At 20, Ashwini was sure she didn’t want the hard life where getting to the local station and struggling to work from 9—6 becomes the sole point of existence. But at 27, when Ashwini found herself widowed with three young children to fend for, she had to step up and brave the world to take care of her children. This event changed her from the protected only child to the strong independent woman she is today. Read on to find out more about Ashwini’s self-transformation.
Ashwini Bhat, 58 years, Homemaker, Pune
Interviewed by Vinaya Kurtakoti
Why did you decide to give us an interview on self-transformation?
I’ve changed a lot in my life, so I can talk from my own experiences.
Can you tell me a bit about how you’ve changed?
I lived a very secure middle-class Maharashtrian family life. I never had to go out and fend for myself. But then my husband was in the army, so most of the time I was alone. Even when my two younger kids were born, I stayed alone all through the pregnancy. My husband passed away when I was 27. At 27, I was a widow with three children. My transformation started from the time I stayed alone in the army quarters and I had to take care of my first born while my husband was at the border, and continued after his death. I didn’t have a father or brother to help me with anything. Though my in-laws are very nice, I’ve always stayed alone.
What has been your biggest transformation?
Over the years, I learnt to fight for myself and for my own rights. Earlier, I never had to do it – someone else did it for me.
I have one daughter and two sons. I think boys are pretty difficult to control, and that too without a father. They had no father figure or male figure in their surroundings. So I had to be tough, which didn’t come naturally to me. You have to discipline your children; you cannot be mild. So I think I was mother and father both to them.
Tell me about your childhood.
I grew up in Bombay. I was the only daughter. I didn’t have a father. I lived in a very protected environment. My mother was in the Reserve Bank so I didn’t feel a lack of anything in my life, nor did I have to go out and fight for anything. It was a very protective neighbourhood, protective house, and I lived in a cocoon.
You mentioned earlier you wanted to marry an army officer. Why?
I saw people around me in Bombay and I felt that I didn’t want to live this kind of life. We had some relatives in the army, and I saw their lifestyle. I just felt that I didn’t want to have a kind of life where I would be traveling by local train or doing a 9 to 5 job. I wanted to travel and not be in Bombay. After my marriage, my husband encouraged me to take up new things, and he took me everywhere. I enjoyed a lot when he was there. I even learnt horse riding.
But later, when my children were growing up, I really couldn’t do the things I wanted to. Now that they’re independent, I travel a lot. You can see my passion for interiors… I collect artefacts, I spend my time gardening. I did what I wanted to for a short while. Then for many years, I couldn’t and now I have started doing them again.
Had you ever dealt with the finances before your husband’s death?
No, my husband never used to bother. In those days, army salary was really bad. Most officers, I remember, would sell beer bottles and old newspaper the end of the month. It was that bad. So we never had much money. Whatever we had, he left it in my hands. I’d run the household but I never looked into investing it. So after his death, since he died on duty, I was getting his full salary as my pension. Then suddenly, army pay went up, so my pension was more than his salary. So at that point, I had to learn everything right from scratch.
Luckily, my mother worked in the Reserve Bank of India, so I picked up the basics of finance from her. Later on, I had to read about it and in those days there were no channels. But once I got a TV, I started following business channels, and I still continue to do so today.
What kind of person are you today?
I am more dominating today, because all these years I have done what I wanted to do so I don’t think today I can take orders from anyone. When my children were small, there was no point discussing anything with them. There was no one to help me make decisions, so I did whatever came to my mind. So that’s my nature now. I was never like that, though I wasn’t exactly mild. But I wasn’t as strong as I am today.
Has there ever been a conflict or problem because of this part of your personality?
It happens many times, yes, with the children because now they’re grown up. But I can’t change myself. I’m not sorry for what I am. I am what I am and life has made me this way. I don’t see anything wrong in it. I dealt with my life, fulfilled all my responsibilities and through the course of my life, I’ve reached here and I’m proud of it. I don’t really pay attention to what people think about me. When I needed help, where were all these people?
The last question has nothing to do with your interview topic, but we ask everyone we interview – what does love mean to you?
Love means caring and understanding. If you love someone, it may be your husband, friend, or child, then you don’t need to spell out everything that’s on your mind. There has to be a kind of understanding between two people who love each other. It is the same for romantic love or friendship or relatives or children. If I say that I love someone, they shouldn’t need to spell out what they need, I should be able to understand what is going on in their minds. That is love for me.