W O (W) M E N

 

 

woman-doing-yoga-and-stretchig-her-body_23-2147658191

I think the process of learning…
Is as eternal as the sun…
At least, for me,
It’s a yearning…
There’s a lot to learn…
Learning’s never done !

A lesson each day…
Keeps the doldrums away…
And I can safely say…
I wouldn’t want it…
Any other way!

So A, this feminist fiend,
(I so learn so much from her!)
Asked me if someone could weave…
(And she was abundantly clear)
A record of Indian women…
Who’ve been an inspiration…
A credit to the world at large…
And certainly, to this nation…
And maybe, to all generations!

So I went about researching,
(Feeding my hunger for learning!)
Fervently, I perused…
Came across the usual suspects…
So onward, I cruised…

Till I found a bevy of women,
In history and more recent,
I’d never heard of some…
But they were the real beacons…
Of such varied achievement!

We’ve read about women…
In history books and such…
In areas from Polity to Sport…
But the lesser known, I wished to touch…
Steadfastly holding the fort!

You don’t need a formal education…
(Though it helps sometimes, I agree!)
To realise your dreams…
All you need is the strength and will…
And for those, there aren’t degrees!

We keep forcing our children…
To accumulate…
Stacks of testimonials…
CVs to get into colleges!
That is so…MICROBIAL!

I know kids who have these dockets…
Of thirty or more affirmations,
But no personality to speak of…
Products of a banal generation!

Sometimes, I think it’s the parents…
Who are in the competition…
Living vicariously through their children…
Pushing them fast and furiously…
Into occupation oblivion!
Driving them to be robotic achievers….
And non imagination seekers!

The minute you talk of “failure”,
These types can’t fathom that word…
They open their mouths in shock…
And think you’re quite absurd!

“Don’t say that word, please S!
I have told him (her) he can’t fail!
Else, misery will follow!”
Is one mother’s wail…

How can one predict,
What children will experience in life?
And if you don’t teach them to cope….
Adversity cuts like a knife!

Don’t teach them to succeed,
But to cope instead…
There is a greater need…
To be well in the head!

So back to these phenomenal people…
These fem gems I admire…
They’re from many walks of life,
But they share a unique fire,
And a will and desire…
Not to succeed, but to contribute…
Success came along the way,
The success is in making a difference…
To the world as we live day to day!

From olden days to now…
These women have made us proud..
They have a factor called ‘WOW’!

In olden days,
Those golden days,
Some women who excelled…
In “male dominated” careers…
Were still told to be quiet and quell…
Their ambitions, for fear,
Their families believed…
They wouldn’t get suitable grooms…
But these women couldn’t hide,
What they had inside,
As common sense prevailed…
And that entailed…
That they be the people they were,
And satisfy that inherent stir…

Nagamani Kulkarni, one such lady…
Was the first to get a Doctorate in Chemistry…
This was during gender biased British rule….
When some women weren’t even allowed in school!

Before her was another Wonder Woman…
(Yes these are super heroes to me)…
She was Kamala Sohonie…
In Science, the first woman PhD!
Dr. C. V. Raman denied her entry…
To pursue her scientific study…
Just because…
She was a woman, of course!
After ages of not giving up…
He couldn’t justify his objections,
And Kamala made history…
With this major victory!

One hundred and fifty three years ago…
Was born, Anandi Joshi,
And little did she know…
That she’d grow to be…
The first lady Physician in India…
Starting at the tender age of nineteen!

As was the norm for girls of the day,
She was married at age nine,
But her husband, bless him, had a word to say…
And let her study at the time…

She earned her Med degree,
At the Women’s College of Pennsylvania,
Now Drexel University,
Then came back to her India…
Educated and free…

Sadly, she died of tuberculosis…
At the young age of twenty two…
But created an inspirational example…
To be followed by me and you…

And many such women…
Proved visionaries…
Like in British India,
Was Cornelia Sorabji,
Daughter of Sorabji Kursedji,
Denied admission to Bombay University…
But then she got in…
With a spirit to win…
The men tried to break her’s,
But she graduated…
Despite all the haters…

She wanted to further her study…
Applied to Oxford,
But there, the same story…
Denied a scholarship,
Due to her gender…
But Nightingale and Hobson…
Stood up to defend her…

At all stages of life,
In attaining her goal,
She was stopped short…
By a man in control…
An examiner refused to…
Check her law exam,
And a third class she got,
Because he thought…
A woman cannot…
Get any more!
Then qualified…
She returned to Bombay…
Where unemployed, she was told
She must stay!

Somehow she got permission…
To fight for women in Purdah…
She got them educated,
And made them nurses…
‘Twas a milestone!
The women were liberated!
Out of their veils…
They suddenly had…
Slow, gliding sails…
In turn, they aided…
Other women to…
Come out of their shells…
A heaven from the hell…
Finally, in 1924,
To women of India,
Was opened, the law…
In 1940, A. Lalitha Rao…
Again, against all norms,
Became the first woman engineer…
In India, it caused storms!
There was no room then…
For a lady in a technology field…
But her father supported her cause…
Spurred her on to get her degree!

So history is dotted…
With women inspirers enough,
And still today,
Women have it rough…
Still today, effortlessly…
Women come out tough!

I’ll start with a village in Kutch…
Where Pabiben Rabri lives…
In a first of a kind…
Artisan enterprise…
She has, single handedly,
Expanded a tribal legacy…
Of Rabri Hari Jari embroidery!
In doing so, she’s created jobs…
For women, in scores and scores …
And opened some tightly shut doors!

