I really did not want to write anything on women’s day. It was quite depressing to learn of a college student being gunned down point blank and of a newly wed daughter in law running away with the valuables in her husband’s home both events taking place on 8th March- the international women’s day. Why we get to hear of such extremes, I wonder. I mean according to Hating Women - a book by Rabbi Boteach “Together, men and women working can usher in a golden age of feminine awe and magic. Together, we can create a softer, gentler and brighter world illuminated with the light and warmth of the nurturer.” And I quite agree with this view. I don’t really subscribe to the view that since men have had the upper hand for centuries, we women need to get back by doing the very things that men did to prove their superiority. Women need to carry themselves with dignity and command respect.
Having said that I wish to give an example of a woman who inspired me. I don’t think she ever heard about women’s day and other such special days that one hears of these days. Yet to my mind she is one who is an inspiration not only to me but to all who have ever been associated with her.
She was visually challenged and had to drop out of school at the age of eight for fear of damaging whatever little vision she had. Initially it was not too bad. She continued to learn at home by listening to her younger sisters prepare for their examination. She would do some embroidery and tatting during her free time. Her father had tutors teach her English and Hindi and finally she married a doctor and left home. Her married life was not the best in the world – it had its ups and downs – and finally it came to an abrupt end with her husband’s untimely demise.
Then began the daunting task of raising two pre - school children and getting her daughters married. As far as she was concerned, her past was a closed chapter. It did not matter that her husband’s brothers chose to stay away from her life and were never available for guidance or advice. It did not matter that it was hard to plan for good education to her sons on the pension amount she received. But she did dream of a good career for them and hoped to marry off her daughters to men who would be responsible and hard working. In her own quiet way she did achieve what she wanted to. One never heard her complain about not having enough. One never heard her blame her stars for her fate or accuse her brothers in law of not being supportive. One could never understand if she ever longed to have a few more sarees in her wardrobe or if she ever wanted to replace her worn out gold chain with a new one if and when possible. She simply did not have time to waste on trivialities. Her sons grew up without knowing as to how her life as a doctor’s wife might have been. They had always known her to be a quiet and unassuming person who did not even have to raise her voice to discipline them. Her silence said it all. They would try their best to rise up to her expectation. It was this unassuming attitude that enabled her share the roof with her brother’s family till the daughters got married and the youngest of her sons took up a job after which she relocated to the place where her sons worked.
She was more than adequately rewarded for her efforts. Her last days were spent amid her sons, daughters in law and grand children and with the satisfaction of seeing her children well settled.
I’ve always considered her to be an achiever. People attribute her success story to many things. Her brother’s support for one and her children’s intelligence that won them scholarships for another. True, these have been promoting factors but no brother would support a sister who made life miserable for his wife and family. I cannot think of spending a life time with my children, let alone my brothers. I am sure to feel miserable in any set up other than my own. And a child’s intelligence has to be channelized in the right direction or else an intelligent child can be more of a pain than the average one. Finally people consider her to be plain lucky with a merciful God showering his blessings on her. They forget that she was unlucky to be born with weak eyesight and to lose her husband’s support early in life.
I cannot hope to ever be the person my mother was. But that does not stop me from admiring her for the person she happened to be.