For one of the few times in her life, Roopa has experienced great joy during this past season of forced lockdown amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. While the rest of us watch the news, obsessed with flattening the curve, N95 masks, the risk of community spread, and a hundred other worries, Roopa has been able to enjoy the past forty days.
She spent the lockdown watching her husband play with their children. She relaxed while he made tea for her, and listened to him speak gently to everyone in the house. In an ironic way, she has the pandemic to thank for this situation.
These forty days of lockdown is an anomaly, an aberration in a marriage that she has survived for 18 years. This is because one unintended consequence of the lockdown in India is the closure of all liquor stores.
As a result, a man who showed up at his own wedding drunk and has not missed a day of inebriation since, finally found himself sober for 40 days. For the first time, during this lockdown, he has been a great husband and father.
But Roopa has seen and experienced too much as the wife of an alcoholic to expect this to last. Before the lockdown, her husband wouldn’t spend a penny on his family and had no problem spending it on alcohol.
Roopa works hard to care for her family and does not depend on him. She strives to make ends meet, being both father and mother, to make sure that her three children survive in this world.
Through her work as a maid, she has scraped by to make ends meet, making meager portions of $2-$3 a day. She works hard cleaning up after other people all day to return to her own chores at home. When she can’t make ends meet, she is left with no choice but to wait until her husband falls into a drunken stupor and she is able to take whatever is left in his wallet.
As for the 40 days of bliss, it came to an abrupt end on May 11th. On May 11th, the government allowed for the reopening of liquor stores. There were news reports of long serpentine lines forming at the stores from as early as 5am. Roopa’s husband was one of those early risers. He was back to being the man he had been, not a devoted husband or loving father, but an alcoholic.
Despite all that she has been through, you would expect Roopa to not be able to think of a world outside of her small shack and her three children. But, Roopa has a kind and compassionate heart.
When she found out that we were working to distribute food to the community, Roopa came out and volunteered late into the evening measuring rice and lentils into bags. She even came back the next morning at 5 am to mark out social distancing lines on the field. Roopa knows there are many other mothers in her situation, and she wants them to know they are not alone.