It was my grandmother’s tradition to end each day with a bedtime story. Sometimes they were the usual fairy tales, with talking animals and naughty children but mostly they were enchanting tales of her childhood. Those small stories inspired me to let go of my childhood fears of the ‘monster-under-the-bed’ and lose myself in the oblivion of sleep. But now, when I look back on those stories, it strikes me what extra-ordinary people my grandmother and great-grandmother were.
To recount one such story – This was when my grandma was barely 7 or 8 years old. They lived on the outskirts of town and the nearest neighbours were almost half a kilometre away. Her father was out of town. At night, after they were all asleep, my great-grandmother was awakened by some noises. She realized that there was someone moving about in the other room. She knew they must be robbers since there had been a few such robberies around the locality. She pretended to be asleep. Thankfully the children slept on undisturbed. The robbers ransacked the kitchen and found the gold jewellery that they used to keep hidden at the bottom of their grain bins. Apparently satisfied with the loot the robbers left.
Once she realized that the robbers were safely out, she quickly stole into the kitchen and armed herself with a large iron pan and heavy ladles. She locked the main door and ran towards the nearest house, all the while banging on the heavy pan. The racket woke up the neighbours and they all gave chase. The robbers got away but my great-grandmother got back her jewellery.
Her bravery and presence of mind amazes me. Although I have never met her, her stories lived on through my grandmother and inspired me. Even in that bygone era where women were uneducated and mostly confined to the household, my great grandmother displayed such spunk and resourcefulness. Not only did she ensure her children’s safety, she also managed to recover her gold. That is what women’s empowerment means to me. To rise up and take the mantle, to stand up for one’s rights, and to lead when leadership is called for. That is my great-grandmother’s legacy and I hope to live up to it.
P.S.: Do let me know what women empowerment means to you.