This article was chosen as one of the winning entries in Godrej Eon Woman of Substance Contest http://blog.blogadda.com/2013/04/17/woman-of-substance-contest-winners-announced
We are each the authors of our own lives.
Sometimes it's a mystery. Sometimes almost a fiction book. Maybe , even a Mills and Boon at times. Sometimes it is, like the current fashion, a trilogy.
It isn't easy being a woman of substance. And a woman of substance, never writes about herself. Particularly, if she is illiterate, and can write only her first name.
And so I take it upon me to applaud the woman of substance in my life.
No, she didn't have a rosy childhood, though her birth was celebrated just like that of her brothers. But she never went to school. She was married at 14, into an unfortunate alliance, and spent the first 6 years, begetting 4 children, working the fields, collecting and selling cow dung cakes to earn for food, being beaten, and having things violently thrown at her by a manic spouse. An amazing set of parents , rescued and brought her back with 4 kids.
Think of what substance she was made of, when you hear that she sent all 4 children, including a daughter to school, and saw them complete class X. Today 3 sons have jobs, and the daughter works in a hostel mess, much in demand .
Think of what substance she was made of, when years ago she heard of a tenement being sold in the slums across the main road, and judiciously decided to make an investment, taking loans from everyone whose houses she worked, and some chit fund she participated in. With all her children working, she has paid off the loan.
And think of what substance she was made of, when you hear , that no one, but no one messes with her daughter in the queue for water each morning. Some local hero once tried that, and everyone remembers the stinging slap he got. It isn't about her being a threat. It is all about demanding what is allowed by law. Like a peaceful opportunity to collect her daily water needs.
Think of what substance she was made of, when she was thrilled to bits when one of her daughters-in-law completed XIIth, and she was the first person to encourage her to do a library assistants course, and later an MSCIT, state IT certification. Today the daughter-in-law works in a health NGO. And no son of hers dares get a complex because his wife is more educated.
Think of what substance she is made of, when a bunch of ladies , were paranoid about someone pregnant being outside during an eclipse, and she calls me on the phone to ask me to check on the "Komputar" , about eclipse timings and where it was visible, so that a sensible decision could be taken.
Think of what substance she is made of, when a "social worker" lands up at her doorstep, recommending sterilizations and dangling government monetary payments to her as part of some scheme; her innate awareness of child bearing years, modern birth control methods, and unscrupulous folks, had her drive away that lady in no uncertain terms.
Think of what substance she is made of when you hear what she did at the retirement function of a close relative , who is also a social worker in the community. While the people presented him with shawls and cloth pieces, and statues and coconuts, her family collected their contribution in an envelope, and gave it to him, so so he could use it to help someone in need.....and her daughter-in-law gave a short speech before the presentation.
Think of what substance she is made of, when concerned about getting her small grand kids into a good school, she toiled ceaseless to acquire the necessary caste certificate; the good-for-nothing husband had one, but had changed his name , making it useless for her. She went looking for him at his new place of work, and met the man who answered now to a different name. To her credit, her entire set of in-laws stood by her, and she was able to get a brother-in-law to do the needful, so she could apply .
Think of what substance she is made of, when her daughter was cheated in her marriage, gave it a chance, and then one day returned. She was welcomed back, now works, and has her old maiden name legally back, thanks to her mother insisting on it. She now also has a bank account jointly with her daughter.
Think of what substance she is made of, when those folks whose houses she works, blindly rely on her in times of crises, like a family member. Seeing two young kids sitting forlornly by themselves at home ignoring food, with the rest of the family away at a cremation of someone close, she got them together, cooked fresh hot food for them, and cajoled them into eating it , and waited till the family got back.
Her grandsons now go to school. One of them recently taught her how to write her name. Only the first name. She is completely thrilled to bits as she carefully writes and shows me.
The only time I saw her in tears was when one of her sons fell suddenly sick and had to be kept in the ICU. Folks offered help. But. She sold all her ornaments, visited all gods of all religions, and raised the resources . As she told me, "the real jewels are the kids. I dont care about what I jewellery I have to sell".......
She is the most amazing single mother I know, who has risen , literally from the ashes, that a burning life gave her before she was 20.
She is the real woman of substance I have encountered in the last 35 years that I have known her. My household help , "S" , which is not her real name. (Real name and details will be revealed if necessary, later)
I continue to me amazed.
She recently came with a worried look, asking about where Aadhar cards were being done, now that the initial card rush was over. Her 2 sons needed to apply. I told her that the earlier place would have that information and that I would check there .
"Tumchya Komputar war baghaa na ! lagech kalel ki ! (~ "Look on your computer ; you will get to know immediately there, isn't it ?").
I think Nandan Nilekani would be amazed too .
So would Google. With this woman of substance....