It's Women's Day today and for reasons I cannot quite explain, I spent the day fascinated with Sreemoti's post. It is not that I quite identify with her although obviously I do in some aspects, but I do not think she even understands the concept of feminism. If she does not know where her strength lies how will she figure out how much compromise she can accept and how much she can't?
It made me think of what feminism is, as I understand it. It made me think of Aunty D who has been on my mind a bit these days. Technically, she is my dad's schoolfriend's wife but she and my mother have always got on very well so I usually introduce her to people as my mother's friend.
I have written about her before. But I admire her not only for the way she has brought up her sons. Both of them, as I mentioned before, have stuggled with learning issues in their school years but both of them are well educated, confident young men today. If you have ever seen a child being repeatedly mocked for being different, if you have ever seen a bunch of teens poke fun at another kid for living in his own world, you will have some idea of how merely instilling a sense of self worth and self belief in such a child is a labour of Sisyphus in itself. And then there is the actual task of tackling the learning issues and overcoming them. For the part she has played in her sons' lives, she has been a source of inspiration and strength to many parents.
She has also played a fairly important role in shaping me, I believe. As a young teenager I was encouraged to sit in on discussions between her and my mother as they strove to make sense of the family politics and other issues that formed such a major part of their lives. As Aunty D went from strength to strength in her job my mother asked her to speak to me about how important it was that I aim for financial independence in adulthood. She did speak to me, outlining my choices, and she supported me when I chose to marry early. She helped me sort my head out when my in-law problems were at their worst -- she knows more about this sort of nastiness than any of us should ever need to. And yes, there came a day when she let me down completely.
But through it all, she has been one of the strongest women I have ever had the privilege of meeting. She is no saint. Part of my admiration for her stems from her having the courage to admit her mistakes and their consequences, to pick herself up and carry on afterwards. She has helped so many women, including my mother and me, realise our own strengths, inspiring us to push ourselves a little harder. She had no daughters of her own but rather than whine about it like I do, she adopted many daughters, I one of them.
Ro, she is defiantly gray and her full head of hair looks lovely with it. K, she has gone through your heartaches twice over, with little support, and lived to tell the triumphant tale. Itchy, when I make fun of Bihari chicks, it is her I have in mind, returning the favour with guts and wits. Starry, she is the one who gifted me Janani for my last birthday, making me think harder than ever about the life I lead and my attitude to it.
She is, in some ways, larger than life. She loves beautiful things and is talented with her hands. She has filled her home with beautifully embroidered clothes and wall hangings and panels and covers. Glass paintings alter the light in their flat while their large terrace balcony is always a welcoming rush of greenery. She is an excellent cook and remembers the special favourites of her guests. She, like Mejopishi (my aunt), reminds me that being a career woman never means that you cannot be a gracious and thoughtful hostess too, that if your hobbies matter enough you will find the time to indulge yourself in them. Yet nobody can deny her total involvement and dedication to her job, her vocation.
In recent years she has cared for her old father, giving up vacation plans and many evenings out so that he is not left to fend for himself in an empty flat. She has a full life but would not dream of shutting her infirm father out of it.
So when I think of what a feminist should be, she is the person I think of: fiesty, full of strength and courage, accepting her weaknesses but willing to walk on nevertheless. It is not so much that she does not compromise as that she picks her battles with care. Like any real feminist she believes in the inner strength of every woman, a strength many of us leave untapped but which we all possess.
This is my post for the FemInspiration initiative by Women's Web.