At Chaaipani, we have had the pleasure to meet and write about some amazing women in the past couple of years. So this women’s day I’d like to celebrate their achievements, their dream of an equal society, and their efforts towards affecting not just their lives but lives of everyone around them.
“Sometimes when I am on a call with my clients and my daughter calls out for me, of course, they hear her voice and ask me, ‘Are you working from home or have you brought your daughter to work?’ It leaves them wondering because they never realized a stay-at-home-mom was running the organization.”
In 2013 after returning to London she made it to three club’s open trials that she had applied for. She got into Tottenham Hotspurs Women’s FC. The competition was massive indeed and she continued to strive hard. Tanvie Hans is a forward and plays multiple offensive positions.
महिलाओं का जीवन बहुत खूबसूरत है। बशर्ते उन्हें खुलकर जीने दिया जाए। यह उनके हित और हक़ दोनो के लिहाज़ से उचित है। जब दुनियां में ऐसा होता नहीं देखती हूं तो इस व्यवस्था को अपने लेखन में उतार देती हूं। मेरा हर वुमन केरेक्टर ज़िंदगी ख़ुद की शर्तों पर जीता है। – प्रीति शिनॉय
मेरे लिए तो खज़ाना हाथ लग जाने जैसा था। जब मैं रिकॉर्डिंग करने पहुंची तो दादा ने लाइव सुना और खुश होते हुए बोले – क्यों ना श्लोक तुम्हीं से गवा लिया जाए। बर्मन दादा की एक हां ने मेरे ज़िंदगी बदल कर रख दी।
They decided to amputate my right hand but again there was a problem as the doctor said that he won’t be able to give anesthesia to me and would have to cut the hand without giving any local anesthesia. I said go ahead I will bear the pain but just take me out. And the next thing I saw was a team of doctors and rescue team tied a tightrope on my hand and amputated my hand with a big knife and I can’t even express the pain I went through.
“They did no wrong. Hence, they didn’t deserve any of it. I was devastated but I had to fight for them. The lady whom I worked for at that point helped me a lot. I filed a divorce against him after few months”
Ngurang Meena and Reena are from Arunachal Pradesh. A state of multiple tribes. The state of the famous Ziro Festival. A state with immense beauty of mountain ranges from the Himalayas. The kind of scenes we drew as children in our drawing class, a mountain range with a rising sun with a valley and rivers. There is a bitter reality that the people in the Arunachal face. Polygamy. Child marriage.
Reena is one of the 9 siblings in her family from 2 mothers. Reena’s mother was married to her father at the age of 13 even before she even hit puberty. The tribal customary laws support the ways of child marriage and polygamy, exchanging women in marriage for Mithuns and stones. Her mother was a victim of both these practices. Reena’s mother got married at the age of 13. Her father married another woman when Reena was around 10 years old. The practice of multiple marriages is followed without restrictions as there is no registration of marriages which would, in an ideal scenario, prevent it. Meena the eldest among the siblings in the family understood her mother’s dilemma and repercussions of another woman in the house.
“We don’t have grudges towards our father anymore”, says Reena.
They come from a very rural family. Reena’s father lived his entire schooling in one vest and two underpants. He walked barefoot until he was 16 when he got his first pair of slippers. Her father was interested in politics and worked hard to make a name in the society.
Both Meena and Reena understood that the only way to lift their region out of the abyss of these horrifying practices was to educate themselves. Meena moved to Bangalore to pursue her graduation in Economics, History, and Social Sciences. Whereas Reena moved to Delhi to pursue her graduation with a major in Social Sciences from Delhi University. Even in their colleges, they were both very active in politics and student unions, a trait that Reena says they might have inherited from their father.
“I think the silence of women towards these atrocities is what pushed us to Social sciences and to educate ourselves so that we could be their voice. The way they couldn’t voice their troubles and fight for themselves made us want to do something about the way things were.”
Meanwhile, Meena was all set to move to London to pursue further studies, but family’s financial constraints she had to return to Arunachal in 2011.
“Once you’ve had experienced new cultures, opened up to new possibilities, formed a certain mindset, and then you come back, the society doesn’t allow you to let alone change but even have an opinion different than their own”, says Reena.
This is when Meena started questioning the institution of Arunachal, the way things were. So Meena decided to leave the family and started living on her own. Things had to change. But the habitues looked at a woman living by herself as ‘weak’. She protested for proper roads to women rights, and in the past three years set up the ‘Ngurang Learning Institute’ with the aim of giving opportunities to women like their mother who were never given a chance to read and write.
“Since they were illiterate they aren’t able to enroll their children in schools, fill forms, use banking facilities.”
For a long period of time, Meena ran the institute without any money from the women she taught. She used to pursue part-time jobs and fend off for herself and teach these women. Reena would come to Arunachal for 2 months every semester and help her sister run the institute.
“These women didn’t know how to thank us. They used to bring in royal food, or native rice and meat to show their gratitude.”
