Vidya Wati Chopra Sondhi
is honored with a Brick from Dharam V. Chopra.
Born nearly 84 years ago to Mr. Labhu Ram Sondhi and Mrs. Drecpadi Sondhi in Jullundur City (now Jalandhar City, Punjab, India), my mother was the fourth daughter in a family with five daughters and no sons. She was married in an arranged marriage at the very young age of 14 to my father, Achhru Ram, who had already lost two wives and the resulting eight children from those marriages. His third marriage with my mother took place to keep the family name going and alive.
After the shocking loss of both of her parents before she was 20, my mother became a widow when she was only 22. It left her practically alone with a multitude of serious problems and obstacles to overcome. By that time, she had five children, three boys and two girls, with the youngest, my sister Kanta, only a few months old.
My mother never went to school to obtain a formal education, as the girls' education at the time was not very fashionable and the ultra-conservative attitude in the society did not encourage this aspect of education. She learned to sign her name to take care of legal and financial matters. The awesome gauntlet of responsibility to manage the day-to-day family affairs and to look after the well-being of her five children fell upon her shoulders. She knew she had a long way to go and would be facing a great many difficulties for years to come.
While embarking on this long journey I do not know if she saw any light at the end of the tunnel. She displayed great courage, determination and optimism without ever feeling bitter and never complaining of the circumstances and situations she found herself in at such a young age. I have never seen her in despair, and found her always willing to face up to each and every situation which life would bring in her way.
Even though she never received education, she clearly understood its importance. Without putting any undue pressure on any of us, she always encouraged us to obtain as much education as possible. To succeed in a conservative male-dominated society in those days was a Herculean task, and needed a person with great will power, perseverance, and endurance. She was fortunate enough to have the support, assistance, and guidance from two compassionate relatives who stood by her through thick and thin. She has fought against problems and situations (not of her creation) handed down to her by circumstances beyond her control. I do not remember any time when she sat down to give me any advice or pressured me to do anything which I did not want to do.
I have wondered many a time what kept this remarkable illiterate woman, my mother, going in those dark and difficult days. During one of my recent visits I talked to her of the difficult life she faced with us, to which her response, "I had a very enjoyable life," startled me. The events surrounding her life have deeply influenced me, and I have learned more from her life, her struggles and tribulations than from any other source.
As an undergraduate I came across the statement, "It is not life that matters, it is the courage you bring to it." It aptly applies to my mother. She is a great conversationalist, always enjoys talking to people, and has an endless repertoire of anecdotes and stories. We all love her very much and wish her a very long life. I feel proud and happy to honor her for enduring so much for us and teaching me some of the finest lessons in life.
Submitted by Dharam V. Chopra
September 14, 1998 (for Vidya Wati Chopra Sondhi)