Chandra grahanwa beti sanjahi laagela
Suraj grahanwa bhinusaar ho,
Dhia grahanwa beti janam se laagela
Jaane kab ugrin hoyee ho
— Indian Folk Song
(The lunar eclipse occurs at night, the solar in the day. However, the eclipse brought forth by the birth of a daughter lasts forever.)
When I read one of the topics for the International Women’s Day Contest – Women Burden or Backbone, my thoughts raced to the above lines from a North Indian folk song. When I first heard it, I could not connect it to either my life or to the lives of the women, I knew. However, I did not have to wait too long to make the connection.
I was 21 when I visited a tiny hamlet in Attapadi, a tribal village near Coimbatore. Like any other Indian village, it was dusty, poor, no electricity, no schools but what really tugged at the heart was the image of 65-year-old woman standing outside the village’s only hospital with her 12-year-old gran-daughter. She had come to the hospital with a rather unique problem. Her grand-daughter’s belly was swollen – she thought it was due to hunger, the grand-mother did not have a job and begged on the streets, the girl’s mother had eloped with “a man from the city” and the girl herself did odd jobs and tried to feed herself. It did not take much time for the doctors to diagnose the swelling as a high-risk pregnancy. The child was unaware of the father but remembered a “city man giving her a bar of soap and doing things to her,” the doctors at the hospital were in a quandary. They did not know what to do, this child was malnourished and in no way capable of bearing a child – they decide to admit her to the hospital only because here she could at least get a place to sleep, healthy food to eat and some rest…. It has been 11-years since that day and I can still remember that child’s face – I do not know where she is today or what happened to her, but her life seems like a burden for no real fault of hers. Even if she wished, it would have been difficult for her to become someone’s backbone.
When one thinks of a backbone, the image that conjures in the mind is of a working woman or that of a homemaker who builds a beautiful home where the weary man can rest, after a hard day at work. Women in cities are supposedly financially independent; however, in most scenarios they end up becoming moneymaking machines as someone else reaps the benefits of their hard work. She maybe a man’s backbone, but does she have one of her own?
Where does she stand in this equation? I firmly believe that if women, everywhere, are provided with opportunities and resources they can empower not only themselves but also those around them. My dream is that women become their own backbones and fulfill their true potentials.