The society I belong to brought me up with the idea of gender equality and female empowerment, so much so that it came naturally for me to strive for better grades than to learn how to cook. The predefined gender roles have long been forgotten. But that’s just the society that I live in. There is a parallel society that exists alongside mine. The society that will count a woman complete only when she gets married.
I grew up in Rajasthan and in a state like mine it’s not shocking anymore to hear about female foeticide or child marriages. I hear them as stories and forget about them. Pity is emotion that often accompanies these stories. Maybe a thought of gratitude that I am in a better position than theirs. But then to shatter my pride came in Tabassum, whose story was far too special to be ignored.
Last month a college project forced me to visit the Kathputli Colony, a colony of artisans that associate with puppet making and performing. The irreparably damaged houses and unimaginably narrow lanes lead me to a house that was beautiful in its simplicity. The blue walls of the one room home had a certain sense of pride in them. The house belongs to a young 23 year old Tabassum. Married for 8 years this beautiful girl manufactures Kathputlis(puppets) for a living.
This woman was as confident and as self reliant as a someone working in a large MNC. With three children and a drunkard husband this young girl has too much on her plate. The man of the house brought this Bihari girl to Rajasthan and almost left her on her own. Tabassum soon realised she needed to take some actions in order to put food on the table. She relocated her family in the Kathputli colony and learnt the art of puppet making.
With middle men sucking up commissions from her she earns about 60-70 rupees per kathputli, and a maximum of 2-3 kathputlis sell in a day. And she told me this with a smile on her face. A smile that ensured that she was not gonna give up on life anytime soon. I asked her what keeps her going and she sighed and said my kids.
And those two words left an impact on me that lasted way longer than I had summed up the interview. Keeping in mind that this girl is forever surrounded by women who have never even heard of words like female empowerment, she defies all odds. She isn’t educated enough or experienced enough but she had something no school can teach, courage. Courage to face her problems and to not let her kids suffer.
It’s funny how I have attended tens of lectures on feminism and participated in debates about it but meeting this one girl changed the way I see women in general. A modern woman isn’t someone who is only sufficient to pay her bills. A modern woman is someone who has the capability to rise up to the occasion and raise an entire family.
Another rainbow in the cloud, Tabassum has 2 young girls. And I can bet anything these two girls would grow up to be strong, independent, and confident women as well. Fearless women give birth to a fearless society and that is how Youth ki Awaz Spreads the Vibe.