Category: Independence Day

#Women at work – The fruit seller

#Women at work – The fruit seller

I see her busy at her shop right across the road from our apartment building. She has a small outlet stocked with fresh flower and fruit. Somedays I see her attending customers, somedays she is polishing the fruit with a piece of cloth or arranging them in meticulous piles.

I pass by her shop some half a dozen times a day and she never fails to give me a smile. She knows I love flowers as do the kids. She also knows I prefer gerberas and roses for my vases as against the ones she keeps – marigolds, Indian roses and jasmines which are used more often for religious rituals. And yet when I am buying fruit and she has a specially pretty rose she hands it over to me with a ‘take this for the kids’.
And so H and N here’s a lesson for you – Take pleasure and pride in whatever you do, no matter how small your job, how tiny your business. You don’t need to have a lot of ‘things’ to be generous. All you need is a big heart.
When most shop keepers take a siesta break (a ritual in my city), she doesn’t go home. She sits quietly enjoying her break. Her hands keep busy as she picks out flowers from a basket on her lap and threads out colourful garlands, readying for the evening rush.
Somedays she talks to me. A lot of it is in Marathi but I nod along even though I don’t understand all of it. I ask her why she doesn’t shut shop for the siesta. 
And she says, 
“My husband passed away recently. When he was alive, he was always pestering me. ‘Why are you always at the shop? I need you here at home to serve me lunch. I need you to sit with me while I eat,’ he’d say. 
I’d get annoyed and I’d tell him – the children are there to take care of you. How much can a woman do? I have the shop to look after.
But he would have none of it. We’d have arguments but I did go home each day.” 
I nod along, the feminist in me not quite happy with the story.
She continues, a trifle wistfully,
‘Now he is gone and no one asks me to come home. I have children, son, daughter-in-law but they don’t know if I’ve eaten or not. I’m happiest here at my shop.’
I don’t know what to say. The feminist is a trifle confused and chooses to stay silent.
And here’s lesson number 2. This one is for me: Relationships are complicated. No one relationship is quite like another. It is easy to pass judgement, to give advice but different things work for different people.
I cannot end the post without wishing everyone a very happy Independence Day. And I’m glad I wrote about this lady today. Isn’t she a symbol of Independent India? Of doing her own thing and being at peace with herself?
Despite so much that is not quite right with our country, we do have things to be proud of, things that set us apart, make us special.
Today, I shall focus on all that IS right with my country and it is that which I shall be celebrating.

Linking up with Parul for the #Women at Work bloghop. If you have a story about a working woman do share.
…and some more

…and some more

Independence Day has always been one of Hrit Naisha’s favourite festivals. They love the flag hoisting and the singing of the National anthem. What’s more there are tricoloured balloons and chakris as well as saffron, white and green clothes to dress up in.

However since we moved to Pune things got a bit dull. Our housing society is not exactly the most happening one when it comes to celebrations. Oh we do have the mandatory flag hoisting; throw in a few speeches and maybe a desh-bhakti poem to go along and we’re done. By afternoon the flag is taken down, folded and kept away till January.

One is expected to sit quietly, sing the anthem, sit some more and go away in a quiet dignified manner… things Hrit and Naisha are certainly not capable of. After being almost chased away the first year, last time we kept ourselves happy watching the flag hoisting of a neighbouring society from our balcony.

This time we decided to have a drawing contest for the kids. By the time we could convince the chairman to open the clubhouse for us (not possible, it’s a holiday, it’s illegal to open ‘establishments’ on National holidays… aaaarrrrgh.. you get the picture) it was too late to inform everyone and if each society member wasn’t informed permission couldn’t be given, so said the chairman. Finally, we gave up and decided to have it at home.

We wrote out the notices, rustled up some tricoloured badges, cleared up the living room and we were set.

So it was that at 11 O clock kids trooped in to draw “India”. And what super fun it turned out to be.
The kids were excited as were the mums. Some even sent across small gifts and chocolates for the participants in honour of I-Day, some dropped in just to watch the kids and click pictures. Almost all said they’d thought of doing something for a long time but never got around to it.

The kids at work. Some shy ones refused to let me click their drawings, others, Naisha included, were only too happy to pose… and still others were oblivious to the cameras. They did come up with some great ideas.
The response was so heartening that we’ve grown ambitious and are planning a Children’s Day do for which we’ll start looking for permissions a month in advance. Even if it doesn’t come through we know we can still have fun.
One last thing.. we rounded off the day with tricolour puris… take a look.

Edited to add: Linking this to Shruti’s Artsy Craftsy Challenge .

My maid is pregnant…

My maid is pregnant…

.. with her fourth child. Yes you’ve guessed it.. the first three are girls.

Till two years back Suman lived with her husband.. a quiet, unlettered, housewife looking after her home and two daughters. The birth of the third changed that. She needed to work. That was when she, with her daughters, came to live with her sister.

She learnt to work, on the job. It was a struggle but she managed. Each day brought with it challenges .. finicky employers, demanding kids, water shortage, leaking roofs, illness, uninvited guests. She fought to make ends meet. She struggled to survive. And she learnt. She managed.

When the new session came I saw the worry lines deepen on her forehead… admission fees, uniforms, books. She started looking out for more work, trying to juggle time-slots at various households, she cribbed a bit, asked for an advance and she managed. “Aap logon ka kaam achcha hai. Dhoop mein daurna nahin parta,” she observed one day sweltering in the hot April sun, “Isiliye ladkiyon ko parha rahin hoon.”

Her husband continued to work in another city. She didn’t expect any help from him, financial or emotional. His earnings were all for himself and ‘his family’ (parents/siblings). He would drop by occasionally, take some money from her and go away again.She was raising her daughters single handedly, settling down in this new role.

Then comes a threat from the mother-in-law. ‘Give me a grandson or I get another wife for my son’. And here she is… with another child. Worries far overshadow her happiness, if there is any —
— I’ll have to quit working after a few months.
— How will I (not ‘we’) manage the expenses.
— Who will take care of me/my daughters during the delivery.
And the biggest one of all…WHAT IF IT’S ANOTHER DAUGHTER?

She knows this is not the right thing to do. Yet she’s doing it. Why? I asked. Let him get married, I told her. He’s just a token of a husband, anyway. Let him go. Let him marry ten times over. ‘Log kya kahenge,’ she says with a sigh as she gears up for the year ahead.

If it’s a son all will be well. He will be the object of everyone’s affection. The meagre family finances will be channelised towards him . The daughters will watch him being pampered and will grow up resentful of him yet hoping to be mothers of sons. If it’s a daughter she’ll be the object of disappointment and resentment. She will grow up feeling guilty of being a girl and will hope, even more fervently, that she’ll mother boys.

Another slave generation is spawned.


maybe… just maybe Suman will succeed in educating her daughters. They will grow up watching their mother struggle. They will learn to appreciate her. They will read their mother’s silent resentment, understand her pain at doing something against her better judgement.

Maybe their education will teach them to value themselves. Maybe it will empower them enough to feel anger, rage, frustration and maybe they’ll vow never to be in their mother’s shoes.

Maybe they’ll be the mothers of a free India.

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