I often hear from people, “You are a very strong girl, Vartika” and I smile. It makes me think and introspect about this transformation in me – from a fragile girl to an independent tough woman. Along with life’s experiences, I give credit to the women in my life for shaping me the woman I’m today. If I am strong today, it is, because I’m raised and surrounded by some phenomenal women. This long due post, is an ode to them, this Women’s day.
I have always been my Papa’s girl and favored him in every situation without stepping into my mom’s shoes. Later, when I embarked on the parenting journey and understood what it is like to be a mother, I realized her importance in my life. She has been an independent and hardworking lady all her life. After the sudden demise of my grandfather, she took the responsibility of her family, at the age of 15. Not just she finished her studies and masters gradually but also ensured her siblings were well educated.
She worked as a teacher in a school, took tuition and started knitting sweaters to make the ends meet. Gradually, she managed to save enough to buy a knitting machine that helped her earn better. I must boast her knitting skills here – how she dressed us in beautifully knitted frocks and dresses that I have saved for my daughters now.
Throughout her life, she lived a modest life as she never forgot her roots and taught us to stay grounded too. After Papa left us 3.5 years back, she chose to live on her own as she never wanted to leave the nest they made together with a lot of love, sweat, and dreams. We were not very comfortable with this decision initially but finally, respected her choice. I feel so proud to see how not only she held herself up but also gave us the strength to cope with the loss.
She ran from pillar to post to get the Sarkari paperwork done for almost 2 years and got the things done. Also, she joined Papa’s office, learned driving, did computer courses and became independent once again. Family support was there but she’s a woman who prefers to be as independent as possible. She had faced very tough days financially thus she always encouraged us to value money.
I feel proud to be born as a child to my mother, for me, she’s the epitome of strength, beauty, courage, and simplicity and I want her to me my mother in every birth.
My Aunts (Taijis)
I grew up in a closely knitted joint family and share a loving bond with all (3) my Uncles and Aunts. Two of them lived in the same abode while one lived in another city, Kanpur but distance never affected our love. We would visit them during our summer vacation.
My Taiji always amazed everyone with her management skills. In no time, she would cook a delectable feast for everyone. With a smile on her face always, she would run errands so effortlessly. Taiji was a short-heightened, lean lady and a powerhouse of energy at any given time. She would guide us in every situation, any problem with a practical and doable solution. She was a blend of traditional and modern values.
After my Uncle passed away, she contained herself up and faced every odd very strongly. Since childhood, I have seen her as an independent woman managing the household and other chores patiently. She shared an amazing bond, understanding and compatibility with my Tauji and set an example of how the institution of marriage works. We lost her last year to some kidney illness.
I miss her punctual phone calls on birthdays and festivals and how merely her voice used to do the magic every time. She had that comfortable aura to soothe you and the contagious energy to boost your confidence.
Being a spiritual lady, she taught us the importance of positivity in life and how faith can make anything possible.
My Badi Taiji
A lady who was much ahead of her time. My father treated him as his second mother as he was just a year old when she joined our family. For me, she was a grandmother figure. Every family has differences, especially when living in a joint set-up and ours was no different. But she bound the family together with her love and affection and taught us the value of togetherness and the importance of being there for each other in good and bad times.
An open-minded woman who accepted and welcomed the ideologies of the new generation whole heartedly. I was quite apprehensive about sharing the news of choosing the life partner of my choice but I was surprised at how she welcomed my decision. She fought breast cancer for many months and we lost her to it 5 years back.
My youngest Taiji
My mom’s best friend. They set an example of sisterhood for us and how one woman can support and empower the other. A teacher by profession, a melodious singer and a beautiful lady inside out. She continued her higher education after getting married as my grandfather encouraged her to study and then work too. Taiji was the first working lady in our family and maintained a work-life balance amazingly well.
She imparted me English and music lessons and always encouraged me to do well in studies and focused on the importance of education, especially for girls. People often mistook me as her real daughter and we never bothered to clarify their doubts as she was actually my second mother. She never differentiated between her kids and me and my brother. This laid the foundation of our concrete bonding. Her sudden demise at an early age of 44 created an irrevocable vacuum in our family.
Not even a day goes by when I don’t miss these three wonderful gems of my family and wish they were here with us as we need them the most today!
My maternal grandmother (Nani)
Nani had to be on this list as she is the one from where my mother inherited patience and strength. A very simple yet strong woman who had seen a lot in her life. She lost her husband when she was quite young and raised 4 children single-handedly. She had never stepped out of the home before and didn’t know much about the duniyadari. But life had something else in store for her. She restarted her studies, took up my grandfather’s job and worked even after her retirement. She may never express as she talks less but her struggles, her will power, and her dedication speak for her. Now, as we celebrated her 80th birthday a few months back, she is the smallest kid in the family.
She is not my biological mother but I share a special khatta meetha (sweet and sour) relationship with her. We are not the perfect MIL & DIL duo and have our shares of tiffs too but we are perfect for each other. My father in law had three major accidents and lost one of his limbs to it. And since then, my MIL has been supporting her like a shadow. Though my FIL gathered himself and do all his chores independently, my MIL ensured to be with him always. Despite all the odds, she raised all her 4 kids without affecting any factor in their upbringing.
Due to Papa’s health, they could not go on family trips and missed many other opportunities too but I have never seen her complaining about life. She always taught me to embrace life as it comes and fight with the challenges that come along. Her positive attitude has always amazed me and I respect her immensely for all that she has done and still doing for all of us. She worked as a teacher for almost 40 years and encourages me also to pursue my dreams and passion. She feels equally proud of my achievements like my own mother.
I cannot deny the fact that after becoming a mother, I have learned the art of being patient. Motherhood has made me stronger like a rock and I think it is the best part of this journey – the courage and strength it brings along. My daughters were born preterm with very low birth weight. They were so delicate that we were afraid of even holding them. They had their share at NICU and we welcomed them home 20 days after their birth. My little charmers were born fighters and gave me the courage to fight with them and for them.
Every day, I draw inspiration from both of them as they make me realize I cannot go weak as I have two little jewels to shield always. And this keeps me going and makes me stronger every passing day. There are days when I bog down, cry, have mood swings and that’s when they step into my shoes, comfort me and give me the power to get up again.
So, when you have such brave hearts around you, you are bound to be strong yourself. I am grateful for all these wonderful and courageous women to be a part of my life and shaped me the woman I am today.