My grandmother was a fairly liberated woman of her age. She did not fall into the category of the Khadi clad freedom fighters like some of her aunts, though she was nation conscious; she was not educated beyond high school, though there were women graduates in those days; she was not allowed a career of her own, though she was economically provided for on par with the men in her family.
Yet to me she was an emancipated woman. She had a fair share of say in the affairs concerning the family. She was never forced into subjugation nor humiliated within the family. She was loved and respected and she lived with dignity.
I know I sound dubious and hypocritical. Yes, she was confined within a system. She was not allowed to become a lawyer like her father and grandfather before her. She was married off at a ridiculously early age. But she was never allowed to be felt inferior to a man in any other way. She was always valued as a person, both in her family of birth and that into which she was married.
To a majority of women today this is not emancipation – simply not enough in life. But then, there are perhaps infinite definitions of emancipation. One woman’s target may be bizarrely high or incredulously low for another woman. What works for one need not for another. And yet we find that all of us who belong to the sisterhood are in a constant attempt, whether feeble or massive, to enhance our status as women, i.e., to enforce our presence only as EQUALS.
In this effort of being an equal, some of us are luckier than others, and it is perhaps not altogether prudent to pat our own backs. For change in such cases is not immediate, nor does it happen in isolation.
Here I feel we should thank those men who have eagerly tried to help us. But more importantly we should also thank in all earnest, those men who have stood back passively and made a breach in the wall through which more of us could enter where we want to be.
My great- great- grandfather, the legendary lawyer of our family, at least stood back when my grandmother decided to educate herself further, much later in life; he stood back and she enabled her daughter and granddaughters to realize what she dreamed for herself.
My Toast: “To all men who understand and support us.
Also, to all those men who understand us but simply stand back,
not tugging us in when we are dancing forward towards equality and dignity.”