More often than not, the wives of revolutionary men are relegated to the shadows of our collective memory; we view these remarkable and conscientious women as obligated to be with those men, as if they owe it to them. Sad as it is, we do them a disservice by trivializing their contribution and investment in social causes by keeping such a narrow-sighted view of them, but the most tragic aspect of it all is that we remember them only after they have left us. Mumtaz Begum passed away this Monday after suffering a cardiac arrest at the age 79.

As the wife of the revolutionary socialist poet Habib Jalib, she was tremendously supportive of his political and social views that were always in the favor of the oppressed and disenfranchised, the unheard and crushed. She braved every hurdle in his life as if it were her own. After his demise, Mumtaz Begum did not allow her husband’s heartbreaking absence to silence her into perpetual mourning; she carried on his legacy and continued working for the empowerment and emancipation of ordinary men and women without giving into any kind of pressure. In a way, she became a symbol of strength and hope.

She is no longer among us but her life serves as a reaffirming precedent of resilience, humility and dignity. It truly is a disgrace that no politician or bureaucrat, otherwise thumping their chests, made any long-lasting effort to better her life or her children’s. Her daughter, Tahira, spoke of the poverty Mumtaz endured during her life and how no one bothered to visit her during her debilitating ailment. We, as a nation, are blessed with unparalleled figures of wisdom and knowledge, yet this is how we let them wither way. May her soul forever rest in peace.