Then there was Amrita Devi…
Regrettably never mentioned in history…
Way, way back in 1730,
When women had no say at all…
She bravely stood steadfast and tall…
Against the Maharaja of Jodhpur…
Who was felling trees, felled them all!
She lost her life in the bargain,
Her children were also slain…
But if she could face a brute, with grace…
Then we can face any pain!

In 1984, Bachendri Pal emerged…
As the fist female mountaineer…
Who, with an all-female contingent…
Managed to scale and steer…
Mount Everest and it’s peer!

Sarla Thakral, another Dear…
Flew a gypsy moth solo…
Way back in 1936…
But no one knows…
This wasn’t the only height she scaled…
She was the first Indian pilot…
To get a licence for air mail …

Her hubby encouraged her all the way…
“I’ll care for our four year old,” he’d say!

Mehvish Mushtaq Of Srinagar…
Broke a stereotype and business barrier…
When she created an android app…
This Kashmiri Yellow Pages is handier!

Sabuti Tamuli from Telana, Assam,
Manufactures organic manure…
She’s not only sustained the environment…
But she’s given her village women a cure…
In the form of jobs and self-sufficiency…
She’s made these women free!

Bhakti Sharma has swum the Antarctic…
Breaking records in a blink!
Tanya Sachdev is a chess prodigy….
Who’s won grandmaster titles …
At a young age already!

Homai Vyarawalla, a photojournalist…
Created ripples with the photos she clicked…
And showed us a history…
We’d not know exists!

Harshini Kanhekar is…
India’s first female firefighter…
Breaking stereotypes…
Of every kind …
Any female fighter is inspirational…
To my mind!

Planet Abled was born …
In 2016…and Neha Arora swore…
To get differently abled folks access…
In this sphere, the whole world lacks!

She’s organised tours…
Taking the differently abled…
On adventures around the globe…
Fulfilling wishes and dreams…
To see new abodes…

Barsana, near Mathura,
Is a sacred, Hindu place…
Where a man can drink on Holi…
But a woman covers her face…

The men would get so sozzled,
They’d start behaving crudely,
And the woman couldn’t take any more…
Because they spoiled the fun of Holi…

So they devised a way,
To celebrate Holi day…

It’s called Lathmar Holi…
Now if the men get “spirited”,
And ruin all the good fun,
The women use their lathis,
And away, the men do run!!
There’s more punishment to come…
They’re then made to dance in the sun…
Dressed as made up women!!!

In our textbooks,
These examples never appear…
Perhaps, if we’d feature them…
Our girls would have less fear…

A woman called Pratilata Waddedar,
Led an attack in 1932,
When she headed a group of fifteen…
And torched a European club to its beams!

She did this because…
People try to put you down…
A sign outside it read,
“Dogs and Indians not allowed.”

One more lady,
Is justice Nauroti…
Born amongst poor Dalits…
She now sits…
As a village Sarpanch…
In Hardma village…
Rules a motley bunch!

Her rise began…
When as a stone cutter,
Demanded equal wages,
For a sister, niece, a daughter!

And closer to home…
There are more women of power…
Everyday I see strong girls,
Shaping a stronger world…
These are my clairvoyants…
All taking a stance…
That will bide others in the future…
And give hope and chance…
Women of conviction…
With heads fixed…
Firmly on shoulders…
Who dare to think…
With a mind of their own…
Even if it means…
Standing all alone!

There’s my feminist friend A,
And an author of repute…
And an artist who fights…
Her shyness of youth…
A news lady too…
Who herself is good news!

There’s this girl…
From the South,
An Arien like me,
Only won’t shut her mouth…
I so wish I could be…
So expressive and creative and loud…
She stands out in a crowd!

Then another I know,
Who was mentally tortured…
Said it’s enough…
Walked out with her daughter…
Another friend couldn’t stand …
One more day of her mother…
Only commending her brother,
So she moved out altogether!

Then there’s this exuberant gal…
A lawyer I know…
A long lost pal…
A woman wanting more
Relentlessly fighting and never bored!
And my dynamic doctor friend…
Dedicatedly helping other women…
Without end!!

I know teachers, preachers…
Housewives as well…
They’re all tireless ladies…
In their urge to excel…
These beastly females never rest…
Because they give the world…
All of themselves!

Women I know…
Are getters on the go…
They’re working and studying…
In their forties…
Getting degrees…
And in their fifties…
Refusing to be…
Only knitters and quilters…
No room for wilters!!

Then there’s my helper…
Who I teach English dialect…
She wants to learn ….
And teach her neighbors next!

Women may not impact …
Others directly…
But just knowing their stories…
Can emancipate and seed…
And make you heed…

There are women out there…
Women who smile …
Even through their ….
Forced drudgery of life…
I’ve mentioned but a few…
Fem gems are infinite!

This is the lesson I’ve taken home…
Be a first rate version of yourself,
Rather than a second rate one…
Of someone else…

See? This is a chain reaction…
This epidemic inspiration,
And if I’ve touched one…
One heart ( and head )today,
I can safely say…
You can empower,
I’m sure that you can…
And you can embolden…
There’s no woman …
No man…
Only YOUMAN!

By Scherezade Mansukhani

Scherezade Mansukhani

Scherezade is a Clinical Child Psychologist, Part-time mother, blogger, French teacher and IATA teacher. She has worked with the differently abled, and now works on and off as a teacher.

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