Normally on international women’s day we speak about CEOs or great research scholars. In spite of patriarchy being deep-rooted in our system, there has been a lot of change in the attitude and temperament of women.
Take Valli, for instance. A tall, fair and presentable girl, Valli worked at our house as a maid for over five years. The way she dressed, her ever-smiling countenance, the way she carried herself — it was all exemplary. She had studied only up to Class 9 and was married to a carpenter. They had a son and daughter.
She would use English words like broad, sweating, stain, attitude and concentration whenever the opportunity presented itself. Very often, would bring her daughter to our home and asked us to speak to the child in English so that she could pick up ‘soft skills’. The first time, she came, the little girl extended her hand and introduced herself to met as Priya. She said that she would grow up to become a doctor or, if she did not get enough marks, she would choose any paramedical course and be of service to the poor.
Valli was much-sought after by the neighbouring call centres on account of her demeanor and skills. Now, she works for three IT companies situated nearby. Her job is to dust and clean the glass doors, keep drinking water ready and attend to urgent phone calls. The IT revolution has helped women like Valli in a big way. Everyday, she gets the remnants of two or three lunch packets bought from decent restaurants and this would feed her family. She was getting a handsome salary, besides subsidised food and some medical benefits. In fact, she was soon promoted as supervisor, as she was able to speak with the north Indian boss. She has already been given an advance for a single bedroom-hall-kitchen flat in the nearby locality.
Another impressive lady, Kamala, works in six houses as a cook, earning about `25,000 a month. As there are many flats where both adult members of the family work, she has no difficulty in finding work. She is in her late thirties, gets up at 5 am every day, finishes the cooking in her own home and leaves for work at 6 am. After finishing work in two houses, she returns home to feed her children and pack their lunches. After washing clothes, she leaves her home against at 10 am to work in two houses, both of which are occupied by eldery couples. She makes for them simple, hot, digestible food, gives them baths, dresses them, feeds them and returns home at about 1 pm.
After preparing some snacks for her children, she sets out for her afternoon shift that involves preparing dinner and tiffin in two more houses. Kamala finally returns home at 7 pm, chats with her children, discusses their homework and spends some quality time with them.
Yet another inspirational lady, I know is Shanthi. She works day and night to see her children educated. She rises at 4 am and from 4.30am supplies nearly 150 milk packets to nearby households, earning `6,000 a month. She collects washed clothes from many houses, and gets them pressed by her husband whose job is to iron the clothes and return them to deliver them back. Their children are studying BCom and nursing.
Women, academically qualified or not, have their own dreams and strain every nerve to realise them. It is said that there is a woman behind the success of every man. Today, the woman stands behind her own success and that of her family.
Of course, not every woman has a ‘success’ story. There is a flower vendor who struggles the entire day to make both ends to meet, only to go home and be beaten up by her drunken husband, who just makes the house messy through his excretions. The fragrance of flowers in her small flower stall have not permeated her hut.
Still, the standard of living in many households has improved considerably purely through the efforts of the enthusiastic Aam Aurath, often with a high degree of involvement and commitment. Women’s empowerment does not only lie in academic achievements or hi-fi jobs but also in will and determination. Let us celebrate the success of such women who form the base of Indian society.