Society has its superwomen but there are many ordinary women who quietly fought the odds and came out winners in their own way
While the media often celebrates and showcases women who break glass ceilings, many ordinary women, too, display heroic resilience and come out trumps in the battle called life. Many women struggle with remarkable grit and their stories may never make headlines but they too deserve a salute.
While most parents rear daughters to be financially independent and focus on making them employable, it is also extremely important to teach them to be emotionally autonomous. If a girl learns to negotiate conflict, articulates what she wants, develops the innate strength to say no and is able to stand up for herself, she will be ready for life’s battle. Schools and colleges and parents should be facilitators in teaching girls to be emotionally self-reliant and boys to be more emotionally dependent and show their emotions.
Saluting the aam aurat – International Women’s Day Special
Bobby is a part-time domestic help who works tirelessly from 5 am to 10 pm so that her daughters can get education. With the Rs 9,000 she earns, she manages to tend to her five children but it is her daughters Pushpa and Puja who are good in studies that she has pinned her hopes on. Originally from Mungher in Bihar, she and her autorickshaw driver husband have lived in Chandigarh for 18 years. She goes without food herself many times and saves each rupee. Undeterred by an apathetic husband, she realised the only way that her daughters could escape a fate similar to her own would be if they were educated. She ignored those who told her that she was wasting her money and it would be more sensible to make her daughters work along with her. She remained rock like, focused on her goal. Now that one of her daughters works in a firm as an accountant and the other one is doing plus two, things have eased a bit. Hope sustains her life.
Sonia, a nurse, struggles to make ends meet by doing night duties and working as a caregiver. Trained as a nanny, she has raised more than 18 children, all of who keep in touch with her even from overseas. When her husband shacked up with another woman, she refused to put up with this indignity, moved out of his home and worked to sustain herself and her two sons. Because she missed having a daughter, she decided to adopt an abandoned girl child, whom she nurtured despite her limited resources. Her daughter (now married) is her anchor. She steps out of herself to get strength.
Living in Michigan, US, Shaloo had led a protected life. And it continued after marriage in the same protected mode. Her husband cosseted and protected her just the way her parents had done. She worked in her own store but had never come into contact with outside world. When her husband passed away suddenly, her world crashed. With two sons, 22 and 17, she picked up the threads again and though family and friends were her bulwark, she knew she had to be independent. As she says, “If I did not start working, I could have slipped into depression”. The woman who knew nothing about mortgage, learnt about accounts and online payments. The girl, who was always giggling but had had lost her smile, discovered her inner strength and mustered the tenacity to carry on. Her sons are her driving force as is her unwavering faith in god. She is surprised at herself (as is her family) at how she took charge and has got a grip on life within two years of her husband’s death. She is working hard to come out of her shell, cheered by her sons. We often do not know our own potential until adversity strikes.
For Ishu, a 23-year-old, all rosy notions about marriage were knocked down on day one. While she was doing her post-graduation, her marriage was arranged by her parents. Her husband had lied about his salary and demanded money from her parents. From 1997 onwards, life was an unending nightmare. While parents kept giving her money, the thought that she could lead her life and get out of an abusive marriage was unthinkable. Her small-town upbringing had entrenched notions of honour and shame (same as her parents) firmly in her. If she went back no one would marry her two younger sisters and her chacha’s daughters, who were being raised after his death by her parents. She would do tuition often at opposite ends of the town to supplement her meager income. Beginning with Rs 2,700, she now earns 25,000 but is still struggling. Besides her teaching, she had to do all the housework till midnight often got no food. She cannot afford to stay on her own, and lives in a portion of her husband’s home, built by her parents’ money. She is pushing herself only for her daughters’ sake. She wishes she could have had the courage to call it quits earlier and rebuild her life because the longer you put up with abuse, the more difficult it is to end it.