This is my entry for The Indusladies 4th Annual International Women’s Day Blog Contest.
History is abundant in strong women role models. Women have pioneered & served in every walk of life and excelled in them – Government, Literature, Entrepreneurship, Education, and many others. Close to home, we have Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, Kiran Bedi, and youth icons like Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza; all trailblazers in their chosen paths! And while I salute these women and their contributions, my own role models are closer to home and no less revolutionary! They are my intimate soul mates – women who have known and influenced me since birth – My Mom, My Aunt but most importantly my Grandmother, my ‘Nani’, whom I call ‘Aai’ – quintessential ‘Mother’, proud matriarch – her delicate femininity camouflaging her steely resolve.
She’s a consummate survivor. At 86 – she’s survived an abusive marriage, raised two strong & independent daughters, battled a host of health problems, and coped with several tragedies including the loss of a beloved grandson. Through it all she has been a rock of support for my Mom, who is fighting her own battles – the loss of a child and a husband cruelly afflicted by Parkinson’s disease. Their stories and suffering are not perhaps unique, indeed India has millions of women who have been abused and discarded by society and who continue to suffer, but for me – they are special because they are also my life stories. My Granny ended her bad marriage and moved back to Bombay, with two little girls, her self-respect, a backbone of steel and little else. With her family’s support, she survived and more importantly beat the odds triumphantly! She was a seamstress extraordinaire and saved money by tailoring clothes for the children under her care. She didn’t have a paying job but she was certainly no burden on her family.
Women like Aai are the foundations on which our societies are built and nurtured. Their love and sacrifice form the backbone on which we lesser mortals build our utopias. They nurture and educate, in an attempt to better a World that often treats them unjustly, judges them harshly and diminishes their self-worth. How easily we dismiss their contributions! How casually we sweep away their pain! The world would be a much better place if women were celebrated everyday as they deserve to be – not with grand gestures but with quiet sincerity and consistent regard.
I dedicate this poem to my Granny, who is my backbone and when required – I am hers!
Today, I met a woman,
Her head was bowed in grace,
Quiet eyes and gentle sighs,
Solitude lined her face.
I watched her faith move mountains,
Her back straight and proud,
Her long and restless fingers,
Often caressed my brow.
Marriages and children,
Family and friends,
Shadows on her gentle face,
Alone in the end.
Years of wisdom wrapped in love,
Journeying the seas,
Courage on the wings of doves,
Her spirit forever free.