Saturday, May 11, 2019

Goodbye darkness, hello sunshine

On the eve of Mother’s Day (May 12), single mother Jince Mary Johns talks about her life experiences

Photos: Jince Mary Johns; Jince and Eldo on their wedding day 

By Shevlin Sebastian

Eldo Suresh Mathew was feeling low. He was returning from Kothamanagalam following the funeral of his cousin Saji, who, along with his young son, died in a car accident. In the car sat his wife Jince Mary Johns, his seven-month-old son Tarun and his father Mathew. Eldo dropped his wife and son at her home at Kuruppampady. Then he took his bike and decided to drop his father at his own home nearby.

On the way, at 3 p.m., on June 1, 1996, there was a dip in the road at Pookattupadi, on the Perumbavoor-Kakkanad route. As Eldo approached from one side, a private bus approached from the other side. Both were speeding.

Suddenly, the driver Manu (name changed) recognised Eldo. The latter would pick up Manu at a bus stop at the end of the day, whenever he saw the driver. They stayed in the same area. To show recognition, Manu quickly flicked on his headlights and switched it off. That distracted Eldo. He lost his focus and hit the bus with full force.

Eldo was rushed to the Ernakulam Medical Centre but was declared ‘brought dead on arrival’. An engineer with the Hindustan Organic Chemicals (HOC), he was only 30 years old. His father died three days later at the Medical Trust Hospital. Eldo’s mother had died much earlier.

Jince went into shock when she heard the news. She was 23 and had been married to Eldo for only two years.

I would run out of the house and go towards the St. Mary’s Church at Thengode where Eldo was buried,” she says. “Finally, I was taken to a doctor and put on tranquilisers.” She took them for six months.

Jince found it difficult to recover because she missed Eldo. “He was very loving and caring,” she says. “Because he was a few years older, he treated me almost like a daughter. Eldo showed a lot of affection towards me.”

But, thanks to her parents’ support, Jince slowly picked up the pieces of her life. She got a compensatory job at HOC.

But, very soon, relatives began putting pressure on her to remarry. “Many would come to me with proposals,” she says. “But I kept saying no. I was scared about how my son would be treated. There were many instances where stepfathers treated their stepchildren badly. Yet, at the same time, there were other men who adopted their wife’s child as their own. But I did not want to take the risk.”

Jince began working in HOC. One day, she had a surprise visitor. It was Manu the driver. After the accident, he had stopped driving buses. And moved to driving trucks. He had come to deliver some material to the factory. “He met me and apologised profusely,” says Jince. “I said, ‘Let it be’.”

After 12 years, Jince developed asthma, because the chemical phenol is the main product in the factory while cumene and benzene are the by-products. “I became allergic to cumene,” she says. “At one time I had to be admitted to the hospital for treatment.” So she quit and joined the HR department of an equity firm.

There were other health issues, too. In 2002, she had a tumour in her pancreas. She was admitted to Amrita Hospital for surgery. While there, she had a strange experience. During the surgery, when she was unconscious, she saw Eldo. He was sitting beside her wearing a white shirt and mundu. Unlike in real life, he was wearing spectacles. “He was holding my hand,” says Jince. “But he did not say anything. He looked calm and peaceful.”

Later, doctors told Jince that the moment she regained consciousness, following the surgery, her first words were, “Eldo, don’t leave me.”

Another health emergency occurred when Tarun had Cushing’s Disease in 2009. This is a tumour of the pituitary gland, but it is not cancerous. However, it can cause blindness and hormonal ill-effects. Treatment is through surgery. It was done at the CMC Hospital at Vellore. The tumour was cut off but the disease returned in 2011. Because of Tarun’s recurring health problems, Jince had to quit her job. “The medical expenses were high,” she says. “I had to sell a bit of property which I inherited from Eldo to pay the bills.”

After a five-year break, in May, 2017, Jince, along with a partner, started the L3 Design Studio on Convent Road. L3 means Look Love Live. She sells salwar kameez, sarees, skirts, trousers and blouses. There is also a tailoring unit.

At 47, life is going on. Asked how she has managed to handle the ups and downs of her life, she says, “God gave me the strength. I also learnt to develop my own emotional resources.”

One side-effect of being single is she had to ward off men. “Some of them misunderstood my friendliness and got other ideas,” she says.

There were financial setbacks, too. She invested in a chit fund but it failed. “A friend’s husband borrowed money from me and did not pay it back,” says Jince. “But I am soldiering on.”

So, on Mother’s Day, on May 12, what is the message she wants to give other women? “Cherish motherhood, cherish your husband, and enjoy family life as much as possible,” she says. “It can all be lost in a moment.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode)

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