I am sitting in a hall packed with women who are brimming with hope and excitement. Light is entering through one of the windows like a ray of hope. It makes the floor glitter with the shadow shapes dancing on the floor. As if the universe is delighted and it is exuberantly expressing its zeal! I see smiles all over. Smiles of aspiration, desire and promise. A promise to self, of not being daunted by the society! By that society which has anyway not given them anything except fetters of rituals and stereotypes. If there had been any unit to decipher the color of the aura in the room, I am sure it would have been BRIGHT RED. Red with passion and zeal, red with emotions and past cries, red with a loud cry of HALLA BOL! The energy was contagious. So much so that as soon as one stepped into the hall, one would straighten up their back with head held high and walk with the confidence of a fighter!
Among the crowd, one woman hopes to start earning a living and somehow sustain herself and her daughter. Her husband has discarded them from his life. Then there is another woman who hopes to set an example for her counterparts to follow. One of them also hopes to regain her ‘self’. She was a home guard and a dancer before she gave this up for a husband who left her for another woman after 10 years of marriage. These are the lives of the ones who are ‘a bit’ more underprivileged than most of us. And that ‘bit’ is tremendously huge! These are the lives of marginalized, discriminated and abolished.
And yet I see them smiling today. I see them happier than I have been since quite a long. I am overwhelmed as I see them and then suddenly I recall a scene from the past.
“What is this new bullshit you are up to now? Is this your way of blackmailing us that either we should support your business plan or you will ruin yourself?” says my mother in law. The other members continue “Ab kya jhola leke gaav gaav ghumogi? Islie itna paisa kharch karke padhai ki?(Will you roam about from village to village like a destitute now? Is this why you spent so much on your studies?”
This was the scene when I chose to work in an NGO and not a corporate after my MBA. I had done my Entrepreneurial MBA working on a venture which I had in mind since many years. I completed it only to find that it was not ‘what I should do’ as a bahu (daughter in law) of the family. So in order to find a sense of fire and purpose of life, I joined a social organization. Not that I had a great financial backing at that time. I had my loans to be paid back like most of the graduates do. Not that I disliked the corporates before knowing them too well. I had worked in a corporate before my post graduation. And I knew myself a little too much to continue working like others. I was searching something. Some vague satisfaction from the work I do. I wanted to explore. I wanted my work to have a meaning.
“I am ashamed of introducing what you do to my friends. ” explained my husband when I asked him why did he introduce me as a freelancer to one of his friends!
I recall this today after 3 years. In this hall of future hopes, I recall my past and smile. I feel fortunate to have got this opportunity to initiate a tremendously iconoclast women empowerment program in my city. I feel fortunate to have chosen an organization which bestows immense faith in me. I feel glad to be a minuscule part of this historical change in making!
I am sitting at the launch of DriverBen program which trains underprivileged women as professional drivers and provides them with dignified livelihood!
All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am…..
P.S. My phone just rang with a message from my hubby “All the best”