My grandmother was widowed with six children. The children grown up and off to work in cities, she was alone in the village house. Ever since I remember, whenever I went to my village, my grandmother was always out and about in the village, visiting people. People missed her when she did not make her regular round. The purpose of her rounds was nothing more than seeing and chatting up with people.
She could have stayed with any of her boys and their families, but she was too independant to follow the rules of someone else’s house. She visited them occassionally but chose to stay in the village house where she had her space and unquestioned say. She was never alone and did not seem lonely. I am certain she missed her husband and her family, but one never heard her complaining. She was happy when we visited her in the village, but unnecessary show of emotion was not her forte.
She ensured that she had her share in the property and kept it till she died. It was her right and she exerted that. None of the “my sons will take care of me, what do I need my own money for?” crap from her. She took care of herself without dependence on anyone. There was no way to manipulate her, not even by affection. All her grandchildren tried to exert their influence on her, but she knew her mind. She acted as she pleased till the day she breathed last.
She was widowed at a young age. Women who were brides in the village observed purdah, did not leave their homes and go about from house to house socializing with other people. They would put the pallu of their sari on their head when they encountered an outsider or an elder in the house. Sometimes she did too, when the sun was too hot, or out of reflex when she saw someone elder to her; but it was not something she followed religiously. She did not make it an issue, and it was not an issue for anyone in the village.
Mine is a rather small village with people of many castes. If someone is aware of village dynamics, one would know that you would avoid visiting people from lower denominations. She did not care. She visited every house she wanted to. Noone tried to stop her or had disrespect to her because of this. Again, everyone fell in line with that. No answers were given by her, no questions were asked.
She liked to move around and “exchange information” and she did just that. The amazing this is that, no one from the family or the village questioned her, stopped or even criticized her. When you just do things without bothering about society, society falls in line naturally. She showed no doubt or dependancy, offered no comments or explanation. What was the level of her education? Same as every woman of her generation in the village at that time, that is- “Kala Akshar Bhains Barabar“. Her demeanour was such that her strength and choices never looked forced. It was just as it should be. She had no swagger, no high talk, nothing exceptional that people would remember her for.
Hers was the most naturally strong character and an unassuming personality. Nothing she did even looked anomalous, even when it was against the norms of the village. Her attitude was such that noone even thought to question her choices and actions however small or big they were. Everyone simply accepted her as she was, as she did. Such was the naturalness of her demeanour.
She had nil aspirations to lead people or become a role model. She enjoyed her life, lived her life, the way she wanted. Was she a great motivator or someone with a lot of influence? Was she a role model? Did she do any remarkable things? Did the men and women of the village run to her for advice or support? Answer to all these question would be an uncontested NO.
Is it absolutely essential to make a statement about everything? The confidence with which you live your life will make all your decisions and doings look natural; which is how it should be. Unnecessary battles and victimhood only suck life energy and must be avoided and shunned.
What did I inherit from her? I believe nothing other than a desire to be myself and a consciously inculcated disregard for what anyone else thinks of me.
Are you only a feminist when you question certain inconsequential aspects of the status quo? You can either question the inconsequential or just render it inconsequential by not questioning it. What if you do not give them any space in your head and move on with however you wish to be with or without having to challenge the status quo?
Is it even important to be a feminist, whatever that entails?
You can be an untagged woman being just the way you are or want to me. And must I remember my Grandmother’s admirable, unremarkable qualities only on Women’s day, week or month? I can do much more justice to her memory simply by emulating her; but that is hard because you cannot possibly emulate someone’s being.