“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
International Day of the Girl is celebrated on the 11th October, each year since its inception in the year 2012. Though it has only been 7 years since the day it was first executed, it’s main focus is to address the challenges and needs of the girls worldwide.
Almost 25 years back, men and women from over 200 countries reached Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women. They wanted to know the rights of girls and women. During the conference, an agenda was adopted – Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – this was considered to be a comprehensive policy for women empowerment. However, in the years to come the agenda went through many changes from equal pay to health rights. Today the agenda has taken a totally new turn. The movements are now being conducted for girls with the aim of tackling issues like education, child marriage, fighting taboos like menstruation, self-esteem and a right to worship during menstruation.
Like every year this year also there is a theme for the International Day of the Girl. The theme for this year is “GirlForce: Unscripted and unstoppable”. Yes, indeed the girls have come a long way. They have broken boundaries and gone way ahead of the stereotypes. They are busy making a world not only for themselves but also for future generations.
But what about the time before India got it’s Independence. That time the women had to follow a set of rules. Having said that, there were some which broke stereotypes then also. That generation was a class apart and had a different set of issues.
During that time, there was a ‘Little Girl’. She was born in a family of freedom fighters. Her grandfather, father and other males of the family were always on some mission. Her mother was a strict disciplinarian. She was well-read and a lady with high morals and values. She ensured that all her children got an education and were well dressed all the time. The little girl studied at Convent of Jesus and Mary, a prestigious school of the Capital.
It was during the time of the independence that she could not continue school, and had to sit at home to look after her siblings. This was the first time she thought that injustice had been done with her. She did not leave hope and started studying at home. She would teach her siblings and gain knowledge. Soon, she was married off to a doctor. The doctor and his family stayed in a small town. The girl being from Delhi made sure she adjusted well in the new family. Her father in law was a lawyer and always encouraged her to study. He wanted to hone her skills and learn everything she had missed out on. Here also she started teaching her husbands siblings. She would help them with their homework, make their projects and prepare them for the examinations.
Time flew and the little girl stepped into a new phase of her life. She became a mother. She had three beautiful children (two sons and a daughter) and she taught them all she knew. She worked very, very hard with them and made sure that they were educated.
She wanted to send her elder son to Mayo College for further education, but there was a lot of resistance in the family. The elders in the family did not want this. So the little girl took a firm decision. Despite not being accompanied by her husband and a refusal from everyone in the family she went to Ajmer with her son. At that time she showed the courage to go with 2 boys aged almost 10 years apart. Without telling anyone she boarded the night train, only to land in Ajmer the next morning. They changed at the station and went to school. She had no appointment and had to wait for a long time before she could meet the Dean. There she just mentioned why she had come like this and why her son should be given a chance to study in the school. The Dean silently listened to her and asked her son some questions. He told her to go back and that they would let her know through a telegram if her son will get an admission. She went back home but did not talk to anyone regarding her trip. She tried to make things normal and acted as though nothing had happened. After ten days she received a telegram mentioning that her son had got admission. She danced with joy and started making preparations to send him to a boarding school. Since then she would try to fight the situation in the best possible way.
Many years later, after this incident, she took a step for her daughter. It was time for her to go to college. No one wanted her to step out of the small town. The little girl made sure that her girl does not meet injustice. She asked her to fill the forms for Isabella Thoburn College, Lucknow. Then the two left for Lucknow, and yes again this time she achieved victory. She was successful in getting her daughter admitted to the college. When her younger son completed his MBBS, she requested a distant uncle to get him admission in the AFMC. The uncle worked on procuring the forms, and soon the boy was doing his masters from AFMC.
Time was moving fast for the little girl, she was learning and growing each day. Her children had settled down. Now she had grandchildren. She would tell them stories of British India, Independence and her own incidents. She would help them with their homework and other work. She did not need to fight for her grandchildren’s education. Her children opted the best for them as they had seen their mother work hard to give them the best. Now the little birds have grown and flown out of their nest. They have made their own nests and have their own little ones.
Once the grandchildren left the house she started penning her thoughts. She wrote poetries on nature and her favourite grandchild. She also wrote about independence, a chance meeting with Gandhiji, shaking hands with Jawahar Lal Nehru and other short stories revolving around incidents from her life. One day she happened to show her treasure to someone. He suggested that she should get it printed and published. She asked her children and grandchildren for help. They willingly helped her to transform her dreams into a reality. Her hard work paid off. A collection of her poems was finally collated and published into a book named ‘Smriti’.
Four years back she was felicitated by Honourable Keshri Nath Tripathi, then Governor of West Bengal. There was an event of poem reading at GD Birla Sabha Ghar. The Governor, who was the Chief Guest, was so moved with the poems by the little girl that he especially spoke about her poems and encouraged to write more.
The little girl now 95, is still keen on learning new things. She still writes, though with a shaky hand. She likes to keep herself updated with all the news and at any given time you can debate with her on any political issue or event around the world. She loves to see the Pakistani serials, as she finds a lot of respect and a dignified way of talking which is missing in the ‘Indian K serials’. She loves to play scrabble and can sit with a dictionary for hours just to find and learn new words. If it is not a dictionary then you may find her looking at an atlas, trying to see the world and new places. Sometimes you can also see her playing a game of chess all by herself, where at one time she plays from the white pawns and the other move she rakes by the black pawns. She has a stronghold on the Vedas and has even written books on the same. The only thing which she has not managed to learn is the use of a smartphone. She still uses a pen and pencil and finds it difficult to familiarise herself with digital technology. Though she is making a sincere effort to update herself!
Well, I have spoken so much about the little girl, about her strengths, will power and a never give up attitude towards life. This little girl is none other than my GRANDMOTHER. With all the odds at her end, she was always unscripted and unstoppable. And you won’t believe, last time I met her, she said that she had forgotten algebra, so she asked someone for the algebra book and is now brushing up her basics. Undoubtedly, her love for learning is unstoppable and unscripted.
This post has been written for the #InternationalDayOfTheGirlChild #CauseAChatter
Also Read: Being a Mother to a 5-Year-Old