The Miraculous First Step

I returned to my village Jepra for the last rites of a cousin of mine and came face to face with two other living tragedies. Keja joined the Ekta Parishad with me as a creche worker all of 23 years ago and fell in love with a boy of another caste and got pregnant. Her family refused to allow her to marry that boy and brought her back home. She has stayed an unmarried mother all her life without any support from her family and now lives on a meagre government pension while her son does casual labour in the farms of others. Binda my elder sister is also leading a lonely life with her son. After marriage thirty years ago she found that her husband was already married. Later he married a third time and shunted Binda back to her village to live alone with her son. The rural society in my village is so highly patriarchal that there was no safety net for these two girls when they faced difficult situations at an young age. One suffered because of socially unacceptable love while the other because men could indulge in such love with impunity. I reminisced some of the great times we had had together as young girls and both these women said that they had not laughed for a long time and were only doing so with me. While returning to Indore I could not but think that it was a miracle that I had broken free of the clutches of the patriarchy of my home village by refusing to marry according to my family’s whims and have instead worked as a social activist against patriarchal oppression. The miracle was the first brave step I took in running away from home to join an NGO. That gave me the confidence to challenge established hierarchies and I have done so ever since. I rebelled against my own NGO because it too had patriarchal tendencies. I rebelled against the patriarchal government to fight for reproductive and sexual health and rights for poor tribal women and even went on hunger strike in jail for this. Later I fought the higher educational establishment which tries its best to keep under privileged women out of its ambit and have completed my M.Phil in social work. Now I intend to do a Phd despite the difficulty in finding a guide.

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