Here's my entry for Feminspiration
These are couple of women I met during some of my social research trips. Their faces are etched in my memory and these are among a few women who have taught me a thing or two about life.
I met Ponni during my trip to rural Ooty. She lived alone with her son (an adolescent when I met her). She had a charming, friendly face and readily invited me for a chat. I didn't quite understand the stares and disapproving looks that I got from people till I heard her story.
The usual story - she fell in love with a man, had a child out of wedlock and he left her for an arranged marriage. Ponni came from a poor, dysfunctional family and was turned out of the house since she has brought shame to her family. She was a whore, an outcast. She crumbled and suddenly she was alone in this world that was alien, unfriendly and dangerous. One fine day she just decided to gather herself and make an effort to make the best of the situation. She found a job on a farm that gave her food and shelter. She decided to educate her son for which she had to work harder and also offer some favours in exchange. She is happy that her son is progressing well at school. She has no secrets and she is not ashamed of her life. Her days of self pity are over. She is officially an outcast in the village, but women in their suffering come to her secretly to borrow money or to just cry on her shoulders. Her son is the center of her universe now but she seems to know that she will end up lonely. She does not expect her son to acknowledge her struggles or even understand her. A stray tear appears when she thinks that he might even turn against her and call her a whore. She is preparing to face the world as a lonely old woman. Her wisdom comes as a shock through her bubbly, youthful, girlish charm. She laughs liberally and it is infectious.
I hope, for Ponni's sake that her son has grown up to be supportive and understanding.
Amina worked hard to make ends meet while her husband came home drunk and beat her up. She decided to educate her two girls so that they can have a liberated life. The girls started going to school and she face opposition from men and women folk alike. Her husband had more reasons to beat her up - she was training her girls to bring shame to the family. The girls were threatened and were on house arrest. Amina was not one to give up. She found help in the form of a volunteer who came home to teach the girls. The girls would give their exams when they are ready. Amina is not sure if the girls would be allowed to work, but she believes that the education will liberate them, make them independent in thought and they will be ready when an opportunity presents itself. If none of these happen, they would still understand the value of education and pass it on to the next generation - maybe her grand daughters would be the real independent women that she so wants to be. But Amina knows that she has sown the seeds and it will bear fruit some day and that day is not far.
I so want to meet these women now - it has been 10 years. I want to believe that they are still going strong and are proud of their achievements.