The brave women of the Indian subcontinent

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

Most people hero worship famous political leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Lenin, etc or brilliant military commanders like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Napoleon

I too hero worship many of them. But my greater heroes are many who are anonymous. In particular, I salute the brave women of the Indian subcontinent, who are selflessly and anonymously feeding their families and looking after them and their homes on the small incomes of their husbands or their own. They usually do back breaking work the whole day of washing clothes, cooking, looking after the children, and keeping the house clean. Some, apart from looking after their homes and families also supplement the family income by doing some outside work.

It is estimated that about 57% Indian women are anaemic, which means they do not get enough to eat.

Yet they prefer to first feed their children and husbands, rather than eat themselves. Should we not admire them ? I regard them as our real heroes.

As submitted in this article, women are intellectually the equals of men. Yet they are often oppressed and discriminated against.

It is the people's revolution, which I see coming in 10-15 years from now, which will set up a social and political order in which our women will be truly emancipated.

I conclude by quoting verses from the great Tamil poet Subramania Bharati who wrote (around 1908-1910) powerful verses in favour of women’s emancipation. In fact he wrote this at a time when probably no one in India, or even in foreign countries, even thought of women's emancipation, and thus he was far ahead of his times :

“Gummiyadi Gummiyadi Nadumughudum

Kulungida thaikotti Gummiyadi

Nammai pidiththa pisasugal poyina

Nanmai kandomendru Gummiyadi

Ettaiyum pengal thoduvadhu teemaiyendru

Enniyirundhavan mainduvittar,

Veettunkulley pennai pootivaipomenra

Vindhai manidhar thalai kavinghhar”

(Dandiya-dance to celebrate women’s emancipation) :

“Dance oh friend dance, playing dandiya let it be with such

force that as you dance it shakes up and wakes up this entire Nation.

Let us dance to celebrate our emancipation from the ghosts

which were holding on to us for centuries. Let us celebrate our achievement.

Those who thought that if education was given to women it

would harm the society, are all dead today !

Those strange fellows who wanted women to be kept locked

inside their homes have now tasted their downfall !

So, oh friends ! Let us celebrate the emancipation of women

and dance playing dandiya”.

“Pudhumaip Penn” (The New Woman)

“Aanum Pennum Nigar Enakkollvathaal

Arivil O’ngi Ivvaiyagam Thazhaikkumaam”

(This world will achieve excellence in knowledge

and wisdom by holding men and women equal)

“Vilagi Veettilo’r Pondhil Valarvadhal

Veerap-Pengal Viraivil Ozshippaaram”

(Valiant women will soon eradicate the custom

of growing in seclusion in homes)

“Pengal Viduthalaik Kummi” (Women Liberation Song)

“Yettaiyum Pengal Thoduvathu Theemai

Endrenni Irundhavar Maaindhu Vittaar,

Veettukkulle Pennai Pootti Vaippom Endra

Vindhai Manithar Thalai Kavizhndhaar”

(Those who thought that it was a sin for women to

touch books are dead; the incredible men who

wanted to lock the women inside their homes now

hang their heads in shame)

“Kangal Irandinil ordrai kuththi

Kaatchi Kedutthidalamo

Pengal arivai valarthal, vaiyyam

Pedamai attridum kaaneer

(from a poem titled “Murasu”)

(Out of the two eyes, if you pierce and destroy

one, are you not spoiling your own vision? In fact,

if you educate the women, the backwardness

which grips this world will vanish automatically.”)

“Pattankkal Aazhvadum Sattankkal Seivathum

Paarinil Penkal Nadatha Vanthom

(Women have come up now to get degrees, to legislate, and rule in the world.)

Women of the Indian subcontinent, I salute you

(Justice Katju is a former Judge, of the Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, the Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

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