs, she was so keen to know what we are discussing how we are going to engage the community and constantly she was with me and helping me out where I was not understanding. For me she was “queen of subtitles”. Those three days in Bendkal village and staying with the community has taught me many things and also, I learned that motherhood has no definite gender role, for me, she was both my maushi and aai because blood doesn’t choose your family, YOU DO!

Shrestha Bhattacharjee

JSW Foundation Fellow, Ratnagiri

4 replies on “MAUSHI”

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