Wednesday, 8 March 2017

International Women's Day 2017

It's Women's Day. When some of us get to celebrate the progress that a few of us have made, and think about the many of us who are not yet so lucky. I don't use that word lightly. Yes, if you're reading this, you're most probably very very lucky. We are. 

Lucky that we were born into families who could back us, emotionally and financially. Lucky  that we are born at a time where women are given more respect than any in the past. So many out there have not been so lucky. 

Today, I'm going to talk about how lucky I am. About the people who helped make me the woman I am today. 

I am going to introduce to you, my family. 

I have awesome grandparents. My mother's mother was a teacher and a principal, who spent the more than half of her life raising four daughters alone, after my grandfather died unexpectedly of a heart attack. She had such an awesome memory, that she would recite the sanskrit shlokas she learnt in school well into her 90's. But most importantly, she was a working woman. This is the 1940s we are talking about. 

My maternal grandmother, on her 89th birthday. She passed away in 2015.

My paternal grandmother is a family legend. In the 1940's, she had an M. Sc. in marine biology. She taught college students while pregnant with my father. She played multiple sports, helped raise her siblings, and then started a manufacturing business with my grandfather, in a field completely unrelated to the education they had both received ( the plastics industry; my grandfather had a Ph.D. in marine biology)

She was the one who introduced me to formal cricket. She kept a file of my newspaper cuttings, and would proudly display it to anyone who visited the house at the first opportunity. She taught me to not ignore my studies while playing sports. She taught me how to make timetables and organise my cupboards. She told me she would gift me her gold jewelery the day I played for India. She did. 

My paternal grandmother. Yes, she is on Facebook.

My mother has been the spiritual rock in my life, always making sure I am walking the path. My stepmom plays so many roles with aplomb , it is a scarcely believable that she has only two hands and one head. My step sister always reminds me that life is a song, and I should keep humming it. My mother-in-law taught me that stereotypes are meant for the bin. Then my friends, who I have leaned on even more than family, they are the sisters I did not have growing up. 

I tweeted this today:

needs to be as much about men as it is about women. So gents, this one is to you. Help, not hinder, your women, when they fly.

I mean it. 

I cannot be who I am without my men. It takes guts to send a 13 year old girl to Asansol for her first tournament. It takes love to drive a girl to practice session at 6 am every morning. That's what my father did, never batting an eyelid at my choice of career, never worrying -as my mother did- about my tomboy phase. 

My two younger brothers are both my tech support and my life support. Both engineers, one always has new ways for me to get better, the other always a cheeky remark to sway me from dark thoughts. My husband taught me to first love myself. And my dog, bless him, gives me a glimpse of motherhood everyday. 

These are the people that make me. These are the people I am lucky to have. We are just like most other families, but also unlike them. We are far from perfect. We can be petty, parochial, pedantic. We have dramas, and tragedy, even farce; don't be fooled by the pretty pictures I paint here. We are human. 

A few months ago I was out doing some errands with my (paternal) grandmother. Sitting in the passenger seat of the stationary car, she leaned out the window and hailed a youth who was emptying a pouch of tobacco into his mouth. He came over. 

"Why do you eat that stuff?", she asked him. He looked like it was the first time somebody had asked him that question  in his life. (It probably was.) Predictably, he had no answer and just tried to smile sheepishly. 

"Don't eat that stuff ok? Promise me, promise an old woman that you won't eat it ever again." 

Ok, he replied meekly, still half smiling incredulously. As if he had any choice but to agree; who could resist this plump old woman, jowls hanging adorably from her chin, asking him to be a better man for her sake. I'm convinced that he didn't listen, and is probably still swallowing tobacco packets today. 

But this is an example of the gift my family as given me. To bet on the goodness in other people. Sometimes it backfires spectacularly. Like when I lent my phone to someone who asked for it because they didn't have battery in theirs and they promptly ran off with it. But this is still my default setting. This is where I come from. 

Women's day is for me a day to celebrate these stories. To recall how lucky I am. 

Happy Women's Day 2017.