Sunday, March 24, 2013

Celebrating GIRLS, Celebrating WOMEN

My childhood was idyllic. I spent the first 12 years of my life in the suburbs of Allahabad, called Bamrauli.

The colony i grew up in during the mid 60s to mid 70s  was a sprawling self sufficient one,  went running into acres.

It had everything from a Kindergarten school, a club, Residential and official  buildings, a swimming pool and entertainment center, hundreds of fully grown trees, creepers, bushes, seasonal and hardy plants, nooks and corners and a hundred other things to explore as a child.

But more than the physical aspect of the environment it was the elite gathering of neighbors that went a long way in molding my personality and giving me valueless.

Since i was one of the four daughters, there was never a question of discrimination  My father who was more instrumental in imparting values to us, since Mum was always busy  looking after a family of six, never ever told us not to do certain things.  What he did tell us always was to conduct ourselves with grace and dignity.

Thanks to the warm, spacious colony i grew up exploring the outdoors. And playing every other game like pithoo, court and so on.

So venturing out of the house in the grueling heat of June, we would head to pluck the first bounty of raw mangoes, steal guvavas from orchards, maraud the neighbor's tree of every imaginable fruit like jamun and bers.

Climbing trees, hunting for bird's nests, collecting little velvety insects in our match boxes  floating paper boats,  dancing in the rain, we did to all, within the sheltered confines of the colony.

Since it was  a unique Civil Aviation Training Center, called CATC, people from all over the county lived there. 

My immediate neighbors were a Bengali and Manglorean family.  My closest childhood friend was a Muslim. My closest school friend was a Christian .  My KG Principal was a South Indian. My grade 2 class teacher was a Sikh lady. Besides this we also had a couple of Nigerians doing their training from  the colony .

During the evening, at the club, a few Anglo Indian ladies would join us to play Tambola.

So i grew up in a forward,  ahead-of-its times environment which was not only enlightening but essentially secular.

Those twelve years were not just the foundation of my life, but  became my  life's ethos.

Did i feel CHERISHED?

Absolutely. We were given everything a budget could afford.  Education. Games. Holidays. Excursions. Attractive clothes. Participation in cultural programmes.  Dance classes.Gardening and more.

I never ever felt that i was different from boys. We mingled easily with our neighbors. The demarcation came when i shifted to Zambiaat he age of 12.  A year later i became a teenager  or a 'Young lady'. I studied in a all girls school and suddenly the happy, carefree childhood was replaced with a 'conscious' growing up years.

But the idyllic childhood of  Bamrauli would warm the cockles of my heart  and whenever there were moments when i could not do certain things on account of being a 'girl', i would reminisce about my happy childhood.  Twelve  years of blissful growing up was a treasure trove for me.

Toady, as a mum of two grown girls things are very different.

Do i feel today's girls are EMPOWERED?

Yes, certainly. Women have made their  presence felt in every field.   From Defence , to Judiciary. Politics to Scientific Research. NGOs to CEOs. Entrepreneurs and more.

The IT revolution has contributed largely to women's empowerment.  Access to knowledge and world events have empowered women.  They have made them realize about their  rights and how to go about fighting for them.  Rememeber the PINK CHADDI campaign,  post the moral policing in Mangalore? Yeah, women  are no longer  a mute witness,   but are not only speaking  their minds but taking action too.

We have a brave Sabina Lal fighting for justice  for her sister Jessica.  We have late Kalpana Chawla and Sunita trailing a blaze in space. We have beauty queens vowing the world , putting India on the world map.

Yes,  today's woman is empowered but there is still the looming shadow of patriarchy   The Delhi gang rape is a rude reminder of that. The  Rape Bill passed was a diluted version of the expected Bill.  But it happened , due to national and International pressure.

How can we SUPPORT our girls?

By educating them.

By instilling confidence in them.

By giving them equal opportunities as compared to boys.

By making them pursue their career goals before getting them married.

By  making them eloquent about their wants and needs.

By making then discover Incredible India or letting them  go backpacking across Europe.

Do i have a   SPECIAL girl in my life?

Yes! I  have TWO!

My girls :)
My elder daughter not only completed her Masters, but is working with an organization and pursuing her passion at the same time.  While she works during the weekend, many weekends, she does  Ramp Walk, pursuing her passion for modelling.

But what is most heartening for me as a mother,  is when she accompanied me on my  spiritual journeys.  When i expressed the desire  to go to Amarnath,  she happily joined me.  And when i fell ill in Sheshnag, she became the mother and looked after me so that i could quickly recover and complete my journey and have darshan of the Ice Lingam at the Holy cave.

And she repeated this feat when she once again took leave form her job , and accompanied me to Mahakumbh in Allahabad. At Varanasi the priest was so happy to see her that he remarked:

" Maa ko teerath yatra pe le kar aayi ho!"

My younger daughter too has proved her mettle.  She was a delicate baby but proved her tough side when she decided to opt for doing her Internship in Pune rather than in NCR. 

Six months later, she is back, having successfully completed her training.  And with an Appreciation letter form the Hotel, for going beyond her duties, like grooming the new joinees and guiding them.

My girls are indeed precious to me. It is my endeavor that they experiences life  in totality and be empowered. And when the time comes, start a family and make loving and responsible mothers and wives. Yeah, this is my dream for them.

I pray that our country breaks the shackles of Patriarchy and truly treats women with respect, dignity and equality. The day that happen, we will make our ancestors and country proud.

[This Post is part of the  following contest by Women's Web.

This International Women's Day, let's celebrate femininity! Participate in our 'Celebrating Girls, Celebrating Women' contest! ]