[caption id="attachment_7388" align="alignnone" width="2160"] Surendranagar Depot (Gujarat)[/caption] It was a four hour bus ride from Adalaj to Surendranagar district of Gujarat. All this while I was standing with my laptop bag on my shoulder, which was a little painful but the view outside had compensated the pain. The bus was full of young men , the once who were sitting didn't offer their seat to old man/woman and the once who were standing leaned on the seats because it was along journey. There were some old women sitting on the bus floor, really comfortable with the bumpy ride. I thought why are seats not reserved for women in "Developed Gujarat" public transport. The conductor announced Surendranagar as the next stop and an old lady got up and offered her seat to which I politely said no and got down.I met Meenaben (Prayas worker) who came to pick me up at the depot. As soon as I sat on her scooty, I was no more lethargic. Her speed, balance did not match her Physique as she was lean. We crossed lanes, bazaars that were overcrowded and impossible to cross by. Later we visited houses of borrowers located in the interiors of Surendranagar, where the roads were in bad condition.[caption id="attachment_7381" align="alignnone" width="3600"] Interior area of Surendranagar[/caption]I told myself “Renu you met a small accident long time back, why do you fear so much, look at her she has to manage her household, work in office, and then take me to borrowers who are located in areas where riding a scooty is a task”. On the way she said “My ankle hurts, but I don’t have any option. If I take leave the whole office will shut down” and here I was complaining about a bus ride.Meenaben later, took me to a house near her office. She wanted to show me something and I kept asking her where were we heading next. We stopped at a wooden blue door that opened to a yard, where a small girl and two women were packing wafers. The girl sealed the wafers with a hot iron rod and her mother would fill the packet with the wafers. I was astonished to see the speed at which they filled and sealed the wafer, especially the young girl helping her mother. Her brother on the other hand was watching TV and came out when he herd us speaking.[caption id="attachment_7380" align="alignnone" width="3155"] Women packing wafers[/caption]There was another old woman who was sleeping inside and came out after hearing Meenaben’s high pitch voice. Amid Meenaben took some wafers from the huge sack and offered me some with an explanation on the procedure. where as I was fascinated by the old lady and the tribal art on her hand because I always wanted to get my self tattooed but my mother had warned me saying “you can get cancer” (she thought I will end up being a hippy!!) .[caption id="attachment_7379" align="alignnone" width="3600"] The lady with the tribal tattoo[/caption]The design on this old lady's hand looked like ants. I held her hand and touched the skin; she instantly said she never wanted the designs at the first place. The 70 year old lady told me about, how her parents had forced the machine on her skin. She said they were about to tattoo her neck, but did not because the procedure was so painful that they let her go. Meenaben added that, it was part of Gujarati tradition, but now people don’t follow. Looking at her I could figure out she still hates it, it’s like those ants that invaded her body, bit her for years but she could not get rid of it.Times have changed in Gujarat, women here are managing there house and earning side by side, there might be cases where women are still oppressed, but the women that I meet during my field visits are all happy. Happy to contribute to their children’s education, husband’s business, social functions, etc. Although I felt disappointed about the fact that, very few women have done something for themselves. There were times when female borrowers, apply loan for their small business, but end up utilising the money for other household needs or their husbands business, it made me furious but after meeting Meenaben and others, deep down I regret thinking that way. Family is the core and she will revolve around it.Whether its Meenaben who earns but can't afford to take a leave because the workforce is less in her office or the small girl sealing wafers, help her mother earn more instead of playing or reading or the tradition that was forced on the old lady's skin at a young age, is a proof that these women are hero's who can bear pain and still go ahead, take care of the family needs but they are unaware of the space that they have left for patriarchy to stay in their lives unconsciously.
Unwittingly dictated lives