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

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

By DN Rath*  Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions. Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years. It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, b

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

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".

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w