In return, they had endured threats from the husbands of women. ‘She is my wife. She is supposed to cook. This is no age for her to learn how to read and write’, they would say. Since their father had a political influence, people didn’t act on the threats they made.
“One of the husbands of the women came to my sister’s place with a sword and threatened to stop teaching his wife or else..”
The women they taught, inspired and enlightened told them that they wanted their stories to be heard. They wanted the world to know what they went through so that no one ever endures what they did.
“One of the women who went through such atrocities was 3 years of age when she was married.”
Both the sisters decided to organize a pageant based on the stories of these women to share the progress they have made and to enlighten others about the prevailing condition of the state. Mrs. Arunachal Pradesh, Mother of Substance. The first proof that things are changing is the fact that, their father wholeheartedly supports the event and is the chief advisor for the same.
With so much news about how we’re progressing, initiatives to employ and empower women, help improve education, advance technology and what not, there is still a part of where such unearthly traditions are followed. Communities here do not appreciate the change. But as Elon Musk said, “Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is a disaster.” And these sisters have certainly put the first dent towards a change.
The finale of Mrs. Arunachal Pradesh is on 26th of November, with Mary Kom as their chief guest. Here is how you can get in touch with them to know more about them and the pageant. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and Facebook page to know more about the event. I would strongly recommend people who are in the vicinity to visit the event and show support for the courage of these women.
They have started a movement to celebrate brave-hearted women who have stood up for themselves and others as well, who for some haven’t been able to. Here’s their page to know more about the same.
Do you think you have a story that could inspire several out there? Email us on email@example.com, or join us on Facebook and Twitter (@chaaipani). To get inspiring stories on WhatsApp, just drop your number here.
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Today, I write with the utmost respect for mothers, working or homemakers. You might be able to relate to this. I have a mother who tries that neither me nor my sister has to cook a meal unless necessary. And then I wonder what is it that she has done solely for herself. Not for the lack of space and time, but she didn’t pursue her passion. Not that she ever complained or didn’t have the support from us, believe me, she did. But what was it, age, apprehension, judgment, convention, or the just fact that she wasn’t given a chance to do so? Only a mother would be able to answer these.
So, I had the opportunity to meet a Mrs. India Earth contestant. A mother of two, 39 years old, Kanchan Korani from Rajkot lives in Hong Kong with her spouse. I know better now to say that these pageants aren’t just about tainting and painting.
Kanchan got married right after she completed her B.Com and moved to Hong Kong for her husband’s work. She started her own shop there, importing Indian groceries and food for people living in Hong Kong and other countries.
“Meri khudki pehchaan chahiye thi mujhe (I wanted a name of my own)”, she says with pride in her voice.
She started after her son was born. Kanchan wanted to have some connect with her native place and hence she started off with Indian food, sharing it with others who felt and craved what she did.
The wife of a man who assembles watches, Kanchan was trying to find her feet, nurture her kids, and do justice to her life in Hong Kong. Not that her husband wasn’t supportive, he was, but there are things you want to do, things you love without giving up on either one of them.
The 39 year old Kanchan Korani I met is beautiful, elegant, graceful, and looks way different from socially accepted convention falling under mother-of-two. But she wasn’t the same after she got married. With a shop to run and kids to manage, Kanchan had gained weight. Her daughter persuaded Kanchan to apply for the Mrs. India Earth Pageant.
“I had come to India for my brother’s marriage. All through the marriage I heard comments from relatives, ‘She’s married and has two kids, her youth is done for’. That moment shook me. I realised that I am not what I used to be. It wasn’t about how I looked, but how I felt about myself. In my head, I didn’t prove to anyone but my self. ”
That is when she joined a gym and started working out. Simple, no? No. A fit body undoubtedly requires a lot of hard work, which too doesn’t matter, if not clubbed with patience and determination.
“I used to weigh above ninety kilos in my brother’s marriage. Today I am forty-two.”
With the support of her husband, her kids, her younger brother and his wife, Kanchan participated in the Mrs. Earth India and moved to becoming a finalist.
“With their support, I won the subtitle of ‘Mrs. India Earth Beautiful Skin’.”
Kanchan is known amongst the Indian community in Hong Kong because of her established grocery business.. After her recognition in the pageant, she was approached by a lot of women in the community so that she could give strength to them as she found her strength in her kin. She is even the face of Closet Love a fashion app who styled her during the contest.
With this, I ask her what’s the next mountain she wants to climb? And she was ready with her answer.
“I want to study, I wanted to become a Chartered Accountant. So I’ll pursue that, I’ll help further the cause of education. I didn’t pursue higher education. But I want to and would love to help others who want the same.”
Kanchan believes if she will think that she’s forty and is too old to pursue such endeavor, people will always accept the easier and let her, because we have grown up in an environment where no one wants us to step out of the box but keep steady at our places, maybe because that challenges their way of life.