Skip to main content

Thank you wonder woman! A personal tribute on the International Women’s Day 2018

Father Prakash with Mother Teresa
Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
As 8 March approached once again, I was simply overwhelmed remembering the many women in my life! I stopped and wondered whether it was a mere ‘cosmetic’ exercise, a kind of ‘tokenism’ just because one was on the eve of yet another ‘international day’ ; or was there something more? And I said to myself “yes! there is more!”: celebrating the women who have been part of my life, thanking them for shaping me, for helping me to grow; asking their forgiveness for oftentimes my patriarchal, chauvinistic attitudes and for not having done enough to ensure greater equity and dignity for them; finally, to request them to continue to accompany me in this journey of life.
The first woman that comes to my heart and mind is naturally my own mother. She nurtured me in her womb for nine months, as all mothers do. She gave birth to me, cared for me, taught me the meaning and values of life, in a way only mothers can do. My mother was always a teacher; in fact an educator par excellence. Though she is no more, she will undoubtedly, always be part of my life.
Then there are my two sisters, both elder to me: they are the ones who held my hands when I learnt to walk; sat by my side when I tried to escape my studies; protected and reprimanded me, the times I was up to mischief; nevertheless have loved me and cared for me all these years.
My maternal grandmother (nana) and the two sisters of my mother (who were both religious nuns) were a world to me (one is still living –she is a Wonder Woman). Though miles separated us, I always looked forward to receiving their letters filled with plenty of advice and love; and of course writing to them! Summer holidays was something I eagerly look forward to- when I used to be thoroughly spoilt by a ‘doting’ grandmother; other grandaunts, aunts (including my favourite one!)and little cousin ‘sisters’ were of course ever present with their caring , challenging, cajoling, complaining and all.
We had some special women who were our neighbours - their faces and names come back to me. All of them with due respect were an ‘Aunty’ to me; it could not be otherwise. Wonderful women who also felt duty-bound ‘to complain’ to my mother that they saw me jumping on rooftops trying to catch a fallen kite or about some other prank! These good souls at the same time would most generously give me a share from the goodies they made.
Women have been my teachers in school, in University, in the Seminary. They were all great women (we have a school alumni ‘WhatsApp’ group and we often remember our extraordinary schoolteachers); some of my teachers were simply amazing. They gave of their best and made sure that we were educated in the complete sense of the word.
During my school and college days, I have had great women friends. Am still in touch with some of them. A few of them have done exceedingly well in life; some are grandmothers; and of course, all are in the ‘retirement’ or ‘semi-retirement’ – waiting for the ‘twilight years’. These friends have been so much part of my growth- just being there: warm, helpful, caring, thoughtful .We hardly see each other but the bonds have never been broken all these years.
Father Prakash with his aunt Dr Olinda Pareira
In my religious and professional life, many women have enriched me. The deeply spiritual ones; the simple, unassuming ones; the kind, generous ones. When I think of them at this moment, face after face like a film reels through my mind; so many of them. Some simply outstanding ones, human rights defenders - who have taken courageous stands in the face of all odds; brave women who have stood up against the most powerful on behalf of the victims, vulnerable and poor. Women whose social activism and commitment to a cause, has made this world a better place. Women who have given and not counted the cost.
Over the years, I have been touched by several women who live in remote villages, in the filth and squalor of dehumanizing slums; by women who are refugees or have been forcibly displaced; by women who have been exploited and harassed, denigrated and excluded - just because they are women! Some of them struggle all the time to make both ends meet- with little or no choices in life. Many of them are women of strength, women of substance; their lives are full of hope, optimism and resilience. They are the anonymous women and unknowingly they have shaped my life too.
For a little over two years now, I have been engaged with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) based in Beirut; we work in five countries of the MENA Region. Many of the refugees and the displaced we work with are women. The amazing dimension of our work is that a very large percentage of our staff both in the countries we work in and in the Regional office are women (hopefully tomorrow I will write another article about this). This stint in JRS has given me the unique opportunity of being in the midst of some wonderful women: their capacity to reach out, their sensitivity to others, their ability to work under pressure; their professionalism; their commitment to service. There is much I have learnt from them and I am still learning.
There have been and there are many other women in my life. I had not planned that these random thoughts would enter the realm of ‘categories’; they happened rather naturally! So obviously unintentionally, I would have left out several other ‘groups’. In my work, I have been helped and supported by many women. Today too, I am in touch and encounter wonderful women all the time!
I want to say a big THANKYOU to every woman in my life - those who have died, those who I am not in touch with, those who I have hurt, those who are far away, those who are close to me, and to every one of YOU ( hopefully this will reach some of you)!
THANKYOU for helping me grow towards becoming a better person, for your caring and sharing, for your struggles and suffering, for your sensitivity and sincerity, for your inspiration and guidance, for the joy, love, courage and peace you have given to me and to many others.
THANKYOU for all that you have meant and been to me!
THANKYOU for accompanying me in this journey of life!
THANKYOU for helping me touch the feminine face of God!
THANKYOU WONDER WOMAN!
---
*Indian human rights activist, currently with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) MENA Region, Beirut

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.