And then Freedom Came

BPL women gathered at a training camp in East Midnapore, to learn the nittie-gritties of bank management. They speak of the courage they had to muster to brave hostile in-laws and society to come out and team up for micro-credit and emancipation. They speak of Shonirbhorota (self-dependence) that has come their way since the time they were asked to team up for microcredit.

They cook meals for schools, tailor uniforms, market paddy, weave mats. And gain freedom. And voice. They say they defied the panchayat official, fought with the bank manager, pursuaded the BDO. Earned some money. More respect.

I think of a time when the intoxicating mantra of freedom was administered to me. By some cool women. They were called feminists. They carried cool handloom bags. And spoke of Steinem and Pateman and relativism and right. And cigarette smoke brought freedom. I ask them did you feel less free before, in your predominantly domestic lives? They say yes of course, we were confined in our homes, now even the babus listen when we speak, we are invited to talk at sabhas, we train other women.

Freedom comes, they say, when you relocate on a power ladder. When the babu talks to you. When in-laws stop nagging you. Freedom came when the local panchayat asked you to team up for micro-credit. Freedom came when you were told you could become free. Freedom came when you kept a ledger. Made entries. Caught a supplier trying to cheat. Freedom came when you figured out that home was unfree.

Comments

Sourav said…
These are important battles. Especially today, when these issues are getting lost amidst the grandiose debates on "shilpayon", it has become more important to think in terms of empowerment through small scale industries etc.

BTW, I visited your blog after a long time. Used to follow it from the Livejournal days. Nice work, keep writing. Loved that train journey post too. reminded me of my mofossol childhood.

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